Tag Archives: death on campus

Girls on top

tragedy girls 2017


3.5 Stars  2017/99m

“Friends who slay together, stay together.”

Director: Tyler McIntyre / Writers: Juston Olson, Chris Lee Hill, Tyler McIntyre / Cast: Brianna Hildebrand, Alexandra Shipp, Jack Quaid, Kevin Durand, Timothy V. Murphy, Craig Robinson, Savannah Jayde, Josh Hutcherson, Nicky Whelan, Elise Neal, Andy Bethea, Keith Hudson, Katie Stottlemire.

Body Count: 9 (+123)

Laughter Lines: “This is some serious Final Destination shit!”

A teen couple make out in a muscle car on a lonely bridge. The girl hears a noise outside. They ignore it. The noise sounds again. She convinces the boy to go check and a hulking figure buries a machete in his face and chases down the girl. He runs into a wire and a second girl appears, they taser him and drag him back to their garage where they explain they’ve been baiting him for months and need him to work with them so they can gain followers of their true crime blog @tragedygirls.

tragedy girls alexandra shipp brianna hildebrand 2017

Sadie and McKayla are the titular BFFs, who will do anything to draw attention to their social media presence, hoping that their insights into the later-named Rosedale Ripper will catapult them into the spotlight. But real life isn’t that easy and it’s assumed the first victim is a runaway (for reasons unknown they destroyed the body in lye), and their next is written off as a motorcycle accident. Irked by the slow take-up, the girls ensure that victim 3 cannot be mistaken for anything other than a murder.

While the girls continue to hold their pet killer, Lowell, captive, Sadie becomes close to Sheriff’s son Jordan, who begins to suspect McKayla knows more about what’s going on than she’s letting on – and things go from bad to worse when Lowell escapes and has them firmly in his crosshairs.

tragedy girls 2017

More complications ensue as the girls try to clean up their mess, stay alive, and eventually fall out when Sadie is hailed as a singular hero when she fights off Lowell’s next attack, prompting McKayla to take the game into her own hands.

Tragedy Girls is a fine looking product, stirring in elements of Mean Girls to its slasher groundwork, and satire of the shallowness of external validation culture. As a comedy, it’s acid tongued good times, with a disturbing painted-on smile to its couple of psycho leads. The horror end of things doesn’t quite take flight so well, despite some grisly denouements throughout (the woodwork class and gym scenes – the latter featuring the awesome Craig Robinson – are great), but little else. Durand is a hoot as the captive wannabe psycho, as his threats to the girls are met with emasculating giggles, and both leads sell their friends-till-the-end bond well.

tragedy girls 2017 brianna hildebrand alexandra shipp

Creepily, Brianna Hildebrand looks like the long lost twin of my friend Alisha, so I’ll be treading carefully around her for a bit.

Blurbs-of-interest: Josh Hutcherson was in Detention; Elise Neal was Sid’s roomie in Scream 2; Jack Quaid was in Scream (2022).

Don’t You (Forget About Her)

into the dark school spirit 2019INTO THE DARK: SCHOOL SPIRIT

4 Stars  2019/84m

“Kiss goodbye to your class.”

Director/Writer: Mike Gan / Writers: Patrick Casey, Josh Miller / Cast: Annie Q, Corey Fogelmanis, Jessi Case, Julian Works, Jordan Austin Smith, Philip Labes, Hugo Armstrong.

Body Count: 11

Hulu’s horror anthology series gave us this genial little meta teen slasher pic, that pits a group of high schoolers enduring Saturday detention against a sword toting loon dressed as their school mascot.

When Helbrook High’s senior class president and all-round overachiever Erica Yang shows up for detention one week into the school year, everyone is shocked. Everyone who sees her that is, which is a group made up of substance abusers Russell, Lizzie, and Victor, shy try-hard Brett, and seconds-from-boiling-over teacher Mr Armstrong, who tells Erica he’d have seen her expelled if it were up to him. But what did she do? She ain’t about to share.

into the dark school spirit 2019

The pre-credits scene already showed us a couple of no-good-niks done away with when they snuck in the previous week to set up a digital camera in the girls’ locker room showers, and they become the two most recent additions to a growing list of missing kids from Helbrook. Stories float around of a spectral presence, a teacher who died in a prank gone wrong who eliminates all the bad kids. Weird clangs from the vents are attributed to her vengeful ghost.

