Vanity Fear

A Pretentious A**hole's Guide to B-Movie Bullsh*t

Filtering by Category: Slasher Movies

I Hated Pieces to Pieces

Yesterday I realized all of my videos no longer could be viewed on the blog, so I've begun the process of re-uploading them to Vimeo, which I thought would serve as a good way to reintroduce them to those of you who have not witnessed their glory and majesty. 

First up is my vid for Pieces , a popular Euro-slasher that I happen to think is the rare horror film that is every bit as terrible and unjustifiable as critics of the genre claim all such films are. In the vid I make reference to "the people have spoken," which was my nod to the fact that I had a poll about what movie to review next on the blog at the time and Pieces  won with 3 votes.

I never ever claimed to be popular. 

Anyway, here's me trashing a movie a lot of people inexplicably love. Probably NSFW, unless you're feeling brave.

The ABCs of B-Movie Bullsh*t -- E is for Exploitation


is for Exploitation

When most people hear the term “exploitation movie” they tend to imagine kidnapped runaways forced to perform sexual acts against their will by sweaty goateed pornographers. The real meaning of the term, though, is much more benign and seldom, if ever, involves actual slavery.

When it was originally conceived, the term simply referred to any low budget movie that exploited a specific gimmick in order to convince theatergoers to buy a ticket. The nature of the gimmick could literally be anything—a bizarre concept, the promise of risqué nudity, the acting debut of a non-acting celebrity, the pretense of educational content in order to disguise taboo subject matter, extreme violence, a plot ripped straight from today’s headlines, weird promotional campaigns that had nothing to do with the film itself, etc.

The one common factor that united these films was that they were specifically made for one reason: To earn as much money as possible. Some potential exploitation films, though, have been able to transcend their origins and become art, which disqualifies them from earning the label. For this reason two similar films from the same genre might not both qualify as exploitation movies, despite their apparent similarities. The best example of this being Sean Cunningham’s Friday the 13th and John Carpenter’s Halloween. Though both films were made quickly, cheaply, and in pursuit of a quick buck, Carpenter’s ambition is immediately apparent from the first shot. On the other hand, Cunningham’s indifference is just as obvious. Made for the same reason and under the same circumstances, only Friday the 13th qualifies as exploitation. Halloween is art.

That’s not to say that an exploitation movie is therefore automatically without merit. So long as it doesn’t make its audience feel like it was ripped off or suckered in by an unmet promise, it can be considered a success. Every exploitation film makes a promise. The good ones deliver on that promise and the bad ones don’t.

As frequently noted by exploitation movie legend Roger Corman, exploitation films are no longer the sole domain of low-budget filmmakers. By the standards described above, many major Hollywood blockbusters easily qualify as exploitation movies.


is for Exploitation





The Wynorski Project Part Eight & Nine Concluded

The Wynorski Project

Part 8 and 9

Sorority House Massacre II & Hard to Die

Part Three

Last week I discussed my belief that by completely stripping his films of any discernable subtext, Wynorski ended up producing works that are ultimately guilty of every criticism (usually unfairly) thrown at the slasher genre. For all his humorous riffing, the results are every bit as misogynist and misanthropic as most ignorant people incorrectly believe horror films to be.

What I didn’t say is that despite (or—more accurately—because of) this the two films are compulsively and irresistibly watchable. As disdainful as Wynorski seems to be of his audience, there’s no denying that he’s giving them massive heaps of what they want. The overt sexuality of the films goes beyond mere prurience to pornographic excess, but the quality of that excess is such that it’s very hard to look away. Wynorski clearly knows this. ‘Give ‘em enough T&A and they’ll forgive you anything,’ being the apparent unspoken motto that defines much of his work.

But is he truly at peace with this? After watching his brief cameo in Hard to Die this becomes a legitimate question. The scene in question occurs when two detectives (who only appear in the film because they also appeared in Sorority House Massacre II and no one could be bothered to figure out how to get rid of them in the rewritten script) break in on a porno shoot to interview an adult film actress (Wynorski regular, Monique Gabrielle, who appears twice in the movie—billed first as“Carolet Girard” in the part of the porn star and then as “Lucy Burnett” for the part of a homely Chinese food delivery woman, which is very similar to her short cameo in Not of This Earth. Two years later she would play the final girl in Fred Olen Ray’s Evil Toons, which is as much a remake of SHMII as HtoD is) who used to work at the lingerie company where all the mayhem is occurring. 

