Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Summer of Slash: The Final Terror

The Final Terror is yet another backwoods horror tale about a group of young college students who embark on a hiking trip only to be stalked by those pesky killers in the woods. However, what makes The Final Terror a great curiosity is the talent that worked on it. Like the ‘80s slasher, The Burning, Final Terror is really only sought out by horror fans because of the people involved in making the film and path their careers would take afterwards. The film was directed by Andrew Davis (The Fugitive) and stars Daryl Hannah, Joe Pantoliano, and Adrian Zmed (!) in what basically amounts to just another run-of-the-mill backwoods slasher that’s trying to be Deliverance and Just Before Dawn. The performances are indeed good, and the direction by Davis is good enough (there are some sequences that hinted at his future skill for directing action scenes) with some memorable scenes near the end, but I had to obtain a copy of the movie from an old VHS that looked like it was a copy from a copy. The picture and sound were terrible, and I think that, even though it’s part of the charm of being a horror fan, the quality of the copy I had really made it hard for me to invest (if there was even anything to invest in) in the movie. The Final Terror doesn't produce any memorable kills or scares; it's just kind of there -- a perfect example of how so many filmmakers cut their teeth with the horror film. This film is nothing special and it's really nothing more than a curiosity of the subgenre for the most diehard fans.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Summer of Slash: Frightmare

This nihilistic British slasher had its day in its homeland as one of the most notorious horror films of the ‘70s. Pete Walker’s Frightmare is pretty boring throughout (I’m just not a huge fan of the British horror film), though, with the occasional creepy set-piece (especially the farmhouse) and funny gore moment that offset the rather banal narrative. Call it a push, I suppose; however, if there was one reason to push you over the the uncertainty it is the gonzo performance by Sheila Keith as a rabid, flesh-eating granny. Firghtmare is an interesting entry for its history as a “Nasty,” but it ultimately fails to engage the viewer until its final moments which are laced with nihilism that is definitely a jolt to the viewer.  Hindsight obviously makes one wonder what all the fuss in Britain was about (Walker even claims on the DVD commentary that he wasn’t really going for any kind of culture message film) in regards to the gore and the film’s “indecency”; however, there are enough good moments if you can get through the creaky narrative and the typical, 1970s British aesthetic that make Frightmare an interesting entry into the subgenre. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Summer of Slash: Hitcher in the Dark

Wow,what a movie! Umberto Lenzi directing under his “Oh boy are these American movies I’m making terrible” pseudonym (Humphrey Humbert) that he used for other “stellar” horror films such as Welcome to Spring Break returns with this 80 minute Ray-Bans and Winnebago commercial. Yes, this entire film consist of a creepo in a Winnebago who may or may not pick up hitchhikers on a regular basis (we only see him pick up one, the rest of the film he simply stalks a girl and kidnaps her) and kills them. Basic slasher premise, right? In the words of John Matrix, “WRONG!” Nothing happens in this movie. Nothing. The guy drives around wearing his Ray-Bans, kidnaps a girl and cuts her hair so that she looks like his former girlfriend (Lenzi trying to make his Vertigo, no doubt), while the girl's doofus boyfriend drives around in his Suzuki jeep looking for her…you know what, the whole film can be summed up by this compilation. Enjoy (WARNING: this is definitely NSFW).

God bless you, Lenzi!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Summer of Slash: Hell Night

A really fun (a theme this summer with the slasher films I’ve chosen) slasher about a group of college rushes who must endure what is known as “hell night.” What they don’t realize is that the abandoned Garth Manor where they must spend the night (on the very night its former tenant murdered his family 12 years ago, naturally) is still inhabited by someone. A mix between wacky Halloween goings-on (think Terror Train and April Fool’s Day) and good, cheesy pizza and beer fun (think any of the slashers I’ve covered so far this summer) and you get a good idea of what Hell Night is. There isn’t anything necessarily tense or scary about the film, but it’s earnestly made (seriously, there isn’t a hint of sarcasm here…something I really appreciate about these early ‘80s slasher films) and contains a good amount of cheese to keep you and your friends entertained. Plus, there’s Vince Van Patten walking around with his shirt off in ridiculous boxer shorts for most of the movie; he’s predictably slimy and you just can’t wait for him to get it. The film uses silence well as a set-up for all of the false scares before the real scares happen, and it uses its setting extremely well (it even looks nice considering its small budget), reminding me of Canadian slashers in that regard.

There isn’t a lot of gore (the film’s producers were already aware of the growing impatience from the MPAA in regards to violence in horror films), but I don’t think director Tom DeSimone really wanted to make that kind of a horror film; he takes more pleasure in his creepy setting and the pacing (the end is pretty well done despite its obvious cribbing from Halloween and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but hey, what horror movie hasn't shamelessly cribbed from those two seminal films?). DeSimone does a decent job letting things unfold as the wacky moments are well spaced-out between what are supposed to be the genuinely scary moments (I like that he doesn’t try to confuse the two and just keeps it simple); it’s just the right amount of craft and cheese as it has that early ‘80s horror aesthetic that I found appealing about The Boogeyman. It also kind of reminded me of another of my favorite gems from last year's project, Tourist Trap -- another early entry into the genre that didn't quite know what it wanted to be, but had really great, creepy moments interspersed between some really wacky ones. As long as you don’t take yourself too seriously (or the genre too seriously), Hell Night is definitely a fun entry into the genre that I highly recommend for slasher aficionados.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Summer of Slash: The Boogeyman (1980)

“They say that when you break a mirror, you unleash everything it’s seen.” That is your premise for this wacky, supernatural horror film that is more indebted to the slasher film than you would think (hence it appearing in this summer series). If you can get past the bizarre, somewhat grotesque opening (an opening that definitely earned its Video Nasty label, and something I don’t really want to type out), The Boogey Man settles into a pretty fun, goofy horror movie. The film has the charm of an early ‘80s horror movie that is so shamelessly ripping off more successful horror movies (I can count at least six different movies The Boogey Man is trying to be), and it if it weren’t for the horribly misplaced tone of the film’s opening, then The Boogey Man would be somewhat of a under-seen classic of the genre.