Tag Archives: slasher horror

Hell Night (1981)

Do they have Hell Night outside Detroit? My understanding is that it is a) the night before Halloween (or maybe night of, or night after?) and b) restricted to Detroit and environs, and c) has mostly died out but was a big deal when years started with 19.

Anyway, they used to, not that this movie took much advantage of it. A few tracking shots of mansions and/or parking lots that had been toilet papered and a busy police precinct with an annoyed desk sergeant pretty much covered the nod to verisimilitude.

Otherwise, what you have is Linda Blair and three other aspiring Greeks spending the night at a potentially haunted and definitely abandoned mansion after a family murder/suicide took place there 12 years ago. If they make it til dawn, they can join! As hazing goes, this seems quite a bit better than homoerotic paddling. I mean, unless someone survived the murders and never left the house and for some reason wants to kill everyone even though this isn’t the first year the mansion has been used as a haunted hazing ritual… but that’s pretty implausible.

Honestly though, my biggest problem was the pacing. Non-stop exposition to set up the meat of the movie? Okay. Sex and drugs and whatever it takes to demonstrate that teens are gonna die? Inevitable staple. Confusion as the body count rises? Also pretty standard. Blond dude running around town trying to convince someone that Linda Blair is still in danger in that house? …yeah, that one doesn’t track. The whole point of putting the entire cast in one place with a killer is you don’t let anyone leave that place with the killer unless the credits are going to start rolling in the next fifteen seconds. So there’s this entire 20% chunk of the film that a) isn’t teens in peril and b) distracts you from remembering what teen is in what peril, because there’s a stupid blond kid running around what I still assume per above is suburban Detroit trying to find help. Or maybe Ann Arbor? I hear there’s a college there.

Freaky

Horror movies are often funny. It’s a structural thing, I think. Movies with unrelieved dread are hard to watch. So you throw in some tension-relieving fake-outs or a stoner, to name a couple of common examples, and get the audience laughing, so they feel a little better when Kevin Bacon gets it through the box spring. …okay, bad example of a moment when the audience would need to feel better.

My point is, some horror parodies are straight comedies without an iota of actual horror to be found, and many horror movies (especially slashers) can be funny at times. And some horror movies are unintentionally hilarious, of course. But the idea of a horror comedy is a rare beast indeed. …and then try to imagine mashing that up with a family movie like, oh, I don’t know, The Parent Trap or, say, Freaky Friday.

A thing I know in my heart is that the pitch meeting had the movie named Freaky Friday the 13th, and I wish they had stuck to their guns. Trimming it down made me expect something a little more serious, and if I’d believed I was going to get to see Vince Vaughn hamming it up as a high school misfit with a tough past 17 year old girl turned fish out of water serial killer suspect, well, I might have tried harder to see it in… haha no, it was in theaters last fall right after everything opened up but way before anything was safe, didn’t it? But I mean, I would have had larger regrets about the zero percent chance of seeing it under those circumstances.

But then I saw it last night, so that’s good too!

Fear Street: Part Three – 1666

A movie trilogy if 15 days. What a concept! …although truth be told, if it were something I cared more about, I’m pretty sure I’d want it to be slower than this? I hate using things up this fast, perhaps.

The good news is, 1666 was the best of them, at least from a trilogy perspective. (1978 will remain my favorite as standalone.) Usually the end of a series is a little bit of a let down, because you know what’s going on and are just looking for the beats to get hit at the right moments, in the right ways, and they almost never are exactly what you think they should be, even though you have the broad strokes correct. But in this case, I really didn’t know what was coming, and the plot points came together in a way that made perfect sense and retroactively corrected perceived flaws in the prior entries.

As a standalone, it was… fine? The 1666 part of the movie was good, but not quite what I wanted, possibly because the 17th Century horror genre is not really broadly explored enough to warrant an homage, as such. Or maybe it was written a little too modernly? Either way, it was excellent at telling a compelling origin story and fixing a lot of minor problems I had been having with the series as a whole, like I said. And the “let’s resolve the original issue” part of the movie was maybe a little too easy and maybe a little too silly, but it was both of these in exactly the right ways, especially the all too brief Battle Royale scene.

Will not rewatch or actively recommend, will watch future sequels in the unlikely event that they exist.

Fear Street: Part Two – 1978

As a sequel to Fear Street 1994, the middle entry of the trilogy is perfectly serviceable. There’s a good five to ten minutes of material in a nearly two hour movie that advances the overall plot of the Fear Street series, and, okay, that doesn’t actually sound very good, does it?

But if you view the connective trilogy tissue as 5-10 minutes of digression from a 1970s summer camp horror flick, well then, that’s not very much digression at all, now is it? And I appreciate the movies from that perspective. As much as 1994 was a slick Scream homage[1], 1978 is… well, okay, also pretty slick, at least visually, but let that go. It’s an homage to the murder as a morality play days of the late ’70s and early ’80s when most of the people who got killed were horny teens who “deserved” it. And you could tell they just wanted a good excuse to go to that particular retro well.