Playing the part of the exasperated director is Wynorski himself, who—when accused of making “pornography”—defends himself by saying “…It’s tough enough making a picture these days without making certain—shall we say— ‘concessions’ to public taste….” On the face of it, it would seem like he’s winking at his audience again. Giving them an in-joke they can chuckle over and appreciate for its self-deprecating irony, but this ignores the fact that when the movie was made in 1990 Wynorski was still a fairly anonymous Corman hack who most genre fans wouldn’t recognize in a police line-up, much less in an in-joke cameo.

This makes me wonder if maybe he cast himself as the pornographer not because a handful of Corman insiders would find it amusing, but as a form of cinematic Freudian slip. Is it possible that Wynorski really imagines himself as an artist forced to debase himself to satisfy the public’s need for sex and violence?

Probably not, but it will be interesting to see if any similar cameo’s are made in later productions where he abandons all pretense of respectability and just flat out makes softcore porn (see future reviews of The Bare Wench Project 1, 2 & 3). I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume the cameo is just a goof, but it’s the kind of goof pretentious asshole reviewers like me cannot help themselves from grasping on.


Beyond Wynorski’s cameo, though, the other interesting part about this scene is that it is clearly based on the scene in SHMII where the same two cops (the female half of whom is played by Wynorski regular Toni Naples, working under the name Karen Chorak) go to a strip club to talk to the younger sister of the girl who killed the maniac whose spirit is causing all of the mayhem back at the sorority house.


Watching as a hyper-aware genre-enthusiast, it was this scene that caused my brain to start doing backflips, because with it Wynorski manages to take SHMII and turn it from being an unrelated in-name-only sequel to Sorority House Massacre into an alternative universe sequel to Slumber Party Massacre, from which the flashback footage is taken. Having at that point already written about Slumber Party Massacre II (rather successfully—if a comment made at the 37 minute point of this YouTube video is to be believed) I was dumbfounded to see Wynorski take the character Deborah Brock had cast as a virginal member of an all-girl pop band into a slutty, fishnet clad stripper.

My first thought was of Uatu the Watcher, the big-header star of Marvel Comics What If…. series, in which popular Marvel Universe stories were upended with simple twists of fate. For example, issue #7 dealt with what would have happened if someone other than Peter Parker had been bit by that radioactive spider that fateful day. The most amusing aspect of the series was how it allowed the writers to let loose with their wildest apocalyptic, nihilistic fantasies, as virtually every scenario seemed to end with the destruction of the universe (thus proving that the way it “really happened” was truly meant to be).

As unintentional as this had to be on Wynorski’s part, it does force an inevitable comparison between his and Brock’s takes on the slasher genre and it’s one where he definitely does not come out on top. Whereas Brock was able to make the first slasher film that was set entirely in the pov consciousness of a young woman’s mind, Wynorski was only able to deliver a film that aims for moronic parody and fails.

 More telling, though, is the profession chosen for the character in SHMII. The fact is that in a film already so full of gratuitous nudity the strip club sequence is by far the unnecessary and redundant. Knowing what I do about his previous work, I suspect both it and the rest of the police sequences were added late to the script when it became evident the original draft was too short. I’d even guess they were shot long after the film was first completed, were it not for the fact that the same scenes are all essentially replicated in Hard To Die, making this scenario highly unlikely.

Whatever the reason for the sequence, it speaks volumes about who Wynorski is as a person and filmmaker that in his universe, this character turns out to be a stripper. Brock imagined an innocent girl driven to insanity by her horrific experience, while her Corman co-hort simply saw an opportunity to add another pair of tits into the mix.

I strongly suspect that out there is an alternative universe where I prefer his take on the material over hers, but only Uatu truly knows.


Okay, so that’s it for these two flicks. Next week I’ll discuss a more serious work in the Wynorski canon that the director has gone on record as stating that he personally hates.

Next Week

The Haunting of Morella

The Wynorski Project Part Eight & Nine Continued

The Wynorski Project

Sorority House Massacre II & Hard to Die


Part Two

Two weeks ago I expressed my amazement over the sheer chutzpah of these two films. Sorority House Massacre II being a sequel that not only completely ignores the first Sorority House Massacre, but even goes so far as to us flashback footage from Slumber Party Massacre instead. Amazingly, that same footage appears again in the concurrently filmed Hard to Die, which was obviously shot with a script only slightly altered from the one used for SHMII, making it perhaps the first instant remake of an in-name-only sequel ever made.

