Friday, March 31, 2017

Tourist Trap (1979)








DIRECTOR: David Schmoeller

WRITERS:

David Schmoeller
J. Larry Carroll

CAST:

Chuck Connors
Jocelyn Jones
Jon Van Ness
Robin Sherwood
Tanya Roberts
Dawn Jeffory
Keith McDermott
Shailar Coby

PLOT:

When a group of friends becomes stranded when their car breaks down. They met an older man by the name of Mr Slausen. He offers to help them fix their car. He invites them back to his house to grab his tools. Soon the group of friends realises that they are in lots of trouble and something is off when they arrive at his house and its filled with creepy and realistic mannequins.







Coming to the end of my seventies slasher retrospective. I was happy to finish with a movie such as Tourist Trap. This is one of those horror movies that I've always known about due to its creepy VHS cover but never actually seen. So to finally get to the end of the seventies and finish on such a mysterious film that has always been in the back of my mind. I was excited to witness it. I went into this one expecting a masked killer, but that was the extent of it. Boy did this one surprise me.

Going into Tourist Trap. I had no idea that this was a film that dealt with mannequins. I just thought it was a creepy masked killer movie. So when the movie began and we have that first death scene. I was immediately creeped out and put on edge. When a room full of eerie, lifelike mannequins come to life and objects in the room start flying around and end up impaling a guy. I was left a little surprised and shocked. Straight out of the gate, I was already enjoying this weird little oddity of a slasher.

Seeing this movie only now. I couldn't help but draw comparisons between Tourist Trap with House Of Wax and Psycho. An abandoned and once popular attraction that fell into obscurity and disrepair when a highway is built drawing traffic away from it. This, in turn, has left the brothers who own it with a business that no longer makes money and they've had to close it down. This movie felt so similar to House Of Wax that I have a feeling that the remake of House Of Wax took major chunks of Tourist Trap and paid homage to it.

While the story has beats that feel very similar to more current movies that I may have seen before this one. I can't deny that this tries to set itself apart from other slashers by delivering just a little bit more insanity and weirdness to all the horror proceedings. What we have here, is a movie that while giving us slasher elements tries to throw in a bit of the supernatural to keep audiences on their toes. Here we have a heaping of 'Carrie' like Telekinesis which feels like it tries to add something a little bit different to the slasher movie.

The biggest problem that Tourist Trap faces in trying to add Supernatural elements to the story is that they don't really ever work or get explained in the end. I can admire the attempt at giving us a masked serial killer who has the ability to kill with his mind and control things. But if you plan on doing that, try and explain how he has come to gain the ability or at least try and give us a reason. I'm all for leaving things up to an audience to question, but a dead wife and a failing business aren't enough to warrant complete lapses in logic and story.

When it comes to the killer reveal. I thought it was pretty predictable, to be honest. They try to throw the audience off with little hints that there is a brother character who was the creator of all the mannequins. A couple of red herrings are chucked into the ring but once the reveal takes place. We the audience are aware of what's going on straight away. It's never hard to guess who the bad guy is here. You won't be all that shocked or surprised come the reveal. Chuck Connors does deliver a pretty crazy performance that is worth highlighting.

The death scenes in Tourist Trap are actually pretty entertaining. The first death scene with the impaling is the standout here. The rest while not being violent or bloody still delivers on being utterly bonkers. A lot of death scenes feature mannequins and flying objects which only makes the scenes all the more strange. At times, I wasn't sure if what we were seeing was real or who was the killer. It's all a bit of a mindfuck here. Which is a reason why I think I enjoyed this movie even if at times, none of it really makes much sense when it comes to the narrative?

Lastly, it has to be mentioned that Tourist Trap delivers on its mood and atmosphere. This is a genuinely creepy film. Being that everything feels strange or odd, it elevates the creepiness. I don't think the movie has any jump out of your seat scares but you will be on edge with all the bizarre reveals of horrifying mannequins who start lunging forward or start laughing. I think what makes it work is that you never know if a real person is hiding behind these figures. It always keeps you guessing if this next reveal may be human or not. For that, I liked the tension.







DEATH TOLL: 6


BLOOD AND GORE:

- A man is impaled with a metal pole.
- A woman is choked to death with a scarf.
- A man is hit in the neck with an axe.
- A man's arm and head are pulled off and smashed on the ground.
- A woman is stabbed in the back of the head with a knife.
- A woman is suffocated when her face is covered in plaster.








Tourist Trap is not a perfect movie. The movie has several problems. We have some supernatural stuff that's added to the story which makes this film appear bonkers and weird but doesn't do much for the plot when it comes to logic or trying to explain said supernatural elements. What saves the movie is that we have a creepy setting, some great atmosphere, and some decent performances from the cast. If extremely creepy mannequins are your phobia, this movie should make you shit your pants.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

When A Stranger Calls (1979)








DIRECTOR: Fred Walton


WRITERS:

Fred Walton
Steve Feke

CAST:

Carol Kane

Charles Durning
Rutanya Alda
Carmen Argenziano

Kirsten Larkin
Ron O'Neal
William Boyett
Colleen Dewhurst
Tony Beckley

PLOT:

When high school student Jill Johnson is babysitting a couple of sleeping children. She begins to receive creepy phone calls from an unknown person who is asking her if she has 'checked on the children lately?' After she calls the police to complain about being harassed. She receives a terrifying call back telling her that the calls are coming from inside the house. Seven years after the traumatic event, Jill is again menaced by the killer who plans on finishing what he started.







When I first witnessed When A Stranger Calls as a teenager, I just wasn't impressed. I was a nineties kid who grew up loving the Scream franchise. A movie that I'm now well aware was somewhat inspired by this movie with its opening sequence. Over the course of my seventies and eighties slasher retrospective, I'm discovering lots of films about the terrorised babysitter or creepy unknown caller. This follows Fright and Black Christmas and again, was a pretty enjoyable experience on my second viewing.

