Tag Archives: tis the season

I Know What I Did Five Summer’s Ago

Waaaay back in the summer of 2004, I took some time out and wrote a novella called The Beaten Track, about three college friends driving south for Christmas when they end up in a car accident with a family on a seldom used back road through Suffolk. Quite simply, their fatal error is to knock on the door of Meredith Grange for help… Middle aged spinster and infirm patriarch notwithstanding, there’s something not right about the place, which unfolds over night and soon reveals itself to be a nightmare of epic proportions for the stranded travellers…

beatentrack <<< Here’s the cover, which I quite like.

As this is a self-motivated gig, the book can, for the time being, only be purchased through the publisher’s site:


In “six to eight weeks,” it should be on Amazon.com as well.

So, super-exciting times for Vegan Voorhees. Expect me to keep on mentioning it in an effort to force you into submission and buying your own copy… I’ll even sign it for you. Ha! Like I’m famous or something!? OK, ignore me, judge for thyself one way or another.

Fa la la la laaa

to all a goodnight 1980 dvdTO ALL A GOODNIGHT

3 Stars  1980/84m

“You’ll scream ’til dawn.”

Director: David Hess / Writer: Alex Rebar / Cast: Jennifer Runyon, Forrest Swanson, Linda Gentile, William Lauer, Judith Bridges, Katherine Herrington, Buck West, Sam Shawshak, Angela Bath, Denise Stearns, Soloman Trager, Jeff Butts, Bill Martins, Jay Rasumny.

Body Count: 15

Dire-logue: “God bless aeroplanes!”

I first kind-of saw To All A Goodnight on a dimly-lit NTSC VHS imported from the States in the 90s. Pre-DVD era, it was nearly impossible to get hold of, and strangely disappointing.

Beautifully restored to DVD, this was like a new experience completely, and thus deserved an updated review. SPOILERS ensue.

At the Calvin Finishing School for girls, ‘two Christmases ago’, a student falls to her death during what appears to be some sort of initiation, one of the tormentors wears a plastic Santa mask.

to all a goodnight 1980 leia judith bridges

Now, as all but six girls go home for the holidays, a mystery killer has plans for them any anybody else who gets in his way: The quartet of college boys they’ve invited over for the weekend are literally jetting in for sex and beer.

Scheming leader Leia plans to drug housemother Mrs Jensen, forcing goody two-shoes Nancy (pre-Charles in Charge actress Runyon) to deliver the laced glass of milk. Conked out for the night, boys and girls flirt, pair off, and begin to get slain in the usual ways: A cut throat for the toffy English girl, rock to the head for a Hawaiian shirt guy…

to all a goodnight 1980

At one point the killer hides in a suit of armour and dispatches a couple midway through coitus with a crossbow and an axe. Nancy keeps getting cornered by the creepy handyman, Ralph, who tells her something evil is present and that she should pray. Geeky Alex loses his cherry to oversexed Melody.

Here, To All A Goodnight does something weird – it cuts to the next morning. Suddenly, the remaining five are at breakfast, the housemother doesn’t seem to question the arrival of the boys, and they go for a picnic without really thinking about the six people who have disappeared. When Nancy trips over the body of Ralph, hidden in the brush, the cops are called. They posit that he was the only victim and they shouldn’t worry, but two officers are left at the house anyway.

to all a goodnight 1980 jennifer runyon nancy

Night falls – again – and the killing resumes: Couples re-configure, with Leia bedding one of the cops and Melody taking Leia’s boyfriend TJ, while Alex and Nancy worry and explore the house to ensure they’re safe. Axe in the face, knife in the back, garrotting, and most memorably two people are buzzed to death by the propellers of the boys’ plane!!

Wait though: The pilot was told to sleep with the plane, he’d been sat there all the previous night and all that day!?

Weirder still, Leia is spared the blade. Instead, she goes mad, descending into some weird Kate Bush-esque dancing around the house, singing to herself.

to all a goodnight 1980 leia judith bridges santa

The killer unmasks themself to be – gasp – Mrs Jensen! She blames the girls for the death of her daughter two years ago. She was working the day that it happened, there, she was the cook, Jason Girl should’ve been watched! Every minute! Yeah, it’s totally Mrs Voorhees 2.0, yet IMDb states this was released a good six months earlier? I think not.

There’s a decent second twist chucked in, but it only serves to compound how bizarre To All A Goodnight is: From the strange two-part structure with the respite-by-day, the weird characterisations and sub-Black Christmas atmos, mixed with dated looking shadows of knives-in-hand creeping against walls, performances so varied it looks like an acting workshop, and Runyon’s rather pathetic final girl, who may as well have been a five-year-old given her bunches, squeaky voice, and helpless damsel act.

to all a goodnight 1980 axe face

Interesting murder ideas and some production gloss make it worth a go; Bridges is fun as the odd Leia; this is one surreal Friday rip off, but an interesting one nonetheless.

