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I've been threatening to do this for a while now and I suppose it is time. Despite me swearing that I'd never force myself to sit th...

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Rush Week (1989)

Toni is new student at Tambers College, specifically she is an aspiring journalist. She is assigned the job of reporting about Greek Week and from that ends up getting involved with the leader of a notorious Fraternity, Beta Delta Beta. His name is Jeff, and he is a bit moody at times, but he seems to genuinely like Toni. There are some unexplained disappearances of a few female students, which we the viewer know are the result of a mysterious killer chasing them down and doing away with them with a ceremonial axe. An axe that looks just like the one that Jeff and his friends use for the Beta Delta Beta hazing rituals!

Is Jeff or one of his friends the killer? Does the fact that Jeff’s previous girlfriend was murdered, and the killer never caught tie into things. What about the creepy cook at the dining hall that moonlights as a photographer using the science hall to take naughty pictures of some of the coeds? There are a lot of red herrings in Rush Week so have fun figuring it out before the end. When we do get there things make sense and despite the bodies lying across campus it seems that everyone is back to their normal partying shenanigans.

I’d not seen Rush Week before and wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. It is rather late to the game and that normally means it is a last gasp to cash in on the dying slasher genre. Here I think that the filmmakers realized that and tried to mix things up. We do check some of the expected boxes with ample nudity and kills. But the gore is lacking, and the kills unevenly spread out. The story plays out more like a murder mystery as we follow Toni around as she unravels secrets and checks on suspects. They do a great job of doling out the facts to the audience in a way that makes you feel like you are solving it yourself. Though I did figure out who the killer was early on and was proven right. That is the risk you run with this sort of thing, though it was still a good time.

Like I said the gore is lacking. We get five kills, three of which are offscreen and implied. We don’t see the bodies after the fact so until you get to the wrap up at the end you aren’t even sure if they were really dead. The last couple kills are the best with an axe to the chest and a beheading. Neither are anything new, but it was nice to see some mayhem on screen. Speaking of nice things to see I do want to mention that Dominic Brescia from Friday V and Evil Laugh has a small part in Rush Week. It is always nice to see a familiar face when watching a movie for the first time.

One last thing that I wanted to mention was the soundtrack. Normally I’m not a nerd for that sort of thing but if you dig punk then this is going to put a smile on your face. We get legit bands like Devil, The Surf Punks, The Dickies, and The Dead Milkmen! And I’m not talking about “B” sides either, but there are some recognizable stone-cold classics. I never expect that sort of thing when watching a lower budget horror flick, so I had to point it out.

In the end I can’t say that Rush Week is much of a slasher movie, if one at all. But there is something cool here to watch and I’m going to recommend it. Oh, and if you get the chance to watch it on VHS like I did for my review do so. This only adds to the late eighties vibe and is the sort of thing best enjoyed in glorious analog!

 

© Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

Monday, June 27, 2022

Berserker (1987)

My never-ending search for slasher movies continues with this oddity. I had never heard of Berserker before, but the idea of a Viking warrior killing folks off in the woods seemed like a fun idea. I tracked myself down a copy and popped it in.

The story starts in the tenth century as a Viking Ship arrives on a beach and off jumps the Berserker. He growls and flexes a bit before the credits start. After that the movie moves to “now” circa nineteen eighty-seven with an older couple camping in the woods. Some stuff happens and they get lost in the woods. Something attacks them and they are quickly killed. Then we move onto our main characters. Three guys, Mike, Josh, and Larry as well as their ladies Kathy, Shelly, and Kristi are all going camping. At the same campground in Rainbow Valley as we just saw people murdered!

The rest of the movie is standard. Josh is a jerk and is nasty to Pappy Nyquist who owns the campground. This leads to them staying at the wrong place. You have a randy couple, Shelly and Mike, who go off in the woods to give us the requisite nudity and naughty grown up activity that you expect in a slasher flick. There is also the sheriff who may or may not be looking to hassle the kids. Much beer and pot are consumed… or at least talked about. In the end there are bodies in the woods and the killer is revealed.

Be warned that I’m going to end up giving away the big twist. If you aren’t cool with that skip to the last paragraph of this review to see my final thoughts and recommendations. Now that you have been warned here we go. My biggest issue with Berserker is the pacing. Other then the old couple right after the credits nothing much happens for the first forty minutes of the hour and a half runtime. There are a lot of shots of ATV riding, swimming, arguing, and other such shenanigans. After this montage of nonsense, the music stops and suddenly we see it is night and they are sitting around a campfire talking. Not terribly interesting.