The first twenty minutes of When A Stranger Calls are some of the creepiest minutes that have ever been committed to a horror movie. While it isn't flat out scary or has you jumping out of your seat. The film successfully builds tension until it reaches that breaking point when the police phone Jill back to inform her that the calls are coming from inside of the house. It has some of the most perfect tension building in a horror film. The reveal of the killer at the top of the stairs and the confirmation that he has murdered the sleeping children is pretty horrific.

The second act is where the movie has a few issues and loses a few points with me. We learn that the killer has escaped from a mental asylum after being committed for the murders of the children. Here we are introduced to our killer. The second act feels like a completely different movie because instead of following Jill as she recovers from the traumatic event. A good chunk of this film switches gears, and we now follow the killer as he stalks a woman. If I have anything positive to say about it all, it certainly throws out the formula of what I had come to expect.

We have a few scenes in the middle of the film that feel like they drag on
. There is a scene in a bar and a few very long-winded moments where our private eye is trying to hunt down our killer. While they are not out of place nor feel like they don't offer anything to the story. Some of these scenes feel like they kill the vibe of what starts out as an extremely intense horror film. The scenes that are most uncomfortable in the second act is our killer just entering a woman's home and not leaving. This scene makes for a pretty intense sequence. I was on the edge of my seat.

When A Stranger Calls also has a pretty fun chase scene towards the third act of the film. When our killer ends up attacking the woman after she is used as bait to try and capture him. We get a pretty awesome chase scene. What I think I enjoyed so much about When A Stranger Calls is that it never feels like it follows a formula that I have come to expect from watching a lot of seventies slashers. Compared to movies like Fright and Black Christmas, this feels like it sets itself apart just enough to be fresh when it comes to the stalking babysitter and creepy unknown caller tales.

Now the third act of the movie is where things pick back. We return to a now adult Jill. She is a happily married woman and has two beautiful children. When she and her husband go out for the night to celebrate a promotion, she receives a call that sends her into a panic. The caller asks her if she has checked on the children? Once again, we are right back into the intense stuff that made the opening so promising. The final few minutes are utterly creepy. I have to also hand it to the director and writer for giving us such a dark ending. This isn't a happy one, and I think it would have alienated some audience members back in the late seventies.

When it comes to the acting, I think the movie has some solid performances. Carol Kane as Jill Johnson is fantastic. When the second act and entire middle part of this movie does away with her character. I actually missed her performance. She opens and closes the film and delivers a great performance. Tony Beckley as our killer also delivers a solid performance. He plays a psychopath very well. I felt uncomfortable several times throughout the film. Charles Durning who plays our detective also gives a great performance but I think is overshadowed here by both Carol Kane and Tony Beckley who have much more to do here.

Lastly, we have the suspense and scares. While the film isn't exactly scary. It's pretty intense. The opening sequence is one of the creepiest I've seen in a slasher film. The film sort of loses its way during the second act of the film. The tension sort of fades out and comes back when we are again introduced to Jill as an adult. The film gets a much-needed boost of tension in the final few minutes. The scene in the restaurant with the call and the closet door and the killer talking to Jill are both really creepy moments. For the most part, it delivers the chills.







DEATH TOLL: 4

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A man is beaten up in a bar fight.
- Two children are murdered in their sleep.
- A man is seen dead on the floor.
- A man is shot and killed.








When A Stranger Calls is an incredibly enjoyable seventies slasher. While the movie has a few problems that fall back on the second act of the film. I have to admit that the way that this film plays out, it doesn't follow the normal formula and feels fresh even if the creepy caller and babysitter alone in the house movies had already been done several times before. Bookended by incredibly creepy moments and some solid performances from our three leading characters. When A Stranger Calls is one of the better horror films to come out of that decade.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Driller Killer (1979)








DIRECTOR: Abel Ferrara

WRITER: Nicolas St. John

CAST:

Abel Ferrara
Carolyn Marz
Baybi Day
Harry Schultz
Alan Wynroth
Maria Helhoski
James O'Hara

PLOT:

Reno is a struggling artist who is living in New York City. It doesn't help that he lives with and is trying to support his two female roommates while struggling to pay all the rent and bills. He is also struggling to finish his long-delayed masterpiece. Due to his loud next door neighbours who are a practising punk band and little to no inspiration. Reno beings to slowly go insane and he begins killing vagrants with a power drill.







Working in a video store during the VHS era. There wasn't a day that would go past where I would be putting movies back on the shelf in the horror section and see the horrific VHS cover art for Abel Ferrara's The Driller Killer. The image of a power drill boring into someone's skull with bright red blood gushing from the wound was one that inspired disgust and repulsion from a teenager who wasn't all that crash hot on horror when he started working in the video store.

Seeing that VHS cover art for years on end. I never felt the need to watch the movie. As my love for the horror genre grew. I just never went back to give Driller Killer the time of day. It was one of those infamous movies that I've always been aware of but it just sort of sat on the back burner. It wasn't until I decided to spend an entire year focusing on slasher movies from the seventies and eighties. Finally reaching 1979, it was time to bite the bullet and watch The Driller Killer. I wasn't sure what to expect for my first Abel Ferrara film, but this was something.

I think going into The Driller Killer with the image of the VHS cover burned into my psyche. I expected this movie's reputation to proceed it. I expected this absolutely blood-soaked bloodbath. I expected a video nasty of the nastiest sort. I expected a killer with a drill murdering people. Not knowing what to expect from Abel Ferrara's style, I think after viewing the movie. I was left ultimately disappointed. Maybe I had expected too much after years of hearing fellow horror fans talk about the movie and what my mind had conjured up.

