Hideaway (1995)

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There was a time when I had cable. Real premium cable with channels such as TNT, TBS and On Demand services that allowed free movies from HBO, Showtime, Starz and Cinemax. Nowadays, I rely on streaming services, but I remember On Demand pretty fondly. I was able to find some interesting gems, and some interesting stinkers.

One such stinker was Hideaway, based on the novel by Dean Koontz. Koontz, as it turned out, hated the adaptation and wanted his name removed from the credits.

I didn’t quite know this factoid, nor did I read the original novel when I looked at the movie blurb. I selected play upon seeing Jeremy Sisto in the cast.

Don’t judge me. I know I am not the only one that watched a movie good or bad due to having a crush on one of the actors. I liked Sisto in Law and Order, and I watched a bad movie because the man is not only hot, but delivered a good performance. That said, I will pass this love on to you, dear readers, in review form.

The opening credits greet me with industrial band, KMFDM’s “Go to Hell,” a very promising indicator to the soundtrack, with the camera panning to a shirtless Sisto as Vassago.  That would be pretty damned good, except Vassago is a Satan worshiper who had sacrificed his mother and younger sister to the devil in the supposed safety in their suburban home. The camera pans to him at his altar where he kills himself with that same knife to further ensure the damnation of his soul.

Meanwhile, a family consisting of father Hatch Harrison (Jeff Goldblum), mother Lindsay (Christine Lahti) and teenaged daughter Regina (Alicia Silverstone) are out on a drive. A car accident ensues and even though Lindsay and Regina escape with superficial injuries, Hatch is pronounced dead.

All is not lost. Specialist Dr. Jonas Nyebern, played by Alfred Molina, is able to revive him. The drawback to this miracle is that he begins to see through the eyes of a serial murderer of women. After one too many news clips reporting these women as ‘missing’ and a trip to a psychic, Hatch comes to learn that the murderer is Vassago, the devil worshiper who killed his mother and sister before turning the knife on himself. Wait a second….isn’t he supposed to be dead? Well, let’s overlook the rubbery nature of the knife he falls on (you don’t have to look that hard, plus imdb points this out in the goof section). Vassago’s real name is Jeremy Nyebern, and his father is the same doctor that revived Hatch. Too bad Vassago kidnaps Regina and takes her to his abandoned amusement park hideout as the ultimate sacrifice….

This movie had a good cast, and a fantastic soundtrack for you goth/industrial fans including acts such as Miranda Sex Garden and KMFDM. Godflesh even makes a cameo appearance in the nightclub scene where Regina (who snuck out with a friend) first meets Vassago in darkly gorgeous yet creepy as hell glory. The story was solid on its face, but a few things seemed a bit needless and overall, it fell flat as did some of the acting. Part of me wonders if Alfred Molina took some of his Dr. Nyebern character to his later performance as Doctor Octopus in Spider Man 2. I really wanted to like this movie, but it was tedious, and the ending showed a needless twist that fell flat with the rest of the story. It’s a solid rental if you want a psychic twist to a horror movie, or if you have a thing for goth guys and Jeremy Sisto, who is an appealing villain, but I can understand some of the Rotten Tomato reviews.

 

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Reefer Madness/Tell your Children (1936)

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Movie blurbs describe this as a ‘cautionary’ tale featuring a fictionalized and ‘highly exaggerated’ take on marijuana smoking.

Highly exaggerated isn’t the half of it. This movie was so over the top that it became more funny than cautionary. When a very well done, but equally hammy musical featuring Neve Campbell gets the green light nearly seventy years later, how seriously can you really take this?

Back in the days when the world’s lumber barons shit paper wads over the prospect of the mass paper making potential of hemp, a scare film such as “Reefer Madness” was probably necessary to protect all interests. If the populace were unfamiliar with any potential dangers of any drug, I guess, it needed to be exposed whether the danger in question was real, imagined or fabricated.

Back then, it appeared that parents all over the country feared that their children will become addicted to drugs, alcohol, promiscuous premarital sex, and jazz music all the while attending unsupervised house parties.

On its face, this is a valid fear, especially since the parties in question center around a house party thrown by a pot dealer that is all about profiting and seduction in every form. The woman he lives with shows a little more of a conscience when it looked like truly innocent teenagers might get mixed up in something that they can’t handle. But, lo, for all her arguing she caves to that big strong man and his stash, even as a wholesome couple meet up for a little party after school only to fall prey to pot, sex, addiction and later death topped off by a poorly done but somehow plausible frame job.

“Warn your children” the movie blurbs.

This is one of several period propaganda films preaching the dangers of whatever illicit drug that scared the masses on that particular week. The melodrama of the story and actors is what sets Reefer Madness apart from the herd. It has everything, noir, protagonists so sweet that their image on the screen even to this day adds to a risk of diabetes, a jazz pianist that falls to utter insanity and a frame job. You are drawn to this film, even though it is more funny than scary. It might drive you to smoke more, but this film not only survived the cult test of time, but it was Rifftraxed with Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy to some acclaim. Also, how many of these were made into musicals?

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Cocaine Fiends/The Pace that Kills (1935)

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Oh, Mill Creek…..
I first discover the magic of Mill Creek Entertainment while at a friend’s birthday party. I picked up a DVD compilation pack of low budget exploitation melodramas. Most of these films preach the dangers of drug abuse, but there are a couple pertaining to sexually transmitted infections among other societal ills. They feature an innocent young girl that meets the wrong man, takes the wrong turn and falls to ruin, addiction, unwanted pregnancy and loss of reputation.

One of these cinematic red flags is the 1935 remake of a silent film, “The Cocaine Fiends/The Pace that Kills” directed by William A. O’Connor and starring Lois January. The movie starts with a police chase. Drug dealer and no account hoodlum, Nick is on the run. He stops at a cafe, and sweet talks a young waitress named Jane (January) who is helping her mother work to send her little brother to college, into a cover story as well as a chicken dinner. In return, he promises marriage, an exciting new life in the big city, parts in ‘a show’ (what kind if show is anyone’s guess, but by golly she’s sure pretty enough to be in one) and a little pick me up he just calls ‘headache powder.’

Jane starts to get a lot of headaches since meeting Nick. When she runs off with him, she is locked in a room located at a seedy nightclub. She’s later informed by a jaded looking nightclub fixture played by character actress Fay Weldon that not only will Nick not marry her as promised, but that he fed lines to a score of others and by the way, that headache powder she needs is really dope.

To fill in the rest of the movie, there are a few subplots that seem to scatter throughout the film, making the pacing a little awkward to watch. They include Jane turning to club girl Lil and becoming more of an addict and a long suffering one at Nick’s hands as her mother spends day after day for over a year looking for a letter from her daughter. Her brother Eddie drops out of college after he is introduced to cocaine by a girlfriend. He later gets her pregnant after turning into a full on junkie or ‘hophead’ that can’t keep jobs or pay rent let alone go out on the town as they did. One young girl starts to run with a bad crowd, much to her father’s dismay, but while she does drink and stay out, she only dates casually and does not fall into the ‘hophead’ category. She still gets kidnapped and ransomed by Nick, who is always looking for that quick dollar.

Overall it is a story about Nick, his mules and the people he turns into addicts just as much as it is a story about the Janes of the world that fall from grace and eventually end up in jail for shooting Nick. There is a happy ending for one of the characters, despite her partying, which belies the anti-drug end of the propaganda. Not unlike a Shakespearean tragedy, the majority of the characters fall to death and despair on account of that demon dope which could get you and your children at any time!

Don’t do drugs, ladies and gentleman and don’t think of little things like plot holes and pacing if you want to enjoy this movie!

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The Trip (1967)

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Welcome to the first of what will be a small series of cult movies focused on drug use. I’m going to review Roger Corman’s “The Trip.” When I rented it, I was under the impression that this film was going to be a horror movie where Peter Fonda faces some pretty interesting and literal demons when he opts to take his first hits of LSD.

This does turn out to be the case, but this film showcases the dreamier aspects of his trip, what happens when he decides to go out while high off his ass, and how he faces his own faults.

Peter Fonda plays a television commercial producer that is devoted to his job marketing perfume and other consumer products. His workaholic ways take him to the point where he misses his own divorce hearing. His soon to be ex wife pursues him on the set to sign papers. At that point, shit gets real to use use the Orwellian terminology.