Once things get rolling it does get better. Our randy couple go off into the woods for some nookie, which is cut into the first big kill when another girl is torn apart by the Berserker. That was an odd choice, but it works well. I also thought the fact that they kept cutting to an actual bear was an odd choice since the killer is supposed to be a man in a bear pelt. That said there is a great payoff to this when the bear accidentally saves the day! Then we get a fun twist where the Berserker was Pappy Nyquist who was possessed by his ancestor. They mention this is part of the legend in the first half of the movie. I do enjoy a good payoff.

The kills are disappointing. We only get five and most of them are generic face slashes with a bear’s claw that cut away before there is anything gory or fun. The deaths of Shelly and Kristi are a bit more in your face as the camera lingers on the attack as well as the aftermath. Still there isn’t much here to talk about. The look of the killer is okay, but they don’t give him much screen time. That is a choice as they keep you guessing if it is just a bear by constantly showing it before or after attacks. But again, that is all a misdirection as the killer does show up in his pelt and improvised claw weapon.

There are things about Berserker that I liked and some that I didn’t. The pacing killed the first half of the movie, but things do pick up. The kills are lame, but the twist is a cool and one that I’ve not seen in a slasher before. I’m torn as to whether I should recommend this one. I guess if you manage your expectations then you should check it out.

 

© Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

Friday, June 24, 2022

Famine (2011)

Last year I covered director Ryan Nicholson’s Gutterballs for my annual slasher marathon. You can check out that review here. This year I thought I’d check his other slasher movie effort out.

Some high school “kids” are going to participate in an all-night lock in at the gymnasium. The event is to raise money for starving folks and is called Famine. Basically, they hang out and don’t eat for twenty-four hours. This is the first one they have had in five years when there was a terrible accident involving a popular teacher and a jar of acid. The students are locked in the school with a super-hot new teacher named Ms. Vickers, a creepy janitor, and a German principal that enjoys gay porn.

The night starts off fine with some bullying, bathroom sex, ripped shirt/wet t-shirts, and Jenny accidentally walking into the “splash zone”. Though a ditz Jenny is the only one that realizes people keep wandering off never to return. We know that they are being picked off one at a time in gruesome ways by a killer wearing the school’s mascot costume. Eventually the identity of the killer is revealed and a couple more bodies hit the floor. The end.

In my review of Gutterballs I mentioned that you can overdue the attempts to be exploitive and make your movie not fun to watch. With Famine we have what I think is a parody of the slasher genre. We have a cast that is clearly not young enough to be in high school. They quietly poke fun at this when they mention that five years later the folks who were at the last famine are still in High School. The characters like the principal, jock, ditzy girl, and nerd are also so over the top that they border on the absurd. I kind of like the idea of a movie like this poking fun at the genre and what we expect from it. This is far different from the super explicit and more twisted earlier Gutterballs. Unfortunately, this movie suffers from the same flaws that sank the previous flick for me.

The dialogue is crude. Know I don’t mind some “F” bombs here and there but when it is so over the top that the dialogue is impossible to follow and gets in the way of telling the story then it becomes an issue. I suppose what I’m trying to say is you still have to write clever dialogue and can’t just lean into “I can’t believe they used that word!” territory. Profanity and subject matter for the sake of shocking the audience doesn’t work on an old, jaded guy like me. For example, I dig the American Pie movies. They have a very memorable gag (pun not intended) with cum that is quite funny and gross. Here they have a guy spraying Jenny in the face when she interrupts a couple having toilet sex. One joke is setup and funny while the other is… meh at best. I guess that might make me a semen joke elitist and I’m okay with that.

Famine excels with the gore, which doesn’t surprise me. This is where Nicholson’s background as an effects guy really shines. There are an amazing fifteen kills in a movie that is barely an hour and fifteen minutes long. Some are offscreen, but we do get a railroad spike to the forehead, a melting teacher, a scalping, a dude steamed to death by an industrial dishwasher, and a throat slashing all on screen and in your face. The best executed kill and the most disturbing is some nipple carving and torture which is pushing it even for a slasher movie. But that is a credit to how well they execute the gag. If you are a gore hound, you will dig this movie.