School Spirit may owe a large debt to The Breakfast Club (are all-day Saturday detentions actually a thing??) by way of a grab-bag of other educational establishment slash ’em ups, but in 2019 it’s distinguished by nicely written characters who, for a bunch of ‘bad kids’, aren’t just 1D targets for the sharp end of the killer’s weaponry: We learn about their backgrounds to a degree and even begin to care a little about their fate, something that was absent from 90% of teen horror since 2001.

into the dark school spirit 2019

Gruesome demises included a paper guillotine returned to its decapitating origins, axe to the face, screwdriver to the eye, and a cool be-feeting gag for a horny jock. There are also a couple of halfway decent chases down the empty school corridors and a hidden ‘terrible place’ a couple of the luckless detainees discover.

This may also mark the first time we’ve had an Asian final girl in an American production, which, although in the grand scheme of things is a small change, does make a difference, even if it’s to play up to stereotypes of academic excellence. This actually sets up the cheery final twist, that dares toy with the conventions of the final girl at large, but was so wacky and demented I couldn’t help but laugh my ass off.

Four stars is very possibly way too generous, but I was elated watching School Spirit: Back to basics dead-teenager goodness.

into the dark school spirit 2019

Bloke in a Cloak vs the Woke

black christmas 2019


2.5 Stars  2019/15/92m

“Slay, girls.”

Director/Writer: Sophia Takal / Writer: April Wolfe / Cast: Imogen Poots, Aleyse Shannon, Lily Donoghue, Brittany O’Grady, Caleb Eberhardt, Cary Elwes, Simon Mead, Madeleine Adams, Ben Black, Ryan McIntyre.

Body Count: ~25

Hey, remember that episode of Buffy where she and Cordelia were invited to a frat party where the brothers tried to feed them to snake-thing that lived under the house? If you ever wanted that loosely converted into a movie, here you are! Spoooilers.

The trailer for this second ‘remake’ of the 1974 later-appreciated classic was one of those that gave the entire effing plot away, so little was left to surprise and shock, bar the fact that Blumhouse cut out most of the bloodletting to drop the rating to a wider-net brandishing PG-13 to ’empower’ young female viewers. The result is that you can’t actually tell what’s happened to some characters.

Even to call it a remake is a stretch, as beyond a campus and seasonal setting coinciding with some murders, there’s almost nothing that relates to Bob Clark’s film here: Yes, the house cat is named Claudette, and an address is given 1974-something-street. Creepy phone calls are swapped out for wanky DMs that the sorority sisters assume are from angry frat boys they humiliated at a talent show.

black christmas 2019 imogen poots

Riley (Poots, from 28 Weeks Later) was date-raped by the president of Hawthorne College’s founder fraternity. Nobody believed her, case dismissed. As the campus thins out for Christmas break, girls who protested in any way seem to be disappearing, meeting nasty ends from a cloaked and masked maniac. A song n’ dance routine that calls out the previous incident might be the provoking factor, or the fact that Elwes’ British professor has a petition out against him for not teaching anything other than books written by white men, or was it the school founder’s bust being removed due to his shady past…

Black Christmas ’19 is being referred to online as a ‘woke’ film, i.e. one that expresses a certain strain of political correctness. While the first was an exercise in the unsettling, the second a trashy gorefest, the third comes as a barely disguised comment on gender issues brought up in a post-#MeToo society.

black christmas 2019

One of, if not the favourite thing about slasher films for me has been that the sole survivor was always a girl. I loved this from the word go. Assumed weak, but ultimately way stronger than not only the boys around her, but also the (usually) male aggressor, she rises up and kicks ass. In BC19, this motif is multiplied, ruined by the trailer, once the single killer is exposed as an entire frat house full of killers, the surviving sisters mobilise and fight back with Buffy-like readiness, succeeding despite the fact that the boys apparently have superhuman strength provided by the statue of the founder. Yeah, things get supernatural.

