Tag Archives: weird-ass twist

Jigsaw has a lot to answer for

steeltrapSTEEL TRAP

2 Stars  2007/18/89m

“Surviving each floor is the name of the game.”

Director: Luis Cámara / Writers: Luis Cámera & Gabrielle Galanter / Cast: Georgia MacKenzie, Mark Wilson, Julia Ballard, Pascal Langdale, Joanna Bobin, Adam Rayner, Annabelle Wallis, Frank Maier.

Body Count: 7

Dire-logue: “Living well’s pretty good but I’d say killing people is the best revenge, really.”


At a New Year’s Eve party for media types in a skyscraper, several people receive a text message inviting them down for the “real party” on a lower floor. They attend and find insulting place names that call them loser, two-faced, pig, heartless etc and clues that send them off on a scavenger hunt.

Amongst the group are a TV chef, a failing rock star, a sycophantic agent and a bitching couple and they begin to fall victim to a shiny-masked killer who slices, hangs, axes and stabs them one by one.

Much of the content of this German production is lifted right out of the Saw franchise with TV monitors galore, cryptic clues left by the killer and would-be ‘sensational’ twist ending, which becomes more and more predictable as the cast is shrunk down to the last few stragglers, most of whom begin to suspect each other – is one of them in on it, or is it all part of some bigger game?

Well, the Dire-logue should clue you in on the motives of the villain when things finally unravel – it’s all a big revenge scheme for an ex-nerd who is offing all the people who made their life a misery before they found success. To be fair to it, I quite enjoyed the exposition, ridiculous though it was and the actual ending is something you don’t see all over the place.

Steel Trap is let down by uneven performances from a chiefly British cast affecting American accents, unlikeable characters and some really stupid dialogue. At one point, a guy attempts to dial out on his cell phone to find that the signal is blocked: “Signal is blocked! What does that mean!?” to which his whiny girlfriend replies – in all seriousness, you understand – “it means he blocked the signal!” And it’s this kind of idiocy which sums things up perfectly.

The only thing to fear is fear itself. And cars.

penny-dreadfulPENNY DREADFUL

3 Stars  2006/93m

“Don’t forget to breathe.”

Director: Richard Brandes / Writers: Diana Dionol-Valcroze, Arthur Flam & Richard Brandes / Cast: Rachel Miner, Mimi Rogers, Chad Todhunter, Liz Davies, Mickey Jones, Tammy Filor, Michael Berryman.

Body Count: 6

Dire-logue: “Do you wanna be a pathetic freak for the rest of your miserable life?”


What’s worse? Being stuck in your car for hours on end, say, in a traffic jam or waiting for someone… Or watching a film about someone stuck in a car for hours on end? Possibly watching the latter during the former.

Arguably, ‘real’ horror is found in inescapable situations rather than being chased through the woods by Jason, such is the objective of this choppy flick which, along with Dark Ride, was part of the 2007 ‘After Dark Horrorfest’. Although, Lake Dead was also featured in one of those and look how that turned out.

Ex-wife of Macaulay Culkin Miner does well with her character Penny, who has amaxophobia, a fear of cars, hereafter to be known as car-ophobia because it makes more sense to me. She picked this up by surviving the traffic accident that killed her parents some years earlier. Her therapist Orianna (Rogers) is intent on helping her past the problem by driving her out to the mountains where she and her folks were headed before. Two women driving into the wilderness is a new and refreshing opus, isn’t it?

Sure...it looks beautiful NOW

Sure…it looks beautiful NOW

On route, Orianna accidentally clips a hitchhiker in the dark and then offers the winter-coated stranger a lift down the road to a campsite. Hitcher, face shrouded by the hood, proves to be pretty bizarre, eating what appears to be a raw meat kebab, and the women are glad to be rid of him until they discover one of their tyres has been pierced with a barbecue skewer…

Orianna heads off to find better phone reception, leaving Penny alone in the car. The car she has car-ophobia of. In the woods. In the dark.

penny3Penny freaks out and goes to look for Orianna but instead encounters the creepy hitcher and knocks herself unconscious fleeing from him. She wakes up later to find herself back in the car with Orianna’s dead body and discovers the car has been wedged tightly between two trees: the doors won’t open, the glass won’t break, the keys are AWOL.