As a result of these shenanigans, Wynorski seems to have inadvertently created his first meta-movies—making two unconsciously post-modern films that work far better as his commentary on the state of independent genre filmmaking in the 90s than they do as actual independent genre films.

In a climate where the desire for instant profitability turned the concept of what a sequel actually was essentially meaningless, it makes sense that Wynorski would prove utterly indifferent to the original SHM. If the only thing that mattered was that they shared the same title, why bother even attempting to connect them beyond that? And if flashback footage was needed to flesh out the plot (and add valuable running time) why not take it from a superior film? Why settle for less if you didn’t have to?

And by the same token, if you’re making a sequel that is essentially an original film, why not produce an alternate version that could be sold as just that? With most films feeling so interchangeable by that time, what were the chances anyone was ever even going to notice?


With these two films Wynorski is explicitly stating his belief that plot itself has no bearing or meaning in the genre universe. All that matters is you provide the proper amount of tits, ass and blood, without which SHMII and Hard to Die would cease to exist. The question then is whether or not he is indicting us for watching them or instead freeing himself from the yoke of narrative tyranny. Is it that he's pissed at his audience for being so base in their desires? Or is he thrilled by the opportunity to make movies entirely defined by the elements he himself so clearly enjoys?

The idealistic optimist in me wants to believe it’s the latter, but watching the films it becomes hard not to conclude the former. Despite his reputation as a director who just likes to surround himself with busty babes, both films clearly move beyond the veil of gentle satire into something far more brutal and unpleasant. By boiling down a genre frequently scorned for consisting only of pretty naked girls being murdered in various unpleasant ways to nothing beyond those purest elements, Wynorski removes any potentially vindicating subtext from the films, turning them into exactly the kind of films critics might deservedly condemn. Based on the legal definition of a work designed purely to arouse the prurient interest, it becomes difficult to see them as anything other than grimy softcore pornography.

And what’s wrong with that?

Absolutely nothing, so long as you have access to a shower afterwards.

Of the two films, SHMII is by far the more cynical and disturbing, thanks to an ending that serves as a direct rebuke of the cliché that most often exonerates the slasher genre from frequent accusations of misogyny.

SHMII begins with Linda (Gail Harris, a British “Page-3” model who plays the heroine in both this and Hard to Die and whose strong Yorkshire accent is never explained or justified in either film) begging an unseen force for mercy before flashing back to the moment she and her friends arrived at the location where the titular massacre will eventually occur.

With this she is clearly established as the film’s “final girl”—a designation that is supported by the fact that she is clearly the most sensible, intelligent and levelheaded member of the group (which admittedly is—at best—a negligible achievement).

Her heroics, however, are undermined by a twist presented in both films, in which the characters she plays mistake the creepy neighbor/janitor Orville Ketchum as the maniac, when its really one of her friends/co-workers possessed by the evil spirit of a dead psychopath. In both films the majority of the humour is based on Ketchum’s superhuman ability to absorb her punishment—a trait usually found in slasher stalkers, not innocent dupes. 

The problem with SHMII is that following the climax where Linda manages to dispatch the true killer, there’s a coda where the police arrive at the scene of the crime and discover that she has now become possessed by the killer, which causes Ketchum to jump up from catastrophic injury once more and blow her away. He, naturally, manages to survive the hail of police gunfire that results.


On its face it's simply a semi-clever inversion of the cliché in which the seemingly unkillable killer is finally dispatched by the resourceful pretty girl, but by robbing Linda of her victory it becomes impossible to justify the sexualized carnage that came before it. I suppose the point is meant to be that there’s no good reason why the hero of a slasher film can’t be a creepy fat guy, but this is immediately undone by the simple fact that there is a very good reason why the resourceful pretty girl is almost invariably portrayed as the one who is victorious.

