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seance 2021

SEANCE

2.5 Stars  2021/93m

“A joke might have caused an awakening.”

Director/Writer: Simon Barrett / Cast: Suki Waterhouse, Ella-Rae Smith, Inanna Sarkis, Madisen Beaty, Stephanie Sy, Marina Stephenson, Seamus Patterson, Djouliet Amara, Jade Michael, Megan Best.

Body Count: 6


Spoilers. The epitome of average, Seance – ‘from the creators of You’re Next and Orphan‘ – leads us to believing that a group of boarding school girls have conjured up the vengeful spirit of a past student who committed suicide there in the 90s. A prank orchestrated by a couple of them seemingly scares poor bookish Kerrie to death, as the others find her dead on the ground outside minutes after she fled.

Shortly after, taking Kerrie’s space is British girl Camille, who almost instantly finds herself in the crosshairs of bitchy chief-prankster Alice. Seven girls are given detention and decide to try to contact Kerrie through a homemade spirit board and, thereafter, the girls begin meeting their maker as they find excuses to go off on their own. Is it the ghost? Is it Kerrie? It’s certainly someone in a papier-mache drama class mask.

Remarkably, after a series of disappearances and ‘accidental deaths’, the headmistress doesn’t close the school and send everyone home, allowing the killer to continue offing the pack, until we arrive at the now-requisite girl-tied-to-a-chair-for-exposition scene.

With such a small cast, the killer’s identity is no real surprise. The motive though, what the actual fuck? Covering up a stolen essay. For real. Fortunately, Seance has another trick up its sleeve, albeit not game changing, it at least provides some context, and a couple of the kills towards the end are pretty gnarly. I know I won’t remember a damn thing about this a year from now.

“A boy’s best friend is his mother”

mother's day 1980

MOTHER’S DAY

2.5 Stars  1980/91m

“I’m so proud of my boys – they never forget their mama.”

Director/Writer: Charles Kaufman / Writer: Warren Leight / Cast: Nancy Hendrickson, Deborah Luce, Tiana Pierce, Frederick Coffin [as Holden McGuire], Billy Ray McQuade, Rose Ross.

Body Count: 6


A few crossover elements with stock slasher elements see this eyebrow-cocking rape revenge comedy included here.

A trio of college friends, now in their thirties, gather for their annual trip and, this year, venture into the woods stalked by a couple of hicks, who abduct them for sex slaves at the backwoods cabin they share with their domineering mother.

When one of the women dies after escaping, the remaining pair decide to return to the shack to unleash vengeance on the family, which includes TV-on-the-head, Draino down the throat, and suffocation by inflatable chair!

Little slashing occurs, exhibited only in the opening scene, where a couple of hippies are ambushed – look for the blood splatter that occurs before the weapon has even been swung.

Some amusing moments and the women’s revenge is great, it’s also unexpectedly well made, but nothing more than a passing curiosity. Curiously, several of the cast members go by different names outside of this production.

Sé lo que hiciste el verano pasado

killer book club 2023

KILLER BOOK CLUB

3 Stars  2023/89m

A.k.a. El Club de Los Lectores Criminales

Director: Carlos Alonso Ojea / Writer: Carlos Garcia Miranda / Cast: Veki Velilla, Álvaro Mel, Priscilla Delgado, Iván Pellicer, Hamza Zaidi, María Cerezuela, Ane Rot, Carlos Alcaide, Daniel Grao.

Body Count: 8


Six years after a girl burns her mother to death in a pile of torn up books, eight teens who form a college book club engage in a revenge prank against a skeezy professor. After assaulting shy writer Angela in his office, her friends decide a little payback is in order and, having just finished a bool about coulrophobia – fear of clowns – purchase seven identical costumes and scare the crap out of the guy.

Of course, teen pranks never end well, and one of the masked clowns slashes his face, causing him to tumble over a balustrade and become impaled on the university’s statue of Don Quixote. In true Southport style, they swear secrecy, burn the costumes, and become depressed.

killer book club

Soon after, each of the group receive invitations to read an unfolding new novel on a fan fiction, detailing the clown’s revenge on them, casting each in a standard horror role, and publishing a new chapter to coincide with each murder: The clown comes equipped with a blade-ended hammer doodad, which he uses to slash and impale his quarry.

