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Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: Friday the 13th part 5 (1985)

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Horror fans can be divided on a lot of different things. The works of Master of Macabre Stephen King comes to mind. Remakes and reboots of beloved classics such as A Nightmare of Elm Street, The Omen, or the upcoming release of another take on Dario Argento’s masterpiece Suspiria can conjure quick debate. We all have our tastes on what is good and what we think is not good. Be that as it may, there are also flicks in which bring instant rejoicing or equally jovial disdain. Take for instance, I believe a majority of horror fans would agree collectively that John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) is a treasured cult classic. Or that The Exorcist is one of the scariest movies ever made (sure, there’s always that one jerk who denies the truth). And the same goes for the ones we agree we don’t like, such as Nine Lives starring…Paris Hilton (ugh), Shyamalan’s The Happening, or even Exorcist II: The Heretic. This also applies among fans of the Friday the 13th series, while the best ones are hotly debated, the worst is widely agreed upon. And so on this Friday the 13th I thought I’d talk about the one everyone loves to hate, Part 5: A New Beginning. Continue Reading

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Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: Sleepaway Camp (1983)

[YEAH, I’M SPOILING THE BEST PART… ‘CAUSE WHAT ELSE IS THERE IN THIS ONE?]

Okay, being totally honest—I had only seen the very last scene from this film before watching the whole thing a few nights ago. I’d stumbled onto it in some list of shocking horror moments or something and wasn’t worried about it being spoiled, so I watched it. That scene stuck with me, and also made me (mistakenly!) assume this was a disturbing, dark film throughout. Hahahaha… No. Not at all. That’s not to say it’s bad… but I think the backwards way I experienced it actually says a lot about this film and its legend, if you can call it that. This is more like a Troma film for the most part with a few decent kills and one very effective, weird scene.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers In Review : High Tension (2003)

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In an early scene of HIGH TENSION, a man in a creepy van has sex with a severed head and then drops it outside before driving off. The sadistic violence is at the core of the films in the French Extreme movement. However, movies like HIGH TENSION, MARTYRS, and INSIDE aren’t just about how much gore they can show, but about stripping everything down and pushing the audience’s tolerance to the limits while still being visually stunning at times.

Co-writer and Director, Alexandre Aja borrowed from Dean Koontz’s book, INTENSITY, for the first half of the film but quickly veers off into his own material. The surprise ending is pretty much exposed in the beginning of the film, but it still works The audience is left uncertain of the truth of what they are watching. Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: Terror Firmer (1999)

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Now THIS is my kind of film. It’s 124 minutes of the stupidest, most offensive garbage I’ve ever seen – and, trust me, I’ve seen a LOT. As a taster, the top-rated IMDB review ends with the line: “How many ‘eating faeces’ scenes can a normal person watch before going insane?”

Cheap, nasty, and utterly repellent, this Tro-masterpiece is for fans of early John Waters, early Peter Jackson, and general trash aficionados.

Terror Firmer is a film made by the infamously tasteless Troma studio. It’s also the Troma film to end all Troma films, and piles atrocity upon puerile atrocity, packages it in a box of provocation, and decorates that box with a bow made of congealed bodily fluids. It’s as silly and outrageously violent as you’d expect, and tells the tale of how a Troma film production is thwarted by the antics of a deranged sexual sadist who keeps slaughtering cast members and crew. Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: Psycho (1960)

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Psycho is a psychological suspense/horror film produced and directed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1960.  It is based on the Robert Bloch novel of the same name, published the year before; the novel, in turn, was based on the Ed Gein murders.

Ed Gein was a serial killer in Wisconsin in the 1950s.  A ‘mama’s boy,’ Gein was devastated by the death of his mother in 1945, and felt all alone in the world; when she was alive, she was a domineering, prudish woman, teaching him that all women were sexually promiscuous instruments of the devil.

Soon after her death, Ed began making a “woman suit” so he could “be” his mother by crawling into a woman’s skin.  For this purpose, he tanned the skins of women.  He also admitted to robbing nine graves.  Body parts were found all over his house as ghoulish works of art.  These macabre crimes were the inspiration not only for Psycho, but also The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the Buffalo Bill character in Silence of the Lambs, and numerous other horror movies.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Reivew: A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

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A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (2010)

[95 minutes. R. Director: Samuel Bayer]

Within the past two decades, horror remakes have gone from distinctive, auteur-driven works to mass-produced product. Horror remakes prior to the millennium were created with specific intent: Werner Herzog’s 1979 rendition of Nosferatu reconsidered F.W. Murnau’s 1922 silent film with improved technology; John Carpenter’s re-take of The Thing updated a 1950s alien-invasion flick into a transformative missive on assimilation and isolation; and David Cronenberg brought gravitas to his FX-heavy, 1986 version of The Fly.

Heck, even Gus Van Sant’s shot-for-shot remake of Psycho was noteworthy for its big-studio gamble on a film that amounted to an elaborate “because I can” technical experiment.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers In Review : Intruder (1989)

IntruderWith Intruder, Scott Spiegel, co-writer of Evil Dead 2, made a taut, humorous, reasonably thrilling offer to the slasher genre just as the 80’s came to a close. Boasting a decent cast of horror regulars such as Elizabeth Cox (The Wraith, Night of the Creeps), Dan Hicks (Darkman, Evil Dead 2), and of course Sam Raimi, Ted Raimi, and Bruce Campbell, this film is sure to entertain most fans of 80s horror.