Can I recommend Famine? While I enjoy the gore the dialogue and attempts at humor just didn’t do it for me. It almost feels like less of a movie and more of an effects reel. If you think the jokes might land better for you then sure give it a chance. You can’t go wrong with the effects work.

 

© Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Girls School Screamers (1985)

Here is another example of the old bait and switch. Someone finds a movie, this time around it was Troma, shoots some gore and sells it as a slasher flick. Still, I was interested because it was a haunted house story turned into a body count movie with extra gore inserts shot by Lloyd Kauffman himself. Let’s see what we have here.

Things start off with a kid named Tyler sneaking into a haunted house on a dare. He sees a ghost lady who calls out to him, and he runs away screaming. He ends up in a hospital in a sort of waking coma. Then we meet a group of girls from a nearby catholic school who are going to that same house to clean it up and inventory the contents. Seems the weird old guy who lived there had willed it all to them. What do a bunch of schoolgirls do in a haunted house? They have a séance which goes horribly wrong! This kicks off a sequence of events told in flashbacks where they see a girl from their school died in the house years earlier. Not only that but one of the girls, Jackie, looks just like the dead girl. Some creepy stuff happens with an uncle and the ghost of the dead girl gets some payback.

Girls School Screamers isn’t a very good movie. The pacing is off with long stretches of nothing much happening. We get exciting cleaning montages, hide and go seek montages, and newspaper researching. Thrilling stuff my friends. No one dies until the forty-five-minute mark! The last half hour or so is kind of decent. There are a few creepy moments where they are sneaking around in the dark. The kills are okay, and I did like some of the makeup. Though when we see who the killer is and how the story is resolved it is disappointing. I won’t spoil it in case you really want to watch this one but keep your expectations low.

Seances in horror movies... bad idea!
There are seven total kills in the movie. There are deaths by drowning and meat hook that happen off screen. Someone else gets run over by a car, there is a cleaver to the face, and a gnarly electrocution. Though the best is probably the pitchfork to the torso. I think that most of this is what Kauffman added as it is in closeup, and we don’t see the actors only their reactions. All but one actress was long gone by the time they punched up the gore. What amused me is that they clearly changed around at least one of the kills because there is a scene where the victims are lined up for a wedding and the “body” doesn’t match what we saw happen. In addition to the kills, we also have a wormy hand, some eye gouging, and a very gooey ghost lady. So there is some decent budget makeup that I appreciate.

This is not a great movie, but I’ve seen much worse. If you are looking for something different that still has that eighties vibe, then maybe check out Girls School Screamers. Just manage your expectations.

 

© Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

Monday, June 20, 2022

Slaughterhouse (1987)

This is one of the slasher movies that I’ve been looking forward to covering in one of these marathons. Slaughterhouse is an old favorite from my days of haunting the horror section of the local rental shops. This is going to be fun. 

The plot revolves around Lester Bacon and his son Buddy. They run a slaughterhouse that has been put out of business by the modern methods of butchering. When the movie starts off his former advisor Harold, a rival businessman, and the sheriff are all at his house trying to convince him to sell before they have to foreclose. He refuses and they give him thirty days to clear out. Well earlier Buddy had killed some kids who were messing with his pigs and when his dad finds the bodies, he decides to send Buddy after the men who are taking their farm. 

The rest of the movie is Lester luring the men to the slaughterhouse for Buddy to kill along with the friends of the couple who were killed earlier showing up on a dare because it is a spooky night, and the dance was canceled on account of the power going out. We get a lot of running around, screaming, squealing, and predictable but fun twists until the final freeze frame before the end credits start. 

Before I start, I need to be very clear. I know that Slaughterhouse isn’t a good movie, but I’ve always enjoyed it. Not every horror or slasher movie needs to be packed with scares or have a unique twist. Sometimes you can just give the audience a few laughs and some blood and that is okay. This movie lets us know from the start who the killer is and why he is killing. It also feels very much like the screenwriter, Rick Roessler, who was also the director had seen Texas Chainsaw Massacre. There are bones spread around the sets, the whole butchering and slaughterhouse angle, plus the large killer who never speaks but only grunts and squeals. I acknowledge all of this. But the movie is fun. 

The movie is quickly paced and gets to the good stuff right away. There is either a silly character or Buddy killing people from start to finish. The characters are two dimensional but fill the needed roles with relish. The “you know he is going to die” deputy, the randy couple, the best friends to both the boyfriend and our final girl. They are all here and most of them end up exactly as you would expect. Though there is a neat twist at the end that most first-time viewers don’t expect. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel if you are able to execute things well enough to be entertaining. 