If they’d wanted to movie about murders in the 1950s, or 1930s, or even earlier, instead? That is not well-traveled ground, and the premise super allows for it. But what they picked was the genre’s bread-and-butter, and while on the one hand: lazy!, on the other hand, I liked it better as a movie versus the first one, even though it did so little with the advancing that overall plot thing as I’ve mentioned.

Still gonna watch the third movie, yep.

[1] Minus the whodunnit aspect. We already have known all along that the creepy 17th Century witch done it.

Fear Street: Part One – 1994

As I sit waiting for Office 365 to install on my work machine, I find myself with time[1] to squeeze in the first review of the Fear Street trilogy, which I watched last night. This is good, because I’m out to the theater tonight, and if I don’t review now, I’ll be behind.

So, 1994. Man did they spend a long time establishing it was 1994. Hey, look, B Daltons and Software Etcs still exist! Check out these dozen in a row 30 second clips of songs you will remember from the ’90s and probably won’t look up to see if they had actually been released by 1994 or not! In the midst of all that, we learn that rich people Sunnyvale has a rivalry with poor people who also murder each other a lot Shadyside, across the lake. We also learn that the murders are happening again, in a scene that was so reminiscent of Scream that before the guy dressed all in black robes with a white face mask does some murders with a knife by basically punching the knife in as far as it will go[2], I had already said, “hey, that ringing phone is using the Scream ringtone[, from when Drew Barrymore got offed in the iconic opening scene]!”

Just saying they are going for an aesthetic here, and that aesthetic is: The ’90s!

The rest of the flick, once they stopped establishing and got on with plot and character development, was pretty okay. I actually felt a little bad when nominally disposable characters were in fact disposed, you know? And I care about how the trilogy turns out. As such things go, it’s not nothing.

[1] Or do I??? I mean, unless I finish first, I didn’t have time after all, and I don’t know the outcome yet[3]. Lucky I’m wasting the clock on this instead of, like, the movie review. Woo.
[2] My point is the ineffable quality of the violence was very Scream-like. If you know, you know.
[3] 30, maybe 36 hours later: I did not have enough time.

Party Hard Die Young

There are two kinds of slasher movies. The first kind is a gradually building sequence of events and accompanying tension in which targeted characters first learn that murder is on the menu and then over the remainder of the film try desperately to stay alive long enough to find out who is behind the murders, in the hopes of saving themselves; this of course does not work for virtually any of them, but that’s the tenor of the semi-genre. Examples: Friday the 13th, Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (aka part 5), the majority of one-off slasher films.

The other kind is almost always a member of a longer series, and everyone knows who the killer is because he’s[1] an unstoppable supernatural force. The trying to stay alive part is the same, as is the success rate, just without the false hope that figuring out what’s going on would help. Examples: any movie set on Elm Street, the remainder of the F13 franchise.

Party Hard, Die Young is a literal-minded (or, more to the point, -titled) example of the first kind of slasher movie, about a small group of graduating German high school seniors, or whatever they might be called instead in Germany, who were all in the same home room, or however German classes are divided up. Eight or ten of them, anyway? I lost track of that sentence. Let me start over. It’s about a group of German teens off to a summer EDM[2] festival on an island in the Adriatic, to party hard before going off to college, but then most of them die young instead.

Get it?

The description on Shudder and in IMDb makes reference to how slick and stylish and post-Scream it is, and, man, I just can’t tell what they’re talking about. Like, it has a modern feel to it, both the film quality and of course the lighting and soundtrack; it’s definitely not an ’80s slasher movie. That’s fine, but if you say post-Scream to mean everything looks and sounds better, instead of grainy 35mm film stock and spooky sound editing, man did you miss what made Scream ground-breaking.

In summation, this was a pretty good albeit by the numbers slasher mystery, and mainly it made me hungry for someone to make the same movie, but the setting is Burning Man.

[1] Where, I ask you, are the female-led supernatural slasher serieses? Get it together, not-Hollywood!
[2] Electronic Dance Music, boomer

Victor Crowley

Breaking my rules today. I will review a movie I watched with Joe Bob Briggs’ commentary segments and, in this case, most of the cast and crew in attendance as well. It seems only fair after having done the first three in a row, though.

Victor Crowley is, for some reason, not named Hatchet IV. You would think, with the writer-director in attendance, I would have found out why not. But: nope! I can speculate, though. See, this movie does not pick up immediately after the last one ended, for a fourth night in a row of brutal mayhem. It seems that they actually [spoilers for previous movies in the Hatchet series, avoid if you prefer, last chance, here they are!] succeeded in lifting his curse, and he’s been truly dead for the past ten years. Who would have thought. (Also, this movie was made ten years after the original, so, nice.) These reasons seem valid for switching up the title scheme, right? Sort of? Maybe?

