Archive for scary

Black Christmas

Posted in Horror Showcase, Ode to the Unsung Slasher with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 22, 2011 by splatterpictures

When I talk to a certain generation, usually the 40 -60 crowds I am always, interested in asking them when movie scared them as a child. Horror has changed a lot over the years and it’s pretty clear when you look back on certain films. We’ve all had these moments. The first time I ever saw the Exorcist I remember thinking “I don’t really see what the big deal was” As I got older I started to learn how to put things in perspective. I started to understand the generations in which these movies came out in and most importantly what came before.

The movie that comes up more often than not for this particular crowd is Black Christmas. I’ve actually mentioned this film a few times on my site before and the reason for that is the historical significance of it. As funny as that sounds Black Christmas is an important movie. And best of all? It’s Canadian.

The film was released in 1974 and was directed by Bob Clark. A common bit of trivia is that Clark also directed the classic Christmas movie “A Christmas Story”. The Film stars Olivia Hussey and a very foul mouthed Margot Kidder. It also has John Saxon who seemed to make a good career out of being “the cop” in horror.

(Spoilers ahead)

The basic premise is this. A stranger stalks and kills sorority girls on Christmas Eve. That’s it. It’s so simple but these words can’t really emphasis how unnerving this movie can be if you let yourself get really in to it. For one, you never know who the killer is. Most of the shots of him are POV or you just get a glimpse of an arm or an eye. In the end he gets away leaving everyone baffled to who it could be.

Now for why this film is important. It’s widely considered to be the very first slasher movie ever made. (Beating out Texas Chainsaw Massacre by a mere 10 days) It takes a whole bunch of horror elements and mixes them together and that formula would be what every single slasher movie would copy from that point on. Or more accurately, what John Carpenter copied and created from Halloween and everyone copied from him. There was a Q&A on the Black Christmas DVD where Clark talks about a conversation he had with Carpenter who expressed being a great fan of the film, and wondered if Clark was going to do a sequel. Clark said if he ever would it would take place the following year and that it would be on Halloween. Clark was of course quick to emphasis that Carpenter didn’t rip off his movie and that Halloween is totally his own creation. Which is nice of him to say but looking at the both films it’s pretty obvious that it isn’t.

Familiar themes that would be used, like POV shots, body counts, foul language and teenagers doing what they aren’t supposed to be doing are all mixed together. The most interesting thing to me is that it never got a sequel. It stands alone as a single story about a psycho killer that is never caught or discovered. That is easily the scariest element of the entire movie. Every slasher to come after would make their killer the star and you’d see them as often as possible. The mystery as to who the killer is is usually solved by a mask. Even when they have a mask, by the end of the movie, we know who it was. Although it is a unique aspect that really sets Black Christmas apart it also hurts the movie because they don’t make up for the loss of an iconic killer with interesting victims. They are all just your typical bunch of sorority girls. Totally disposable.

I recommend anyone who’s interested, check this out. Not only is it one of the best holiday themed horror films it’s also an important film in the history of horror in general. Have a great Christmas and as always thanks for reading!

"Superman Ain't Savin' Shit"

Black Sunday (1960)

Posted in Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 11, 2011 by splatterpictures

It’s funny that when you think about the major studio horror productions of the 1930’s and 40’s where even the slightest thing that could be considered blasphemous would be edited or cut altogether. A great example of this would be Universal’s Frankenstein.

As the decades moved forward and we hit the 60’s censorship laws had loosened enough to start pushing the boundaries. The U.K’s Hammer productions already had this stuff covered with their take on Dracula, but when it comes to really stepping it up, you can always count on some great stuff coming out of Italy. Keeping Italy in mind, today we’re going to tackle Mario Bava’s Black Sunday AKA the Mask of Satan.

Black Sunday was released in 1960 and was written by Ennio de Concini and Mario Serandrei. Serandrei would work with Bava again three years later on the movie Black Sabbath, starring Boris Karloff.