The kills are great with a cleaver to the face, a hand off with some bleeding out, a crushed head, throat cut, some meat grinder action, and a spiked club to the face. There is a lot of face mayhem in this one and I approve. Though my favorite kill is near the end when a head ends up under the wheels of a car and we see it pop. Toss in a terribly executed ricochet off Buddy’s clever for some goofy fun.

Maybe it is nostalgia or perhaps I’ve just always had a soft spot for Slaughterhouse but I’m a Buddy Bacon fan.  If you are looking for a goofy slasher where you can just kick back with your beverage of choice and have a good time, then this is the one for you.


© Copyright 2022 John Shatzer


Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Bloodmoon (1990)

This slasher flick is totally new to me. That is surprising because after years of digging thru the shelves of various video stores I’ve seen most of them. Toss in the fact that this is an Australian production and I’m very excited to check it out. Let’s not waste any more time.

The movie opens with a crucifix hanging in the woods with blood slowly dripping down it. Okay that is a good way to kick things off. Then we get a bit of catholic girls in choir followed by a shower/locker room scene with lots of nudity. Damn movie you get the formula! One of the girls dries off and goes looking for her boyfriend, who is the source of the blood on the crucifix. She gets chased and eliminated by the killer with a barbed wire garrote. The killer even buries the bodies to keep them hidden.

Sadly, after that awesome start we get an extended bit with the townies and locals hating each other. There are fights, pranks, and shenanigans that have nothing to do with the killings or what should be the main plot. Hell, the locals don’t even figure into the murders at all and as some point sort of disappear never to be seen again. Well, there is one of them who likes one of the schoolgirls who is important later. But for the most part I don’t get why they spent so much time on the rivalry.

After seeing some more deaths, the identity of the killer is revealed, way too early, and then the rest of the movie is him trying to draw our main female lead, Mary, into a trap so she can be killed. I won’t spoil who the killer is here, though it is kind of obvious. There is some running around the woods, an unexpected hero, and some marriage counseling with a shotgun before the end credits roll.

I’m disappointed with Bloodmoon. It started out with a bang but then quickly spent most of the middle of the movie bouncing between teen angst and sophomoric humor. We get a couple of kills sprinkled in, but it drags a lot. When they finally do get back to the killings the movie does get better, but then they spoil who the killer is in a really dumb way. Toss in some generic characters with the meandering story that takes up the hour and forty-minute runtime for a terribly way to kill a couple of hours.

The kills are plentiful but not memorable. We get a girl choked out with barbed wire that cuts away when things get good. A stabbing in a phonebooth that is okay, another stabbing off camera with blood splashing on the window that disappoints. Really the best kill in the movie is a head getting smashed repeatedly on a table and even that switches to an obvious dummy at some point. The best effect isn’t a kill but is a bottle of acid to the face. I read that the filmmakers had to make some cuts to tone things down on initial release, but I can only judge what is left.

Bloodmoon had potential but then failed to deliver. If you are a hard-core slasher completest that needs to see everything then sure track this one down and watch it. But for most fans who just want to scratch that teenage body count itch there are way better options. Personally, I never need to watch it again.

 

Ó Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

Monday, June 13, 2022

Slumber Party Massacre (2021)

In case you didn’t notice the date, this review is for the remake that debuted on SyFy channel in October of last year. This is not only a remake, but I suppose a parody and/or updating of the franchise to reflect current views on gender roles. Yeah, I’m sort of worried already. Oh, and be warned there are some spoilers below. If you just want to see my final recommendation skip to the last paragraph.

The movie starts off in ninety-three as some girls are frolicking at an isolated cabin, drinking, eating pizza, and dancing… all in their pajamas. Hey this is a made for television flick so what did you expect? A jealous ex-boyfriend shows up and harasses then sneaks a peak thru the window. Then the killer shows up with his drill and starts to murder everyone. Well, there is one final girl who knocks him into the lake where everyone thinks he drowned.

