Tag Archives: slasher horror

Scream VI

The Scream movies have always been extremely meta. So by the time you’ve gotten to the sequel of the reboot sequel (requel, apparently?), well, there’s no way to be surprised at just how far up its own ass the movie, nay, the franchise, has crawled. Which, I hasten to clarify, is not necessarily a bad thing. I, for example, am still not allergic to the tightening gyre of Gen-X self-reflection, nor will I judge harshly any movie that stabs quite so many people quite so many times.

There’s just one problem with Scream VI, which I must unfortunately put underneath the spoiler tag.

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Hack/Slash Resurrection: Blood Simple

I appear once again to have come to the end of the adventures of one Cassandra Hack, Esquire and her associate, Vlad. I don’t know if this is the end or not, but I’m definitely happy that there was no attempt at a grandiose Ending. It just feels like the kind of series that should trail off. Maybe it can be picked up again someday and maybe not, but I like that the possibility exists, and that even if they never come back, she can still be wandering America, looking for more slashers to dispose of, and we’re just not hearing about it anymore.

Blood Simple, despite everything I’ve just said about endings and such, seems in retrospect (i.e. now that I know it’s the last book) to have concerned itself mostly with tying up loose ends. The first bookend to the set revisits Cat and Dog Investigations, consisting of a teen wunderkind and her demonic skinless dog-thing named Pooch, as they (and Cassie and Vlad) look into a haunted house at the behest of area psychics, followed by our heroes and Vampirella versus a vampire town that maybe I should have recognized from previous Hack/Slash tales when it wasn’t a vampire town yet, but I did not, and then the closing bookend is Cassie versus censorship.

All in all, the book was fine. I’ve read better (the first half of the original run, before it got too far up its own ass with convoluted continuity and too big bads) and worse (the recent Vampirella crossover, for example, which really was bad at these characters, but also I do not remember Son of Samhain fondly), and maybe someday I’ll read better or worse again.

But I don’t think I expect to.

Random Acts of Violence (2019)

Imagine, if you will, that you make comics. Specifically, that you make horror comics based on a true life serial killer who for a period of time wandered an interstate corridor, and who was never caught. Imagine that your comics are wildly popular, and that you are nearing the end of your run. Imagine that as a publicity stunt you are making your way down that interstate, doing radio shows and convention signings and whatnot, to drum up interest for your big finish.

Imagine that suddenly people are being killed again along that interstate, based on images in your comic.

Random Acts of Violence tried a little too hard to be some kind of high-minded treatise on the line between art and violence porn, as though its creators felt guilty about their creation, even as they followed whatever compulsion it is that causes people to make a movie.

Which is a pity, because as a hook for a slasher movie, you would have a hard time finding an easier way to draw me in than with the comics motif. Plus, I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen anyone go this way before, and a unique take on horror is like breaking a record in baseball; even if it’s vanishingly specific, it’s still hard to actually accomplish.

Scream (2022)

Once upon a time, the horror movie flourished across the land. It was a magical decade called the 1970s. Chainsaws, flamethrowers, butcher knives, axes, gas masks… anything you wanted, as long as it resulted in dead teenagers, it was fair game. But then: disaster! The drive-ins closed, for some reason, and there was no longer a place for the horror movie to exist. Or was there?!

And then, in one of nature’s cruelest ironies, the horror movie discovered the VCR. Because, what you’d think is: hey, a way to survive! But what actually happened was, there were millions of VCRs, instead of thousands of drive-ins, and everyone knows that capitalists abhor a vacuum. Which meant, so many horror movies got made. And they were…. not good. I mean, of course some of them were, but by and large, they weren’t.

By the mid ’90s, the horror movie tottered on the edge of extinction. But then, something incredible happened. Scream was a post-modern, snarky, thoroughly Gen-X deconstruction of the past two decades of horror movies. But not only did it make fun of everything around, including itself, it simultaneously brought back the mystery part, and it did it extremely well. Who was the killer? Was it even possible to figure it out? It wasn’t, but best of all, not because the movie cheated. It was impossible because it was playing by a new set of rules that nobody had ever heard of. And suddenly, it was okay to like horror again. Which meant it was okay to make horror again. Mostly not big budget multiplex horror, as the studios were still feeling burned by the crash, but small screen, curated, indie horror? Easy to find, and even better, easy to find stuff that was well made[1] and that was penned by people who understood the way the genre was supposed to work.