Bava did assist in the writing and they had all originally intended to adapt the Nikolai Gogol’s 1865 story Viy. They eventually only took small elements of this tale and somehow turned it into a Vampire flick.

The story starts off in 17th century Moldavia where a princess named Asa (played by soon to be iconic scream queen Barbara Steele) is condemned to die for Satanism and Vampirism. Her assistant (although it was her brother in the original Italian cut) Javuto is also condemned and they both have spiky masks of Satan hammered into their faces. While Asa is burned alive she places a curse against her descendants

The film jumps forward 200 years and we’re introduced to the older and wiser Dr. Thomas Kurvajan and the young Dr. Andre Gorobec played by John Richardson. While traveling through the Russian countryside their carrage breaks down and they decide to go exploring. They come across an ancient crypt and rummage through it finding Asa’s grave. Everything is going fine until Dr. Kurvajan is attacked by a giant bat. It’s honestly so random. He actually pulls out a gun and shoots it but in the process is cut and of course it lands on Asa’s grave. (I like how in these vampire movies, the smallest cuts bleed like a faucet.)

Well Asa gains enough power to resurrect her servant Javuto. There is a great scene where he is rising from his grave. They set out to get revenge on their own ancestors who were the ones to condemn them. Asa also wants to become fully resurrected by taking over the body of her descendant Katia (also played by Barbara Steele) that’s basically the plot.

The interesting thing is how much of a throwback to the gothic horrors of the 1930’s and 40’s this movie feels like. The great thing about it really is how it has a nostalgic feel that those movies had, with the fog and all of the grand architecture but it has the benefit of being made in 1960. By benefit I mean the scenes take it a step beyond the older films that it emulates in terms of gore. Iconic images of Asa’s empty sockets crawling with scorpions in one scene and then maggots in another or the close-up on a man’s face while he burns in a fireplace and many more fantastic special effects really make Black Sunday Standout. Not to mention the subject of Satanism was able to be the focal point of the story.

Some awkward cues for me were a lot of oddball moments. There’s a point in the movie where Andrea is at an Inn and asks a lady for a horse so that he can get to Prince Vajda’s castle quickly and before he goes it just stops to check himself in the mirror. I always just found that hilarious. Another weird moment is when the curtain catches on fire. I know that it’s there so that they can find a secret passage by chance but it’s just so random. The last one I’ll mention that really makes me laugh is when Katia faints after seeing her father’s neck wound so Andrea picks her up and along with her brother Constantine carry her to her bed. While she is unconscious in his arms he just checks her out, noticing how beautiful she is…unconscious. The scene was probably supposed to be sweet or maybe even sexy but it comes off as pretty damn creepy to me.

The musical cues are also kind of off for me. There are plenty of moments where music is used to enhance a scene but there are others where it just seems odd. Like long reaction shots where not a lot is actually happening. Maybe they used the music to try and get those scenes to be a little more interesting. That being said during the films climax where Andrea and Javuto are fighting to the death, there is literally no music. Just a lot of awkward grunting and the sounds of scuffling. Maybe it was just the version I had.

While it does follow the same formula as a lot of other vampire films of the day it also has a lot of unique elements that really make it fun to watch. It easily could have been made in colour but the decision to keep it black and white is what made a lot of the films atmosphere and special effects possible. If you’re looking for some classic horror and you haven’t checked this one out I recommend you do so. I’ll see you next time. Thanks for reading.

"With the blast shield down I can hardly see? How am I supposed to fight?"

Ode to the Unsung Slasher (Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2)

Posted in Horror Showcase, Ode to the Unsung Slasher, Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 1, 2011 by splatterpictures

The slasher genre is what attracted me to horror in the first place. These days, that particular sub-genre of horror has gotten some nice boosts in my mind with films Like Hatchet and the Hills Run Red, but one I especially enjoyed was Laid to Rest.


