H A P P Y N E W Y E A R !
Let’s start 2018 with a 5-for-1 special!
CLASS REUNION MASSACRE
“No more pencils, no more books, no more students…”
A.k.a. The Redeemer; The Redeemer: Son of Satan
Director: Constantine S. Gochis / Writer: William Vernick / Cast: T.G. Finkbinder, Gyr Patterson, Damien Knight, Nick Carter, Nikki Barthen, Jeanetta Arnette, Michael Holdensworth.
Body Count: 8
Laughter Lines: “You mustn’t make me chase you – I could die of a heart attack!”
The words most commonly associated with this pre-Halloween outing are surely “what the fuck!?” ’76 wasn’t such a good year for the slasher film; with the much-needed influence of John Carpenter and Sean Cunningham’s groundbreakers replaced by the lamentable likes of Blood Voyage and Drive-In Massacre. It’s not very assuring to state that this is probably the best from that year.
After an unthinkably long and boring shot of a quarry lake and a few credits, a hand rises from the water and a mop-topped child wearing flares and a nasty sweater appears and gets on a passing bus that takes him off to church where he is in the choir. Is it supposed to be abstract? Or is it just mental? What the fuck 1.
Meanwhile, a stranger murders the caretaker of an abandoned school and moulds a mask of his face, then cuts out the yearbook pictures of his six chosen sinners who need to be redeemed for various non-descript reasons. Things finally get underway as the Class of ’67 return for their nine year reunion (What the fuck 2) discover they’re: A) alone, say “where is everybody?” three times in about ten seconds; B) locked in and; C) begin to die by blow-torch, shotgun, knife in the head and drowning.
When lesbian Kirsten is the only one left, you expect a long chase before she gets her own back on the killer… but no. Killer then goes back to the church where the flares-and-sweater boy is, and returns to the lake at the end. What the fuck 3.
Explanations? Drugs would seem to the prime suspect. The film manages to achieve absolutely nothing and so just comes across like a Christian propaganda film. I’m guessing that the hordes of other graduates from ’67 were absolutely delightful in every thinkable way then? Hope their nine year reunions were more fun.
“Screams of terror silenced only by the splintering of glass!”
Director: John Lamond / Writers: Colin Eggleston, John Lamond & John Michael Howson / Cast: Jenny Neumann, Gary Sweet, Nina Landis, Max Phipps, John Michael Howson, Briony Behets, Edmund Pegge, Sue Jones, Adele Lewin.
Body Count: 8
An erratically paced and schlocky Aussie production that plays as a kind of homage to Hitchcock, with a killer who favours shards of broken glass to do away with the cast of an independent theatrical production called A Comedy of Death.
Could the nutter be no other than schizophrenic beauty Helen (Neumann, pre-Hell Night decapitation) whose nasty daddy blamed her for causing the car accident that killed her mother seventeen years previously?
There’s not a whole lot of mystery going on here so the supposed ‘twist’ is no more than an invitation for the viewer to groan at the lack of imagination the writer has shown. Nevertheless, it’s not all bad. Stage Fright has a mixture of impressive and wonky performances from its cast, which ties in quite ironically with some of the rantings of hack director Phipps, who is tormented by bitter gay critic Howson (both of whom are expected to meet with the sharp ends of a smashed window sooner or later…)
The UK pre-certificate release is notably shorter than the rest of the world’s, even skipping a couple of early murders and leaving a yawn-worthy long gap between the assembly-line ‘trauma from the past’ opener and the first murder; and the incessant POV work in the backstage area becomes annoying. An amusing take on the Psycho shower-scene in the rain is an eyebrow-raiser towards the end but the film is just way too weird to be more than a passing interest for genre dorks.
“He was terrifying in life. But even more in DEATH!”
A.k.a. The Horror Star
Director/Writer: Norman Thaddeus Vane / Cast: Ferdinand Mayne, Jennifer Starrett, Luca Bercovici, Nita Talbot, Barbara Pilavin, Jeffrey Combs, Carlene Olson, Scott Thomson, Donna McDaniel, Alan Stock.
Body Count: 10
Laughter Lines: “We did something bad! I know something is after me!”
There are so many extraneous elements in this one… A group of film students decide to steal the body of recently departed Christopher Lee-esque star Conrad Razkoff from his extravagant mausoleum, and use him as the centerpiece for a party.
