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Less is more

vengeance part 2 bloodlines 2022

VENGEANCE PART 2: BLOODLINES

2.5 Stars  2022/108m

“Legends are worth dying for. Family is worth killing for.”

Director/Writer: Jason Brooks / Cast: C.J. Graham, Thom Mathews, Darcy DeMoss, Kelly Tappan, Sanae Loutsis, Morgen Johnson, Jason Brooks, Tom McLoughlin, Rob Mello, Tamara Glynn, Richie Ramone.

Body Count: 36


A follow-up to the 2019 fan filmBloodlines brings back the sisters Jarvis, still looking for their pop, while Elias Voorhees spurns Jason on to keep killing, well, everybody.

Meanwhile, a couple of devotees (including Jason Lives director McLoughlin) abduct the younger sister for… why? I don’t know, I was having a hard time decrypting what was going on in this one. Anyway, Tommy turns up, possibly running straight from or to the set of Never Hike Alone 2, and everybody fights.

Also back for more is Darcy DeMoss, who apparently survived having her head smushed into the wall of an RV, as part of a bachelorette party that’s caught up in a traffic jam that Jason crashes, tearing up dozens, dozens, of schmucks by smashing their heads in doors, throwing spears, machetes, using drumsticks, his bare hands etc, etc.

Amusing and well done as some of these kills are, like before, they just go way too far in both number and violent excess, with heaps of nameless characters running around the woods before they’re disembowelled with little to no suspense. Dare I say it gets… boring?

Another actress from a Halloween sequel rocks up and I lived up to my psychic destiny be saying aloud a second before she did when asked: “You grew up here, didn’t you?”; “No, I grew up in Haddonfield.” Word for word. Then she dies, obvs. And one of the Ramones is here!?

But at least these guys are doing something. Part 3 awaited.

Blurbs-of-interest: Rob Mello was also in both Happy Death Day films; Darcy DeMoss was also in Return to Horror High; Tamara Glynn was in Halloween 5; Thom Mathews was also in Final Summer.

Pick n’ Mix

candy corn 2019

CANDY CORN

2 Stars  2019/86m

“This year there’s a new Halloween tradition.”

Director/Writer: Josh Hasty / Cast: Courtney Gains, Pancho Moler, Nate Chaney, Jimothy Beckholt, Madison Russ, Cy Creamer, Caleb Thomas, Sky Elobar, P.J. Soles, Tony Todd.

Body Count: 8


So you’ve managed to bring in the of Candyman and a genre name from Children of the Corn – what can you call your film? Children of the Man? No, wait, Candy Corn!

Of these names, plus P.J. Soles, it’s only Gains who really ‘stars’ in Candy Corn, a bit of a nothingy tale of douchey smalltown teens who take their annual physical humiliation of local simpleton Jacob too far and end up killing him. He is resurrected by Moler’s travelling carnival witch doctor, given a creepy mask, and let loose to even the score.

One by one, those involved are gruesomely offed, while Gains’ sheriff tries to control the situation. Todd plays a doubting carnie, while Soles is behind the desk at the cop shop. Both probably appear for a combined total of maybe ten minutes?

There’s still some nice photography going on, adequate performances and a nice Halloweenie atmos, but it all feels like it was pulled out of the oven too soon.

Blurbs-of-interest: Gains can also be seen in The Landlady; Todd’s other credits include Final Destination‘s 12, and 5Hatchet‘s 12Hell FestiMurdersJack the ReaperScarecrow Slayer, and the third season of the Scream TV series; P.J. is also in HalloweenInnocent PreyThe Tooth Fairy, and Uncle Sam.

Nottie Knocks

natty knocks 2023

NATTY KNOCKS

1.5 Stars  2023/95m

Director: Dwight Little / Writer: Benjamin Olson

Cast: Bill Moseley, Charlotte Fountain-Jardim, Thomas Robie, Noen Perez, Danielle Harris, Channah Zeitung, Robert Englund, Amit Sarin, Jason James Richter, Will Murden.

Body Count: 5


Dwight Little turned out what’s commonly regarded as one of the better Halloween sequels with 1988’s The Return of Michael Myers, and then the following year a slasher version of The Phantom of the Opera. So when you see his name alongside actors Danielle Harris, Bill Moseley, and crucially Robert Englund, you’d be forgiven for expecting something pretty damn special.

Alas, Natty Knocks is an endurance test from start to finish.