DISCLAIMER: If you are drawn to the film because Bruce Campbell’s name is on the cover, you should know up front that he only appears for a short cameo at the very end. However, there’s quite a bit of Elizabeth, Sam, and Ted to hold you over.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: MANHUNTER (1986)

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You Owe Me Awe!

Manhunter (1986) – essay by Kit Power

Expect spoilers. If you don’t want to be spoiled, go watch the damn movie. I’d recommend it.

As soon as the list of movie titles went up for this project, I knew I wanted to cover Natural Born Killers. And I had initially promised myself that’d do – there’s a lot of talented writers in the machine mean pool these days, and it’s not like I don’t have the odd other project to be getting on with.

And then I saw that Manhunter was on the list.

So here we are.

And it’s impossible for me to talk about the movie without talking about it’s more famous cousin, Silence Of The Lambs – covered on this site with admirable enthusiasm by Chad A Clarke. I don’t have much to add to his piece, but I do want to note that like many, if not most people, I saw …Lambs first, and discovered Manhunter later – my memory is as part of a late night film season on Channel 4.  Continue Reading

THE BRIDES OF DRACULA w/ guest Ian McKinney

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When I was asked to do this review I was initially reluctant, as it would mean re-watching a movie I remember fondly from my childhood. And rather than viewing it with a sense of nostalgia I was being asked to be analytical, and I was concerned that it would be found wanting. Often the passage of time can be unkind to treasured memories, especially when they are examined in the cold light of day. Luckily my fears were unfounded, I watched it – and loved it.

Over the years, the popularity of Hammer Horror Movies has ebbed and flowed with the fashions of the times. Horror has become more realistic and often sadistic, consequently the theatrical, and somewhat simplistic morals of the Hammer Horrors seemed antiquated and naïve. Although after watching this movie, I can recommend it to anyone who enjoys entertainment more than prolonged scenes of torture and mutilation.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers In Review : Jason Lives (1986)

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Absence makes the heart grow fonder: a quote that always reign true when it comes to issues of the heart and mind. We miss what makes us comfortable.

In 1984, Paramount killed off Jason Voorhees—they wanted to take Friday the 13th in a new direction; after four films, the studio decided to take a chance and introduce a new killer, it didn’t sit right with fans. What did they want? What did they need? Jason, of course.

Jason made his mighty screen come back on August, 1st 1986.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: The Funhouse 1981

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This was a first time watch for me, and I have to say, while very formulaic, it is a fun watch. Tobe Hooper was a master of using atmosphere, lighting and soundscapes over gore and jump scares.  This little gem is sandwiched between two of Hooper’s bigger known films, the made-for-t.v. Salem’s Lot in 1979 and Poltergeist in 1982.  Of course, his Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 1974 broke massive ground in the history of horror cinema.  While Funhouse is not in my eyes a true slasher, it seems that there were, in the history of this fun house, other “accidents and incidents,” which I suppose makes Frank and his dad serial killers?

The story is a tried and true trope of teenagers sneaking around where they ought not be.  Amy (Elizabeth Berridge), Buzz (Cooper Huckabee), Liz (Largo Woodruff) and Ritchie (Miles Chapin) go to the carnival together…instead of the movie.  Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers In Review : Scream 2 (1997)

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As a general rule, I’m not a fan of sequels when it comes to horror movies, especially when we are talking about slasher films. Mostly because it rarely feels like the narrative from the original film is going anywhere as much as simply being restarted. Sequels are constantly criticized as being little more than cash grabs from studios, trying to continue to profit off a successful property. And I think that horror is one realm where this criticism is more valid. Horror is one genre where sequels often have the feel of rinse and repeat, as it isn’t at all unusual for horror franchises to make it to seven, eight or nine films. For me, proper horror is quick and brutal and once it’s done, the stage is cleared.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: Friday the 13th PART III 3D (1982)

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As a horror fan I feel rather fortunate that so many of my favorite thrillers released on the year of my birth. A quick Google re-search will reveal a VHS candy store of goody gore and lovable murderers, from The Thing to Poltergeist to Halloween III (the one without Myers) to Amityville II: The Possession (the one that was like The Exorcist but with incest) to The New York Ripper to Pieces, Parasite, The Slumber Party Massacre, and…Friday the 13th…PART 3 (cue groovy disco music). And among the other entries in the franchise, PART 3 is I would say my second favorite. There are many factors that play into my rating but unless you’ve seen it you probably won’t understand. So do me a solid and go pop this flayed VHS cause this review will be chopped full of SPOILERS. Readers…you have been warned!  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: Candyman (1992)

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Let’s get right to the point. Candyman (based on the story The Forbidden by the timeless Clive Barker) scared the shit out of me when I first watched it. I’m not sure if it was the Deep baritone voice of Tony Todd as the terrifying title character which is the first dialogue we hear as we see an army of bees crawl over each other, or the delicate musical score by Phillip Glass which was subtle and really got under the skin. I remember my sister had been to the cinema to watch it and was said it was the most frightening thing she had seen at the time. I was, of course, too young to go and watch it so when I saw the VHS pop up at our local video shop I couldn’t wait to watch it. Thankfully, due to the lax attitude of the owner of our shop and such things as certification being less of an issue at the time, I sat down to watch the film as a young kid who didn’t know any better. When it was done, I agreed with my sister. It was horrifying and stayed with me for some time.