Anyway, there’s a survivor who people hate for making money off all those deaths and also maybe they think he did the murders, since who’s going to believe a ghost story with no ghost left? (I found the first part of that really annoying, since he’s not just profiting off death and misery, it really was his story to tell. But whatever.) And there are people hoping to make a movie about the legend, and there’s a crappy talk show subplot, but eventually the two things you really care about do happen:

  1. Everyone winds up in that cursed swamp again.
  2. Somebody makes a rookie horror movie mistake about saying curses out loud.

And then we’re once more off to the races. I have been all but promised a Hatchet V, and you just know it’s going to pick up immediately where this one left off, and I am there for it. I mean, if you can go to movie theaters without dying by then.

Happy Death Day 2U

At the very beginning of Happy Death Day, while the Universal logo is appearing, they did something clever. It hitches like a record scratch and restarts, twice, before proceeding. Just enough to let you know what you’re getting into, right?

Happy Death Day 2U starts with a mild similarity, in which the hitch splits the screen in two, and then in three. Which, if you don’t know what they’re going for, I guess it would be a spoiler to tell you? But anyway, my point here is mostly to say that I believe the science fiction slasher movie is wholly untrodden ground, and they deserve props for this alone.

Except for the slight genre shift, though, the movie follows an extremely important rule of horror movie sequels, first spoken by Joe Bob Briggs more than thirty years ago[1], and here I am paraphrasing: Just make the same damn movie as you did the first time. (In some ways this movie takes the advice even more literally than is typical, but that stands to reason.) But yeah. Starts on the same day the last movie ended? Yes indeed. Follows (mostly) the same characters who are faced with (essentially) the same problems? Aye. Rule: followed!

The plot is so full of holes that it would more properly be referred to as a colander, but neither movie takes itself very seriously, so that’s fine. Plus, the more serious parts are actually thoughtful and touching, which gives them even more leeway as far as I’m concerned. As long as they keep the same cast and (I presume) writers/directors, I will cheerfully watch (and probably rewatch) these movies in perpetuity.

[1] Citation needed.[2]
[2] Haha, beat you to it. It’s possible I could find it, if he was writing for the Dallas paper that still exists and if they have internetted their 1980s archives. I first read it in a book of collected columns, so.

Happy Death Day

I haven’t rented a movie in, seriously, I don’t know when. But for some reason that does not appear to be network-related, I cannot stream 4k content from my media server to Plex on the Roku, and Google Play Movie’s rental price for 4k[1] was 99 cents, which is basically at the can’t be beat level. And most importantly, I really wanted to get this in before the sequel.

All of which is to say I saw Happy Death Day last night. This is a movie with a stone simple premise: what if Groundhog Day was a horror movie? Otherwise, it’s got all the standard slasher movie tropes. Creepy mask? Mystery about who the killer is? High body count? Check, check, (sort of) check. There are one or two glaring plot holes, but, well: check, right? It comes with the territory.

I know I just bagged on another movie for being a rip-off, but this worked. Mainly I think because it was a rip-off into a new genre, while Bird Box was a rip-off in the same genre. Either way: worthwhile. Also, I fiddled with the settings a little more, and I think I fixed my 4k Plex stream. So that’s awesome! Plus, new experience, I have now had the movie I was reviewing playing in the background while I was reviewing it. ….which, come to think of it, is particularly apropos for this use case.

[1] Except, haha, not actually 4k because the Roku I have doesn’t support 4k for Google Play, even though it does for other channels. (Or else maybe Google Play doesn’t support the Roku I have. Potato, it’s annoying either way.)

You Might Be the Killer

So, let’s say you run a summer camp, and let’s say it’s been a really bad night at the summer camp, with teen counselors dropping like flies, and someone is about to try to burn you out of the cabin you’ve bolted yourself into. Maybe it’s time to take a deep breath and call your friend who works at the video store and get some calming, helpful advice!

This is the premise of an apparently off-the-cuff Twitter conversation between a guy who sometimes writes Star Wars books and another guy who I forget what. Which I think makes You Might Be the Killer[1] the first movie developed on Twitter? That by itself was enough to make me want to watch it. I had been a little sad about the spoilery nature of having read the conversation, but it turns out to cover not much more than the premise, which is kind of summed up in the title in the first place. I’m pleased to report they found room to maneuver, is what I’m saying.

But then they put it on Shudder, and I have a subscription to that! ….which was probably about a year overdue, if I’m being honest with myself, so thanks Joe Bob for forcing my hand last summer. Anyway, it’s a slasher comedy starring Fran Kranz (from The Cabin in the Woods) and Allyson Hannigan (from all kinds of things at this point, don’t act like you don’t know), and while it’s not quite the genius that I wanted it to be, it’s still pretty damn fun.

[1] I may have exaggerated about the calming effect of the previously mentioned forthcoming advice.