Disgusted by the theft, Conrad’s wife employs a medium to communicate with his spirit and inadvertently brings him back to life to kill his captors. Although it sounds pretty inventive when compared to the stack of its contemporaries – more so as it was shot in 1981 and left for two years.
The paper-thin teen characters are dispatched in quick succession, some by Conrad’s puzzlingly unwarranted psychic abilities, some hands-on, but in all cases with little blood. Under-lit scenes plague this film from start to finish – most of which is set in a gothic mansion that the kids inexplicably have access to, but the scenery is sorely underused. It looks a little like Hell Night but isn’t half as good.
“Last stop… is hell.”
Director: Manny Coto / Writers: Jackie Earle Haley & Keaton Jones / Cast: Chris McDonald, Lisa Aliff, James Purcell, Jamie Rose, Vincent Schiavelli, Aron Eisenberg, Petar Bozovic.
Body Count: 8
Laughter Lines: “He sounded like the fucking Exorcist!“
Passable supernatural slasher from the same director as Dr Giggles, and co-written by the future Freddy Krueger! Nicely shot in the former Yugoslavia, where Chris Hayden’s family were murdered years earlier during his father’s archaeological dig of an old tomb. Haunted by fractured memories, Chris is attracted back to the site and takes his magazine editor girlfriend, a photographer, and photographer’s vacuous model significant other.
No sooner do they arrive then his ‘imaginary’ childhood friend Daniel reappears to torment him. Is Daniel actually an immortal Prince who took pleasure in torturing local peasants with a variety of nasty devices set up in the hidden chamber Chris’s father died searching for?
Chris eventually locates Daniel’s ‘playroom’ and the fun begins when he offs his cohorts, while girlfriend Jenny is abducted by the man accused and incarcerated for the murders (late professional weirdo Schiavelli) who has escaped to put an end to the madness.
Although there’s a fair bit going on plotwise, Playroom doesn’t go anywhere with its ideas, quickly doing away with the handful of victims before a laughable store window mannequin (representing Daniel’s true form) stalks Jenny for a short while, and Chris prances around with his pickaxe before his gory comeuppance. The stock threat-isn’t-over ending is a letdown considering how annoying Daniel is, but this is one room that should be off limits hereafter.
“Heads will roll.”
Director: Tim Burton / Writer: Andrew Kevin Walker / Cast: Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien, Marc Pickering, Jeffrey Jones, Ian McDiarmid, Michael Gough, Christopher Lee, Lisa Marie, Steven Waddington, Claire Skinner.
Body Count: 17
Gothic fantasy movies just don’t come more lush than Tim Burton’s efforts, and in this thinly disguised slasher film, based on the novel by Washington Irving, a legendary headless horseman lops off the noggins of the inhabitants of the small north eastern town of Sleepy Hollow in 1799.
Johnny Depp (looking much more comfortable than his debut in A Nightmare On Elm Street) plays Ichabod Crane, the constable from New York sent to solve the mystery. As it turns out, the horseman is in fact real and is being controlled by whomever has stolen the skull from his grave. Gorgeous Christina Ricci is his beau, and together with Marc Pickering as the orphaned son of a recent victim, they make an attractive team.
The entire supporting cast ends up decapitated by the murderous ghoul, played to the hilt with some fabulous FX and gory enough slayings. The only drawback is that it lacks a certain something in that when it does get going, it’s never for long enough to excite, and the plays for laughs become too frequent, especially when it could have been really eerie. Apart from that, this is everything you’d expect from a gored-up Tim Burton flick.
Blurbs-of-interest: Stage Fright: Briony Behets and writer Colin Eggleston were later in Cassandra; John Michael Howson was in Houseboat Horror. Frightmare: Luca Bercovici was later in Stag Night; Jeffrey Combs was in Castle Freak and I Still Know What You Did Last Summer. Playroom: Aron Eisenberg was in The Horror Show; Chris McDonald was in The Collection; Jamie Rose was in Just Before Dawn; Vincent Schiavelli was in Milo. Sleepy Hollow: Depp was in From Hell; Christopher Lee was in Funny Man and Mask of Murder; Lisa Marie was in Silent Night; Marc Pickering was in Kill Keith; Casper Van Dien was in Skeleton Man.