As it happens, I haven’t watched it again since and so in doing this review decided to pick it up in super shiny Blu ray so I could see if it was still as scary the second time around.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers In Review : The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

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Starring: Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger, Paul A. Partain, William Vail, Teri McMinn, Edwin Neal, Jim Siedow, John Dugan, and Gunnar Hansen as Leatherface.

Written By: Kim Henkel and Tobe Hooper

Directed By: Tobe Hooper

Synopsis: A brother and sister set out with their friends to check on the grave of their grandfather after hearing about instances of grave robbing and vandalism. After taking a detour to their family’s old farmhouse, they discover and soon become victims to a family of crazed, murderous cannibals.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: The Collector (2009)

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After making a splash with their major studio debut, Feast, and shouldering the burden of continuing the formidable Saw series from the third entry on, screenwriters Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton came into their own with the release of The Collector in 2009. Dunstan directed the film from a script co-written with Melton that was originally pitched as a Saw prequel. The end result was a horror movie similar to the Saw films in its levels and methods of violence and gore, but with a chillingly different breed of killer.

And in the annals of horror, he and the film he dominantes are barely a footnote.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: Friday the 13th (1980), part III

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These holidays (F13) are so few and far between, I couldn’t resist saying a few words about one of my all time favorite horror movie franchises. As a younger fan of the slasher genre, I watched more of Nightmare on Elm Street. In a way, i think that’s because Freddy is more “kid stuff,” especially the flicks starting with part 3, aka Dream Warriors. It became more and more of a build up to those sweet one-liners, such as: “Wanna suck face?” or “How’s this for a wet dream?” or “Welcome to prime time bitch!” and then breaking into that cackling laughter whilst the soon to be dispatched teen flees for however many seconds of life they have left. Good times. But i think it was around 1994-95 when my allegiances changed when Jason Goes to Hell released to VHS. Somehow, one of my buddies (Matt) was able to get his hands on a copy. Fangoria was still really popular back then too and they had done a full spread on the movie. Needless to say, from that moment forward, my slasher heart belonged to Jason Voorhees.   Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers In Review: Friday The 13th (1980), part two

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As today is Friday, the Thirteenth, we had a moral and ethical obligation to pay homage to one of the biggest slasher films of all time. So of course we had more than  one angle on the issue.

What scares me?

That’s a big question, one that I would have a hard time capturing in one essay. So in the context of this review, what originally scared me when I was introduced to this horror genre in which I now reside?

Horror has had a long and storied history in the cinema, dating back over a hundred years of style, mood and atmosphere. And I was lucky enough to board the ship right in the middle of one of the renaissances of the genre.

What scared the hell out of me was the realism of movies in the late seventies and eighties. Check out the work of George Romero and Wes Craven and you can see what I’m talking about.  These films weren’t about the beautiful fantasy and magic of Hollywood. This was about making you feel like you stumbled across a crime in progress and you don’t dare move, lest you be spotted yourself. This is about being placed in front of something that you can’t bring yourself to turn away from.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers In Review : Friday The 13th (1980), part one

F13 4Tonight we take a look at one of the big four.  I mean, really, when one hears the word SLASHER, four characters jump to mind, right? Freddy Krueger, Michael Meyers, Leatherface and of course, Jason Voorhees.

There are countless other stalker killers out there, but for some reason, these four are synonymous with the word slasher.  It doesn’t seem to matter that there were slashers before and after these classics were made, these are the Grandaddies of the slasher family. Take it or leave it.  One might make a case for Chucky, The Firefly Clan and others, and while terrifying and time-tested, in my opinion, Chucky has become a lampoon of himself and The Fireflys were only in two(?) movies.  That’s not to say that Jason and Freddy haven’t become parodies either, but that’s a topic for another day.  Today we talk about the birth of all things Camp Crystal Lake and why teenagers of the 80’s didn’t want to go to camp.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: Child’s Play (1988)

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Starring: Brad Dourif, Alex Vincent, Chris Sarandon, Catherine Hicks

Directed by: Tom Holland

Written by: Don Mancini, John Lafia, Tom Holland

What begins like a crime thriller quickly escalates into a bizarre horror about a dying murderer who manages to use black magic to transfer his consciousness into a ‘Good Guys’ doll. ‘Chucky’ finds a home with 6-year-old Andy, initially befriending and manipulating him into helping him commit more murders, and then Andy himself becomes the target as Chucky plans to transfer his consciousness into him before he can be killed in his doll form.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers In Review : Bay Of Blood (1971)

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Fans of Bava’s films know they are more about style than plot. The revolutionary use of color and framing create mood and atmosphere that leave a deep impression.  A BAY OF BLOOD is loose and sometimes confusing, but it set the tone for many important films to come after it. The main film is, of course, Sean Cunningham’s FRIDAY THE 13th.

