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?”

dexteronfunhouse

Valentine (2001)

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Dexterpresentsvalentine

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.

ichabod on Valentine