First and foremost, I want to talk about the style of the film. This is some low-budget, guerilla-style filmmaking. This is gritty and dirty. It feels like Abel Ferrara didn't have a permit to shoot this on the streets of New York. So he'd grab a cameraman, give his actors a run through and they'd shoot in the dead of night. As an Australian who has visited New York City twice. This is not the New York I know. This is the mean streets. This is the dark and scary New York of the seventies. I sort of love this time capsule captured on camera.

The biggest disappointment that I have with Driller Killer is all the long uninterrupted takes in this movie. There are countless scenes of this punk band who are practising which becomes tedious. Once or twice was enough. Not every fifteen minutes. Plus the music is terrible in the film. Maybe if I enjoyed seventies punk, I could've gotten into it. We also have these long lingering shots of girls in the shower. I think a lot of the style of this film felt grating. I really struggled to enjoy a lot of what I witnessed in the film. There felt like a lot of nonsense here.

The movie takes close to forty-minutes before getting to the horror. We have a really uncomfortable scene involving a skinned rabbit early on that just left me feeling really grossed out but once we arrive at Reno who is losing his mind and suddenly goes on a rampage with a drill. I was totally on board with the film now. I enjoyed the second half of Driller Killer a lot more than the first half. This turns into something extremely gruesome and mean-spirited. Reno is never a likable character but when he starts to brutally murder homeless people. He becomes one of the screens most unsettling killers.

When it comes to the performances. I can't fault Abel Ferrara as Reno. He really is unhinged in this film. It's hard to be critical of his performance when he is playing a serial killer that is so unlikable. Where some films based on killers have the audience torn with how to feel about the killer's actions, here I wasn't conflicted. I really didn't like the character. Reno is no Patrick Bateman. In saying that, though. I can't fault the performance because Abel Ferrara is really disturbing. I have to wonder how close the artist is to the man himself as this is also very eccentric.

Lastly, I have to talk about the violence. When it comes to the gore and violence. This is brutal to the point that it feels mean-spirited. I think what it does successfully is it makes violence ugly. There is nothing that feels glamorous here. The gore is horrific. The makeup effects are decent. The scene with the infamous drill to the skull is just grotesque. I have to wonder how it was filmed as it's all done on camera. It looked excellent for having such a low budget. While a lot of the gore is not really shown, it's a case of less is more.







DEATH TOLL: 10

BLOOD AND GORE:

- Multiple homeless people are drilled through the back.
- A homeless man is drilled through the forehead with a drill.
- A man is stabbed in the back in public in broad daylight.
- A woman finds a man's guts and organs in a trash can.
- Multiple homeless men are drilled through the stomach.
- A skinned rabbit is carved up and repeatedly stabbed in the head.
- A man is seen being sprayed with blood.
- A woman is shown with no eyes and bleeding from the sockets.
- A man is drilled through the throat and stuck to the door.
- A man is drilled in the back with a drill.







The Driller Killer has left me torn. On the one hand, we have this mean-spirited and ugly horror film about a man who goes on a rampage with a drill. The violence and gore are disturbing. This has exploitation written all over it. On the other hand, we have this odd psychodrama about a struggling artist that feels like a lot of nonsense. Lingering takes with terrible punk music feels like it brings that side of the film down. I think all of the years that I avoided this and had preconceived notions about it just didn't live up to what I had expected from this one. An unhinged performance from Abel Ferrara and some sleaziness can't save this one. 



Monday, March 27, 2017

Savage Water (1979)








DIRECTOR: Paul W. Kener

WRITER: Kipp Boden

CAST:

Gil Van Waggoner
Ron Berger
Bridget Agnew
Clayton King
Mike Wackor
Rashad Javeri
Pat Comer
So Mickelson

PLOT:

When a group of holidaymakers books themselves in for a camping and rafting trip. It will hopefully be their dream holiday. Sailing down the Colorado River while getting to experience the rapids of the Grand Canyon is a once in a lifetime experience. Little do the group realise that once they have made it far away from civilisation that someone doesn't want to go back to city life and is on the run from the authorities. This maniac will do anything to stop these people trying to get home.








Reading up on the trivia and history for Savage Water. It feels a lot more intense and scarier than the finished film itself. Savage Water has a very troubled production that is better documented than the reviews that can be found for this lost movie. It would explain why this movie is one of the hardest to come by pieces of cinema that I think I've ever tried to track down. I knew finding obscure slashers from the seventies and eighties would be no easy feat, but this was one difficult to locate film.

Savage Water never actually saw a theatrical or video release in the United States of America. The movie was filmed and financed in the United States but never actually got that release. That should tell you something about these Savage Waters. With no release stateside, the movie sort of just faded into obscurity. That was until Vinegar Syndrome released it on DVD a few years back, but it was quickly halted and pulled from the schedule due to copyright issues.

Going into Savage Water, I was actually excited to see it. For a movie that took blood, sweat, and tears to try and review as part of my slasher retrospective. It has been a battle, to say the least. So when I finally sat down to watch it. My month long quest felt immediately wasted. I have to wonder was Savage Water really lost or did those involved in the production of the movie want to see this hidden from the public? Did the studio want to see this buried due to the quality? I guess we'll never really know.

Where do you begin with a movie like Savage Water? The movie is first described as a slasher. Some would even call this a proto-slasher. Following closely to now five years of seventies slasher movies, this one is only a slasher in the loosest possible term. For the first hour and fifteen minutes of Savage Water, it is spent with a group of people who are so stupid and careless that most of the victims end up killing themselves by falling off cliff faces while rock climbing. The actual murders don't start being shown until the third act of the film.