Claustro-amaxo-car-ophobia panic ensues as the options are struck off one by one and some extra victims are provided by a couple of forest workers and the woman one of them is secretly shagging – but it’s all about Penny and the car.

penny4penny5

Given the lack of space allocated to the set, things begin to get as boring as being sat in a car for hours on end would be as time grinds on. Yeah, so there’s a throat slashing every now and then and the killer returns to torment Penny and cuts off her toe but I soon find myself obliviously doodling the word ‘boring’ on my notepad as the seconds on the DVD display seemed to tick-tock over at an ever-decreasing speed.

The eventual outcome of things houses a twist that the producers probably thought would provide an astounded ‘oooh’ from the audience is simply too little too late. This sliding scale into disappointment like an hourglass of gloom steals a lot from this sometimes atmospheric chiller, which would’ve been far better as a 45-minute late night TV special, proving there’s only so much you can do with a girl stuck in a car.

So the title is an open-invitation for ridicule but Penny Dreadful is good (enough) once. Italics should be strictly observed in that sentence: you won’t want to watch this twice, even if Michael Berryman appears as the chirpy gas station attendant.

penny1

Blurbs-of-interest: If you don’t know that Berryman was in both of Craven’s Hills Have Eyes films then slap yourself upside yo head now. Not knowing he was also in Deadly Blessing and, more recently, Mask Maker, is forgivable.

Hackity-Hack don’t talk back

hackHACK!

3 Stars  2007/18/86m

“Who will make the final cut?”

Director/Writer: Matt Flynn / Cast: Danica McKellar, Jay Kenneth Johnson, Juliet Landau, Sean Kanan, Adrienne Frantz, Travis Schuldt, Justin Chon, Gabrielle Richens, Wondgy Bruny, William Forsythe, Lochlyn Munro, Burt Young, Tony Burton, Mike Wittlin, Kane Hodder.

Body Count: 13

Dire-logue: “How’s that for improv, you two-bit amateur fucker?”


If you’re old enough to remember The Wonder Years on TV, where Fred Savage was a pre-teen growing up in the 60s while his grown-up self Daniel Stern narrated a load of crap about getting closer to his dad n’ stuff, you’ll remember his best friend-slash-object of lust Winnie Cooper. If you have no idea what I’m on about then just know that the grown up Winnie – Danica McKellar – takes the lead in this here quirkfest. It’s another genre-referential slasher flick – it’s Hack!

Kane Hodder dies. Then we meet an assorted group of college students, led by McKellar’s dorky Emily, who has organised a stay-away trip to an island where they’ll complete a study on rock pools and stuff for the extra credit they each need. As later noted by Johnson’s token nice guy, there are enough stereotypes for a scary movie: the jock (who takes his football everywhere), the sexy exchange student (“fish n’ chips, guv’nor?), the flamboyant gay guy (who dances to Fame when nervous), the dope-smoking black guy and the sarcastic rock chick.

hack6The group stay with perky couple Vincent and Mary-Shelley (Kanan and Landau), who are passionate about filmmaking. All this idyll is soon brought to a halt as the students start splintering off and then getting moiderized by a killer who dresses up in a variety of filmy costumes to commit their dastardly deeds.

hack1hack5

I’ll be ruining nothing by revealing that the killers turn out to be Vincent and Mary-Shelley, making a horror flick of their own by copying scenes and motifs from various old classics. And The Ring. Teens are chainsawed, croquet-malleted, shoved down wells and fed to piranhas amongst other things, all with an excess of reflective dialogue – the Karate scene is especially amusing as is the final confrontation between survivors and killers.