Flash forward to today and we meet a new batch of girls, one of whom is the daughter of our survivor. They head out for a week at the lake and end up at a house across from the house where all the murders happened. What a coincidence! Except it isn’t because this was all planned by the girls to draw the killer out. Since they never found the body and more girls had disappeared, they assume that he is still alive. And sure enough that first night he shows up and comes after them. But there is a huge complication from a group of boys staying across the lake in the murder house. They are generally dumb, take their shirts off, have the dude equivalent of a pillow fight, and one of them gets naked to take a shower. Yeah, cool I see what they did there. Tack on a couple of twists and that’s the movie.

I have to say that the pacing of Slumber Party Massacre is decent. The flashback plays out like a bonus mini slasher flick and one that feels very old school in the way the characters are portrayed. I liked the idea that the mom is the only survivor, and her daughter is the one that goes after the killer. That was fun. I also thought the actresses throughout were great. They didn’t have a lot asked of them but clearly, they have talent. There are also some clever callbacks to the original with the giant drill being used as the weapon of choice as well as a subtly placed van that should look familiar. We even get a funny reference to the original’s sequel when a very familiar guitar shows up. These are all good things.

The movie is hamstrung by being made for basic cable. It can’t go where most slasher flicks go. The kills are rather tame and while occasionally fun you don’t see much. Much of the work is CGI and what little practical effects we see are basic and honestly not very good. There are a healthy twelve kills including the drill going thru necks, foreheads, and chests. There is also a nail gun to the eye, a skill saw thru the stomach, and some gouged out eyes. My favorite kill, not due to execution but because it is so creative, is a face getting peeled off by a wire getting stuck on the drill. Now all this stuff sounds great, but it is mostly seen after the fact or done onscreen with mediocre CGI. I just wasn’t digging it.

Now I’m going to show my age. I had always thought if there was a genre that would be safe from the woke crowd it would be slasher movies. At their core they are sleazy and sexist tales where girls get naked and killed in horrible ways. Yes, the guys die too but let’s be honest we watch for the nudity and murders that follow it. Not saying that is right or okay, but it is what it is. Here we have a flick that lets the guys get naked and do stupid stuff and the girls save the day. Though if you think about the classic slasher flicks it normally was the final girl that beat the killer so yeah… Regardless this wouldn’t have bothered me so much if they hadn’t been so damned obvious about it. One of the guys mentions his toxic masculinity right as he is about to do something foolhardy. Also, when given the chance the dude drives away leaving the girls to their fate. Basically, every male character is either cowardly, stupid, or the killer. I get they wanted to play with the formula but as much as critics want to make it out that all the female characters in old schools’ slashers were bimbos that isn’t the case. Again, most of the time they were the protagonists who overcome the killer or at least survive them. This feels less like flipping the script and more like sending a message. 

This ruined Slumber Party Massacre for me. Though I’m thinking that this movie is made for the crowd that appreciates such things. If that is you then I’d say check it out. But for old school fans I think this is a hard pass.

 

© Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

 

Friday, June 10, 2022

School Spirit (2019)

I found this movie on Hulu, and it looked like a newer slasher movie, so I thought I’d give it a chance. The story centers around a group of students in detention on a Saturday. The vice principal who is watching them is more concerned about drinking away his troubles then he is watching them. So, they get up to some shenanigans including smoking weed… or rather vaping it as well as drinking.

The fun is interrupted by the legendary ghostly mascot, a pirate, who starts to kill all the bad kids. Sadly, they have been locked in the school by the drunk in charge, so they are trapped with a killer. Who is the killer and why is this happening? I’m not going to spoil it here, though I had it figured out early on. But then I’m a jaded horror nerd and this one plays it by the book.

I think that I liked this movie. It is harmless and follows the traditional slasher tropes to the letter. You have the good kids, the bad kids, drugs are consumed, they are isolated without supervision. There is some intended hanky panky that never happens, but that is okay. It really is the thought that counts. While familiar the movie does a fantastic job keeping the action moving as there is never a single moment in the eighty-three-minute runtime that I was bored. It is also likely that someone who isn’t as familiar with this kind of movie isn’t going to pick up on who the killer is and may enjoy that as well. When we do get to the final reveal it is staged decently and makes sense. But my favorite part of School Spirit is the neat ending with the final girl. I can’t remember a slasher movie that has ever left me feeling like this one does. That is cool.

The cast is solid and filled with what I think are television actors. While young they have clearly had some experience in front of the camera. That is a huge deal as it is mostly left up to them to make the characters likeable and relatable. The special effects and kills are extremely tame. You get a decent sword to the gut and an offscreen beheading by paper cutter with the severed noggin dropping into a waste bin and that is about it.  Well, okay there are a couple of feet hacked off, but you just see them after the fact. More than a couple characters are killed completely offscreen without any explanation.