A huge problem with Savage Water is the script and character development. The film does have a paper-thin plot in there somewhere, but with such a big cast, the movie doesn't do any character building. We spend a good ten minutes getting to our actual location where we are introduced to possibly thirty or more characters, and while the characters spend at least forty-five minutes talking to each other, we learn nothing at all about these characters. So when they all start dying, I couldn't tell who was who as they were all interchangeable. I didn't feel a thing for any of these people.

The editing in Savage Water needs to be mentioned. It's horrible. The movie is edited so poorly that this doesn't help this story at all. There is no cohesion here. With quick edits during death scenes to characters talking where it will then suddenly cut to the characters rafting or swimming. I didn't know what was happening. We have several moments in the film where the film will be starting to ramp up the tension and cut to the group rafting through rapids. It made no sense. I wasn't sure if we were getting a new group of holidaymakers or it was the same people at the beginning. This movie is all over the place.

When it comes to the quality, this is low budget, guerilla filmmaking. I don't know if it was the intention of the director, but it feels like there were visual flourishes here. At several times during the movie, we suddenly cut to a new scene, and the entire thing is colour corrected with a dark blue tinge. It makes an already difficult to watch movie even harder to sit through. We have one scene where two scenes are edited over the top of each other that would make anyone with epilepsy have a fit. You can barely see what's happening at the best of times and this trippy moment comes out of nowhere. Very odd choices from the filmmaker.

Lastly, I found the acting to be amateurish. As I couldn't really work out who was who from this overly populated cast. I can't even tell you who was the best of a bad bunch here. No one stood out for me in Savage Water which was pretty disappointing to see. I think had the director and writer tried to scale back on all the victims, we may have seen an improvement and focus had we had fewer characters. This entire production is messy, and now I get an idea of why this film never saw the light of day inside its home country.







DEATH TOLL: 9

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A man's body falls off a cliff and into a rock pool.
- A man is bitten by a snake.
- Someone is stabbed in the back.
- A man's body is hit with a raft propellor.
- A man is hanged from a tree.
- A young boy drowns.
- Someone falls off a cliff to their death.
- A woman is found dead.
- A woman's corpse is found dead and bloodied on the rocks.
- A man splits his head open when he falls off a cliff.








Savage Water doesn't feel all that much like a slasher. This feels like an instructional video on what not to do when rock climbing or adventuring through Colorado and the Grand Canyon. With too many characters, no character development, terrible editing, amateurish acting, and a less than stellar killer reveal. This movie is sadly not worth the month-long hunt for it. Savage Water can stay dead and buried for me. Only seek it out if you want to see the Z-grade version of Deliverance and Rituals.


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Savage Weekend (1979)








DIRECTOR: David Paulsen

WRITER: David Paulsen

CAST:

David Gale
Christopher Allport
Marilyn Hamlin
Jeff Pomerantz
William Sanderson
Yancy Butler
Caitlin O'Heaney
Jim Doerr
Devin Goldenberg

PLOT:

After a woman divorces her politician husband after he is involved in a scandal. She decides to head to upstate New York for the weekend with her new boyfriend and a couple of friends. When they arrive at the rural, lakeside cabin, they soon meet the local man who has hired them out the cabin and they soon hear rumours about him. He was apparently involved in a murder. When a masked killer starts to attack the cabin, they believe it may be this man and must fight for survival.







Savage Weekend is a slasher that I've tried to watch twice over the last month. The first time, I stopped watching the movie when I got to the scene involving a woman being branded with a hot iron, and I must have not been in the mood for it that day. I turned it off and planned to revisit the next day. It never happened. The movie sat on my slasher retrospective list for over a month before I decided to try and revisit it. It seems time wasn't too kind on a second viewing.

Looking at the poster for Savage Weekend, you could be mistaken for thinking you're about to watch a movie where a masked killer dresses up as death and uses a scythe to dispatch of his victims. This is a case of the marketing team being extremely clever and giving us a piece of poster art that turns out to be much better than this Savage Weekend. This seems to be happening a lot with my dive into the slashers from the seventies and eighties.

With Savage Weekend, it feels like two different movies have been sewn together. The film opens with a woman who has just divorced her politician husband after a scandal. We see her and a group of friends heading to a cabin. For an hour of this supposedly Savage Weekend, it isn't very savage. It doesn't even feature a masked killer for the first hour. What we have here is a weird collection of scenes involving flashbacks, bar fights, a man branding a woman who we believe could be the possible killer, nudity and lots of conversation between characters. Nothing really happens.

The last thirty minutes is where the movie starts to head into more slasher territory. The killer begins to dispatch the group of friends, but after waiting an hour for proper carnage, it feels like a bit of a letdown. There isn't all that much and what is shown, is kept mainly offscreen. The first half involving the flashbacks of the cabin owner being a possible killer is more gruesome than the final thirty minutes where the killer finally starts to strike and take out the group of friends.

The reveal of the identity of the killer is also pretty basic. From the very first moment that we are introduced to the character. It's pretty predictable where things are going to go and who the killer will be. With lots of creepy rural, flannel wearing, pornstache men to be found in the movie. The red herring is always going to be the redneck ex-murderer. So I tend to look elsewhere, and from the moment we find out what puts this woman and her group of friends at this cabin, it's easy to figure out our killer.

One aspect of Savage Weekend that I really enjoyed was that the movie features a gay character who isn't a total stereotype. While he puts on makeup towards the end of the film, he manages to beat up two homophobes in a bar fight. I loved that they didn't reduce him to being some weak person who in signs of trouble, can't defend himself. They made him sexual, they made him funny, and I thought that was a nice touch for back in the late seventies. Up until that point, I had mainly found blatant stereotypes in these films.