Somewhere, in all this mass marketing, he finds the time to smoke grass and try his first hit of acid for a mind altering experience. He experiences a series of strange psychedelic images, some of which involve his trial, crucifixion and a walk through the forests…while he is in a major metropolitan city.

The horror element is his own demons and doubt, some of which centering around his soon to be ex wife. The camera work was fairly solid and the visuals very colorful and dreamy. The dream like and surreal elements made the movie hard to follow and I had to watch it twice to really get the point of the movie.

I didn’t see too many negative effects of the drug use. Fonda, while fearful of the police, did not get arrested, even when he broke into a stranger’s house and spoke to the little girl inside. It doesn’t end in his ruin or real redemption. There is no horror that you might expect, even though the drug use makes it possible.

Overall, it’s pretty cool even as anti-drug propaganda. It’s worth a rent if you have spare time.

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Cheerleader Camp (1988)

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As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, horror movies touch upon our own fears. “Cheerleader Camp” addresses the flip side of the popular image of the pretty, perky, popular and by some turns, snobbishly unattainable cheerleader in many a teen movie in the 1980’s and later. I was interested in renting this movie because I was a former cheerleader. I was on my squad in the sixth grade and the junior varsity team in the tenth grade. This did not increase my status on the popularity food chain in either case, and my rigid and nasty coach in the sixth grade was a horror movie unto herself!

Needless to say, I was looking for a little bit of a karmic body count!

It delivered to a degree. An isolated wooded town holds a small camp was deemed a perfect place to host a cheerleader retreat where teams from different high schools compete for the honor of best squad, best team mascot, and Cheerleader Queen. As there were no reports of any serial killers, or deranged men in hockey masks and a supernatural claim to the camp site, our heroes and staff felt safe to go. I’d be concerned over the dirty old men on the staff and the former cheerleader hostess not allowing mascots to remove their masks when they are trying to eat the cafeteria food provided, but no one does much about this.

Our heroes are a ragtag team of mostly snobby cheerleaders, their shy misfit mascot, their randy assistant coach and I guess a choreographer/photographer who is a worse pervert than the assistant coach. There is one nice cheerleader in the bunch, namely Allison, who is plagued by an intense anxiety dream in the opening sequences of the movie. She is alone in the locker room trying to find her uniform only to find herself late and booed when she finds herself without a team on an empty football field. She is eventually attacked by her pom poms and about to be stabbed and gored by tinsel as she wakes up in a van with the rest of her team teasing her.

I was never given pom poms during my brief cheerleading career. I think I’m realizing why…

Anyway, on top of what appear to be recurring nightmares where she either witnesses or kills other cheerleaders and the pressure to win the camp competition, Allison is confronted by her assistant coach boyfriend hitting on other girls both on and off her squad, leers from middle aged male staff and their pervert photographer. The cherry topping this drama llama deluxe sundae is the snooty nastiness from the camp coordinator, judge, master of ceremonies and overall foil to all that don’t kiss her ass. I’m thinking she was a bit of a queen bee in her own cheerleader days and desperately wants to hold onto the spot in adulthood.

Allison’s only comfort comes into the form of Corey, a shy, unassuming and less popular member of the pecking order as team mascot. No matter as there is a killer picking off cheerleaders, focusing mainly on Allison’s squad, and Allison’s dreams are getting more premonition-esque. Seems that if she dreams of a rival getting knocked off, it starts to happen….

Did I mention that this camp is located in a wooded area?

I have to say, that this movie was a little formulaic, and did not need the dream premonition sequences. It could have turned the cheerleader image on it’s ear with better choreography and acting….but that fell through. On the other hand, Leif Garrett was a good philandering creep of a boyfriend who turned to other girls when Allison refuses sex on account of dreams and anxiety. The identity of the killer was a little too obvious, but it did derive a chuckle from me at the end of the movie nevertheless. Overall, a decent rental.

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April Fools Day (1986)

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I don’t remember how I came across my copy of “April Fools Day” exactly, but it was part of a two pack and two sided DVD with the original “My Bloody Valentine.” One gets what they pay for and I didn’t pay very much for this set. If it was part of the horror movie grab bag from the Tower Record closeout years back (and I think it was), I paid next to nothing.

Either way, I was expecting a little more from a horror movie that built its premise around a holiday synonymous with pranks and practical jokes. You’d expect to see any and every manner of killer traps and jokes, right? Maybe a twist on the whoopee cushion? Maybe booby traps that would make early Wes Craven gems such as “Last House on the Left” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street” seem a little tame? It is, after all a 1980’s slasher movie entitled, “April Fools Day.”

There were all the bad hair, fashions, soundtrack and gratuitous sex jokes and scenes that are part of that genre, but it did not deliver. Cute and perky Muffy St. John, played by Deborah Foreman, invites her college friends to her family estate located on a small island for Spring Break.

The trouble starts with a ferry accident, and shaken but still blase, maybe drunk or stoned given the performances of some of the actors, our scooby gang enters the estate, drink some top shelf booze and find little jokes like a dribble glass here, heroin supplies there and randomly scattered articles about accidents and the possibility that sweet Muffy may be a touch insane.The group dies off one by one, but in pretty ordinary ways.

I was expecting a gory twist on April Fools Day and not only did it fall short in that department, but the ending was all too inane and goofy. I will say that Amy Steel was a decent Final Girl, but she did a much better job in “Friday the Thirteenth: Part 2.” Overall, great gimmick and premise, but terrible follow through.

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Cut (2000)

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Welcome to another “It Came from the Queue” review. I came across the title “Cut” and the name, Molly Ringwald. My first thought was, could this be “Ducky’s Revenge” or some strange slash-tastic sequel to “The Breakfast Club?” I read Comcast’s synopsis and it looked to be the back drop to a true slasher movie, gimmick and all.

Hmmmm

It did not disappoint. Ringwald played a B- actress in a horror movie that was started at some point in the late 1980’s but never finished due to the untimely death of the nasty pitbull director, played by Kylie Minogue. Ringwald’s character, the pretty teenaged lead actress, and a P.A. witness an actor, recently fired slashing up the director with the garden tool weapon his killer character used and turning to attack them. Ringwald, panicked, manages to stick him in the neck and electrocute him.

One would think that the film would get a dose of bad publicity and higher box office sales due to morbid curiosity. It might have, if they were able to finish the film. Funny thing; anytime anybody tried to finish the movie, people got killed.

Twelve years later, the P.A. man went on to teach and a group of his students attempt to finish the movie as a final project. Traumatized, their instructor warns them against it, and sets the viewer up to the back story of the film as well as what happens to the hapless souls who try to finish it.

Do they listen? It is slasher movie land, so they get the rights to the film for next to nothing, hire Ringwald to play the mother of her teen character, and go back to the old set where a figure dressed as the movie killer hacks and slashes his way through the cast and crew, as well as a throwaway pervert character.

I liked it, formulaic as it was. It had a Crazy Ralph stock character who warned certain doom, coitus interruptus by sharp objects, and while the villain in of himself was generic and derivative, an interesting plot twist gave him a little extra dimension. All and all, this film stands strong on its own and the final scare can open up an interesting sequel.

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Buried Alive (1990)

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When I first viewed the opening credits, one of my initial thoughts was, “this stars the guy in those commercials that steals your stuff when you fall asleep at your desk at 3:00?” My next thought was, “Nope-that’s Robert Goulet and Robert Vaughn played a bipolar public official on “Law and Order” and plugs a law firm.

All actors have to start somewhere. The camera first pans to a girls’ dormitory where a petite brunette packs a bag and looks over her shoulder, clearly about to run away. She is met by a friend, played by Nia Long, who gives the girl a switchblade for the journey ahead. After a few scares, shots of sleeping girls in various stages of undress and a shadow walking past, she finally makes a bid for freedom…and the hitchhiking, truck stops etc. that go with it.

Not to be! She is met by a mysterious man in what looks to be a Ronald Reagan mask, attacked and chased down a trap door, a rabbit hole if you would. She screams her way down the tube into a dark pit where she is dragged into a pit by our masked man, strapped into a straight jacket, even though she is fighting her solitary attacker and slowly but surely bricked into her little pit stall.