For a script about creating literature, there is literally nothing unexpected in this Netflix original, which owes a truckload of gratitude to the recent Scream movies, all the while stapling them to the standard Prom Night I Know What You Did Last Summer Sorority Row secrets-never-stay-secret opus, and occurring on Urban Legend‘s campus.

killer book club 2023

There are, however, several good chase sequences, the best being around the botanical gardens, culminating with Angela hammering against the doors while one of her friends is stuck on the other side, loon approaching.

Everything else balances precariously on coincidence: A horror themed book fair where dozens of attendees wear the same clown costume, characters deciding to pack up and leave campus in the middle of the night and go wait at a secluded bus stop, others falling for clearly bogus texts that lure them into weird inescapable places.

killer book club 2023

Killer Book Club is colourful though (sans Angela’s heinous green sweater/dungarees combo), with nice sets and the always-refreshing alt-perspective of its European setting, adequately bloody, and while a significant part of the revelation was entirely obvious, there was a part that I genuinely didn’t see coming, so extra points for that, even though it made sense in hindsight.

Go in with your expectations in the basement and you’ll get some mileage out of this loveletter to 90s teen horror.

Blurb-of-interest: Daniel Grao was in Julia’s Eyes.

You can’t choose your family. But you can kill them.

slasher flesh & blood 2021

SLASHER: FLESH & BLOOD

1.5 Stars  2021/367m

Director: Adam MacDonald / Created by: Aaron Martin / Cast: Rachael Crawford, Sabrina Grdevich, Chris Jacot, Paula Brancati, Alex Ozerov, AJ Simmons, Sydney Meyer, Breton Lalama, Corteon Moore, Jeananne Goossen, Patrice Goodman, Nataliya Rodina, David Cronenberg.

Body Count: 15

Laughter Lines: “A series of games – a competition – each of you will be knocked out one by one.”


Saw meets Succession for the fourth series of the Canadian anthology universe where the only people who exist are hateful narcissists. Seriously, Aaron Martin, would it hurt to make a few of them not assholes? I thought residents of Canada had form for being too nice.

Patriarch of the Galloway family, David Cronenberg, decides to opt out of life – literally. He’s committing assisted suicide, but not before instructing his greedy family that only one of them can have his fortune, and to win it they just have to play a few games. Last one standing wins gazillions. So they gather at his island mansion for the weekend where they argue, deceive, and are hunted down by a top-hat-and-plague-masked killer who has some creative demises in store.

Add to this, kidnapped grandson Vincent reappears after 25 years, igniting more suspicion. His uneasy twin, Theo, has the hots for the housekeeper’s daughter, Liv, who is timely informed that she’s actually part of the bloodline and thus eligible for the prize. Closet gay Seamus and his happy-hippie wife Christy are struggling with their weird adopted daughter, Aphra. New trophy wife of the head of the clan, Grace, just wants the best for their son, Jayden. Non-binary O’Keeffe doesn’t really want to be there.

slasher flesh & blood 2021

And then there’s Florence. To conjure up an image of Florence, think of the campest, most pantomime witch character you can, squawky shrill voice right out of The Wizard of Oz included. Amplify that a hundred or so times, and you might have her. A role so beyond the realms of credibility, it’s no wonder Sabrina Grdevich goes to town, chewing up the scenery with her demented antics, kind of like an evil Moira Rose, just falling shy of threatening: “I’ll get you, and your little dog too!”

So it goes, the loser of each test is eliminated by the agile killer, and sometimes one another in a Bay of Blood-esque desperation for survival and riches, while the blackest of black secrets are revealed through flashbacks, painting just about everyone as the nastiest kind of nasty. Perhaps only Christy and O’Keeffe are likeable by comparison, but meet sticky ends nonetheless. Gruesome denouements include being fed into a giant woodchipper, limbs ripped off, acid injection, and one poor person has their face eaten. A decent midpoint twist right out of Orphan and the killer’s identity being an unexpected outcome do little to swim against the tide.

slasher flesh & blood 2021

I don’t understand this series; it seems firmly rooted in the sport of horrible people being killed horribly for horrible reasons. There’s nobody to root for. But will I watch the next season? Probs.

Blurbs-of-interest: Cast members Jacot and Brancati were in the previous three seasons; Patrice Goodman was in Solstice; Alex Ozerov was in The Dark Stranger; Corteon Moore was in the Terror Train remake; David Cronenberg had a cameo in Jason X.