When it comes to the scares and tension, this movie felt pretty dry. Not once was I really on edge here. I found that Savage Weekend wasn't really keen on delivering jump scares at all. What this movie went for was mood and tension that it just sadly couldn't execute. I think it doesn't help that the masked used by the killer in this film looked unintentionally hilarious instead of scary. The final fight between the killer and boyfriend character also felt like a badly choreographed kung-fu movie with moments where a character would punch or kick the other guy, only for them to slowly throw themselves on the ground. The final showdown should've been intense, not hilarious.

The acting in Savage Weekend is hit and miss for me. An actor like William Sanderson is here in a small role that I didn't even realise was him until the credits began to roll and had to go back and check out his performance. My favourite performance was by Christopher Allport as our gay man. I thought he brought a lot of life and spunk to his character and performance. Not the comic relief but he was an incredibly fun person to watch. Where most of the others were dry, he looked like he had the most fun with his performance.







DEATH TOLL: 5

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A woman is branded on the chest with a hot iron. Flesh bubbles.
- A rat is stabbed.
- A bat is nailed to a hotel door.
- Someone is stabbed in the shoulder with a meat hook.
- A man is smacked in the head with a metal winch.
- A woman is seen running through the woods covered in blood.
- A man has his head smacked against a rock. Coughs up blood.
- A man falls out of a window and onto metal poles.
- The killer is hit in the back with a chainsaw.
- A guy steps on a fishing hook.
- A man grabs barb-wire and cuts his hand.
- A man is hit in the leg with a machete.
- Someone is stabbed in the ear with a large sewing pin.
- A man is strangled to death and hung by his neck in a barn.
- Two men are beaten up in a bar brawl.
- A woman is killed while strapped to a table saw.








What Savage Weekend does successfully is that it delivers on the weird. It's a slasher film that doesn't really feel all that much like a slasher until an hour into the film. This rural, cabin in the woods horror film has an enjoyable performance from Christopher Allport and a nasty scene or two, but it lacks tension and suspense. The killer reveal is also extremely predictable. A film that will probably get lost in the many decades of the slasher genre.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Demon (1979)








DIRECTOR: Percival Rubens

WRITER: Percival Rubens

CAST:

Jennifers Holmes
Cameron Mitchell
Craig Gardner
Zoli Marki
Peter J. Elliot
Moira Winslow
Mark Tanous
Vera Blacker
Ashleigh Sendin

PLOT:

Set in Johannesburg, South Africa. When a menacing and cold-blooded killer attacks a family at their rural farmhouse, he kidnaps their young daughter and runs off into the wilderness with her body. Her parents are incredibly distraught and just want their kid back, so they hire a retired US Colonel to help them locate the vicious killer and their young daughter, hopefully alive. The killer who is now on the run begins an obsessive crush on a pre-school teacher, and she will need to fight for survival.







The Demon is an odd one. On IMDB, it says the movie is about a malevolent man who brings peoples worst fears to life. The poster also clearly states that 'It is among you possessed. and waiting...'. This would tell you that the movie has a supernatural sort of twist to all of its proceedings. One where our killer is not just a man but something more. This is what I took away from the movie going off of face value. I was ready to meet this apparent demon.

If at any time during the course of this movie's running time that the movie hinted at a possessed killer or something otherworldly or supernatural. I missed it, completely. This is a case of this movie having a great piece of poster art to make up for a pretty average and basic slasher movie. I don't even think that the movie ever actually talks about this killer feeding on people's greatest fears. Every person fears being stalked and attacked in their own homes. That's a normal, everyday fear.

Maybe it was the copy I watched but this movie felt a bit all over the place, plot-wise. The story feels so poorly edited that nothing really ended up making sense. That may also be just what the director had intended the film to be as IMDB and the Wikipedia page state that the killer has no motive. This is very clear while watching the movie as this feels all over the place. We go from one kill to the next with random people coming into the story and being immediately attacked and killed off. It has no real linear story beats.

We have the main family who have their teenage daughter kidnapped in the middle of the night. The colonel who is hired by the family and a pre-school teacher. There is so much going on with even more supporting characters coming in and out of the story that we don't have anyone to really root for or care for in this movie. There feels like there is little to no character development. This movie could be considered one that goes against conventions as the final girl is the pre-school teacher who doesn't really come into the movie as we have several storylines going all at once.

When it comes to the death scenes and violence, it may have been the version I had watched but a lot of the scenes felt terribly edited. We have a decent body count but the way the scenes are shot, they are filmed in almost complete darkness. You can barely see what's happening in a lot of the more violent death scenes. With several 'Black Christmas' inspired plastic bags over the head, this is pretty tame. If it wasn't for several female characters being sexually assaulted and almost raped, this movie would probably secure a PG rating these days. This is almost a bloodless affair.

Now we come to the killer. I am happy not knowing a motive. It sometimes makes things scarier. But why reveal the killer right at the end when we know not a single thing about the character? The movie never once gives us any backstory or even shows us his face until the end. So when it's revealed to be no one we know, the shock and surprise turn to one of disappointment. There is no element of surprise which felt like a real let down. This is just a random guy killing people and not ever being introduced to the character is a real failure on the writer/directors part.

The part of the film that worked for me was the final showdown. Our 'final girl' and I use that term loosely as she doesn't have any of the traits that we've come to know and love about the final girl but here, I enjoyed her resourcefulness. Knowing she is being hunted in her own house, she gets pretty nifty in her bathroom, and the final scene between her and the killer is actually quite impressive. Seeing You're Next first, I felt that the character of Mary felt very similar to Erin in that film. I thought it was a nice little touch. She wasn't a victim when it came down to her life or the killers.

Lastly, when it comes to the acting, I don't know anyone in this cast. Jennifer Holmes is slapped all over the posters like she is Meryl Streep. But at the time of the release of this movie, she'd only had a handful of roles and none that would stand out to me. However, as an actress, she is decent in her final showdown scene. I actually wanted to see more and wish the writer had given us more character development when it came to Mary as we may have actually cared more about her had the movie turned out differently. The rest of the cast is very hit and miss for me.