Today I’m going to tackle Chromeskull: Laid to Rest II (I wonder if this is going to start a Rambo-esque sequel where the third film will be just called Chromeskull 3 like how the Rambo franchise dropped “First blood” from their titles by the third one).


Now when I say I enjoyed Laid to Rest, let me explain that the movie is not without its flaws. I challenge anyone to find me a more inept group of victims in horror. Even the survivor girl could win the friggin’ Darwin award in more than one scene. She rips the phone cord out of the wall while they’re tracing the call!? I could go on and on about how many moments made me roll my eyes hard but there was something about it. After I finished watching that movie, I sat back and said to myself, “You know what? I like this movie.” It was just a lot of fun.” Chromeskull is badass and the kills are just great. So when I heard they were making a sequel, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.


Robert Hall is back writing and directing Laid to Rest II, which is no surprise seeing as the entire thing is his baby. Thomas Dekker is back from the first movie as the raver guy, Tommy, who picks up “The Girl” from the first one. Oddly, they couldn’t get Bobbi Sue Luther back (no real loss), so they replaced her with Allison Kyler which really just amounts to an extended cameo.  Newcomers to the movie are Brian Austin Green as Preston and Mimi Michaels as Jess. The last little bit I’ll mention on cast is they nabbed scream queen Danielle Harris for a small, but interesting role. I’ll get to that in a bit.



The biggest problem I had with the first movie was how it all fell apart for me at the very end. It just seemed really dumb. In the sequel, they actually have some amount of closure to it that left me a lot less salty about the whole thing.


The other thing I was really curious about was how they were going to bring ChromeSkull back. I mean, I’m aware it’s a slasher film and really they could do anything, but the first one seemed pretty sequel proof considering that the killer wasn’t supernatural in any way. We’re treated to a mysterious and rockin’ surgery scene where ChromeSkull is put back together. It seems that he doesn’t work alone but has a team of loyal people working around him in something that is only referred to as “the organization.”  Preston is his number two man who quickly gets to work in tying up loose ends from his boss’ last outing.


Meanwhile, the police are left trying to figure out what happened and Tommy tries to go back to his life. The bodies start to pile up pretty quickly as Preston takes over the mantle of Chromeskull while the real killer recuperates.


The new girl, Jess, is picked up at the suggestion of Chromeskull’s assistant Spann (Harris). Once Preston finally gets his hands on Tommy and brings him back to The Organization, it’s all about Tommy and Jess trying to survive while Preston and the original Chromeskull play who’s the better killer.


The real star obviously is Chromeskull himself. I think one of the things I like about him in the first film is that, while he is a masked character, he isn’t really the lumbering Mongoloid type. He is faster and slicker with more intelligence, something that is much more feasible in a modern age through the use of cellphones and even a car to get around.  While expanding on him, though, I felt I was more confused than ever. In the first movie, he was just this mysterious guy with a mask. This time we’re told that he actually has a lot of employees under him that seem to do nothing but craft his weapons and otherwise provide means to be a serial killer. How does he pay for all of it?


The kills are good with a great blend of practical and CGI effects. Lots of gore and creative blades really went a long way to making this film have some great and gruesome moments. Even though a lot of the kills are done by Preston’s character imitating the original Chromeskull, the last half hour Chrome just goes on a friggin’ rampage and kicks all kinds of ass. One scene that was just great was when he takes out three cops at once. It was all done in one shot too.


The movie isn’t without its dumb moments though. The one that really sticks out in my mind is when Preston leaves Tommy and Jess alone to go and get a tattoo before he comes back and kills them. For starters, it seemed really weird that he had a tattoo artist just there in their base of operations, but also that he would just stop and say “Okay guys… I’m going to kill you… but I really need a tattoo first.” But I’m just nitpicking really.