Up to the mid-point reveal, BC19 is a decent slasher flick, albeit a rather flat one. The characters are definitely sketched deeper than the 2006 version, where they all appeared to hate one another and just fire off bitchy remarks. Here, their sisterhood is pivotal to the not-so-subtextual subtext. Unfortunately, there’s just no subtlety to any of it: Women good, men evil, and that’s pretty much it. The sole not-damned man is presented as a powerless nerd (albeit a likeable one).

black christmas 2019

Not being a cisgender straight white guy, I didn’t mind this hammering home of the message; perhaps Takal’s intent was to make it entirely obvious, to upset the apple cart and get people talking leaving no doubt as to the message? This would be fine if Black Christmas were a great film in spite of it, but it’s just not. It looks okay, and there’s a tense scene in the middle where the girls try to find a working phone to call for help, but the finale packs no real punch (again, blame the trailer!) and it ends all too abruptly afterwards with no real feeling of victory.

A really odd film with no reason to be associated to the original. They could’ve gone for You Better Watch Out or Silent Night Deadly Night for all it matters.

Scream ‘cuz you know what he did that Halloween

scream resurrection 2019


2 Stars  2019/253m

“New season. New blood.”

Created by: / Cast: RJ Cyler, Jessica Sula, Keke Palmer, Giorgia Whigham, CJ Wallace, Guillian Yao Gioiello, Tyga, Tyler Posey, Mary J. Blige, Tony Todd, Paris Jackson, Roger Jackson (voice).

Body Count: 11

Laughter Lines: “Some dude turned him into a Pez dispenser.”

Leaving the town of Lakeshore in peace, and partially unresolved given the way Season 2 ended, the powers that be decided to reboot the TV format of Scream and take it to more urban surroundings, crop down the number of episodes, and… well, I have no idea what else. Some spoilers.

After the news about Harvey Weinstein broke, #MeToo, and various other black clouds gathered, the 2018 air date was delayed, eventually shifting from MTV for a get-it-over-stat run of airing the six episodes over three nights on VH1. Yeeps.

It could also be argued that the final product was so disappointing, everybody involved just wanted to wash their hands of it entirely.

scream resurrection 2019

Beginning with a nubile girl (MJ’s daughter, Paris) home alone getting a weird call, the opening scene proves to be a gag that introduces us to two trick or treating brothers who end up in trouble when they go looking for a stolen swag-bag of candy in the breaker’s yard inhabited by ‘Hookman’ (Tony Todd), who murders one, while the other escapes.

Eight years later (not five or ten for once!), surviving twin Deion (Cyler) is Weaver High School’s star football player, but also the plaything of a shady stalker, wearing the original Ghostface mask and making calls with the same voice: “Let’s see who you really are, Deion!” etc, etc.

scream resurrection mary j blige rj cyler 2019

The curse seems to leak out and infect a group of classmates when they share detention: The geek, the outspoken protester, her gay BFF, the goth, and the princess. Calling themselves The Deadfast Club before someone else comes up with it, they and some hangers-on are soon being slashed, injected, impaled, and litter-pick’d to death. Well, only the male ones. There’s curiously not a single female victim in Resurrection.

Keke Palmer is the brightest light here as social justice warrior Kym, who doesn’t shy away from calling things out: When the killer calls her and asks if she likes scary movies, she pointedly responds: “No I do not, ’cause everyone in them as stupid as hell.” The other five central players pale in comparison somewhat, a couple are able to add some depth to their knife-fodder roles but the by-numbers dialogue doesn’t allow them a lot of room to manoeuvre.

scream resurrection 2019

Goth-girl Beth is our Randy/Kirby stand-in, firing off Slasher 101 factoids all over the show, and it would seem this series might’ve challenged the conventions over who will survive, but given that the gay and Muslim kids are first to go from the main roster, has anything really progressed much? This isn’t the first slasher opus to try and switch up race roles, but is probably the most notable, which makes it more tragic that it was virtually written off and will doubtfully ever air again.