A BAY OF BLOOD centers around the inhabitants of a small bay. Countess Frida, (Isa Miranda,) is murdered by her husband, who is then himself murdered. The murders set off a chaotic chain of events as neighbors and family members fight and back stab each other for control of the bay. Among them is Simon, (Claudio Camaso,) the Countess’s illegitimate son; Renata (Claudine Auger),  his step sister, and her husband Albert (Luigi Pistilli); Frank (Chris Avram,) a greedy businessman and his secretary Laura (Anna Maria Rosati), and card reader Anna (Laura Betti), spreading doom and gloom with her insect loving husband. There is also a side story of two young couples camping out in one of the empty houses and falling prey to the killer. The ending involving Renata and Albert’s children also makes no real sense.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976)

 

[ blahblahblah Spoilers Probably yaddayaddayadda ]

This is a weird one, you guys. Not in a deliberate, fun way. More in a… I-have-no-idea-what-the-director-was-thinking-half-the-time kind of way. I’m going to keep myself to the format I’ve been using for the most part and not get too far ahead of myself this time. I’ll just say this one might be a little less meaty than my usual review as I’m not sure how much I can say about this one. We’ll see what happens as I get further down this cuppa (Joe)…  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers In Review : The Devil’s Rejects (2005)

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Rob Zombie knows movies, and he takes his knowledge of and passion for film and applies it to his own projects.  Sometimes he is successful in his execution, sometimes he isn’t.  It all boils down to personal preference.  When it comes to The Devil’s Rejects, I believe he was successful.

This film came out in 2005 and is the follow-up to House of 1000 Corpses.  It follows the Firefly family as they attempt to escape the law.  The film is a mash up of different genres, including crime films and sexploitation, drawing heavily from slasher films with murder and gore to beat the band.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: SCHRAMM (1993)

 

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[65 minutes. Unrated. Director: Jorg Buttgereit]

Sometimes – okay, a lot of the time – I question the logic that drives my physical-media collection. Why are some DVDs more disposable and trade-worthy than others? Why are others as immovable as Stonehenge? There are films that sit on my shelves, never leaving the shrink-wrap; and others that are so mood-specific, I only re-watch after a passage of years. Salo is a great film, no question about it, but two hours of feel-good vibes it most certainly ain’t.

The same applies to the work of director Jorg Buttgereit.

After a string of shorts, his career began proper with the worldwide-controversial Video Nasty Nekromantik, which took a semi-comedic approach to a young couple’s desire to bring a rotting corpse into the bedroom. While a fine showcase for Buttgereit’s low-budget ingenuity (including some sick – and sick-funny – practical gore effects), the film was little more than the sum of its shock value (and I liked its labored, cheap-looking sequel even less).

The director fared much better with two other efforts: 1990’s actively oppressive Der Todesking (English translation: The Death King), which follows a group of unfortunate souls who fall victim to a lethal chain letter over the course of a week. The film is devoid of hope, and its experimental nature (more anthology than conventional narrative) creates a detachment from the characters that is deliberately cold. One can imagine Buttgereit’s intent: “This is humanity with the forced pleasantries and rule of law removed – see it and weep.”  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers In Review : Scream (1996) DOUBLE FEATURE part 2

kinopoisk.ruFor a significant number of years, the concept of slasher movies fell away. The major horror franchises of Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm St. and Halloween found themselves struggling to stay relevant with the demographic that made them classics. Meanwhile, in 1996, a single question stirred a new generation:

Do you like scary movies? 

Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers In Review : Scream (1996) DOUBLE FEATURE part 1

ScreamIn 1996, the cinematic world was introduced to the first of what would be one of the more successful new horror franchise of the modern era. And interestingly enough, it would spring forth from the mind of one Wes Craven, already responsible for one of the most popular monsters in movie history.

At the time this came out, I was in college and without going into a lot of details, I was going through a difficult time in my life. School was not going well and I had personal issues that were leading to some fairly severe depression and anxiety. I was on break at my father’s house and decided one night to take a spin with a video rental, a new movie release that I had seen advertised but knew very little about.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: Hannibal (2001)

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The mad genius may be an over played trope, but it is still entertaining to watch. I have to wonder though if the character in question on today’s installment of Slashers & Serial Killers would fit into the mold of “mad genius.” Is Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter truly mad? Is he insane, mentally ill, certifiable, deranged, demented, or otherwise of unsound mind? Honestly, that’s a tall order. What he does is shocking, sure enough. I think we can at the very least say for certain that he is a genius. You don’t become a physician and practicing psychologist speaking fluently in several languages with perfect memorization and dictation of countless works of art and poetry, not to mention an obsessive culinary skill, without the moniker of said genius. Mad though…that begs the question.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers In Review : Silence Of The Lambs (1991)

silence posterSilence Of The Lambs marked a monumental moment in film history. For me, it was one of those transitions as a teenager where I saw first hand how gripping a story could be and how the villain of a story can be developed just as much, if not more than the hero. Silence Of The Lambs would also lead to a number of unfortunate side effects down the road, something that was completely out of their control and that I will touch on later.