DEATH TOLL: 8

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A woman is attacked and has a plastic bag put over her head.
- A young girl is kidnapped and taken into the forest.
- Two men are suffocated with a plastic bag.
- A motorcyclist is knocked off his bike.
- A woman is attacked in a back alley.
- A woman repeatedly stabbed a man in the throat with scissors.
- A woman is punched in the face (her body found dead).
- The killer throws a man over a railing and he lands on his back.
- A skeleton is found by children in the woods.
- A man is slashed across the face.
- The killer breaks a man's neck.
- A man is shot in the head.








The Demon is a big mess. There is no other way to put it. With little to no character development, no backstory for our killer and a poorly done reveal that doesn't offer any shocks, this movie just feels messy. The film is also poorly shot, a lot of scenes that are way too dark to see what's happening and when we want violence, we can't see it anyway. The best moment of the film is the final showdown, and I also like the killer wearing a clawed glove which he doesn't really use. Other than that, this South African Slasher is just not up to its US counterparts.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Toolbox Murders 2: Coffin Baby (2013)








DIRECTOR: Dean Jones

WRITERS:

Josh Edwards
Dean Jones

CAST:

Bruce Dern
Brian Krause
Chauntal Lewis
Clifton Powell
Ethan Phillips
Christopher Doyle
Kyle Morris
Ron Chaney
Allison Kyler
Whitney Anderson

PLOT:

When a series of strange and grisly murders start taking place in Hollywood, it leaves Tinsel Town on edge. When a young woman is kidnapped and held prisoner after her sister's brutal murder, her boyfriend is the main suspect in her disappearance. Little do the police realise that a supernatural killer is the one committing the murders and is subjecting the kidnapped woman to the atrocities he is committing. She must try and bond with her kidnapper if she hopes to escape.







Reading up on the very troubled production of Toolbox Murders 2: Coffin Baby. It does explain a lot about this apparent sequel to the 2004 remake. It's believed that a lot of footage was shot for a sequel to the remake but during production, the distribution of the film and a breakdown between the director and producers stopped all that moving forward. It does give us an indication of why this film feels very fractured in the way this movie looks and feels. I think there were a lot of issues on what the vision should be and it shows in this sequel.

The only real connection that this movie has to the remake is the villain, Coffin Baby. Other than that, the movie feels completely different to Tobe Hooper's remake. While Coffin Baby continues to kill people using tools from his toolbox, this is an extremely low-budget production that relies more on extreme amounts of torture porn and gore. All the fun has been completely drained out of this dark and mean-spirited film. This is where I think you get a sense of what was happening behind the scenes.

Instead of giving us a story that focuses on Coffin Baby who had escaped at the end of Tobe Hooper's remake. This movie goes and shifts the focus onto our main victim Samantha. An annoyingly loud and stubborn woman who is kidnapped and subjected to copious amounts of torture. She has just discovered her sister was murdered and then she is suddenly kidnapped by the same killer. Cue an extremely long hour and forty minutes of a woman being put in a cage and forced to watch a killer hack people up. She also suffers some grievous bodily harm. This honestly feels like The Toolbox Murders meets Martyrs. Just nowhere near as great.

The story is all over the place in this film. We have multiple subplots throughout the movie that doesn't end up making any sense. The main one involving our victim, her boyfriend and another woman involved in a three-way relationship. The drowning of a baby that is in no way connected to Coffin Baby himself. A murder spree that involves a car full of gangsters who try to take on our killer and are murdered and lastly, the one where Coffin Baby falls in love with his victim yet cuts her hand off and tortures her which results in some serious Stockholm Syndrome.

I think they really missed an opportunity to go into the story of Coffin Baby's birth and maybe give us a prequel or at least delve into that idea. I think if they would've tied his horrific birth into a story set now where they show his reason for killing and him maybe continuing his killing spree in a new apartment block, this may have been a lot more enjoyable. This is a movie that leaves me with more answers to why it was even made as it feels so far removed from the original and even the remake. We also don't get any further explanation into the symbols that made an appearance in the remake. It's found on a mirror early on in this film but never brought up again.

Now, we also have to talk about the terribly laughable dialogue. One scene that had me rolling on the floor laughing, was when Samantha bursts into her murdered sisters apartment and asks the police and coroner why her sister is in a plastic bag? I found that she is so bratty and annoying all the way through this movie that it makes all of her dialogue-heavy scenes feel like nails down a chalkboard. The filming is also poor. I get that this is low-budget movie making but this was amateurish at best.

The acting is woeful in this film. The one person that I felt really sorry for was Bruce Dern. I think the man signed onto this movie when he believed he would be starring in a Toolbox Murders sequel. As the production went on and the movie became more convoluted, he probably had no idea what the finished product would be as his small 'cameo' scene is towards the end of the film. I bet he did his thing and went onto the next project without ever seeing the dailies. I also feel pretty sorry for Brian Krause from Charmed. He plays the detective in this film and he is left to do nothing much at all besides sit in an interrogation room.

Lastly, the one thing about this movie that I can recommend is the gore. This is pretty gruesome stuff. It's an hour and forty minutes of people being tortured and maimed. People are subjected to all kinds of mean-spirited and nasty stuff. This feels more in line with the brutality of Martyrs than the remake of The Toolbox Murders. I feel that most of the budget went into the makeup fx and blood. I can't say much about the rest of the film but if you love to see people being tortured for close to two hours, this will be right up your alley. I think they at least successfully get the bloodshed right.