Spooky pirate killer!
Here is where I think it is important to manage expectations. If I were to look at School Spirit thru the lens of the eighties I would be annoyed by the lack of gore and creative kills. But this is a very low budget Blumhouse Television production made for streaming. The fact that the cast and story are as good as they are and that the filmmakers do the best they can to make a movie that in many way reminds me of the good old days has me feeling like I should give them a pass on the disappointing kills and gore.

I think if you manage your expectations and understand what you are going to get then School Spirit is well worth your time. I doubt it will go onto anyone’s “watch every year” list, but it is a harmless and fun flick. I recommend you give it a chance.

 

Ó Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Moonstalker (1989)

The movie opens with someone stalking a group of kids partying in the woods. A couple splits off for some alone time and he kills them with an axe, offscreen. Later we see a family camping in the winter, much to the dismay of the kids. The dad is tired of crowds and has figured that no one will bother them in the woods, in the middle of winter, in the freezing cold… sounds like a good plan. But then an old guy shows up dragging a raggedy camper behind his old car. He seems nice enough and they have a nice chat.

Since this is a horror flick you know something must be up. Turns out he has his crazy son in the camper whom he just broke out of the hospital. The kid’s name is Bernie, yeah the killer in Moonstalker is named Bernie! He kills the family for their microwave, but the daughter gets away. The older guy, Bernie’s dad, has a heart attack and dies. That leaves Bernie to tear thru a local camp filled with survivalist trainees. Bodies drop as the survivors finally figure out something is wrong. But will it be too late to stop things? Will anyone survive? Will Bernie drive away in a stolen cop car because none of the other cops notice he isn’t one of them? Maybe on that last one…

I hadn’t seen or even heard of Moonstalker before. Given that I’m a huge slasher movie fan and that I was haunting the aisles of the video store looking for them that worried me. Almost every time that I’ve discovered a slasher that I missed it has been awful. My expectations going into this one were very low, and I guess that was a good thing. The movie is paced okay and follows the formula closely. We get plenty of kills, more on that later, and a bit of nudity. The killer starts of really cool with a straitjacket and a mask, he apparently likes to bite people, but sadly ditches it early on for a cowboy hat and sunglasses. That was disappointing.

The filmmakers had obviously been “inspired” by Halloween when they made this. The music is a very simple keyboard score that sounds similar to what Carpenter did for his classic. We also even get a Dr. Loomis character in an old cop named Taylor. He is dismissed and stumbles around looking for the killer disheveled yelling a lot. Is any of this sound familiar? That said they don’t linger on it, so I didn’t mind it too much.

Back to the kills. We get an impressive seventeen, but most of them occur offscreen. We do get a few limbs after the fact, but I was disappointed with the gore, or lack of it. We do get a couple of gags that I liked. There is an arm getting chopped off and an axe to the back that were executed well. Though the best kill is a knife to the forehead. That was a neat trick. All in all, for a slasher on a budget it isn’t terrible, just not great.

In the end I suppose that compared to the bottom of the barrel slasher flicks I’ve been covering in earlier marathons this isn’t too bad. I expected a boring by the numbers cash in and instead got a movie that clearly had some effort behind it. Sure, it follows the formula, but the filmmakers and cast are giving it their best shot. If you can track down a copy of Moonstalker it isn’t the worst thing you could watch. That would be the Camp Blood series.

 

© Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

Monday, June 6, 2022

Pizza Girl Massacre (2014)

I’m always looking for something new to cover here on my annual Slasher movie marathon. With a name like Pizza Girl Massacre, I couldn’t resist. I mean how bad could it be really? No honestly… oh crap.

This found footage flick… God Damn it… follows a group of documentary filmmakers as they go into the woods and shoot footage of a local theater troupe rehearsing Shakespeare. But first we get to watch the auditions, some infighting, and even the director of the documentary getting shot down by all the actresses. Eventually they get to the cabin, which has a huge basement under it that is explained away as a bomb shelter. Though obviously they shot this in a dorm or some other large building. 

They meet the creepy landlady and her son, who she refers to as an idiot. The cast and crew parties and the director of documentary tries to score some points by ordering pizza for everyone. This doesn’t end well, and he takes his frustration out on the delivery girl by not paying her and then by losing his mind and getting really drunk. The next morning people start to die as they soon figure out that the pizza girl is pissed and killing them. People die, jokes are told, and not surprisingly the idiot son and mom are involved.