hack7Hack! does add a twist of its own towards the end, which had the effect of pulling the rug from under its own feet to some extent. This sort of revelation isn’t unduly rare for a slasher film but it’s never been one I’m particularly fond of unless it’s so deep-rooted you have no idea what’s about to hit you. I’d have preferred them not to meddle in the way they have and it damaged my appreciation for how entertaining the film had been up to this point.

hack4There are a few elements that don’t tie up well in places, things I can’t go into without giving it all away, although quite why William Forsythe is dressed like a 19th century farm worker is a mystery. But the cast bears an appealing quality and the high reading on the randometer isn’t a bad thing in a production like this.

hack8aWith this in mind, it shouldn’t be forgotten that Hack! is a cheap n’ cheerful ride, something that seems to escape the type of people who write “worst movie EVER!!!1!1!!!” on the IMDb boards and in turn praise the glut of torture-porn knock-offs because “they iz soooo realistikz!” This is a well made film – save for the tinny sound at some points – which has evidently been written as a love letter to the genre rather than an exercise in ‘let’s see how much violence we can get away with’.

So for me it was funny and engaging but definitely not for all tastes unless you like your slash with a topping of grilled cheese and a endless array of throwaway one-liners, otherwise you’ll agree with the last line: “What the hell’s going on here?” “Just some piece of shit horror movie.” Maybe.

hack3

Blurbs-of-interest: William Forsythe was in the Halloween remake and iMurders; Sean Kanan was in Hide and Go Shriek; Juliet Landau was also in the Toolbox Murders remake; Lochlyn Munro was in Freddy vs. Jason, Scary MovieThe Tooth FairyInitiation and Totally Killer; Kane Hodder is in everything.

Shoot first, work out plot later

paintballPAINTBALL

3 Stars  2009/15/86m

“There’s nothing like a brush with death to make you feel alive.”

Director: Daniel Benmayor / Writer: Mario Schoendorff / Cast: Jennifer Matter, Brendan Mackey, Patrick Regis, Iaione Perez, Neil Maskell, Anna Casas, Peter Vives Newey, Claudia Bassols, Felix Pring.

Body Count: 11

Dire-logue: “Look man, we might’ve just met, but right now we need to stick together!”


If you’ve ever been paintballing it’s likely you’ve encountered some the archetypes commonly associated with shooting-things-for-fun. I went a couple of years ago and we beheld the stag-do lads (the groom was made to wear a dress) and the militia wannabes who like to take such things a tad seriously… Needless to say, I was crap as it, succeeding only in eliminating trees from the competition.

In the grand tradition of doing-what-it-says-on-the-box, Paintball is a film about paintball – an obvious development for death-in-the-woods film, but not one that hasn’t been explored before. Jason took out some dorky execs in Friday the 13th Part VI and bachelor-party-boneheads were hunted by a Templar Knight in StagKnight just a couple of years back.

This Spanish film (in English) puts eight international paintball fanatics – four of each gender – into Redball Woods, “Europe’s largest paintball sanctuary” where they’re given 24 hours to capture four flags and annihilate the opposing team. Names are bandied around but with everyone in masks it’s impossible to work out who’s who and all dialogue for now is yelled commands from nominated leader David.

Before long, the team are attacked by someone who has better weapons than they do – including real bullets it seems as one lagging schmuck is quickly killed off. So begins their plight as a largely off-camera hunter picks them off one after the other, watching through night-vision goggles so all the violence is polarised and spurts of blood appear bright white.

At around the halfway point, Paintball does the opposite to what most modern horror flicks do – it gets better instead of worse, escalating steadily towards the interesting climax. The first third was crowded with annoying characters (we had the token fat American guy, the brash sub-Vasquez chick, and the black guy) and had frenetic, near impossible to watch camera work.

However, it soon becomes apparent that we’re not dealing with just another I-hate-people psycho; the killer is under instruction from a group of people with a vested interest in watching people die. Echoes of Battle Royale, Wilderness and now Hostel come together as the final numbers dwindle and the killer rebels and decides to kill his way, leaving last survivor – female, natch – to be ‘adopted’ by the controllers, who shepherd both her and the killer together for a final theatrical confrontation. The winner will be granted freedom…right?