As we know with all horror tales involving twins, there’s going to be some switcheroo nonsense in there and it’s a groan-inducing moment when the truth finally seeps out, leading into an unmasking that’s particularly anti-climactic and ill-conceived, taking it about as far from the smart-ass post-modernism of the original Scream movie, which goes unmentioned, along with the events of the other two seasons. A throwaway line about the mask being similar to the one used in the Woodsboro killings? Nah. Zip.

scream resurrection 2019 jessica sula

The kids do their best to try and subvert expectations, but we’re 23 years after Scream and 40 years after Halloween and Friday the 13th now. Applying the rules of their parents and grandparents doesn’t fly and it’s bleakly ironic that Scream: Resurrection has become exactly the kind of material that the original movie took to task in unravelling.

Blurbs-of-interest: Keke Palmer was in both seasons of Scream QueensGideon Emery was in Train; Tony Todd was Candyman, in Final Destination‘s 12, and 5Hatchet and its first sequelHell FestiMurdersJack the Reaper, and Scarecrow Slayer.

Many Happy Returns

happy death day 2u 2019


3 Stars  2019/15/96m

“Death makes a killer comeback.”

Director/Writer: Christopher Landon / Cast: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Phi Vu, Rachel Matthews, Ruby Modine, Suraj Sharma, Sarah Yarkin, Steve Zissis, Charles Aitken, Missy Yager, Jason Bayle.

Body Count: 18… sort of

Laughter Lines: “You smacked my dick. That’s rude.”

The day she thought was over …is starting again. Spoilers follow.

Happy Death Day was an unexpected smash in 2017, and just eighteen months later came the they’d-be-stupid-not-to sequel, which attempts to build on the mythos of the first rather than just replay it. Rather than just replay it. Rather than just replay it.

The consequence of these changes is that the film moves further away from its negligible slasher template towards more of a cutesy sci-fi romp with a killer operating in the background. Even so, there’s still a lot of fun to be had if you don’t rock up expecting slasher sequences galore. We get a few, mostly in the first half, but otherwise this is a different tale.

happy death day 2u 2019 phi vu

Carter’s roommate Ryan, seen repeatedly interrupting in their dorm room first time around, finds himself caught in a time loop of his own creation, with another version of himself behind the baby mask, seguing nicely into an explanation of Tree’s experience: Ryan and some classmates built a machine that basically caught her up in the loop and now, is sending her into a parallel universe where she’s looping again.

This time though, Lori is not the one with the knives out for her – and her mom is alive! Understandably moved by getting her mom back, Tree decides to stay in this new corner of the multiverse, but soon learns that she’s just living a life that isn’t hers. And she still has the wackadoo maniac to deal with – their identity is pretty obvious this time though.

happy death day 2u 2019 jessica rothe

As a comedy, HDD2U is gold. Bitchy sorority prez Danielle is back, this time as a kinder, dimmer version of herself, who confuses Anne Frank with Helen Keller and has a great scene pretending to be blind to distract the Dean while the others steal his keys to liberate the time-bending machine.

Those looking for slasher thrills may be best to cruise on by though. The PG-13 rating is in full force with little to no bloodletting, some cool demises for both the luckless extras caught up in Tree’s rinse and repeat nightmare, and the methods by which she chooses to off herself every time the day requires a reset. Stick around for the mid-credits scene which seems to push Happy Death Day 3 even further from the raft of dead bodies.

happy death day 2u 2019 jessica rothe

Blurbs-of-interest: Rothe, Broussard, Vu, Matthews, Modine, Aitken, Bayle and Rob Mello all reprise their roles from the first film. Sarah Yarkin was later in Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022).

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