Tag Archives: 90s horror month

Buy me! Read me! Love me!


Well, I’ve been writing again, and today (!) my fifth ‘lil slasher book has been released.

For years I had two ideas: One about a slasher movie festival where a killer began ripping off murder set pieces from the films played to lay waste to the local teen population, and one a friend brought to mind: “You should do Seven… but with The Ten Commandments?”

Mucho toiling later, I decided to combine the two and, with some hefty crowbarring, here is Tenfold (previously known as Let There Be Dark, Necessary Evil, All Things Sacred, God Watch Over You, The Holy Orders and a phonebook of other monikers).

Set in 1999 – hence the classic V-formation artwork – when we were all cartwheeling to the local cinemas to see that week’s new teen-horror flick, a quartet of small-town high schoolers decide to celebrate Halloween with a week-long slasher flick fest, much to the annoyance of the oppressive local Evangelical Church, who do all they can to stop it from going ahead.

Someone, however, has other plans, and begins offing attendees based not only on scenes from that night’s screenings, but also one of the Commandments. It’s down to lead horror-nuts Dash and Grace to find out who is behind it before they become the final victims in the reign of terror…

UK readers can pick it up here.

US readers can pick it up here.

Die mittelmäßigen film


2.5 Stars  1999/94m

“This class is dying to graduate.”

Director: Robert Sigl / Writer: Kal Meyer / Cast: Katharina Wackernagel, Niels Bruno Schmidt, Marlene Meyer-Dunker, Nils Nellessen, Rita Lengyel, Urs Remond, Sandra Leonhard, Enie van de Maiglockjes, Raphael Vogt.

Body Count: 7

Laughter Lines: “Wine in a plastic glass is like a blowjob with a condom.”

The native title of this German made-for-TV stalker flick translates as Scream! For I Will Kill You!, which clues us in on where many of its ideas came from.

At their high school graduation party, a quintet of teen friends concoct some spider-themed pranks for their teachers as a sort of final goodbye treat for themselves. Nina and Tom are having relationship troubles; Anne is worried she may have contracted AIDS, and Philip and Eva just want to party! But what happened to Jessica? Why didn’t she ever turn up? Could it have something to do with the escape of a psychopathic killer from an institution eleven years after he stabbed several women with a huge pair of scissors… Scissors very similar to the pair Eva bought along with her to aid the group’s prank setup?

Before long, the kids are being stalked and skewered by a masked maniac in a harlequin costume, replete with requisite snippers. The first hour of this slickly pieced-together number is involving and nostalgic for early 80s campus slashers. However, once good-girl Nina is safe and sound in the arms of her detective uncle, the wheels begin to work loose as she and fellow survivor Philip try to suss out what really happened, a curiosity which takes them back to school and forces them into a deadly confrontation.

While its TV origins may be responsible for the tame quotient of grue, School’s Out is still better than many American features that have gotten wider international exposure, making it a worth a look for genre masochists.

Followed by a sequel: Dead Island: School’s Out 2.

Out with the old


2.5 Stars  1996/15/80m

“Working here can be murder.”

Director: Cindy Sherman / Writers: Elise MacAdam & Tom Kalin / Cast: Carol Kane, Molly Ringwald, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Barbara Sukowa, Michael Imperioli, David Thornton, Mike Hodge, Alice Drummond.

Body Count: 8

Laughter Lines: “Kim! Go home… Go to unemployment… Just leave!”

1996 was the year Scream came out, the film that redefined, like, everything. Peering over the fence at that party like a sad, uninvited, neighbour kid, was Office Killer, an obscure little flick still sporting last season’s fashions and casting last decade’s names. Spoilers ensue!

Carol Kane is perfect as meek, measly copy editor (my job!!) Dorine who, when learning that the staff in her office will be downsized, decides to do some downsizing of her own, bumping off colleagues and storing them in her basement, where she plays ‘happy office’. Life’s frustrations are punctuated by her Mrs Bates-esque mother (Drummond).

Slickly made, but too slow-moving for such a short film: Dorine is interesting enough as the repressed psycho, and who doesn’t just LOVE the idea of Molly Ringwald as the bitchy, foul-mouthed co-worker who ends up being the only survivor? Jeanne Tripplehorn (game subject of a Whatever Happened To…?) is the ‘nice’ one who learns too much about her object of sympathy…

Oddest moment surely has to be Dorine murdering two cookie-selling girl scouts!