Enter a newly hired doctor by the name of Janet who suffers from strange hallucinations. She is starting her first day at her dream job working at a troubled girls’ clinic under a shrink named Gary, played by Mark E. Salomo-I mean, Robert Vaughn (he means business either way). She holds him in high regard and wants to please him right away.

Did I mention that she was blond and beautiful? If he wasn’t impressed by her credentials, he was all over her assets, as was the creepy assistant doctor, played by Donald Pleasence. If you thought that Pleasence was obsessed with Michael Myers to disturbing degrees in the Halloween movies, then you will be very creeped out by the way he follows Dr. Janet throughout the hospital grounds!

He does not turn out to be the only creepy admirer in Janet’s life, as the viewer will soon see, but the immediate problem for Janet is getting lost in the kitchen area. She bumbles in to find a group of tough, loud, and at many turns scantily dressed teenage girls looking her over as the new authority figure while grinding meat. Some girls bathe, do their hair, and primp in the kitchen as well. I can’t explain why the girls’ beauty rituals take place where food is prepared, but this is a mental hospital…

The girls’ while having a gang like mentality, are not above spats and fights among themselves. Janet walks into such a dispute, and raises the ire of the ringleader, Debbie, played by Ginger Lynn. Debbie starts a conflict with complaints of laziness, and blows it up to a full on brawl. One girl starts to garner delusions of persecution from the staff, other girls, and the beloved Dr. Gary.

A little mischief might be the norm, as this is a school for troubled girls, but going overboard, or not responding to Gary’s brand of therapy in the way he’d like has bad results for the patients. One is flayed by an electric beater as she uses it as a curling iron, and more find themselves bricked into pits, which turn out to be located in an underground basement area where some of the girls sneak boys, drugs and other party favors.

All the while, Janet asks Gary about the missing girls, harbors hallucinations of hands trying to break through a brick wall, accompanied by voices while being peeped and followed by Donald Pleasence. I, for one don’t need the job or the money that badly. However, she views Gary as a mentor, even when it looks like he is trying to undress her half the time. You really see how obsessed he gets when Debbie complains about Janet and threatens to have the rest of the girls boycott her science class focusing on ants. Gary thanks her for being honest to her face, but when Debbie sneaks out to meet a boy about some grass, trouble ensues. When Janet finally finds the tunnels and starts to see what kind of therapy Gary and staff have planned for the worst of the problem girls, rotting skulls and all, she’s in real trouble, especially after she turns down Gary’s marriage proposal.

I had fun with this movie, despite some of the plot holes. It did have a women in prison exploitation feel to it, especially with a shower initiation scene, but it had solid performances from Nia Long as the concerned friend who wasn’t going to know what was happening until the end. The standout performance was Donald Pleasence as patient experiment turned creepy staff. We all have that one coworker we’re never quite sure of, less so if that one has a crush on you! It touched on the fears of patient experimentation and being bricked into a small room within an enclave swarming with ants. I don’t think it was too faithful to Poe, but it was entertaining to watch, ants, electric mixers, presidential masks and all.

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The Spell (1977)

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The best present one can give anybody is a DVD set of after school specials. I was fortunate to find such a set for my friend’s birthday one year.

For all the classics of the After School Special and Made for TV epics, the “Tough Girls” the “What are Friends Fors” or even the “Faces at the end of the Worlds,” there are those that might not make the cut, or the DVD sets shaped like a school bus starring those 70’s and 80’s sitcom staples.

I have a funny feeling that for all of its Made for TV madness and the small part of a young Helen Hunt as the younger and prettier, or at least thinner sister, The Spell is not going to get its own little short bus in those DVD sets of fond memory.

Horror movies touch upon our fears. The Spell touched upon a fear that haunts me well into adulthood. That fear is being the fat kid in the class. Our heroine, Rita, played by Susan Meyer and not really all that heavy, is picked on by her much thinner classmates. The beginning shots show these girls taunting Rita, puffing out their cheeks, trudging to mock her walk, which indicates Rita is trying especially hard to avoid these other girls.

It gets worse when she tries to climb the rope in gym class. The gym teacher shows more sympathy to Rita than her own sister, played by Helen Hunt. You really could see how Hunt was trying to fit in with the pretty girls….even when the worst of them falls from the top of the rope in an accident…

Soon, strange things start to happen to Rita’s family. She is found chanting, reading strange things, and after the sister starts being spiritually terrorized by among other things, an out of control clock, you start to get the feeling that Rita is using occult means to get even with mean classmates, a father who harps on her weight and generally acts like he would be much happier with only one daughter to a point where he wants to send her away and a sister who is equally mean and taking attention away from the one sympathetic parent Rita has…well, Mom is sympathetic until she figures out what Rita is up to and who she hangs out with at night anyway. Most moms would be wary of those occultists that keep their teenagers out late at night.

I can’t say I enjoyed this. Rita was not as awful as she was built up to be, as a matter of fact, it turned out a completely different person was doing the worst of the casting in a badly drawn surprise ‘twist.’ My guess was that the networks did not like the prospect of a vengeful and murderous teenager in the TV movies. No way would Carrie White have put up with that kind of nonsense in school or at home!

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Cheater’s Club(2006)

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Welcome to another It came from the Queue Review. This one came from my On Demand options under the free movies section.

It might have for the better that this was in the free section. I’d pay an extra $2.99 for “Masque of the Red Death.” “Cheater’s Club,” not so much.

This did end up in the horror section, yet this is a Lifetime Network thriller. While this film had an interesting premise, a radical therapist advocating infidelity as a means for the women in her group therapy session to help their troubled and as it turns out, sexless marriages, it had poor execution and typical Lifetime Movie network melodrama where it wasn’t needed.

This is a Lifetime movie. Therefore, men call into this therapist’s radio show berating her as immoral among other things. She ends up murdered and her patients stalked.

I’ll give Lifetime this much credit. They are starting to appeal to the demographic of women that like to look at other women. Charisma Carpenter prances about the movie in very tight and low cut tops.

As a film, Cheater’s Club had an interesting premise and good set up. The problem was that like many a Lifetime made for TV movie, there is excess melodrama, the female lead almost always framed or set up to be framed on top of being stalked or otherwise abused. I was spared the myriad of household cleaner and department store commercials this time around, but I asked the same question. Is Lifetime really television for women? Did the ending of this movie have to entail a cuckolded and psychotic woman lashing out against another woman?

I am all for any movie featuring Charisma Carpenter, who is a fine actress and was pretty good in this limited role, working well with the script provided. Thing is, this movie would have been a lot better if it were the janitor who turned out to be the killer. The creepy janitor, like the hackneyed back story, is the earmark of quality in any horror movie, or even thriller movies.

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Prom Night IV: Deliver us from Evil (1992)

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Welcome to another “It Came From the Queue” review. As mentioned, my free trial of Netflix afforded me a free double feature DVD of Prom Nights 3 and 4.

Boy, oh boy, was I glad that I received “Prom Night IV: Deliver Us From Evil” as part of my free trial.

This particular sequel did not feature the Mary Lou Maloney character as the antagonist. This time around, our story begins in the late 1950’s as did the last two Prom Night movies. However, the prom queen isn’t burned in a freak accident. Two random prom goers meet, chat and decide to go to the boy’s car to…..play twenty questions! That’s what they were doing!

The villain of this story, as horror villains are wont to do, creep over to the People About To Have Sex, the characters that you know are going to get killed first. Is the villain a spurned lover? A runner up to Prom Queen that wants the title? A hopeful Prom King who never had his moment in the sun or his fifteen minutes in the last movies?

If you guessed none of the above, then you would be right.

The specter is a local priest that headed to Hamilton High’s Prom to seek out and ultimately kill couples engaging in sexual activity. He manages to find teenagers doing just that, so Father Jonas (James Carver) stabs and slashes before anyone engaged in premarital sex.

When his church finds out what he did, they do not call the police. They do not call the Vatican. They drug him, and keep him, stigmata and all, imprisoned in a basement. This church entrusts one priest to watch over Jonas as though he contained the Lost Ark.

Fast forward to the year 1991 where a young priest is informed that he is not going on his planned mission to Africa. It turns out that Father Jonas’s keeper dies of old age and Jonas, who is still imprisoned and alive, needs a new priest to give him his happy shot in between masses.