DEATH TOLL: 11

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A man's face is sliced clean off.
- A severed head is thrown at a woman.
- A homeless man's head is cut off with a saw.
- A woman's hand is cut off with a saw and her stump is cauterised.
- The killer saws off a woman's leg.
- A man's head is smacked in with a metal pole.
- A woman is shot in the head.
- A woman's eyes, lips, tongue and nose are sliced off with a box cutter.
- A man is torn in half with a table saw.
- Two men are gunned down.
- A woman's skin is scraped off with a rock.
- A woman's skin is burnt with a blowtorch.
- The killer carves up a woman's leg, cooks and eats it.
- A woman is repeatedly hit in the head with a hammer.
- A man's head is sawn off and intestines are pulled out.








Toolbox Murders 2: Coffin Baby is a convoluted mess. Gone is the fun of the remake and replaced with a dark, mean-spirited bit of torture porn. Running at what feels like a very long hour and forty minutes. We are subjected to so much brutality that it just becomes complete overkill. With multiple subplots that end up making no sense, bad acting, amateurish direction, and laughable dialogue. This movie is by far, the worst film in the Toolbox Murders series. Let's hope that if there is ever a follow-up, they return to the likes of Tobe Hooper's vision and not this horrible sequel.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Toolbox Murders (2004)








DIRECTOR: Tobe Hooper

WRITERS:

Jace Anderson
Adam Gierasch

CAST:

Angela Bettis
Brent Roam
Juliet Landau
Sheri Moon Zombie
Marco Rodriguez
Rance Howard
Adam Gierasch
Greg Travis
Adam Weisman
Jamison Reeves
Sarah Downing

PLOT:

When married couple Nell and Steven Barrows move into an old apartment building in Hollywood, they believe they are about to start anew. The old apartment building was at one stage a glamorous residence in the early days of the golden age of Hollywood. Now, the building is in disrepair and falling apart. Little do the residents realise that a supernatural killer is living in the walls of their apartment complex and plan on taking them out, one by one with the tools in his toolbox.







Rewatching the Toolbox Murders remake again after watching the original film. I can confirm that the remake is a lot more fun than the original film. My mention that the remake was indeed better than the original still holds up on a repeated viewing after not seeing the remake for over a decade. After finishing Toolbox Murders, I think Tobe Hooper and his writers on the movie successfully inject the slasher with a decent dose of comedic timing and gory fun which the original sadly lacked.

When Toolbox Murders began, I was a little concerned with what I was watching. The movie opens with Sheri Moon Zombie, and it took me a few moments to get back into the swing of things as the remake starts off with a pretty cheesy performance by the actress. Sheri Moon has always been hit and miss with me. I think here, she chews the scenery a bit. It's not until her brutal demise that the movie had me relishing in her gory death which isn't seen often when she is starring in her husband's films.

Once the story shifts focus onto our main character Nell, her husband Steven, and all the rest of the residents of Lusman Arms does Toolbox Murders get a hell of a lot of fun. I wouldn't class Toolbox Murders as highly original or even great but what Tobe Hooper manages to do is give us a much better apartment complex, a supernatural twist and the writers build on the characters here, so we have a few that we actually care about. This isn't the original where the immoral women are just brutally killed, and we don't have one character to really for in the story.

I really enjoyed that the story while focusing on Nell. It gave us enough screen time with Juliet Landau's Juliet. The teenage boy who spies on her via webcam. The loud female hippie who is always fighting with her boyfriend. The nosey and flamboyant building manager. The creepy handyman. The old guy who has lived in the complex since its heyday, and we also have the lovely concierge. I think they all get enough screen time and while some are written to be annoying, I still found that I cared for some of the characters. Mainly the growing friendship between Nell and Juliet. Her death is kind of heartbreaking.

I also thought the supernatural touch to the story is a big improvement over the story of the original. I loved that we have a killer who is confined to the apartment complex and needs it to sort of survive as does his need to murder and maim. While the story feels like it's missing certain things that don't always tie everything up in a neat little package. I think I was satisfied just enough and enjoyed watching this creepy killer run around and brutally murder the residents. While we only get the backstory in a conversation, I would've loved to see the coffin birth as it would have made this little slasher a lot more twisted.

Now, I have to talk about the gore in this film. This is Tobe Hooper getting to unleash his inner gorehound and throw around the blood and viscera by the bucketloads. The entire movie is brutal, the kills are ferocious, and it all amounts to a lot of top-notch death scenes. The highlight is watching a handyman having a circular saw slammed into the side of his head, and it gets stuck when it short-circuits while trying to cut through his skull. We even have the killer swinging a guy around while a pair of bolt cutters are trying to sever his spinal cord and his response is hilarious as he screams out 'just kill me, already'.

On a suspenseful level. I think this one has a few solid moments. We have a couple of jump scares that I could spot coming from a mile away. There is one scene that I had completely forgotten about, and it sent chills down my spine. Nell knocks a metal pole down the middle of a stairwell, the killer is finally revealed to be almost monster-like in appearance, and as she hides, she looks back over the railing to reveal the killer is not running up the stairs but climbing up the centre of the stairwell. It's a creepy and highly intense moment. I thought this was the standout for me and thoroughly chilled me to the bone.

Lastly, the acting in the remake is a vast improvement over the original. While I'm not the biggest fan of Sheri Moon Zombie opening the film. I think both Juliet Landau and Angela Bettis deliver great performances. Brent Roam as the husband Steven is also decent in his performance. I think the killer is ultimately creepy and played very well by Christopher Doyle. I think the makeup fx are great and his performance at times is pretty intense. I think adding the coffin birth storyline elevates the performance as I did sympathise with the killer in a few moments.