In spite of some nice accents, there’s little European flavour in Paintball: none of the lush photography that made The Orphanage so nice and sod all tension a la Cold Prey and Haute Tension. But there is something good about it, something that might have worked out better if the film were in more experienced hands. As it is, the first third is so dismal that the temptation to turn off was overwhelming. If you can make it to the midway twist, you might enjoy it.

Valley of the Cheapjack Franchises: CAMP BLOOD

Camp Crystal Lake was known as Camp Blood by the locals, ‘cos of all the, y’know, DEATH. A film called Camp Blood peaked my interest over a decade ago when browsing the bottom shelf of the horror section. It’s time to avoid that section no more once again as I save you from suffering through another stack o’ shite slash…

campbloodCAMP BLOOD

1 Stars 1999/18/73m

“Wide open with nowhere to run.”

Director/Writer: Brad Sykes / Cast: Jennifer Ritchkoff, Michael Taylor, Tim Young, Bethany Zolt, Courtney Taylor, Joe Hagerty.

Body Count: 11


If I’d made this film, I’d forgive you for calling it a pile of shit. I would, honestly. Whether Brad Sykes would forgive you – or indeed me – is another matter…

The title alone informs us that this is going to rip off Friday the 13th to some extent, but there’s also some Blair Witch in there too. Within two minutes we’re privy to some gratuitous nudity and the obligatory slashing that occurs everytime somebody disrobes in the woods. Try it and see!

Four city folk drive out into the woods to spend the weekend at Camp Blackwood but are, of course, stalked and slain by a clown-masked, machete-toting loon. Every predictable element is tossed into this shit salad: the insane old man who declares them to be doomed, a crappy legend that’s about as frightening as goldfish (but still manages to necessitate dialogue such as “I just can’t stop thinking about that story…”), characters who jog as slowly as possible away from the looming killer, cell phones fail, walking near a twig means you’ve sprained your ankle and therefore you can’t walk… It’s unrelenting.

By far the worst thing occurs when the final girl escapes and is accused of being behind it all and the other actors who played her now-dead friends don new roles as cops and nurses etc with barely any attempt to alter their appearances. Jason wept…

*

campblood2CAMP BLOOD 2

2000/18/75m  1 Stars

“It’s not over!”

Director/Writer: Brad Sykes / Cast: Jennifer Ritchkoff. Garett Clancy, Missy Hansen, Mark Overholt, Jane Johnson, Timothy Patrick, Ken X, Lisa Marie Bolick, Courtney Burr.

Body Count: 9

Dire-logue: “Sometimes it feels like I’m dead too.”


Before torture-porn there was torture-quality. As if one of these films wasn’t bad enough, the same ‘production’ team return for another helping of the same with absolutely no lessons learnt from their previous outing.

One year after surviving the Camp Blackwood slayings, a director with as little talent as Brad Sykes invites sole survivor / prime suspect Tricia – who has been locked away in an asylum that has an inch-thick wooden door to keep her confined – to be the ‘technical advisor’ on his screen immortalisation of the events according to her statement.

Without any explanation whatsoever, the doctors just let her leave without a chaperone, an electronic tag or a T-shirt that says “Hi there! If I go mental and try to kill you, return me to Loonsville Asylum!”

So she goes along on the shoot and another clown-masked nutter, who’s already done away with some horny teens, comes a stalkin’. Tricia, three actors and the entire crew of three become the victims of more dreadful killing, including machete in the mouth and a person who dies from a severed hand.

More attempted in-jokes – one character is named Adrienne Palmer – and a rushed open ending, in which the killer survives first degree burns that don’t even singe their hair and multiple machete slashes and then gives the clown mask to Tricia who wanders off into the woods with it. That’s the freakin’ end!

There is a third movie, which is called Within the Woods. I point blank refuse.

Blurbs-of-interest: Courtney Taylor played Mary Lou Maloney in Prom Night III, hence one of the characters is called Mary Lou. Tim Young was in Scarecrow, the other cheapjack franchise!

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