No one thought to call the cops, even after thirty some odd years. This blew my mind throughout the movie.

The young priest forgets to give Jonas his shot, and Jonas, even though he is probably a junkie at this point, manages to not only wake up, but has the strength to free himself and strangle this other priest who is much younger and with it than Jonas. I don’t know much of anything about stigmata, but I don’t think it prevents withdrawl or gives the afflicted that kind of super strength.

One can’t help but wonder the kind of scandal that would have ensued. The movie does not touch upon that. I bet if they did, and skipped the current batch of prom goers, there would have been a better movie. I digress.

Free to wreak havoc all over any teenagers that dare to screw around, Jonas then follows two couples that skip the prom to go to a cabin house belonging to the parents of one of the cannon fodder, I mean teenagers. From there, we see everything from obscene phone calls to the theft of wine that ‘was worth more than the house’ to misplaced girlfriends to our villain stabbing a kid about to film his big brother having sex with a metal crucifix, all leading to the big chase scene of the last surviving good girl survivor (Nicole de Boer) to an abandoned shed in the house and an explosion, ending the evil priest once and for all…..so you think!

I wasn’t impressed, or scared. There was little gore or even violence shown. The story was weak and the performances were sub-par. It wasn’t even so bad it was funny. It was a very poor movie, even for a bad franchise sequel.

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Prom Night III: The Last Kiss (1990)

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This review is the first of my “It came from the Queue” reviews. These stem from the free trial stage of my Netflix account. I had a month of freebies, and I was not going to use it wisely. “Prom Night IV: Deliver us from Evil” came as a double feature DVD. My God, I could rent two for the price of one….sort of.

I didn’t mind Prom Night III. It didn’t have much in the way of scare factor or much gore, but the story is one you’re interested in following and there was solid if not a little over the top acting, funny lines, and even a star turn from Jeremy Ratchford of “Cold Case” fame as the stereotypically nerdy and schedule obsessed Leonard.

The bad girl Prom Queen of Hamilton High, Mary Lou Maloney (Courtney Taylor) tries to make another go at claiming her title of Queen of the Prom. There is only one problem; she is stuck in hell. As the title credits roll, you get to see Mary Lou’s hell. Hell is a dirty dingy version of Hamilton High in 1957 with a few neon lights and a dance floor that is hot to the touch. You see dead girls dancing, or just shambling in place with an occasional “Ouch!” in bare feet. Mary Lou, in a blue dress and strategically burned somehow has supernatural powers at her disposal. She manages to coax the school janitor back in the world of the living to a jukebox that appears out of nowhere. It turns out that he was a classmate of Mary Lou in 1957, and he recognizes her voice before he is electrocuted by the jukebox giving her a gate back to the living world, where she is also endowed with otherworldly magic.

You’d think that such a powerful demon Prom Queen on a mission would render gory results on the night of the prom.

Not so! The gore is at a minimum in this Prom Night sequel. She can make food stands, salon chairs that drip battery acid and a football drill appear as if by magic, but somehow, the cartoon effects are very tame. By the time she knocks off the school guidance counselor in the salon chair of battery acidic doom with the line, “you’re nails look terrible. Let me help you with that!” I thought I was watching a live action episode of “Looney Tunes”. Mary Lou even had an array of costumes at her disposal from Soda Shoppe girl to naughty nurse giving her more of a Bugs Bunny persona.

What she didn’t have was a means to dispose of the bodies. Enter Alex (Tim Conlon) an aspiring doctor second string football player, band member and overall ‘average’ guy right down to his height and shoe size, according to him and the statistics he read to his long suffering girlfriend, Sarah. Not long after the resurrection of Mary Lou and the school gymnasium in an elaborate ceremony by Hamilton’s new principal, Alex gets the bright idea to study for a big biology test late at night, hours after the school closes. Study time is interrupted by Mary Lou, who despite Alex’s average height, shoe size and according to the guidance counselor, grades, seduces and ultimately falls for him, killing off faculty and students that stand in the way of his being both a pre-med student and star football player while doctoring his grades and endowing him with athletics.

And all he has to do in return is meet her at school late at night and bury a couple of bodies.

As you probably guess, infidelity with a demon starts to lose its appeal to Alex. On top of explaining himself to Sarah as to where he goes late at night, he also has to contend with his conscience while burying bodies. Plied by sexual favors at first, he eventually breaks up with Mary Lou after the football captain is murdered and police start to question and ultimately arrest him. By then, a fuming Mary Lou begins to believe that Sarah, a smart and pretty blond who doesn’t get mad, but bakes, is the only thing to stand between herself and Alex. Even though Sarah ends up going with school nerd, Leonard, despite his need to stick to a prom night schedule down to the photographs, Sarah is still a threat to Mary Lou.

Personally, I think that Mary Lou should have left Leonard alone instead of killing him by wrapping him in film strip tape and let Sarah see where the date led. Sure, he was a nerdy far cry to the near slob Ratchford would later play in “Cold Case” but if movies teach us anything, it’s the nerds who end up wealthy how many years down the road. He certainly had more of a career than the rest of the cast!

But Sarah is still a threat and attacked. Hamilton High’s Prom, which is held in the newly restored gym, is blitzed by Alex who escaped from jail thanks to an idiot guard and Mary Lou who expects Alex to be the Prom King to Her Queen, complete with a drill attachment to his crown lest Sarah be killed. Alex agrees to ‘go home’ with Mary Lou, back to Hamilton Hell to save Sarah, crown not included.

High school is hellish enough for most people to begin with. In this case, Alex needed to be saved from a hell that contained dead faculty and students out to get him, dirty halls and a Demon Mary Lou that for all her powers is not immune to a flame thrower and the greatest action tag line of all: “I don’t get mad, I bake” from plucky Sarah.

I told you that there were priceless lines in this movie!

Overall, it was enjoyable to watch, but more funny than scary. As I mentioned before, there were great lines. In addition to the baking quip, there are a number of very dark humored PA announcements throughout the school time scenes such as the one where the principal tells the students to wish the cafeteria cook the best of luck as she goes back to her old job at the nuclear plant. While the stars of the cast were okay, I think it was Jeremy Ratchford as Leonard who turned out the best performance. I did expect a little more from Courtney Taylor as Mary Lou, as not only was this the lead role, but one any actress could have a lot of fun with, especially the script being the live action cartoon as it was. She looked good in her many costumes, but that was it really.

While I won’t spoil the ending, I will give credit for a twist outside what was an otherwise formulaic story. What I will say, and what many of you are probably thinking is, maybe next year, Hamilton High will host the Prom at a hotel or venue outside the high school. Between “Carrie” and the “Prom Night” series, you get the sense that holding Prom at the high school is just too dangerous! Then again, if the “Prom Night” of 2008 says anything, school grounds or hotel, there is no safe place to have the Prom. Makes me glad I skipped my own!

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Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (1987)

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Sequels made a joke of many a horror movie. The Prom Night Series is no exception. To top it off, this movie doesn’t follow where the first Prom Night left off. Maybe this is a good thing, since the original Prom Night didn’t leave much room for a sequel.

This sequel runs as a basic revenge slash fest. The movie begins at Hamilton High’s 1957 prom. The focus of the story is bad girl prom queen, Mary Lou Maloney (Lisa Schrage). On prom night, Mary Lou jilts her date, Bill Nordham, for the local bad boy, Buddy Cooper. One would think Bill would go home with a broken heart, and spread a few nasty rumors about Mary Lou’s being easy the next day. Since this is a slasher movie, Bill accidentally sets Mary Lou on fire.

After the accident, the movie jumps forward thirty years. Buddy Cooper becomes a priest. I guess his drinking and wenching were not mentioned during the seminary school days. Bill Nordham (Michael Ironside) is the new principal of Hamilton High. Mary Lou Maloney seems forgotten, and a new Prom Queen, Vicki (Wendy Lyon) is to be elected.

This is where we start to have a problem. Vicki, the daughter of puritanical parents, is unable to buy a prom dress. Since she is popular, and expected to look her best as Prom Queen, she decides to hunt around the costume shop of Hamilton High. Surprise, Surprise, she finds the perfect outfit, namely Mary Lou’s old prom gown. Though Mary Lou’s body is dead, her spirit is alive and well and wants her moment as Prom Queen.