At Halloween, 1976, a group of angry housewives decide to take revenge on the titular local B-movie actress and town ho, who’s bedded all of their husbands and, they believe, practices witchcraft. As she burns in a shed, she screams that she’ll be back for revenge.

natty knocks 2023

47 years later – finally, not a multiple of five! – hard-up teens stealing copper to hawk for cash inadvertently spy a man ragging on a teenage girl through a window. When the girl is reported missing, they second guess their initial assumption of a domestic, but don’t want top get themselves in trouble. Eventually, teen babysitter Britt learns of this and goes to the cops. But the cop that she goes to is the assailant, who spends his time watching Natty’s movies projected on to a sheet.

After an hour, during which there’s only been one kill, things start to happen, but it’s so muddled and rudderless it’s almost impossible to tell what’s going on. Characters who previously seemed to have only the most vague connections to others are revealed to live with them, there’s a demon that appears behind doors, some people are abducted and forced to watch the B-movies. Why? I dunno, some possession thing so she can return to life. It really wasn’t clear.

natty knocks 2023 robert englund

With a victim count of just three, there are around 6-7 characters milling around at the end, and no real sense of closure to anything. So much time is spent around this bizarre copper-theft plan, that there’s almost no time remaining when the main act should be in full swing, and things fizzle out disappointingly.

A waste of talent.

Blurbs-of-interest: Both Englund and Harris are in Urban Legend together, and both Harris and Moseley are in Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet together; Englund played Freddy Krueger in eight Elm Street movies, and is also in HeartstopperBehind the MaskHatchet, and The Phantom of the Opera. Danielle Harris was also in Camp DreadChromeSkull: Laid to Rest 2The Town That Dreaded SundownSee No Evil 2Hatchet‘s 2-4, and four different Halloween instalments. Moseley was also in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and Texas Chainsaw 3DHome Sick, and Silent Night Deadly Night 3.

The Other Side of Christmas

it's a wonderful knife 2023

IT’S A WONDERFUL KNIFE

3.5 Stars  2023/88m

“Every time a bell rings, an angel gets to kill.”

Director: Tyler MacIntyre / Writer: Michael Kennedy / Cast: Jane Widdop, Joel McHale, Justin Long, Jess McLeod, Katharine Isabelle, Aiden Howard, Erin Boyes, Sean Depner, Hana Huggins, William B. Davis.

Body Count: 14

Laughter Lines: “Dad gets me a lesbian tracksuit, and you get a goddamn truck!?


What will they think to convert to a slasher movie next? So close on Totally Killer‘s coattails that they could have children, It’s a Wonderful Knife, quite evidently, opts for the wish-I-was-never-born alternate universe composition. But how does it stack up against its time travel, body swap, and time loop brethren?

In the town of Angel Falls, smarmy mayor Henry Waters drags beleaguered realtor David Carruthers (the unrelenting eye candy that is Joel McHale) away from his family on Christmas Eve to try to convince an ageing local homeowner to sell his listed home so a mall can be built on the site. When the old man refuses, a maniac wearing a white angel mask shows up at his door later and slashes his throat, then goes after his teen granddaughter and her friends at a party. David’s children, gay footballer Jimmy, and keen photographer Winnie, are also there and manage not only to survive, but kill the Angel, who, to the surprise of nobody, is Mayor Waters.

it's a wonderful knife 2023

A year later, Winnie is still traumatised by what happened, while her family tries to move on. Sassy aunt Gale (Gale Prescott!!!) and her wife are over for Christmas, but everything just seems to be going wrong for Winnie: Mayor Waters’ brother Buck blames her for killing him, she catches her boyfriend having it away with her best friend, and she hasn’t gotten into NYU.

it's a wonderful knife 2023

Winnie shouts into the night that she wishes she’d never been born and the swirling Aurora Borealis above makes it so. She’s instantly attacked by the Angel Killer, who should be dead, and there’s suddenly a different sheriff who has no idea who she is. Winnie runs home and her parents don’t know her. Worse still, Jimmy was one of the Angel’s victims the previous year – because Winnie wasn’t there to save the day.

it's a wonderful knife 2023

Teaming up with outcast Bernie (known as Weirdo by most), she learns that the Angel has claimed almost 30 victims, the deaths of whom impacted family businesses in town, to the benefit of the not-dead-in-this-reality Mayor Waters. Once she manages to convince Bernie of her timeline-hopping, it’s a race to kill the Angel all over again before the Northern Lights fade away and won’t allow her to return home. Of course, things clearly won’t go to plan.

it's a wonderful knife 2023

It’s a Wonderful Knife goes at a pedal-to-the-metal speed through its plot, ultimately ending too soon, feeling like there was a lot more they could’ve done with the situational aspects of Winnie’s adventure. Some characters feel underdeveloped due to this, with little more to them than a name and sexuality (there’s a lot of LGBT representation here). Still, the Angel racks up a good bodycount, cutting his way through pretty much everyone.