None of this is a review of Scream, which somehow managed to have the same title as its 25 years earlier predecessor (and, in true Scream fashion, made fun of itself for doing so). But it also put a name to something I was just discussing here, about the trend of bringing horror movies back to their original roots, even after multiple sequels or remakes have been made: this was a requel, which is to say, a reboot that is also a sequel. You have the original characters, but you also have a bunch of new characters, and you have the same title, and you’re basically making the same movie you made 25, or 40, or 45 years ago.

And that’s the deal. As Koz put it: if you liked the original movie for its metacommentary on the horror movie, and if you are okay with requels, this thing is pretty much A+ primo. Even though Wes Craven has shuffled off, and was well memorialized here, the people who are still around still know what a Scream movie is and what it should be doing.

Also: this is the first and probably only movie I’ve seen that went out of its way to make fun of the people who hated Star Wars Episode 8. (I don’t mean the people who quibbled with its runaway sharp divergences from the previous movie even though it was nominally part of a trilogy, I mean the people who hated it. You know, because all their heroes were no longer perfect and they maybe should have been listening to the ladies instead of being dumb luck Star Wars heroes. Those people.) The fun-making was well-deserved, and will probably not be noticed by anyone who should, and would not be listened to if they did. But I quietly snickered to myself.

[1] I’m being unfair to the ’70s, here. Because plenty of horror in the ’70s was shoddily made at best. But it always had heart, it was made by people who were living out their dreams. What came later was a nonstop cash-in, and it showed.

Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence

As you will no doubt remember from Maniac Cop and Maniac Cop 2[1], there was a maniac cop who was actually sort of undead too?, and who got the best of both Richard Roundtree and Bruce Campbell, which lets you know he was a badass. And it turns out that he’d been sold out by the city and left to die in prison, and once that truth was revealed he was able to rest in peace, secure in the knowledge that a balanced view of both sides of cops (ie, way too much brutality and people should be terrified of law enforcement, or else cops should protect each other unless it’s actually a bad apple, which it somehow never is though) had been presented over the course of the two films. And if that “balanced” message has aged badly, it’s still impressive that anyone was presenting a two-sided message in the late ’80s, instead of only the one side you’d expect.

Maniac Cop 3[2] proves you can have too much of a slightly but on average good thing. Because, you see, by the early ’90s, the dial had apparently swung back to cops are always right and it’s only the evil media misportraying them that causes problems. To wit: you would think that after a lady cop foils a pharmacy robbery, getting shot in the process, she’d be a hero, right? But instead, the footage is edited to make it look like she murdered the hostage while also trying to murder the perp, and now in addition to having no brain activity in her hospital room, she’s also the postergirl for “Police = Bad”, even though the unedited footage shows her being heroic but ambushed.

Okay, so that’s probably why the maniac cop comes back to life for more vengeance, right? Haha, no, he was raised by a voodoo priest at the beginning of the movie before any of that happened, for no apparent reason! But undead maniac cops get the paper and the 5 o’clock news, same as everyone else, so it isn’t long before he makes it his business anyway. (What an unnecessary subplot, the voodoo thing. I don’t get it at all.)

Anyway, none of that is important, and knowing it’s happening mostly makes the movie way worse than if you’re just watching it to see a maniac cop kill people for no apparent reason, regular slasher style. And then later to watch Robert Davi[3] drive down a highway into oncoming traffic for about five minutes straight, watching the road for maybe one of those minutes total while mostly unloading clip after clip of his gun out the passenger window into a maniac cop of some kind, complete with real time reloads in between and occasional pauses to comfort the screaming doctor lady in the passenger seat.

It is maybe the best cop car chase I’ve ever seen, outside of a Blues Brothers revival.

[1] You won’t.
[2] I had assumed that the sub-heading, “Badge of Silence”, would be a reference to a code of silence, a la thin blue line, a la cops not turning on other cops. But there was never a plotline that came close to that as a concept, so, I have no idea what they were going for. *shrug emoji*
[3] You don’t know you know who he is, but you’ve seen him before. He has Edward James Olmos cheeks, but with dead eyes.

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.


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 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.