In addition to a high body count, the movie had a good gimmick of a wronged prom queen coming back from the dead to claim her old title and maybe exact revenge on the guy that killed her on her big night. This sounds like a straightforward story, yet why did the vengeful spirit wait thirty years to enact revenge? Why would Hamilton High save Mary Lou’s old prom dress when it seems the town wants to forget about the tragedy surrounding the 1957 Prom? Speaking of cover-ups, for the number of deaths that occurred on prom night, people were pretty nonchalant. I can see Vicki possessed by Mary Lou’s old dress, but how could she end up sucked through a chalkboard? Someone would have noticed this in a classroom, right? I keep forgetting that the slasher movie world is far different than the real world.

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Prom Night (1981)

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A teenager’s senior prom is often an important event in their young lives. The event entails a great deal of preparation, and much of the parents’ hard earned cash. It can also be a time of great anxiety for the outcasts of the high school pecking order, those that perhaps cannot find the right dress or tux, or those who haven’t any chance of finding a date. Prom night can mark the ultimate humiliation for any outcast that dares to tread into this haven of the more socially acceptable. It can also mark any number of tragic events, events that can make a fine horror movie if you think about it.

This is not necessarily the case in this movie.

This movie does, on the other hand, reinforce one of many horror movie conventions. Young actresses may start out in slasher movies before making it big. This is also pointed out by Stomp Tokyo. One can look to Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween and Halloween II, Sissy Spacek in Carrie and Patricia Arquette in A Nightmare on Elm St 3: Dream Warriors.

Our story takes place in a small town where a group of children play hide and seek in an abandoned building. They taunt the youngest of them, a girl named Robin, and she takes an accidental fall to her death. Six years later, an unknown stalker calls all involved in Robin’s death and one by one kills them at their senior prom.

I can understand this premise as an event such as the prom will bring this group together. There is also opportunity to humiliate or scare them in public. Our killer, who could be any number of people, including the child molester wrongfully accused of Robin’s death, kills our cannon fodder one by one in secluded areas. The only scare in this kill fest is the head of one of the victim’s rolling on the stage where the King and Queen of the Prom would have been crowned. After the auditorium clears out, the killer is almost ready to be revealed.

As to the identity of the killer, the movie is set up so that it could be any number of people. The director seemed to have been attempting a surprise ending, but the killer’s identity is too obvious and there is no elaborate chase scene, death or real resolution of the movie, so I was more confused than anything.

I was further confused over Jamie Lee Curtis’s role in this film except to play Prom Queen, Kim. She was Robin’s older sister, but she was never involved in her accidental death or her friends’ subsequent cover up. Why wait for the senior prom in the first place to exact revenge for her death as the event, or any dance, is separate from Robin’s death? And why was there a Saturday Night Fever-esque dance sequence and bad disco music. Did Kim and her date have to take center stage to show up her old friend turned rival and her punk boyfriend? I don’t know, but I got a good laugh out of it, nevertheless.

I enjoyed this movie. It was fun, and while not Jamie Curtis’s best performance, she was pretty good. The viewer could have done without the disco sequence, and the sequels after 2.

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Final Destination 2 (2003)

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If a good gimmick doesn’t make for a good movie, then it can make for a sequel, if not a slew of sequels, or a franchise if a film maker feels prolific. Either way, horror fans like you and me will at least check our sources out of morbid curiosity if nothing else.

I liked the first Final Destination, absurd as it was at turns. I know logically that sequels to most movies, even good ones, tend to suck. Do I listen to me when I see Final Destination 2 on TV? Does the slutty bimbo in any horror movie not opt to go down to the basement of doom? You, faithful readers, know the answer as well I did when I changed the channel.

To the movie’s credit, it wasn’t bad. It followed the same basic story as the first. Our hero has a strong premonition of a catastrophic accident and uses that knowledge to save him/herself as well as anyone else they can from death. However, since Death was cheated out of souls, s/he comes back to claim them.

Once again, Death takes the Rube Goldberg approach and each death scene is more absurd and complicated than the first, right down to a big barbeque grill explosion. In a way, the specter of Death is the perfect slasher movie villain. S/he has no real identity other than a personified version of death itself. S/he can kill you in any way possible, no matter how ridiculous the scenario, and since s/he’s Death itself, s/he can’t be killed, or even put down for a short time, such as Jason Vorhees, Michael Myers or Freddy Kreuger. As the movie progresses, the viewer can see that Death truly can’t be outwitted either, despite the best efforts of the protagonists, even protagonists with prior knowledge of cheating death such as Clear Waters (Ali Larter: Final Destination). What I don’t understand is why Death takes his or her sweet time and kill them off one by one not unlike Michael Myers or his contemporaries after making a big production of creating catastrophes to take out a large group of people.

Overall, it was a decent continuation of the original story. The acting was solid, but the best performance came from Tony Todd, who seemed to relish his small role as the creepy, evasive, but knowledgeable mortician that enjoys his line of work way too much. A perverted little part of me hopes that he is featured in the sequels as not only the mortician, but as Death personified, fucking with the cannon fodder all along. You have to admit, the series could benefit from such a twist. Elaborate and absurd ways to kill off unsuspecting and shell shocked people can get formulaic after awhile.

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Final Destination (2000)

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Once again, I’ll reiterate that to make a good horror movie, it helps to have a good concept. I say it helps. This does not guarantee a good movie. On top of your award winning concept, one requires good writing, acting and camera angles among other things. Valentine is an example of a horror movie with a good gimmick, but little follow through in plot development, characters, and overall story.

Final Destination had a great concept, but it also had the advantage of a tight and well rounded story. It begins with a high school seniors’ class trip to France. One of the students, Alex (Devon Sawa: Now and Then), has a premonition of the plane blowing up and killing his classmates. He is so frightened by what he saw that he tries to warn as many of his classmates off the plane as possible. Since this premonition came out of nowhere, many of the students laugh him off. A handful of students believe him, and a teacher takes Alex and another student he was fighting with off the plane right before takeoff. Of course, not long after the plane leaves the runway, it explodes.

This event makes headlines, naturally, and the class commencement ceremony is a sad one. FBI agents, however, are a little suspicious that Alex predicted the explosion and knew enough to get off the plane and warn as many people as possible. They decide to follow and watch him. This is interesting because as it turns out, the survivors of the plane crash start to die one by one in very unusual ways.
The reason the survivors start to die off is simple. It is not a masked maniac, Satan, radioactive zombies, killer tomatoes, cannibal families or mutant bunnies. The gimmick of this film is that the killer is Death itself and its design. Turns out, Alex and the classmates he managed to get off the plane were predestined to die in that plane explosion. They only managed to avoid Death, so in retaliation, Death sets out to claim the lives promised to him in the most painful and absurd manner possible.

One by one, our cannon fodder meets Death up close and personal. It seems that Death is Rube Goldberg because some of the death scenes get pretty elaborate. One girl is hit by a bus, which is nondescript enough, but the way one other boy trips and falls in the shower, somehow managing not only to strangle himself in the tub, but make it look like he hung himself was just outright silly, as was the scene where the teacher accidentally set her own house on fire while accidentally stabbing herself in the stomach as a piece of metal lodges itself into her neck.
I know very little about death, but I was under the impression that the Grim Reaper can kill you with a mere touch. The reasons for the cartoonish nature of the deaths couldn’t be explained by anyone, even the mortician that seemed to know about Death’s inner workings in the film far beyond his profession, played to creepy and enjoyable extremes by Tony Todd of Candyman fame. Maybe the writers wanted to make this film as garish as possible to make it more interesting, or maybe Death wanted his fifteen minutes of fame. The world may never know, but the concept alone gives film makers enough material to spawn more than a few sequels.

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976-Evil (1989)

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I love 976 and 900 numbers. Dirty talk and tales of your future at an unusually high price per minute. Maybe, you’ll get the first two to five minutes free.

Robert Englund, star of the Nightmare on Elm Street series, decided to give the paid phone hot lines a new twist with 976-EVIL. It starts out innocently enough. A caller dials 976-EVIL for his or her horoscope. A disembodied voice tells a rhyming fortune. Sooner or later, the caller discovers Satanic powers if he or she takes the line too far.