This film made household names out of both Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins. And while Foster certainly deserves the credit she receives for her work, the role of Clarice Starling is almost a throwaway for me. You can’t have a movie without a protagonist and she fits that bill just fine. We have a young, talented FBI agent-in-training, one with a bright future, but also with a past just dark enough to be exploited by one Hannibal Lector.  Continue Reading

Theatre of Blood (1973) w/ author Roger Keen

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I had the basic plot idea for Literary Stalker – a bad writer with grudges who takes revenge on selected colleagues – many years before I wrote the novel, but it remained on the back burner because it seemed too simplistic. Then I had the further idea of making the work a pastiche, with showcased references to films and other novels, very much in the style of Quentin Tarantino. Having fun developing this, one film in particular popped into my mind – one I hadn’t actually viewed for decades, but which I remembered fondly from way back in the 1970s and ’80s. It was Theatre of Blood, and I got the DVD and re-watched it, several times. The rest, as they say, is history.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 DREAM WARRIORS (1987)

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Well, here we are.  Six years after Nancy defeated(?) Freddy, and a new batch of crazy(!) teenagers for our favorite undead serial killer to torment when their eyes close. Heather Langenkamp and John Saxon reprise their roles as Nancy and Lt. Thompson (from ANOES) and we find that Nancy has gone to school to become a psychiatrist making groundbreaking work in “Pattern nightmares.” This was the directorial debut of Chuck Russell, who would go on to direct the cult favorite The Blob remake, as well as Jim Carrey’s comedy The Mask.  Based on a story by Wes Craven and Bruce Wagner, the screenplay was written by Wagner, Craven, Russell and a young upstart writer named Frank Darabont (I hope I don’t need to remind this crowd who HE is, do I?)

As I said, there is a new cast of teenagers to be led to slaughter by Freddy, including Kristen (Patricia Arquette), Kincaid (Ken Sagoes), Joey (Rodney Eastman), Taryn (Jennifer Rubin), Phillip (Bradley Gregg), Will (Ira Heiden), and Jennifer (Penelope Sudrow).  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers In Review : Monster (2003)

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EDITOR’S NOTE – Monster was a movie that had a huge impact on me and I think this is one example of, while the story of a film might not be as memorable, the performance elevates it into something extraordinary. I think Charlize Theron is one of the most exciting actors of our time. I’ve been a fan of hers from the day I saw her steal practically every scene she graced in Devil’s Advocate. I think she has a unique ability to completely occupy the space of a character. With many legendary actors, when it comes down to it, you still feel like you are seeing a variation on that person. I watch DeNiro’s films and for the most part, I still feel like I’m seeing Robert DeNiro, or Russell Crowe or whomever. Charlize Theron is a rare example where I feel like she becomes something completely different with each role.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: PEEPING TOM (1960)

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Starring: Karl Bohm and Anna Massey

Directed by: Michael Powell

Written by: Leo Marks

This review is spoiler-heavy.

Peeping Tom has a lot going for it. It’s widely accepted to be the first ever ‘slasher’ film, released months before Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho in 1960. It is also the first horror film to show us scenes from the killer’s perspective, a technique that has since become somewhat of a genre trope (John Carpenter’s Halloween 1978, Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead 1981, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining 1980, to name but a few).

The acting performances are great and the directing is superb. The story is original, the script is competent, and the movie is generally well paced and atmospheric. So it may come to many as a surprise that upon its theatrical release, Peeping Tom was critically reviled and it was detested by the public, so much so that the film was pulled from distribution, its cinema run was cut short, and it was banned. It practically disappeared until Martin Scorsese revived it in the late 1970s. It’s generally acknowledged as the film that ended (director) Michael Powell’s career. Powell’s previous work included A Matter of Life and Death (AKA Stairway to Heaven) (1946), A Canterbury Tale (1944), and The Red Shoes (1948). He was a beloved and highly acclaimed filmmaker, until he released Peeping Tom. After this, he was able to get some film work, mostly abroad, but then his career tragically died, much like several of his Peeping Tom characters.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers In Review : Natural Born Killers (1994)

Only Love Can Kill The Demon

Kit Power on Natural Born Killers

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SPOILER ALERT! I will assume you’ve seen the film, and talk accordingly. If this is not the case and you don’t want to be spoiled, go, now, and watch this damn movie. You should, anyway, because it’s awesome.

In 1994, Oliver Stone was right in the middle of his imperial phase, as a filmmaker. Following the Oscar success of Platoon in 1987 (where it unfairly beat RoboCop, which admittedly hadn’t actually been nominated, but still, UNFAIR I say!), he went on to make Wall Street, Born on the Fourth of July, and The Doors, among others – any of which could support at least a slim volume worth of essay material in their own right (albeit not, probably, in a series about slashers and serial killers). Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: HALLOWEEN (2007)

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Imitation is often seen as a tribute to an artist; other times it is seen as a mockery and a laughable attempt to establish, oneself, in a world of other artists.  A question that should be asked, what separates the good imitations from the worst?

The answer is a little more underlying.

A work of imitation can branch off and become something different, something appreciated by others.  The difference is—Appreciation for the original work and artist—nothing more.