Blurbs-of-interest: Kane was the final girl in Pandemonium; Molly Ringwald appeared in Cut.

The 100 Greatest* Slasher Movies Part IX: #20-11

*According to me! Me, me, me! So don’t be surprised to find a few curious omissions…

#100-91 // #90-81 // #80-71 // #70-61 // #60-51 // #50-41 // #40-31 // #30-21

20: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

In many ways the pinnacle of the Elm Street franchise, as well as the first proper horror movie I ever saw (religious parents). Wes Craven returned to help scribe Nancy’s return to the throng after the disappointing returns from the change of direction in Freddy’s Revenge (which I maintain is still a cool film). Nance comes back as an intern at a psyche ward inhabited by a bunch of Krueger-plagued teens. While the final act may falter, the first two acts represent some of the most imaginative stuff around and, for the era, progressive FX work, featuring what are likely to be some of the fan-favourite demises for the beleaguered teens…

Crowning moment: Although both the ‘vein-puppet’ and the TV-room death register high on the amazing-kill-o-meter, I’ve got to say the DVD extra of spandex-metal band Dokken’s squealy Dream Warriors music video is something else and MUST be seen.

19. Hell Night (1981)

Irwin Yablans confidently declared that Hell Night would be bigger than Halloween! However, by the time it’s summer ’81 release rolled around, log-jam and fatigue had set in and nobody really cared… Anyway, Linda Blair and collegiate pals are dared to spend one night in the gloomy Garth Manor to finalise their pledge to a fraternity/sorority combo. Alas, the legends of its ‘haunting’ by a crazed killer turn out to be true…

Check out its rendering in Lego!

Crowning moment: Once Blair’s Marti is the last girl standing, she shifts gears into heroine-overdrive and the killer’s denouement is something to behold.

18: Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)

Outside of horror circles, this sharp docu-satire is barely known, which is upsetting when you think about how much money Scary Movie probably made… A film crew follow Glen Echo resident Leslie Vernon as he builds up to a massacre he’s planning at an old farmhouse. From selecting his ‘survivor girl’, to dodging his ‘Ahab’ (Robert freakin’ Englund!), Leslie explains how it will all unfold, even taking a moment to discuss phallic weaponry and psychoanalysis of the heroine’s successful survival. Fucking fantastic stuff.

Crowning moment: My favourite moment will give too much away, but let’s just say the pivot point where the cameras are put down as the killing gets real is very nicely done.

17: April Fool’s Day (1986)

Privileged heiress Muffy St. John invites a group of college pals to her island home for Spring Break. They quote Boswell, play AFD jokes and start getting hunted down one by one. Or do they? While largely bloodless, April Fool’s Day is populated by a good cast of nice characters and is better directed and acted than most. I once read a genre guide that gave this film a zero, proclaiming it a cheat, while Return to Horror High received full marks. Riiiiight.

Crowning moment: Scooby Doo-style mystery solving puts Amy Steel alone in a room with a seemingly PTSD-suffering Muffy, who has a few strange things to say…

16: Wrong Turn (2003)

On a West Virginian backroad, a group of campers are stranded after a car accident and find themselves to be the prey of a trio of cannibalistic inbreds. They note the similarity of their situation to Deliverance so critics didn’t have to (but still did). What ensues is a taut chase through unknown terrain with ever depleting numbers as each and every escape plan is foiled by the psychos.

Crowning moment: The fleeing campers come across a forest clearing filled with blood-stained cars. A rare sad moment in a horror film as Elisa Dushku questions how they’ve been getting away with it.

15: Cold Prey II (2008)

Surviving snowboarder Jannicke is saved and moved to a local hospital where the local cops also bring the bodies of her dead friends and that of the Fjellmannen (killer). He, of course, isn’t quite dead, and embarks on a new spree through the corridors of the hospital, forcing Jannicke to go through it aaaaall again. Yeah, it’s pretty much Halloween II but a gazillion times more interesting. Sequels don’t come much more cohesive and committed, even getting all of the original cast back to play their own corpses.

Crowning moment: Jannicke says fuck it and decides to turn the tables and become the hunter, leading to an awesome showdown.