I myself dabble in horoscopes. While no expert, I know part of the horoscope involves the caller’s birthday. At no point was the caller asked for his birthday. The recorded voice just gave a date and a little poem telling his fortune. In this case, isn’t 976-EVIL really just a fortune telling phone line and not a horoscope?

This makes no difference to our hero, Hoax (Stephen Geoffreys). Hoax is your typical nerd. Whiny voice, pants that are a bit too short topped with a shirt that is too small on his skinny body. He is a target of punkish bullies who play cards every night in the projection booth of the local movie theater, the leader, a Martin Gore wannabe, stuffing his head in a toilet with his buddies every day while stealing kids’ lunch money, later to be bet off at the movie theater. He tries to hard to impress their friend, Spike, (Patrick O’Bryan) also Hoax’s cousin, following him around school and looking into his room through a telescope, particularly when sexual encounters are involved.

Get the feeling Hoax is missing out on a few things?

Well, a male figure for one thing. Hoax lives with his overly religious mother, her many cats and Spike, who lives in a far off room in the house, a lost cause to his aunt, a regular at the local movie theater, and a source of fascination and hero-worship to Hoax. Spike tries to get his aunt to loosen up where Hoax is concerned, and takes his head out of the toilet whenever he can, but after awhile, Hoax gets on his nerves. I don’t know about you, but if I brought somebody hot home, the last thing I want to find is a note through my window saying “nice Boobs” et al from my sex starved creepy cousin. I’d stuff his head into the toilet myself!

Like any curious nerd with a hero close by, Hoax searches Spike’s room and finds the 976-EVIL flier. Spike called it a few times and takes it lightly at first, even though he is tempted to shoplift leather gloves. Hoax, repressed and in need of something to do, calls the number. Pretty soon, he has the power to scare and kill a girl who spurned him.

What follows is your typical revenge story. While the focus of the movie is Hoax and his fall from grace, as it were, Englund throws in a small subplot of the 976-EVIL phone line, run out of a small warehouse office by a weasel named Mark Dark. He builds a contraption to answer the phone and tell different fortunes.

Good thing this service was free!

How does a rickety looking contraption give so many different fortunes to so many different people? That contraption is run by Satan. He tells fortunes, gives you powers and takes your soul in return. This is of no consequence to Hoax, who wants revenge on the bullies, his mom and later Spike for ignoring him.

The movie was suitably bad and entertaining. I couldn’t help but notice that this movie borrowed from Carrie regarding Hoax. Outcast with a religious fanatic for a mother and bullied by the tough crowd. No pig’s blood, thankfully.

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Forever Evil (1987)

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This was a movie I had to review. I was first drawn not but box art or a title, but by the caption at the bottom of one of my favorite review sites and major inspirations, Stomp Tokyo. It read in bright blue, “Making a Bad Movie: My Personal Nightmare.” Intrigued, I clicked the link and went onto to read the making of this film, commentary I still consider to be better than any director or writer’s commentary you find on a special edition VHS or DVD. The commentary not only got into the ins and outs of bringing the screenplay, written by Freeman Williams, aka Dr. Freex of Bad Movie Report and one of the moderators of The Bad Movie Message Board of which I’ve been a member for years, to life, but gave a very real sense of the frustrations, as well as the inspiration behind the script.

That this was one of the guys that bleeped out the four letter words in my early BMMB posts, I had to read the commentary behind his creation. I got so into it that when a buddy of mine called and wanted to rent movies, I promptly hit Best Video in Hamden, CT, which has a pretty wide selection of weird cinema. It took awhile, but I found a copy of “Forever Evil.” I had a four pack of Guinness to split and I was ready to go after I explained to my friend the occasion, and the lack of DVD.

The major premise of the film was what would happen after surviving the massacre that makes up most slasher movies. Usually, the answer is die in the sequel, but not in this case. You see the hero’s search for answers unfold on screen and get a glimpse of the shell shock as a result of the shock of losing his girlfriend, the child she was carrying, his brother and his friends to an unknown entity as he searches for answers with another victim of a similar trauma at this creature’s hands.

What sets this apart from most slashers is that the big massacre happens right in the beginning, setting up a story but not getting too deep into characterization until after the demon attacks. Growing up on Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th more or less, I’m kind of used to seeing the characters play out into various stereotypes of jock, good girl survivor, slut, jokester etc. You don’t really see that with the early cannon fodder. These characters don’t have such affectations and the viewer can believe these are just a couple of friends out for a weekend of fun. I’m also used to seeing the killer get them one by one, sometimes in some weird poetic justice for some wrong committed, the last survivor possibly killing the bad guy after a drawn out chase scene, clearly traumatized, but you never know what happens because the last survivor survived. End of movie. If the last survivor shows up in the sequel, it’s most likely he or she will get killed pretty early on. Forever Evil turns this concept on its ear by showing what happens to the hero after surviving such a horror.

One thing that kind of bugged me was that the demon, Yog Kothag, is of Cthulhu. Given the legend, lore and RPG’s surrounding him as an entity, why did the heroes only stumble upon one person trying to rouse him. If it is PR Yog wanted, it just wasn’t happening. I kind of expected the heroes to stumble upon a huge cult gathering for this caliber demon.

Derided as a simple gore movie and Evil Dead ripoff, Forever Evil sets itself apart nonetheless. The technical skill and artistry is very evident in the Yog Kothag makeup and the famous demon baby scene. Seeing it on film was much cooler than the website pictures. I had a lot of fun watching this movie. This would be great fare for B-Fest or any horror convention. It’s a little gory, cheeky in part, and a good story idea behind the low budget effects. It’s as good or bad as any B-movie out there!

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Sorority House Massacre (1987)

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By no means, am I a fan of sororities. In my opinion, why pay dues to make friends, especially when said dues run upwards of 200 dollars depending on where you go to school and what sorority you rush. Sisterhood ho!

I’ll admit, when I rented this movie, I was not expecting very much. I was in a foul mood after dealing with a particularly vile individual and work was most craptacular. I wanted to view near cartoon gory violence and gratuitous boob shots.

It sort of delivered, but they had to put in a crappy back story, a few dream sequences, and psychobabble. This was, in fact, babble from a sorority sister that was ‘studying’ psychology. Now that I think about it, none of these cute coeds really ever went to class other than walking to one of the academic buildings and saying they were going to be late.

But mushing onward with the story-a young girl witnesses her older brother slaughter their family. She avoids harm by hiding in the basement. Several years and memory blocks later, she ends up in college and joining a sorority. One would think with the sorority membership, she ended up perfectly normal, maybe a little vapid. The wooden performance of Angela O’Neill as heroine, Beth, could indicate as such. But they try to add some depth to this character in the form of nightmares involving blood and set dinner tables. The nightmares recur and seem to get more intense as she and her girlfriends rent an old house for a short vacation.

As fate would have it, said rental house was the site of a murder. One would think that at this point, the girls and their respective fraternity member boyfriends would run and scream like cheerleaders (the pun is not lost here). Since this is a slasher movie, and a bad slasher movie at that, the girls set up a concoction involving streamers, a banner and an old Indian statue for a spirit week of sorts-and go through the closet of their rich friend and try on her clothes. Well, at least the flick did its job in the gratuitous boobage department.

But darn the luck, a crazed killer escapes the nuthouse. And wouldn’t you know, it so happens to be Beth’s older brother looking for Beth as she is the last surviving family member. Somehow, some way, he does manage to track her to the very sorority house where she and her friends are vacationing!

By all standards, this was a pretty bland horror movie, and the attempt at a back story blatantly ripped off Halloween. I get the impression that this is geared toward the kind of viewer that only wants to see nudity and violence, which this movie had-with some semblance of a plot thrown in. I was in a bad mood when I watched it, and crap factor aside, it did hit the spot.

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Stagefrieght aka Deliria aka Stagefright: Aquarius (1987)

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It’s movies like these that remind me why I say, “Theater brings out the best and worst in me.” I could go on many a diatribe regarding the politics and hierarchies that is high school theater, but it is best to stick to the review at hand and leave the theater rants to the professionals.

Stagefright is set in a small theater production. The director has had a string of failures and needs this one musical production about a serial killer to be a hit lest he and his producers go bankrupt. Enter the cannon fodder, I mean Dramatis Personae of this runaway hit-to-be!