In 1978, John Carpenter set out and defined the slasher genre.  Many fans were introduced to their first masked serial killers: Michael Myers.  The original story was enough to send millions of fans into a terror filled adventure, murder and mayhem a-plenty.  Man escapes mental institution after murdering his sister twenty years prior and begins slashing and stabbing his way through Haddonfield, IL.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review : THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 (1986)

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Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2: A favorite in Slaughter town

As little girls our mother allowed us to watch the first Texas Chainsaw Massacre, being all of maybe nine years old we were terrified (and, yes, probably too young to watch it but our mom’s awesome like that). The thoughts of some psycho cannibal family living in an old farm house in Texas, hacking unsuspecting people to death and then consuming them definitely reached a higher level on the horror meter than some of the classics we had been previously exposed to and yet there was an element to it that really drew us in. That man behind the skin mask, not speaking a word yet saying so much to us, he won our hearts forever.

Flash forward a few years when we are on the cusp of becoming teenagers, the precious years when other girls are like totally concerned with regular girl things like makeup and stylish clothing, it was then that the young Sisters of Slaughter were reintroduced to a certain family of cannibals in the form of a sequel, a horror comedy that helped shape their twisted senses of humor, one that is celebrated in Slaughter Town like a national holiday.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: ALONE IN THE DARK (1982)

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The Eighties are often thought of as the Golden Age of Slasher movies. And why not? We had Jason and Freddy and Michael roaming around movie screens, dispatching hormone-addled teenagers in creative ways. It all became a bit formulaic, but with pretty naked people and bucketfuls of the red, red kroovy, who cared? The horror algorithm was simple back then, and anybody who could get funding from family or a cabal of local medical professionals could follow the formula, shoot a movie in a couple weeks, and potentially get a lucrative distribution deal.

With an audience hankering for knives and nubiles, other horror movies got lost in the shuffle. That’s why most people have probably never heard of Alone in the Dark, a terrific movie from 1982 with no nudity, little bloodshed, and no young’uns traipsing through the forest, tripping over tree roots in the dark.  Continue Reading

My Judgement on Hellraiser: Judgement (2018)

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Not very often we review a horror movie that’s been out less than a decade. And for good reason perhaps. Not to say that there are no good modern horror movies. I believe Get Out and Conjuring prove that decent horror is still making its way to theaters and into our living rooms. Yet, as a whole, the horror community clings to the hey-day, so to speak, of better times. Due to this habit, it feels like some movie makers get the notion that all we want to see are rehashed classics. While i have no problem digging deeper into an already established horror universe, but i’d much rather see something new than something old with a new wig, if you catch my meaning. Case in point, last night’s screening of Hellraiser: Judgement (2018).  Continue Reading

SLASHERS & SERIAL KILLERS IN REVIEW : HENRY : PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER 1986

Henry1In June 1983, drifter Henry Lee Lucas was convicted of 11 murders. Later, he confessed to over 3,000, but retracted many of these over time. Today, most believe that Lucas was responsible for about 40 separate killings, including his sex worker mother, and Becky Powell, the intellectually-impaired 15-year-old niece of his close friend and lover, Ottis Toole.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986) is as much a biopic and crime drama as it is a horror film. It is as far from the territory of Jason, Michael and Freddy as an 80s serial killer movie can be, and its uncompromising violence and dread-soaked atmosphere ensured controversy and a release plagued with censorship issues. These problems set its American release back by 4 or so years, while in the UK, the uncut version of Henry was only made available in 2003, a full 17 years after it was made.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972)

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If a friend asked me, “Hey, Tommy, can you recommend a good slasher movie?” Off the cuff, I’d typically guide said friend to one of the many wondrous titles under the Friday the 13th franchise or Nightmare on Elm Street. If they wanted obscure but tasteful, I’d most likely say The Prowler or The Burning. Those looking for something for date night, I’d recommend Scream or perhaps Silence of the Lambs. If I wanted to sound like an intellectual or one of those real classic film guys, I’d suggest Psycho. But if I were really brave…if i wanted to take the risk, if not in losing a friend and all credibility in recommending slasher movies, but also risk being looked at (at worse) like some weirdo pervert, well…if i didn’t care about that, then I would totally recommend THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972).

This isn’t to say that THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (TLHOTL) is a horrid movie. Its not. Its actually quite amazing. Raw. Brutal. Shocking. And truth be told, not entirely that fun of a film. Just how slasher flicks really ought to aspire. TLHOTL doesn’t wear a mask to scare you, it removes the mask, and in so doing is utterly terrifying. There is no pleasure in the depravity, except for perhaps towards the end when the protagonists’ parents exact revenge (more on that later). In Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street or even Halloween, we’re (mostly) rooting for the killer, “Yeah! Murder those dumb stupid teenagers!” But in TLHOTL, those very scenes are sickening and uncomfortable to watch.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: The Strangers (2008)

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On one hand, I think that The Strangers typifies what can be the brightest and most brilliant executions of the horror genre. On the other, I also think that The Strangers is a perfect example of some of the worst kind of tropes that are pounded to death like so many coffin nails.