Blurb-of-interest: Hess was in Camping Del Terrore; producer Sandy Cobe was also the force behind Home Sweet Home, Terror on Tour and Open House.

Suffer (because of) the little children

thechildrenTHE CHILDREN

4 Stars  2008/18/81m

“You brought them into the world. They will take you out.”

Director: Tom Shankland / Writers: Paul Andrew Williams & Tom Shankland / Cast: Eva Birthistle, Stephen Campbell Moore, Jeremy Sheffield, Rachel Shelley, Hannah Tointon, Eva Sayer, Raffiella Brooks, Jake Hathaway, William Howes.

Body Count: 6

Dire-logue: Casey – “Have you ever heard of feminism?” Jonah – “Has it got anything to do with self-absorbed lazing around?”

Those of us who don’t have children can’t always understand the behaviours of those who do, it’s more evident if your brothers and sisters have kids. They become over-sensitive to their surroundings, potential influences and would happily see you burnt at the stake before admitting their offspring was the one who actually scribbled all over the wallpaper.

In Tom Shankland’s entirely chilling story, two ‘picture perfect’ families gather to ring in New Year’s at a secluded mock-tudor neo-mansion in a snowy December. Elaine and Jonah have brought their kids Miranda and autistic Paulie, as well as Elaine’s teen daughter Casey to her sister Chloe (bit of a showy bitch) and brother-in-law Robbie’s place, where they want to home school their Kodak-kids Nicky and Leah. It’s all catalogue-shine and barely contained quips as the sisters try to out-Mom each other to prove who’s best, while Jonah chisels away at Robbie in the hope of an investment for importing some Chinese herbs or something, and Casey just wants to be able to use her phone.

children1The little kids, all under 10, are acting a bit weird. They feel sick and we see that there are icky, multiplying germs around them. The joyous facade begins to fall apart at the seams when the family cat vanishes and the kids all go haywire over lunch, soon escalating into the death of hunky dad Robbie in what’s been made to look like a sledging accident but is anything but! Chloe goes ape and Casey begins to suspect the children as they fail to emote, unless their crying and whining is to trick the next schmuck into wandering into their trap!

The Children has a bold sense of grit – common in British horror – and doesn’t shy away from showing its criticism of modern ‘over-parenting’ as some of the adults simply won’t accept their kids are anything but angelic cherubs from heaven and would rather blame anything or anyone else for the unfolding terror, namely Casey. It also doesn’t shy away from the deaths of the kids at the hands of their parents as self defence becomes the only option (though why they don’t just knock them out with a golf club and lock them away, I’m not sure). (Some of) the children are killed quite mercilessly, the kind of thing you just don’t see on your TV! It’s a brave step, one that would sink a film of a larger, starrier proportions, but as a micro-budgeted indie flick, who’s gonna notice?

children2Definitely not one to show pregnant cousin Sally or those X4-driving Mums outside school, they’re likely to get more violent than anything shown on screen at the mere suggestion of killer kids getting killed back! Shankland, who directed W Delta Z (Waz), is a talented helmer, making great use of the sparse landscape and doe-eyed psychopaths as they glare at their doomed makers. It’s slash that doesn’t really adhere to being slash but still kinda is, albeit with a 28 Days Later type creepy ending. Additional points for the presence of bona fide eye-candy Sheffield.

Blurbs-of-interest: Jeremy Sheffield played Guy in Creep; Rachel Shelley was the heroine in Lighthouse.

December Face-off: Christmas vs. New Years


Christmas…a time for sharing, being with your family, eating to excess, relocating to another room to avoid killing said family with the carving knives Dad gave Mum. Any way you look at it, this is a holiday built for horror. There’s so much pressure to buy the right things in the right timeframe for a bunch of people who won’t really appreciate it. This causes tension, tension begat horror and horror makes me happy! Fun for all the family.

A week later, when we’re pondering our waist lines and thinking of which unlucky schmuck to pass on any number of crap gifts to, New Year’s Eve rears it’s bizarre head. One year ends and everybody decides to create fictional promises for the ensuing 12 months.

I gotta say I prefer Christmas on the whole. In 2006 I missed it completely due to my backpacking whim and sat in a cold hotel room in Yangshuo, China, trying not to cry about it. This year I was sick from December 23rd all the way through to yesterday and discovered at last that my parents believe I am in fact the same age as they are through the medium of some weird-ass presents.

Anyway, on to the horror!

Naturally things begin back in that magical year of 1974. ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest, Jaws was first published, I was four years from being born and Bob Clark made this sleeper classic. To see Black Christmas is to love it, no alternative.

It’s impact doubtlessly sullied by the cheapjack remake in 06, this is an incredibly unnerving story of an unseen killer living in the attic of a sorority house and making nasty calls to the residing girls, who emerges every now and then to kill one of them.

Olivia Hussey is a complex heroine, but a great one; Margot Kidder is triff as the vulgar drunk and even bad-movie prop John Saxon is there as one of the cops trying to help with the case of the disappeared first victim.