Fans of the first film shouldn’t be disappointed. Chromeskull: Laid to Rest II does what it should: expand the lore and the body count. Robert Hall has gone on to say that he didn’t create Chromeskull to be the new face of horror, but rather to create something that he, as a fan, would want to see. I agree that I don’t think Laid to Rest II breaks the mould by any stretch, but it does offer a bloody and satisfying good time. Check it out and, as always, thanks for reading!


I feel these blood drapes really tie the room together


Ode to the unsung Slashers (The Hills Run Red)

Posted in Horror Showcase, Ode to the Unsung Slasher, Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 22, 2011 by splatterpictures

Over the last decade or so, the concept of a slasher movie has become pretty broken. I’ve discussed in earlier posts before that when it comes to the slasher-genre people are quick to point out its flaws.

In the 80’s there was a huge slasher boom with studios trying to cash in on the popularity of franchises like Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm St. Endless sequels and knock offs followed up until the very early 90’s. Then it dried up for a few years until Wes Craven revitalized the concept with Scream. Being self aware was in vogue in horror after that point.  The slasher formula was mocked and picked apart by not only the characters in the movie but the actors and directors during the press junkets.

The problem with Hollywood is not only how stubborn they are to move outside the box but how quick they are to over saturate the market once they do. I personally never liked scream or movies like it but it seems that after we got out of the 90’s and into the mid 2000’s the self aware horror finally found it’s legs and made for some fine cinema. Not too long ago I discussed the horror Mockumentary Behind the Mask: The rise of Leslie Vernon, the film was fantastic with a wonderful blend of horror and comedy.

Today we’re going to be discussing another film that treads in the familiar waters of the self-aware-horror; The Hills Run Red.

The Hills Run Red was released straight to DVD in 2009. It stars a bunch of relatively unknowns with the exception of William Sadler who you might remember from films like The Mist. The film also stars Tad Hilgenbrink who I recognized from one of those direct to DVD American Pie movies. The whole thing was directed by Dave Parker.

The basic plot is that Tyler (Hilgenbrink) is a slick young film student that’s obsessed with this horror movies which is titled The Hills Run Red. It’s supposedly the most frightening horror movie ever made but the problem is that the only thing that anyone can find of it, is a trailer and a few screenshots. Tyler wants nothing more than to watch the movie and film a documentary about it. He finds the directors daughter who also had a role in the film. It turns out she’s a stripper now and has a pretty bad heroine problem. After a really bizarre sequence where I guess she gets off the drugs over a period of a few days she agrees to take Tyler, his girlfriend and his best friend to the locations where the movie was filmed in hopes of maybe finding a long lost copy of the original reels.

The whole movie within a movie thing works well for this flick. The Hills Run Red (the movie in the movie) is about a slasher named Babyface which is just a big Mongoloid woodsman with a doll mask on. That alone wouldn’t really be much to make me take notice. The thing that sets this killer apart from being just another Jason knockoff is that he’s an actor. See the thing you start to realize is that the reason this film was hidden and supposedly the most shocking horror ever made was because it was real. The Babyface killer is real and the deaths on camera are genuine. Of course our protagonist find this out far too late and are now dealing with a deranged director who wants to make the perfect horror film, and the ultimate method actor of Babyface.

The parts where the killer breaks character and shows signs of intelligence is pretty entertaining. One scene would have his victim facing off with him with a lit flare in either hand goading him into a hand to hand scuffle. Babyface just pulls out a gun and shots him (Indiana Jones style.)

The characters are all pretty self aware of the irony of heading out to the isolated woods in search of a horror movie and often cite things, like the use of cellphones or not bringing a weapon of any kind with them. Of course regardless of all of their planning they are stuck in the confines of a horror movie so things inevitable fail. The ending was alright, but nothing I would consider very interesting and one of my big complaints was how some of the actors hammed it up pretty bad in certain scenes which made them a lot less effective.

Despite some over the top acting The Hills Run Red is a worthy addition to the slasher genre and deserves a look from anyone interested. As always thanks for reading!

"Pleased to MEAT you!"