DEATH TOLL: 7

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A woman's throat is slashed with a hammer claw.
- A woman is repeated hit in the head with a hammer, clumps of hair and blood.
- A man's face is melted by acid.
- A woman's body is shown split in half and hung on hooks.
- Lots of rotting corpses are shown nailed to a wall.
- A woman is nailed to the ceiling while still alive.
- Someone is thrown against a wall and killed.
- A man's spine is severed with a pair of bolt cutters.
- The killer is repeatedly shot and falls out a window with a cord around his neck.
- A handyman has his head split in two with a circular saw.
- Someone is stabbed in the stomach with a screwdriver.
- Someone is repeatedly stabbed in the stomach with a screwdriver.
- A woman gets a power drill to the back and head.
- A woman is shot in the throat with a nail gun.







The Toolbox Murders remake is a vast improvement over the original. With a lot more character development, a supernatural twist, a larger apartment complex and some creative kills, the remake is a lot of fun. While the story doesn't always make sense and we have some pretty cheesy acting, Tobe Hooper still delivers an enjoyable mid-noughties slasher that gives us enough gore and bloodshed that should keep most horror fans relatively happy.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Toolbox Murders (1978)








DIRECTOR: Dennis Donnelly

WRITERS:

Neva Friedman
Robert Easter
Ann Kindberg

CAST:

Cameron Mitchell
Pamelyn Ferdin
Wesley Eure
Nicolas Beauvy
Tim Donnelly
Aneta Corsaut
Faith McSwain
Marciee Drake

PLOT:

A masked killer is murdering the women of an apartment complex. Using all the tools from his toolbox, the killer is hunting down and murdering the woman he believes to be immoral. When a fifteen-year-old girl is kidnapped by the masked killer. Her older brother and the nephew of the apartment complex owner try to locate the killer and bring her home safely.







The first time I heard of The Toolbox Murders was when I saw Tobe Hooper's remake sitting on a video store shelf when I was working in one. Up until that point, I never even knew that an original had existed. The remake was violent, gory and the killer was pretty darn memorable. So coming into this original flick, I expected something pretty similar. I imagined a deformed killer running around a high-rise building while killing off the residents.

The original and remake have some similarities, and that is that a killer is murdering residents of an apartment complex using tools from his toolbox. That is pretty much where I think the original and remake end with their similarities. Where I think the remake successfully wins out over the original is that it darkens the tone, give us a much more twisted killer and ramps up the gore. Also, it's just a better-made film. This is in the small minority of movies where I think the remake is more successful than its original counterpart.

I think the first thirty minutes of The Toolbox Murders is pretty solid. The first half an hour of the movie is where all the great carnage takes place. The women living in an apartment complex are brutally murdered by a masked killer. I feel the opening thirty minutes of killing was ferocious. I really enjoyed the masked killer who just enters the women's apartments and kills them without a worry at all. It made his presence much creepier in the first thirty minutes of the story. After they reveal who the killer is, the film sort of loses all eerieness and steam.

Once the film starts to dive into the police procedural side of things, and our brother character goes on the hunt for the killer who has kidnapped his fifteen-year-old sister. It sort of loses its way. The killer is revealed halfway through the movie and I think it pretty much kills all suspense and tension in the story. While it tries to deliver a few more shocks towards the end of the third act, I still think the movie really shoots its wad early on, and nothing can quite live up to the first thirty minutes.

The Toolbox Murders third act is one of the most mean-spirited that I think I've seen in recent memory. After all the horrible killing and the mystery of the film that ties up the opening scene to why the killer has kidnapped this fifteen-year-old girl. We also see another character rape the girl and it sort of ends after she seeks revenge. They also choose to set the only nice character in the film on fire. I mentioned above that the third act delivers on all the shocks and this just makes for an ugly experience. I think this was all shock for shock sake as they don't really serve much purpose.

I think I need to mention the long and awkward masturbation scene. While the killer breaks into one of the woman's apartment, she is masturbating in the bathtub. The scene has her repeatedly rubbing herself under the water as the killer watches her. The scene comes out of nowhere and feels very out of place that it's unintentionally hilarious. I think this was added to give the movie a bit of skin. It even has a country song over the scene that makes it completely unsexy. The killer even lets her finish before he kills her. The scene has the same shot used over and over again. It's all terribly edited.

The acting in the film is a bit all over the place for me. I think Cameron Mitchell as the apartment complex owner and killer delivers the wildest performance, to say the least. I quite enjoyed him more when he was masked and terrorising the women. He was much scarier in the mask than out of it. I think once it's revealed that he is the killer, his performance becomes a little more unhinged but it comes across as very cheesy. I think a lot of the actresses and victims were pretty solid and did the job of acting scared rather well.

Lastly, when it comes to the suspense and tension, I think The Toolbox Murders sort of fizzles out after the first thirty minutes. The movie goes hard out of the gate and delivers a couple of solid kills that are pretty gruesome. I think all the masked killer scenes are menacing and ferocious. The Toolbox Murders loses all that tension and suspense after the first thirty minutes when it reveals the killer too early. The scenes following are more shocking than scary.







DEATH TOLL: 7

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A woman is killed in a car crash.
- A killer uses a drill to kill a woman.
- A man is set on fire.
- Someone is stabbed in the stomach.
- A woman is shot in the stomach and head with a nail gun.
- A woman is stabbed in the stomach with a screwdriver.
- A woman is suffocated and kidnapped.
- A woman is repeatedly hit in the head with a hammer claw.








The original Toolbox Murders is a pretty mixed bag. What starts out as an incredibly ferocious slasher about a masked killer who is killing immoral women in an apartment complex reveals the killer way too early and tries to deliver more shocks than scares. While the film has some solid death scenes using everyday tools, the acting is hit and miss, we have one of the strangest and unintentionally hilarious masturbation scenes to a country duet. The needs to be seen if you plan on a Toolbox Murders marathon just to see where it all started.