Watch the full uncensored version (it’s not gorier, just more profane) with the lights out on Christmas Eve next year for max effect!

Holiday Cheer: 97%

Here’s an interesting sounding concept: sadsack toy factory employee Harry (Brendan Maggart) loves Christmas sooooo much that he spies on the local kids to decide whether they’ve been good or bad. But somebody as unhinged as Harry might react badly if it’s the latter.

So does he go after the horrible little kids? No. Their parents or equally unlikeable siblings? No. He doesn’t really go after anybody by the time he dons a Santa suit, offing a colleague who dissed the season and then three random strangers who laugh at him on the steps of a church.

A real bore-a-thon with one great line of dire-logue courtesy of Harry’s bro: “You’re blaming me for all the horrible things you’ve done because of something I said when I was six-years-old?”

And that ending. Dear God, that ending!

Holiday Cheer: 8%

Oooh dangerous ground. This is the one that caused uproar from parents’ groups picketing the cinemas showing it and stating it had made their children scared of Santa Claus. Well, in a way you’re going to have to break your child’s heart sooner or later so may as well get it over with and blame a third party…

Fun flick though; Billy’s not-all-there grandpa tells him Santa is evil and, the very same night, a Santa-clad psycho murders his parents. Billy and little bro Ricky are sent to an orphanage run by uber-strict Mother Superior (Lilyan Chauvin) who has, like, zero sympathy for Billy’s yuletide issues and teaches him that punishment is in his best interests.

When he’s 18, Billy – now an athletic quasi-hulk – ends up working at a toy store and is made to play Santa, something that soon flips the switch on the back of his head from sane to wacky and he’s off slaughtering people who just ain’t nice. A real morality tale, it’s a surprise most of the protesters didn’t fund the damn thing too! Tail-ended by four sequels of varying relation and merit and hauled on to the remake train for 2009.

Holiday Cheer: 65%

A few more to choose from. Santa’s Slay is a genial little romp with wrestler Bill Goldberg as Satan’s offspring and loser of a bet with an angel that has made him play Santa for hundreds of years. The duration of the penalty done with, Santa’s a bit wound up and is taking it out on the residents of Hell Township (!) where everyone from Carol Singers to spoiled brats laid to waste as the body count soars into the thirties! Emilie de Ravin, James Caan and Rebecca Gayheart all make appearances in this funky little timewaster.

Turning to weirdo 70s giallo, Silent Night, Bloody Night, in which small town locals all want the Butler mansion in the wake of its owner’s recent demise. Someone has broken out of an institution and there are a load of axe murders. Confused? You will be. Mary Woronov is a good final girl in this pre-Halloween strangeness, that has more than a few moments to remind us where slasher films started out.

Whatever your views of remakes might be, here’s one from the producers of Final Destination that, while a complete bastardization of its source material, is still a lot of fun if you remove yourself from that knowledge. Again, sorority girls are the target of an attic-dwelling psycho, this time with a fleshed out backstory. The body count is about five times higher than the original but there are some nice familiar faces from recent horror playing around, it’s just a shame that violent dispatches took a frontseat to any sense of character or notions of tension…

There’s a cool idea lurking behind the trash here. 40-something Roz Kelly is Blaze, the ‘First Lady of Rock’ who is presenting a sort of MTV New Year’s Eve party that’s being televised coast to coast from LA. Shortly before the broadcast begins, a man calls in to announce he’s going to kill a friend of Blaze’s as midnight arrives in each of the four timezones, finishing with her.

A pretty good concept if handled right. And it’s only a slasher flick so that couldn’t be difficult… Oh wait, Emmett Alston is hopelessly untalented. Doi! So it goes, killer – face shown from the outset – works like a Ted Bundy protege, chatting them up and luring them aside just before the bells toll and murdering them. He winds up at the TV station for the final confrontation, ridiculous speech of misogynistic rantings and a fairly inventive twist on his actual identity before the predictable ending.

If you like early 80’s “New Wave” Rock and crowds of zombie-like partygoers swaying in time to said music, then maybe you’ll find something here. Otherwise, stay in and get drunk.

Holiday Cheer: 14%

This isn’t actually a slasher film at all, but as nobody’s really ventured back into the New Year’s area of slasherdom (probably put off by New Year’s Evil) I thought I’d bolster the numbers in its…uh…favour.

This is a grinding British film with two teen couples boating out to an island where they sneak into an abandoned hotel and get sucked through some bizarre time vortex, unleash zombies and other critters and all go mad and die.

It’s poor as can be and roping in an American actress to play the lead was an effort to sell internationally I imagine. Shame it’s such a suckfest. If the Brit horror industry hadn’t picked up at the end of the 90s then this may have been our legacy. Eugh!

Holiday Cheer: 19%

Victor: Christmas wins by a mile. Having Black Christmas on your team is a given though. Now, why has nobody developed an Easter bloodfest yet?