I’ll start off with some positives. I thought that the cast did a good job and were very good for a low budget production. This is especially true when doing the comedy that is sprinkled throughout the entire movie. There are some especially funny gags like Harrison not being totally dead yet and the hot dog man. Without decent actors this would have been a complete failure so having people with some timing was much appreciated.

The gore was also surprisingly good. Now understand this is a low budget movie so it has to be judged differently. But there are a lot of deaths and while a lot of them are after the fact there is quite a bit of fun to be had. Throats are cut, people suffocated with plastic bags, an eye gets gouged, someone dies to a rolling pin down their throat, and there is a head rolling. The best is the guy getting cut in half and the sketchy director getting his head cut off slowly with a hacksaw. That last one is by far my favorite. So again, they did some good things with the kills and gore like every good horror/slasher movie should do. Now we get to the bad.

The camerawork killed this for me. I get that it is being shot as a found footage movie but it really isn’t a found footage so you can make some effort to clean it up a bit. First issue is that they had autofocus on the cameras they were using. That means the damn thing went out of focus every time someone moved or entered/left the frame. What that means is most of the movie was out of focus and blurry as hell. Not only couldn’t I see what was going on but it gave me a splitting headache as I watched. They then double down on this by adding fake static and digital defects to the shots. I guess they were trying to imply that the gear was damaged or something. All it does is make a difficult watch even worse.

I wanted to like Pizza Girl Massacre. The cast is solid, and I thought the writing was good. But I just can’t recommend that anyone sit thru and deal with how poorly it was shot. Should the filmmakers being paying attention to me (hey it could happen!) if that was intended, you need to do better and understand that your movie needs to be watchable. If it was because you just had bad equipment, then by new cameras and make another movie because you clearly have talent and I want to see what you do next. This is one of those rare times where I can’t recommend a movie but am still very excited to see what else they have made.

 

© Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

 

 

Friday, June 3, 2022

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)

Today I’m going to take a look at a Friday the 13th movie that is unlike any other in the franchise. Mostly because we don’t get much Jason and instead get a back story that explains he is really an evil slug/worm that likes to take up host in bodies. Though he can only live in the body of a Vorhees for long, so he needs to be reborn in the uterus of his sister… wait Jason had a sister? You know what I’ll get to that in a minute.

The movie opens with a woman driving to an isolated cabin. She finds the lights out and has to go to a spooky shed to get a spare bulb. Then stumbles thru the dark cabin to finally get the light screwed in. Then immediately goes to take a shower and therefore gets naked. These are all things where Jason should show up, right? Well, he does, and she runs in the woods wearing only a towel. Okay movie I’m digging on you after the screw up that Friday VIII was. Then boom… spotlights illuminate our favorite zombified killer and dozens of cops/soldiers blaze away at him with automatic weapons! They eventually “kill” him with what I think is a mortar. This was all a setup you see.

Now Jason Vorhees is nothing more than a pile of parts. When the coroner starts to do a postmortem, he is possessed and eats Jason’s black heart. The spirit of Jason takes control and sends the doctor back to Crystal Lake so that he can be reborn in the uterus of his sister or perhaps her offspring. This is how for most of the movie Jason is a worm that crawls in and out of people taking them over so that they can continue his homicidal work. Eventually we the audience and the characters find out that only a Vorhees can kill him. So, the magic knife gets plunged into his heart and Jason goes to Hell! Which leads us to the coolest ending I’ve ever seen in a theater one that took a decade to pay off. You see it is Freddy Kruger’s gloved hand that grabs the mask and takes it down!

For this review I watched the unrated version that came with the new Blu-Ray set that was released a few years ago. I had never watched this version and was shocked at how great the gore was. Shouldn’t be that surprised since it was KNB that did the work, and those guys always delivered the goods. This is a gory movie filled with some twisted stuff and great kills. There is a neat gag with a straight razor that looks painful, a neck gets smashed in a door, a formerly possessed deputy melts after Jason exits the building, bones are smashed, faces crushed and deep fried. All around this is a good time. My favorite kill though is a “cowgirl” getting stabbed and split in half. Trust me if you watch the movie, you will understand whom I am talking about. I was a bit disappointed with the actual Jason makeup, but we don’t see much of it, so I suppose that is okay. The evil worm thing is a neat effect and looks good, so there is that.