The cast of this production is pretty bland. I’m guessing to make up for this, the costume designer stuffed them into the brightest most godawful neon outfits for the stage production. For some reason, the lead, the serial killer wears a giant owl’s head. The title of the play is “The Night Owl,” but I don’t think even John Wayne Gacy was so outlandish as a party clown. One prima donna waddles her way up and down the stage in a bright pink tube concoction. This must be one of those conceptual serial killer productions.

When dancer Alicia (Barbara Cupisti) sneaks away from her rehearsal to have a doctor look at her hurting ankle, she and her stagehand friend overhear a conversation about a former stage actor, now an escaped serial killer roaming the streets. After a brief exam by a doctor, Alicia and her friend try to sneak back into rehearsal, only to be caught by her director and former lover, who promptly fires her and bumps up the actress he is sleeping with to Alicia’s role.

Alicia’s night only gets worse when her friend is mysteriously murdered. The director takes this opportunity to get a little press, only he tells reporters that it was a lead actress and not a mere stagehand, much to Alicia’s outrage. Further spurred on by inspiration, our director decides to lock his cast in a rehearsal overnight to get more tension in their characters, more fear. As it turns out, the former actor turned serial killer sneaks into their very theater, and donning the huge gaudy owl’s mask of the Night Owl, kills the young actress holding the key to the building on stage to the horror of the cast now struggling to get out of the theater.

It wasn’t half a bad slasher. Where director Michele Soavi lacked in plot and tension, he makes up in panic among the characters trying to get out of their rickety old theater and creative deaths. Oh my, were some of those deaths creative! Drills through the hand and chest, a woman literally ripped in half, her boyfriend pulling her up with her spine dangling. The visuals in this film were bright and gaudy. The blood was bright paint red and it splattered freely. I couldn’t help but think the entire movie was all too stagey.

Overall, this movie was entertainingly bad. To lock actors cast in a play about a serial killer when a serial killer sneaks into that same theater creates a tense and interesting premise. Yet, the film is very formulaic, the characters try to stay together, yet manage to separate and get picked off one by one. One aspect of the film that was not so formulaic is the lead actress and heroine. She is not a typical virginal ingenue. She was a former lover of the director. More interesting is that the virginal ingenue is the one entrusted with the key to the theater and the first character to be picked off by the serial killer. I can’t help but wonder if Soavi noticed that trend of the virginal heroine present in American horror films.

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Fatal Attraction (1987)

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“Love and Marriage, Love and Marriage-
“go together like a horse and carriage,” as the song goes. You meet someone, get married, have children, a job, a life consisting of dinners with in laws and parents and get togethers with other couples. At least that’s the case in a perfect world. This movie is an extreme example of what could happen when a guy lets casual sex and adultery break the monotony of married life.

Michael Douglas (Traffic) plays New York lawyer, Dan Gallagher. He lives in apartment in the city with his wholesome and pretty wife, Beth (Anne Archer-Patriot Games) and an adorable six year old. He and his wife go on get togethers with a colleague and his wife. He is successful at his job and his wife is looking to buy their first house.

But not all is well in Dan’s world-at least not from his view. He doesn’t want to buy the house Beth has been eyeing, as it is located in ‘the country,’ that is, Bedford, New York, which would take him farther from his job and the city, but bring the family closer to Beth’s parents. And the presence of a small child does have a way of putting a damper on his sex life. There is one scene where Beth is undressing just a little after a party. Dan, thinking he might score, smiles only for Beth to remind him to take out the dog to do his business. When he returns from walking the dog, he starts to remove his shirt, only to see their six year old in bed with them, “Just for the night,” promises Beth, but the stage is set.

Enter the seductress, a very single femme fatale with wild blond hair and a low cut dress by the name of Alex Forrest (Glenn Close-Le Divorce). Dan first meets Alex, an editor, at a company party, where the hot author his firm represents premieres a new book. Dan and his colleague, Jimmy, are making fun of the author, making their way to the bar when Jimmy, who is married makes eyes at Alex. Alex, not wanting to be ogled by a fat, sweaty man clearly looking for sex, cuts him a nasty look. She eventually makes her way to Dan when his wife and Jimmy’s wife are off at the bar. They chat politely, and Dan laughs a little over the Look given to Jimmy earlier. She smiles and responds, “I hate it when a guy thinks he can just come onto me like that.” Dan only responds, “Aw, Jimmy’s okay, he just insecure like the rest of us.” It is perfectly okay for a married man to ogle other women, but it’s not okay for her to cut him dead with a look because he’s just insecure. It’s a pivotal exchange, and you can see Dan is just a little interested in Alex himself.

Though Dan has an attractive and dutiful wife who finds him his suit, she is not quite as sexual as she used to be before the birth of their daughter, who is whiny and demanding a pet rabbit. Dan also dislikes the prospect of moving from the big city to suburbia, and the notion that Beth seems to prefer the mothering, and the get togethers with other yuppie couples as opposed to meeting Dan’s, um-needs. This seems to give Dan the justification for meeting with Alex after a Saturday meeting, for…tea and crackers, that’s it! After they grab a drink, they go back to Alex’s apartment for raw kitchen sex followed by a night out salsa dancing then more sex in an elevator and back at the apartment.

With Dan’s needs met, even by an outside party, his outlook changes. He’s even a little happy at the prospect of a house in the “country” All’s well that ends well, and it is back to work and his family and the get togethers with other married couples. But it is not to be.

For you see, though Alex was told up front by Dan that he was married, Alex wants to be just a little more than a one night stand. She is lonely, wants a child and family, and she wants Dan. It starts with a suicide attempt when he tries to leave her apartment on their last tryst. Because Dan stayed with her until the bleeding stopped and she calmed down, she sees a future with him, so when reasoning doesn’t work, she calls his office and his house until he changes the number and has his secretary screen the office calls. She damages his car and threatens to tell his wife. When she learns of the location of the family’s new suburban home, she follows him, and in a particularly gruesome and nasty turn, she kills the pet rabbit Dan finally agreed to get his daughter and boils their new pet in a pot for Beth to find. She even takes the daughter from school and takes her to an amusement park (from the looks of the roller coaster, it might have been Playland, located in Rye, NY) while Dan and Beth are going insane over her disappearance.

This is a powerful movie, one of the best ‘erotic thrillers’ on the market, spawning several cheap imitations ridden with sex and violence. Glenn Close’s performance is incredible, sad and psychotic at the same time. By far the most powerful scene in the movie takes place on one of the many times she tries to call him after the weekend ends. The viewer sees a darkened apartment, the score to “Madame Butterfly” blasting when the camera cuts to Dan and Beth laughing it up at a bowling alley, having a great time with Jimmy and his wife, only to cut to a shot of Alex, forlorn and turning her lamp on and off. She’s irrational, she demanding, and I couldn’t help but root for her, even just a little, because she was discarded because she didn’t sleep with a married man herself and when she did fall pregnant as a result of this tryst, he wasn’t very sympathetic. There is some indication Dan didn’t believe her, and that he wanted to try to get out of the situation by suggesting the child might not be his. He later gets just as violent with her, slamming her head against her bathroom door and trying to choke her. Michael Douglas turned out a solid performance, and Anne Archer smiled her way through as Beth, only to break the happy facade when Douglas confessed to the affair.

Raw, emotional, and tapping into a few desires of what some of us may or may not wish to do to a lover who spurns, Fatal Attraction is a movie not to be missed!

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My Bloody Valentine (1981)

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If you hate dances, and you hate Valentine’s day even more, this is the movie for you. If you want to view a quality flick with no plot holes whatsoever, well, you’re at the wrong site.

The focus of the movie is a Valentine’s dance in the small town of Valentine’s Bluff, Canada. Twenty years previous, a group of miners were trapped in an old mine shaft after a gas leak. Their supervisors, prefer instead to go to a local Valentine’s Day dance as opposed to waiting the extra time it would take for their workers to get out safely. As many horror fans know, the horror movie world is far different from the real one. Even though the foremen go to the dance, and ignore the safety of their workers, they do not get fired from their posts, nor get charged for negligence or indifference to human life.