14: The Initiation (1983)

Sorority pledge Kelly (Daphne Zuniga) has long been plagued by a recurring nightmare. Her new college professor is interested in what it means and begins unraveling a family secret. Meanwhile, Kelly and pals break into a Houston shopping mall as their hazing prank. Unluckily for them, ‘someone’ has broken out of an asylum and is hell bent on killing everybody… Complex plotting (for a slasher film) with a mystery element that, for once, isn’t astoundingly obvious.

Crowning moment: The all-too-short confrontation between Kelly and the killer. Kitsch as they come but awesome all the same.

13: I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)

Horror purists condemned this po-faced response to Scream but 17 years on it’s something of a minor classic (the title alone is epic), stocked with era-famous talent. Two teen couples are involved in a hit and run they they cover up; One year later they begin receiving notes and threats pertaining to their crime and, on the July 4th anniversary, a hook-wielding maniac begins stalking and killing them.

Crowning moment: Quite fittingly, as the film is essentially Prom Night all over again (despite being based on a book written in 1973), there’s a long, drawn out chase, this time featuring Buffy herself, Sarah Michelle Gellar.

12: Scream (1996)

Gasp! Not in the Top 10!? Don’t cry just yet. This genre-redefining film is awesome. Awesome. Kevin Williamson did for his characters what audiences had been doing for years – he clued them in. Before Scream, characters in slasher flicks existed like they’d never seen one (with one or two notable exceptions). Teamed with Craven, and right on the back of his series-redefining New Nightmare, they took the best parts of other films to create this satire of the whole enchilada. A party sits around watching Halloween, the ‘rules’ of horror are noted, and yet they still die. Essential viewing for any horror fan.

Crowning moment: The opening 12 minutes, yeah, it’s a total rip-off of When A Stranger Calls, but Drew Barrymore throws herself into the victim-role with unmatchable intensity.

11: My Bloody Valentine (1981)

By this point in the first cycle of stalk n’ slash, no calendar holiday was safe from the swinging blades of a deranged psychopath. Valentine’s Day was soon nabbed in this Canadian slice of sadism in which a spooky Scooby Doo-like miner pick-axes residents of the town of Valentine Bluffs, twentysomething years after “The Murders!” a private party lures him back and a trip into the mine ends up with bodies lying everywhere. The 2009 uncut release improves things tenfold with the MPAA cuts restored.

Crowning moment: Death by shower head.

Slasher Shakespeare

When quizzed on my favourite slasher films recently, I was gawked at for citing Urban Legend. Later that week I watched it and, as it always has, it reignited my love for it. Thus, when one might ask “Urban Legend, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways,” I can answer like so… Oh, mind those dastardly spoilers, now!

1. The Artwork

Still one of my favourite movie posters, and easily the best of the 90s crop: The cracked glass, the negative paper cuttings, the lighting, the eye… It’s perfect. Perfect, I proclaim.

2. The Beginning

Albeit shamelssly ripped off from Scream (which itself was a complete theft from When a Stranger Calls), the ‘classic’ killer in the back seat legend sets things up awesomely as Natasha Gregson Wagner unfortunately becames the real life proclamation of Bonnie Tyler’s seminal “every now and then I fall apart” lyric she happens to be singing as the movie loon rises up behind her.

Can you swing an axe inside a car? Doubtful, but this is just the first of Urban Legend‘s many fab anomalies.

3. Natalie’s moral center


At the movies when I first watched the film way back in 1999, the turning point to perfection came early on when Natalie (Alicia Witt – my kinda lady) challenged campus journo Paul on his story, reminding him that it was somebody’s life. Witt’s acting skills, effortlessly dwarfing those around her, make her an exceptional final girl.

4. Rent-a-Cop Reese


Campus head of security Reese (Loretta Devine – almost 50-years-old when she made this!) is a sassy, Pam Grier-obsessed backgrounder who’s more important than she initially appears and was the only character to return for the sequel.

5. Killer wardrobe


The loon in Urban Legend wears a creepy fur-lined Parka coat – the type kids in Grange Hill wore in the 70s. Considering who it turns out to be, that hood can pack a lot down AND disguise the fiend’s face admirably.

6. …that everyone else wears


On no less than THREE occasions is the very same design of jacket used as as a fake-out. Everyone seems to wear it, from professors, to the janitor, even girls on the swim team – despite the sunny conditions outside.

This is an undeniably stupid plot aspect in a film with so much stock in passing off coincidences as something else, I think using it once would’ve been enough.