This may be the greatest teaser in movie history!
We also get a fun cameo from the Necronomicon and the dagger from Evil Dead II. Mostly this was because KNB also worked on that movie and not to connect the two universes. But as a horror nerd I was totally geeking out on this. The movie also has some self-aware moments with characters talking about smoking weed and having premarital sex after skinny dipping. Hell, they even have Kane Hodder out of costume and playing a security guard. So, there are many references tucked in the movie for fans of the genre to appreciate.

I’m torn on this movie. It has some great gore and funny moments that I enjoyed. But it isn’t a Friday the 13th flick or at least doesn’t feel like on. There isn’t much Jason, and what we get is him getting his ass kicked not once, but twice. Jason doesn’t get to kill anyone in this movie! Let that sink in for a minute. If they had called this the evil killer worm from upstate New York I would probably like it more. Though I suppose that is just me splitting hairs. Regardless I do really like Jason Goes to Hell, which is a sentence I never thought I’d say or write. Just make sure to watch the unrated version.

 

Ó Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

 

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason takes Manhattan (1989)

Honestly, I’ve not been looking forward to this one. The last few Friday movies before Jason X I don’t remember fondly. But since I’m a completist and I’m also running out of things to cover for the slasher movie marathon I guess it was about time to tackle this turkey. I watched my new Blu-Ray of the movie from the box set that was released a couple of years ago.

Jason is sitting at the bottom of the lake again. This time a couple of horny kids are doing what they do in a slasher flick. But being responsible they toss the anchor of the yacht overboard which snags on an underwater electrical cable. There is a short and Jason is shocked back to life. He climbs aboard and kills the kids then takes the boat down the river to the ocean. Yeah, I guess Camp Crystal Lake now connects to the Atlantic Ocean now… Okay.

This brings me to my first issue with the movie. How the hell does Jason manage to navigate the river and take the ship to sea? More importantly why would he do that?  Luckily it just so happens that he passes a large party ship that is filled with high school graduates from the high school near Crystal Lake. So, he hitches a ride with them and then starts killing everyone he finds. Jason on a boat isn’t cool. But I’ll get to that later. In between character development, aka. these are all annoying kids and adults that we have seen before, Jason murders a few here and there. Finally, Jason sinks the ship… you heard that correctly he sinks the damn ship! Why? I guess he got tired of stabbing people.

Now we get to New York City. It appears that our survivors paddle their life raft for a couple of days to finally arrive in the city. They manage to land in the crappiest neighborhood and get mugged right away! Here what is supposed to be our female lead character, Reenie, is hauled off by the muggers to be raped and drugged. Luckily Jason shows up and kills everyone… except her of course. So, I guess that Jason doggie paddled to the city after the ship sank? Anyway, he is still wanting to kill the kids, but stops long enough to scare some punks. Why didn’t he kill them? The only excuse I can see is that he had too many targets sort of murder sensory overload I guess. Eventually Jason chases Rennie into the sewers and is caught in the nightly flood of toxic waste because that is a thing. This doesn’t kill him so much as turn him into an adolescent. Yeah, Jason is a kid now? The end.

If you can’t tell from my sarcasm, I don’t like this movie. Still don’t like this movie. Taking Jason out of the environs of Crystal Lake might have seemed like a clever idea, but it didn’t work. The movie drags badly while the action is on the ocean. We spend far too much time on unlikeable characters doing stupid things. None of their motivations seem legitimate and border on absurd. They hint at some connection between Rennie and Jason that would explain why he pursued them, but it isn’t fleshed out at all. This results in a movie that seems to be a random series of Jason kills loosely held together by what passes for a plot.

There are a ton of kills in this movie, nineteen in all! Not one of them is noteworthy. Many are off screen and others generic throat slashing/stabbing. The most memorable kill in the flick is a dude’s head flying off a roof. That is okay, but nothing special. They double down on the gag by having it put in a police car to scare people. I guess Jason is all about the pranks now?

This is just a terrible movie. By far the worst Friday the 13th flick in the franchise and I’m including that CGI fest remake in this! If this movie had the best gore ever, I still think it would have been killed by the dull pacing of a script that had nothing going for it at all. I’d avoid this movie like the plague. I don’t recommend Jason Takes Manhattan.

 

Ó Copyright 2022 John Shatzer