There is one survivor from the disaster, Harry Warden, who found eating a limb of one of his fellow miners and was committed after his ordeal, which lasted 6 weeks before they were rescued. A year later, Warden escapes, and kills his old supervisors on Valentine’s day before the dance. He leaves behind a warning never to hold another Valentine’s day dance.

Twenty years later, they decide to hold another dance-that is until bloody hearts appear in candy boxes and the head of the party committee is murdered and stuffed into a dryer in the laundromat she runs. The local youth still want to have the party, but once banned by the police, decide to have their own party-surprise surprise, they want to have it in the mine.

I did like this movie. I liked that it was a group of twenty somethings playing twenty somethings as opposed to playing teenagers. The setup for the killer attacking our heroes in a mine, a dark place full of twists, turns and the prospect of a cave in was a great idea. What I didn’t like was the resolution. The killer turned out to be a different person, and it seems the writers were going for a surprise twist, but it really just left you scratching your head because it really just came out of nowhere. And why weren’t the supervisors arrested for their negligence, especially after one of their workers had to resort to cannibalism to survive being buried alive for 6 weeks? How sociopathic would they have to be to even go to the Valentine’s day dance after what they did? This is one weird little town!

It was a good idea overall and had potential for a good story, but bad characterization and plot holes killed the scare factor, especially since little gore was shown.

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The Funhouse (1981)

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I have to say, I like Tobe Hooper in my own special way. His body of work is quirkier than most iconic franchises. One immediately thinks of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” but someof his other movies, such as The Funhouse, based on the novel by Dean Koontz, have a similar format. If you see Tobe Hooper’s name, nine out of ten times, the movie is about teenagers stumbling upon a sketchy family of freaks protecting the one relative that just so happens to be a hideous monstrosity bent on knocking off these kids one by one.

The Funhouse tries to play on childhood fears of clowns in the opening credits. As the cast is read off, you see shot after shot of every type of grinning clown common at carnivals, which is where our story will take place.

The carnival has come to town, but our herione, Amy (Elizabeth Berridge) is forbidden to go. The year before, a murder was committed at the carnival, but *dun! dun! dun!* no body, or no murderer were ever found. Seen as this is a small town with little excitement, or anything better to do on a date, she doesn’t listen. Neither does her younger brother, Joey (Shawn Carson), who sneaks out the window after the parents retire for the evening. The stage is set.

Enter the cannon fodder. We have Amy, who you’ll soon realize is the virgin due to her discomfort at the joint passed around the car and being told by her friend, Liz (Largo Woodruff) to loosen up, lest she graduate a virgin. Liz, is the obvious blond party girl, making out with her rather geeky boyfriend, Richie (Miles Chapin) and smoking up in the car of Amy’s date, Buzz (Cooper Huckabee). Buzz is a greaser type who seems to want to get a little action, but is apologetic at his bad behavior once they get to the carnival.

What follows is your standard walk around the carnival, taking in some rides, winning cheap stuffed animals after spending a boatload of cash and some cotton candy with a freak show. Sounds like a typical double date, right? Problem there is the spooky old lady that screams “The Lord is watching you!” as Liz advises Amy on the art of seduction. A bloody faced man eyes the girls. There is a tent that serves as a strip club and a man with a limp and hunchback wearing a Frankenstein mask. He tends to the Funhouse ride, a simple cart on track concoction with knife wielding dummies and clowns, and eyes our Scooby gang as they enter the tent of freak animals, including a two headed cow.

Between you and me, if this were my carnival, even with my own morbid horror movie soaked mind, I’d want to leave. Our cannon fodder, I mean, meat, I mean, the teenagers decide what fun it would be to stay overnight in the Funhouse. Of course, when they agreed to this, they did not count on witnessing the murder of the fortune teller/prostitute at the hands of the Frankenstein masked man, who is horribly disfigured underneath the mask. They sure as hell did not count on the monster and his father finding out they witnessed this crime, trapping them in the funhouse, and stalking after them.

I have to say, I did enjoy this. However, there were just a few things this movie could have cut. For instance, Amy’s little brother, Joey, is just there to sneak out, get shot at by a guy trying to pick him up in his truck, find out the monster, but instead of helping his sister, he is brought home by one of the carnies. Now if this were my kid and I heard some slimy looking man say “I warshed him up real good,” I would call the cops immediately, thinking he was molested. Nope, they take him inside and don’t even ask about the sister. While on the tack of the brother, I honestly thought they would do more with his character. His room is a shrine to a serial killer. Monster posters are one thing, but there is wall to wall weapons and his first scene consists of a ripoff of the shower scene in ‘Psycho.’ I watched an episode of ‘Cold Case Files’ and the suspect was more or less convicted by the disturbing drawings and weapons in his room. I don’t what kind of parent would let that go, yet warn their teenage daughter not to go to a carnival due to the events of the year before.

There was potential for scare factor, mainly in the dysfunctional nature of the characters. The horrific events almost seemed plausible…Almost. It fell through on delivery and the viewer is left with a sense of “What just happened?”

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Valentine (2001)

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Valentines day can be a rough one for anyone. Mustering up the courage to talk to that special someone can be nerve wracking as hell-especially when you know you haven’t a snowballs chance in hell. Conversely, turning down a suitor can be a pain enough. But for five beautiful young women bored with the dating and singles scene, that one shoot down can be deadly.

Just watching the opening scenes of this movie, it looked like it had potential. It was predictable, by all means, but it had a story, and a gimmick to possibly separate it from your standard slash em up and show some breasts flicks.

The film opens with a middle school Valentine’s Day dance. Now, with a bumbling and obviously ridiculed geek named Jeremy stammering his way up to the four prettiest girls in his class and asking one by one for a dance only to be shot down and insulted to the tune of “Eww-I’d rather have my throat cut” or how about “I’d rather be boiled alive.” Can you feel the setup? Jeremy, after being insulted by three of the girls and nicely turned down (“Maybe Later?”) by the most popular of the group makes his way to their overweight friend, Dorothy, sitting alone in the bleachers. That these two outcasts find each other, and end up making out under the bleacher suggests that not only are the chaperones not doing their jobs, but that there might be a happy ending. Because this is the opening scene of a slasher movie, the couple is caught by a group of boys who immediately start making fun of Dorothy. Dorothy, embarrassed, screams at Jeremy to get away from her. The boys, now thinking that Jeremy was trying to sexually assault Dorothy gang up on him, pants him and beat the crap out of him. The viewer is treated to a close up of one of the kids wearing a cherub mask instead of the teachers that should have stopped the fight before it started.

With potential for revenge realized, we cut now to the present day where medical student Shelly (Katherine Heigl) is about to escape an insufferable date to do a little late night studying at a nearby morgue. She is alone (what is it about lack of supervision in this movie?) with a cadaver when a lone dark figure in a cherub mask appears. After a brief chase scene, Shelly decides to hide in a body bag, where she is found, and her throat is cut. Surprise surprise she told Jeremy years ago she would rather have her throat cut than dance with him.

As I said before, this movie clearly has a gimmick. For each horrific thing each girl would rather have done to her than dance with the school geek, a dark cherub masked figure makes it happens to her twofold, right? This would work, except one of the girls when asked to dance just screeches “EWWWWWW.” She is killed by an arrow shot into her heart in a poor ripoff of Kevin Bacon’s death scene in Friday the Thirteenth. Then there was the girl who was nice to him and Dorothy, who caused Jeremy’s ultimate ruin. These lead up to the Surprise Ending and Plot Twists.

What bothered me about this movie is that it had potential, yet it tried too hard to establish twists rather than suspense. The twists were predictable, and you never get any sense of fear. I’ll grant you, there were some gems in dialogue. Said about potential suspect Adam, played by David Boreanaz of Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame, “He’s no Angel, but he isn’t a killer!”

Two things that make slashers horrific fun are ridiculously gory death scenes and nudity. There was little to no nudity, only the faintest suggestion of sex, and only one of the girls, played by Denise Richards was met with an absurd death via a Halloween 2-esque hot tub scene. Overall, the characters are stiff and underdeveloped to a point where they aren’t much of real stereotypes, there is little scare factor and the plot is too jumbled and confused to even want to follow after a certain point. I’d watch it for a laugh, maybe a drinking game can be made, but not for much else.

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