While not quite up there with Freaky (from the same writer) or Totally Killer, there’s still a lot to like and the chases and slashings are on point. Katharine Isabelle is fun as the loose-lipped aunt Gale, and Justin Long leans into sleazy senator central as Waters, appearing to have a ball doing so. Sequel please.

it's a wonderful knife 2023

Blurbs-of-interest: Justin Long was in the first two Jeepers Creepers films; William B. Davis was also in Matinee; Katharine Isabelle was in Freddy vs JasonBones, and See No Evil 2; Tyler MacIntyre also directed Tragedy Girls.

[INSERT CARVING JOKE]

thanksgiving 2023 eli roth poster

THANKSGIVING

4 Stars  2023/18/106m

“There will be no leftovers.”

Director/Writer: Eli Roth / Writer: Jeff Rendell / Cast: Patrick Dempsey, Nell Verlaque, Rick Hoffman, Jalen Thomas Brooks, Milo Manheim, Addison Rae, Tomaso Sanelli, Gabriel Davenport, Jenna Warren, Karen Cliche, Joe Delfin, Amanda Barker, Tim Dillon.

Body Count: 12


Being from a country that doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, it’s a little alien to me, pieced together from Saved by the Bell holiday specials, Friends episodes, tales of brawling families and, finally, Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving slasher feature, which comes a whopping sixteen years after the mock trailer he created for Grindhouse (and which, let’s be honest, was the best thing about that project).

Thanksgiving has been a curiously overlooked public holiday in the slasher cannon, with, by my count, only 1980’s Home Sweet Home and 83’s Blood Rage making any ado about it – though I remember someone telling me about a film called ‘Thankskilling’, but maybe that was bullshit.

Roth has always been a bit hit and miss for me, but he shines here, revelling in the nostalgic echoes of early 80s every-holiday-is-a-kill-fest template, and having a bloody good time with it. Emphasis on bloody. He described the movie as a 2023 reboot of what that old trailer would’ve been for, allowing freedom to explore more contemporary themes. Namely: Black Friday.

thanksgiving 2023

Shit a brick and fuck me with it, is the scene that starts this movie accurate? Greedy small town store owner Thomas Wright (the always fun Hoffman) decides to open his joint for the Black Friday madness on Thanksgiving, rather than at midnight, and give away a free waffle iron to the first 100 customers. Crowds gather and get impatient: pushing, shoving, swearing.

When Wright’s daughter Jessica lets five of her friends in through the employee entrance and a couple of them mock those waiting from inside the store, a crush ensues, resulting in shattered glass as hordes of selfish lunatics flood in. Three people die in the madness, including store manager Mitch’s wife (a Gina Gershon cameo).

thanksgiving 2023

One year later (of course), Jessica’s boyfriend Bobby, whose pitching career was ruined by an injury sustained in the carnage, returns after a year ghosting the others, but she’s now going out with the slightly sketchy Ryan (My Bloody Valentine love triangle sighted off the bow) and the six friends involved begin to receive vaguely threatening Insta messages from ‘John Carver’, the town’s Pilgrim figurehead, which coincide with locals who were involved in the riot being offed by an axe-swinging wacko in a mass-produced John Carver mask.

While Jess worries, local Sheriff (Dempsey) leads the charge to locate the killer, and the classless idiots who trampled over dying people for reduced housewares continue to get attacked with electric knives, table top power saws and, in the most ‘ouch’ moment from the concept trailer, a cheerleader on a trampoline bounces down on to a blade that pierces through beneath her.

thanksgiving 2023

Elsewhere, some good chase scenes play out that bring back sweet memories of Prom Night, one of which wrings a great deal of tension in its simplicity, and things culminate in a Happy Birthday to Me-recalling Thanksgiving dinner, with the surviving targets confronted by their sins, and ‘dinner’ is served.

Roth crams a lot into Thanksgiving, recreating almost all of the scenes from his trailer, dropping some subtle clues as to the killer’s identity here and there, and offing people in gruesome ways: One poor uninvolved schmuck is skewered through the head by a parade float, a scene which also recalls Sarah Michelle Gellar seeing the Fisherman everywhere in I Know What You Did Last Summer.

Just a fun slasher movie from start to finish (although the tagline more of a mission statement than a fact).

thanksgiving 2023

Blurbs-of-interest: Canadian mini-icon Lynne Griffin appears as Grandma in the first scene, having been in the original Black Christmas and also Curtains back in the day. Patrick Dempsey was in Scream 3.

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