In the shadow of the rainbow

cruising 1980

CRUISING

4 Stars  1980/18/102m

“Al Pacino is cruising for a killer.”

Director/Writer: William Friedkin / Writer: Gerald Walker / Cast: Al Pacino, Paul Sorvino, Richard Cox, Karen Allen, Don Scardino, Joe Spinell, Jay Acovone, Randy Jurgensen, James Remar, Ed O’Neill, William Russ, Powers Boothe, Gene Davis.

Body Count: 5

Laughter Lines: “C’mere. I wanna show you my night stick.”


How many 80s/90s films dealt with ye olde sexy police woman going undercover as a stripper/hooker/exotic dancer to weed out a serial killer? Tons. Literally, this was the plot to every third steamy late night cable thriller back in the day.

So it says quite a bit about social attitudes that inverting the template, inserting a male cop into a gay environment where he has to blend in – really blend in – resulted in critics mauling the film, protesting from gay rights groups concerned about the depictions in the film, and, to this day, fierce online debates about it all.

cruising 1980 shades

Friedkin’s bleak, grimy film takes place in ’79-’80 New York City, where the discovery of dismembered body parts in the Hudson River leads investigating detectives to trace victims to the seedy underground leather scene. Enter Pacino’s Steve Burns, selected by his superior given his physical similarity to several of the victims. Burns agrees (somewhat eagerly) to go undercover and infiltrate the community to try and lure the killer.

His girlfriend (Allen) is kept in the dark and, as Burns goes deeper into the clubs, bars, and general life, he finds himself torn in two directions. The leather-clad, silky voiced killer, meanwhile, continues slaying men in public park cruising grounds and a porno theater, often heard singing a little rhyme in a creepy tone. The cops begin focusing on a suspect who works in a steakhouse that has many of the same type of knife being used, and Burns hangs out with his sweet natured playwright neighbour, Ted.

cruising al pacino paul sorvino 1980

Friedkin deliberately fucks with us throughout, changing which actor plays the killer more than once in difference scenes to disorientate and confuse – at one point, an actor who played the killer then switches to be the next victim (although all are overdubbed by James Sutorius). Such is the interchangeability of the larger situation, the homogenic aesthetics of the scene, and the ambiguity around the film’s coda.

Cruising is a confronting vehicle, likely especially for heterosexual audiences in 1980, with the added discomfort of watching men casually and intimately touch the ‘straight’ lead. Gay men remain divided on it; at a time then gay rights were gaining a little bit of traction (just prior to the AIDS crisis), protestors saw the film (based on a novel and a series of genuine, unsolved murders) as a step back towards optics they were trying to distance themselves from: Predatory, sex-fuelled, vampire-esque lifestyles of hedonism that, by day, could be the guy at the store, at the gas station, waiting your table…

cruising 1980 al pacino

Around 40 minutes of footage was excised over around fifty submissions to the MPAA which, according to Friedkin, mostly consisted of X-rated antics captured at the clubs. It does feel like something is missing as we speed towards the end, but the is-it-or-isn’t-it note things end on is, it seems, likely intentional and plays into the is-he-or-isn’t-he nature of existing as a gay person in society, especially at that point.

But it is a slasher film? Hmm… like a leather daddy straddles his sub, Cruising can play around with versatility. More than enough is borrowed from stalk n’ slash antics for it to be of interest (oddly, the film it reminded me of most was Maniac, from which Joe Spinell plays a skeezy beat cop here). It’s probably too high-end, too polished, despite the filthy gutter it plays in, to qualify, but …why the hell not? Taste the rainbow.

cruising 1980 al pacino

Decidedly not for all audiences – gay or straight – relievingly non-judgmental about the counter culture it explores, and exquisitely shot. Have fun spotting all the before-they-were-famous faces: Ed O’Neill, Powers Boothe, James Remar, Burr DeBenning.

Blurbs-of-interest: Don Scardino was the lead in He Knows You’re Alone; Joe Spinell was also in The Last Horror Movie; James Remar was in The Surgeon; Gene Davis (the crossdressing informant, DaVinci) played the nudie killer in 10 to Midnight; Burr DeBenning was in A Nightmare on Elm Street 5.

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