Let’s start with the positive because it’s a new year and I’m trying to focus on such things. The premise for the film is as simple as can be which, as an aside I think is actually essential for great horror. The films and books that perform the best for me are about creating a visceral experience for the reader and the characters. If you need to draw a flow chart in order to find the horror, you might not be doing it right.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: American Psycho (2000)

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American Psycho is a satirical novel written by Bret Easton Ellis and published in 1991. It is an unreliable first person narrative, in the present tense, given by the main character, Patrick Bateman, who is a yuppieliving in 1980s New York City. It is an extremely controversial novel, given its depiction of increasingly brutal violence against women; this issue led many feminists to protest the novel.

movie version was made in 2000, the screenplay written by Guinevere Turner and Mary Harron (the latter also being the director), and starring Christian Bale in the lead role. The movie removed or mitigated the novel’s violence, and rearranged much of the material: apart from that, the film was reasonably faithfulContinue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: Halloween (1978)

halloweenStarring: Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, P.J. Soles, and Nancy Loomis. With Nick Castle and Tony Moran portraying Michael Myers.

Written By: Debra Hill and John Carpenter

Directed By: John Carpenter

Synopsis: On Halloween night of 1963, six year old Michael Myers brutally murders his seventeen year old sister, Judith. He was sentenced to a mental hospital but on October 30, 1978 he escapes and a string of murders begin in his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois.

Halloween isn’t just a good story; it’s a film that demonstrates an unprecedented understanding of it’s very media. It’s a story that could only be told cinematically, a true folktale for the 20th century and beyond. Light, shadow, silence and good sound form into an experience both tangible and transcendent. It’s a wholly immersive work of art, a rare instance of pure cinema. Like it’s antagonist, it will never die.” -Stef Hutchinson, taken from the 35th anniversary Blu-Ray.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

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I wish to start my review by saying that while I was alive in 1984, I led a mostly sheltered life (read: my parents were NOT going to let me as a tender 12-year-old go see a HORROR (gasp!!) movie.)  So, I didn’t see A Nightmare on Elm Street until I was late into my teens. That being said, there are movies that transcend the era in which they first appeared.  Dracula, Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein despite being made in the 1930’s still hold sway over generations not even considered then.  Night of The Living Dead, Rosemary’s Baby and dozen’s more still thrill us fifty or more years later.  For every Jigsaw (2017) there must be a Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974).   My point is that even though it was not a current or hot movie when I saw it, it still held as big a punch for me as if I were a starry-eyed tweenager in 1984.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: The Burning (1981)

The Burning

Starring: Brian Matthews, Lou David, Leah Ayres, Brian Backer, Larry Joshua, Fisher Stevens, Ned Eisenberg, and Jason Alexander

Written By: Bob Weinstein, and Peter Lawrence

Directed By: Tony Maylam

Synopsis: After a prank goes wrong, setting the caretaker of Camp Blackfoot on fire and leaving him horribly scarred, a group of teen campers begin to be picked off one by one.

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The 1980’s, what an amazing and glorious decade for the horror genre. Specifically, slasher films were on the rise during this time. Chances are fairly high that if you are reading this review, you grew up on the films of this decade or are actively seeking out reviews for films to watch from this amazing time in the genre. Whether you are in the mood for some good practical gore effects and deaths, or are seeking out some of the films that helped to shape the slasher film, Tony Maylam’s The Burning is a classic film that helped set the stage and hone the elements that are now considered staples in the horror genre. I recently had the pleasure of giving this classic flick another watch and these are my thoughts on The BurningContinue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: JASON GOES TO HELL (1993)

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WELCOME friends to a new year of “In Review.” As you no doubt have guessed, this year we’re running the gauntlet with Slashers & Serial Killers. To say we’ve got our work cut out for us would be an understatement. Thus far the review count looks to be well over 150 different movie reviews all spread throughout 2018 with our usual break in observance of the holiest of horror holidays, Freight Fest. Why such a high review count? There’s the love of course…the utter romanticism of this particular horror sub-genre–knowing the killer in us all by living vicariously through onscreen murderers and villains. Beginning as early as Psycho in 1960 and continuing on all the way into 2018, slasher and serial killer movies are alive then as they are today with hundreds of different movies to choice from. To kick things off, my movie of choice may seem a bit odd…allow me to explain.  Continue Reading

[REVIEW] Day of the Dead: Bloodline (2018)

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What’s the worst that can happen? That is what I had said last night before renting the yet to be released remake of George A. Romero’s DAY OF THE DEAD (1985). Deep down, I knew…I knew it wasn’t going to be good, and yet there I was, pushing select and paying $6 despite my better judgement. I try to be fair. I know I am very particular about zombie movies. Deep prejudices, you might say. Being a Romero-purist makes it really hard to get into anything other than Romero. I understand that the late great grandfather of the zombie genre wasn’t perfect, we need only look at Survival of the Dead to realize that, but still…there has to be something. Story. Acting. Gore. The trifecta, no, the algorithm to making a solid zombie movie. So, did Day of the Dead: Bloodline make the cut?  Continue Reading