7. Laughter Lines and It’s-About-Time Lines


Even a super-talent like Witt could never deliver the line “It’s like somebody out there is taking all these stories and making them reality,” convincingly. It’s awful dialogue, matched later by a few other aural faux pas’ such as two girls bonding over a love triangle minutes after the killer has axed one of their friends to death…

However, this is buoyed by Natalie’s for once honest answer to the recurrent slasher movie question: “Are you OK?” On two occasions is she asked this and, on both, simply replies: “No.”

8. Danielle Harris as the skanky roommate


Once she was cute little Jamie Lloyd, ever on the run from her derange uncle in Halloween‘s 4 and 5; once she sat across the aisle from me at the world premiere of Hatchet II. But in between horror fame, Danielle Harris chews up this small, rather thankless role, as Natalie’s goth roommate, Tosh, who seems to do nothing but cruise chatrooms looking for a shag.

9. Contrived ways of getting events to accommodate the legends


The major obstacle in Urban Legend – both writing it and watching it – must be the method to tie all the murders together. It leans heavily on characters doing the right things at the right time for the killer to be able to exploit their actions: What if Damon didn’t get out of the car for a piss? What if Natalie hadn’t walked in on Tosh having sex before? It renders the entire film a crock in terms of reality, but, again it must be stressed that’s there’s never really been a real world slasher movie event – gun massacres don’t count – so it has to be stupid to work.

 10. Killer casting


Leads Jared Leto and Alicia Witt both became stars in their own right, and they’re admirably propped up by a roster of familiar faces from various other films and TV shows of the era: Joshua Jackson makes the most of his small role as the peroxide-domed prankster Damon; future famous-for-being-drunk girl Tara Reid as Sasha, the borderline slut (but she’s not unpleasant); and who wouldn’t want to go to a class taught by Freddy Krueger!?


11. A long, drawn out chase scene


While it may not reach the dizzy heights of the chase scenes in Prom Night or I Know What You Did Last Summer, Urban Legend was savvy enough to know that nothing can get audiences going like a damsel being accosted by the killer. In this case, it’s Sasha (Tara Reid) who is stalked around the campus radio station by the axe-toting loon, apparently recreating “the one about the murder live on air” alluded to by some bit-parter in an earlier scene.


The scene wraps beautifully with Natalie arriving too late to help her friend, who has locked herself in a room on a higher floor and smacks futilely against the window. The killer comes through the other door and whacks her with an axe that miraculously remains perfectly clean.

12. A car chase – albeit quite a slow one


There’s been horror, comedy, romance, and now action! Once Natalie’s on the run again, she’s picked up by the grumpy janitor and, of course, there are no other cars on the road when the killer reappears to make yet another legend reality!

13. Thunderbolts and lightning, very, very frightening


Tossing EVERY cliche into the bag once more, those Parka jackets and everyone who owns them prove their worth when the night brings a massive thunderstorm that Natalie finds herself running through on more than one occasion. Still, putting the final girl through the wringer is nothing new…

14. Gotcha!


If you can read Latin, you’ll have already been informed by the college’s motto that ‘the best friend did it’. A friend of mine let it slip before it came out so there was sadly no surprise element, although Brenda’s deranged eyes and oversized shaggy perm soon outweigh the stupidity by their sheer awesomeness.

15. The Exposition


The Scream-era had no want for motiveless loons killing because they just do, 90s slasher films had to have a killer with a proper reason behind their killing spree. Anybody remotely familiar with how these films work would’ve pegged the real motivation earlier on when Natalie confides in Brenda her terrible secret… The girl-on-girl scene is a catty-dialogue lover’s wet dream and although there’s NO WAY IN HELL a skinny girl could ever hoist up a grown man, survive being shot and falling out of a third floor window, she’s freakin’ awesome and proof that hell certainly hath no fury…

16. Brenda’s lizard face of death



17. The significantly “less Hollywoody” new cast


Where the class of Pendleton University featured a uniformally beautiful group of friends, at nearby ‘Ashton’, the new class is a little less… shall we say… ‘conventional’. Though I do want the blond guy’s long hair and her glasses.


So there you have it, next time I ask myself “Urban Legend, how do I love thee, let me count the ways,” I can say with some certainty that I love it in at least seventeen different ways. Out.

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