We did it AND other thoughts on 2017

This final wrap up post for 2017 isn’t about one individual or even two, this is about our collective achievement. Machine Mean may have started with one nerdy guy talking about horror, history, politics, and whatever else crossed his mind, but it has GROWN way beyond that. From guest posts and interviews to a full on partnership between myself and Chad Clark, we have watched this little horror movie and book review site flourish. In 2017, we had over 17,000 readers, leaving over 200 comments, drawn in from all over the world–predominately in the United States, the UK, Canada, and France. Our most popular post was Chad’s article The Dark Tower And Toxicity in Modern Nerd Culture, ringing in nearly 2,000 reads. In 2017, we posted 137 articles totally nearly 190,000 words. But we couldn’t have done this alone. We’ve had a lot of help from some 31 really awesome contributors.  Continue Reading

Thomas’s Top Reads: 2017

Now, I’ve never claimed to be a world champ reader. Truth is, i’m probably the world’s slowest reader. I have no shame at being slow, at least i’m reading, right? Any how. As we near the end of 2017, I thought it would be fun to share some of the books I’ve read throughout the year, not including some titles such as Salem’s Lot that I re-read every year. Being a fan of both fiction and non-fiction/history, you ought to find a great assortment here to look through. I’ve been trying to be more diverse in the genres I digest. Maybe that can be a goal for 2018, to read more of everything, not just horror. I’ll also include a short review of each book from myself. Well then, lets get this started shall we?  Continue Reading

Creature Features in Review: The Toxic Avenger (1984)

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The eighties were weird time in cinematic history. Teenage werewolves who’ve found the need to fit in and become all-star athletes, a transgender serial killer who has a disdain for camping and boating, lastly, a man wearing a fedora who finds enjoyment by tormenting teens through their dreams, a weird time for films. And if you could take one of those films and use it to describe the cinema from that particular era—The Toxic Avenger, would be your best bet.

A lot of questions can be raised, in regards, to what makes The Toxic Avenger a great movie. Is it the story? No.  Is it the special effects that will make Predator shake in shame? Not necessarily.  Continue Reading

Creature Features in Review: The Relic (1997)

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I was a freshman in college when The Relic came out, and I remember sitting in the theater with my friends watching the film.  I have a special place in my heart for creature features.  I just love how creative and awesome some of the creatures turn out to be.  I’m a huge fan of creatures created by Stan Winston, so I just had to see this film.

The Relic is still one of my all-time favorite creature features.  Apparently my memory was a bit hazy and I didn’t remember that the audience saw as much of the creature as they did.  I remember it being shown in bits in pieces in the dark, but it gets shown in all its glory—albeit in the dark, but that just adds to its awesomeness.  It deserves its time on the screen.  Continue Reading

Reviews In The Machine : Scouse Gothic by Ian McKinney

ScouseScouse Gothic is one of the more unique books I have read this year, just in terms of the makeup and layout of the narrative. I think it’s a book where your mindset and expectations are going to largely dictate how you enjoy the experience.

Mainly, I think it’s best to approach this like a collection of short stories rather than a novel. There were a number of points throughout the book where I felt that, while I was enjoying the read, I didn’t necessarily feel a strong overall narrative drive to everything.

I scanned through some of the reviews for this because I was curious how other people were reacting to this. I suspect that this is the kind of book that will either be a solid hit or a complete miss. One reader compared this book to Pulp Fiction and I found that to be pretty close to the mark.

In Scouse Gothic, what we have is a series of vignettes that take place within a shared narrative universe. And like the threads that make up a piece of fabric, these vignettes have a tendency to bump up against each other and become twisted together. Different characters rise to the forefront to get the spotlight trained on them and before too long, the story is wrapping up and bringing everything back to some extent to where things started.

It should also be noted that this the first of what appears to be a trilogy of books. I have no idea if the followup books will take on a more traditional structure, with this newly formed cast of characters or if it will stick with the same format again. It’s entirely possible that the structure of the first book was mostly intended as an introduction to the key players.

For me, what makes this book shine is the characters. Books are made up of human (or otherwise) characters and their ability to reach the reader on an emotional level are going to be essential to making things work.

As I suggested already, most of the time when I feel like I don’t understand where the story is going, I tend to tune out. With this, I found the individual stories so compelling and entertaining that I wasn’t caring so much about the global perspective.

Just out of my own misgivings anymore, I tend to shut out stories involving vampires, just because the cultural landscape has become so littered and oversaturated. But even considering this, it’s still completely possible to write a good vampire story. What I think makes this work is that the character’s vampirism isn’t necessarily what the story hangs on. In fact, it almost seems incidental to the actual track of these vampires as characters. These aren’t bland, cookie-cutter people. They live and breathe and provide great texture to a world that is masterfully crafted.

Another way I feel like this book is a success is from the fact that, as each vignette drew to a close, I felt a little disappointed that we would have to move on and that most of the individual characters could likely support an entire separate book on their own. The book grabs your interest, holds on to it and when it gives it back, you find yourself saying, “Wait, you can hold on to it longer, if you want!”

Scouse Gothic is an interesting book that I hope you will consider checking out. Whatever you may feel is lacking from the overall narrative is more than made up for by the individual parts. Read this for the characters and for the quality of the writing, like a really nice wine that you have to let wash through you and take time to properly consider.

CHECK OUT MORE FROM IAN McKINNEY AT HIS OFFICIAL AMAZON PAGE,  INCLUDING LINKS TO THE SECOND AND THIRD BOOKS OF THIS SERIES.

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