The only way to justify the ending is to assume that the audience should have identified with Ketchum instead of Linda in the first place. The implication being that most of the people watching the movie look far more like him than they do Harris. As true as this may be, the result is not a flattering portrait of the viewer. Instead of following the traditional mode in which the viewer firsts identifies with the killer as they dispatch a series of assholes who don’t deserve to live, then shifts their allegiance once the killer trains their focus on the virtuous good girl who represents the viewer at their best, SHMII asks us to cheer on the deaths of the hot sorority chicks, but then refuses to allow us to identify with the heroine whose actions will mitigate our initial bloodlust. By killing off Linda and leaving Ketchum alive, Wynorski leaves us unable to justify our lack of sympathy for the film’s victims, which ends the film with a disturbingly nihilistic tone.

And this in itself wouldn’t be such a big deal if Wynorski had shown any restraint in his portrayal of the female cast, but by presenting them all as brainless, sex-obsessed bimbos who spend the majority of the film running around in lingerie so ill-defined I would get banned from YouTube (again) if I featured them here in clip form, it becomes impossible to not conclude that his intentions were not merely unintentionally misogynistic, but deliberately so.

Okay, so that’s enough for this week. Next week I’ll conclude my look at these two films by exploring the alternative film universe Wynorski creates in SHMII and the potential indications of self-loathing found in his cameo as a director in Hard to Die.

Next Week

Sorority House Massacre II and Hard to Die


The Wynorski Project Part Eight & Nine "Sorority House Massacre II & Hard To Die"

The Wynorski Project

Part Eight & Nine

Sorority House Massacre II & Hard To Die


Sorority House Massacre II Synopsis

Five voluptuous members of a local sorority find themselves tasked with the clean up and renovation of their new chapter house. Before they begin working they’re visited by their weird neighbor, Orville Ketchum, who tells them the story of how the house’s previous resident, a maniac named Hokstader, went nuts and murdered most of his family before finally being killed himself. After a hard night of work, the girls decide to hold a lingerie Ouija board séance and unwittingly unleash the spirit of the murderer back into their midst. By possessing the bodies of the girls he begins his killing spree anew. Blood is shed, (many) breasts are bared, nothing explodes and Orville’s the only one who doesn’t die.


Hard To Die Synopsis

Five voluptuous temp and fulltime employees of a local lingerie company find themselves tasked with performing the annual inventory. Before they begin working they’re visited by the building’s weird janitor, Orville Ketchum, who tells them about his experience with a maniac named Hokstader, who went nuts and murdered five girls before finally being killed himself. Going through the boxes they have to inventory they inadvertently open a Chinese spirit box that contains the spirit of the murderer. By possessing the body of one of the girls he begins his killing spree anew. Blood is shed, (not quite as many) breasts are bared, nothing explodes and Orville finds true love at last.


Somewhere around October of last year, I sat down and watched Sorority House Massacre II and it kind of blew my mind. Not because I thought it was an amazing piece of cinema—it’s really pretty fucking terrible—but because it played so fast and loose with the idea of what qualifies as a horror movie sequel, going so far as to not only completely ignore the first Sorority House Massacre, but to actually employ flashback footage from a completely different series that had—by that time—already been sequelized twice.

The chutzpah of this is one thing, but when you go on to consider that while making SHM II Wynorski decided to reshoot the same script with only a handful of minor character and location adjustments and release it as an “original” movie called Hard To Die (which despite it’s title and advertising bares no resemblance to Die Hard) and you quickly come to appreciate that the famously bearded director has what must be the biggest pair of balls in the known universe. Or—at the very least—a pathological inability to experience shame.


If The Return of Swamp Thing represents the closest approximation of what Wynorski could have accomplished if he were a more ambitious, less cynical filmmaker, than the one-two punch of SHM II and Hard To Die serve as the harbingers of the jaded, dispassionate hackmeister he would eventually become.

Despite featuring all of the hallmarks of his established oeuvre, the two films mark the first time where his poking fun at the conventions of genre filmmaking no longer seems affectionate, but instead actively derisive. Whereas once his in-jokes seemed to be made in collaboration with his audience, now they seem to come at the expense of them. If before the subtext of his humour was “Hey, isn’t this stuff cool?” here it turns into a much darker and less entertaining, “So, this is the shit you assholes want, huh? Here it is.”

That this anger comes through despite the abundant spectacle of T&A he uses to disguise it, explains why I found the experience of watching SHM II so fascinating. How could something be so simultaneously craven and transgressive? And at what point does a filmmaker abandoning all personal dignity to give his audience exactly what he thinks they want, actually become a form of hostile artistic expression—the cinematic equivalent of the infamous Baltimore stripper described by John Waters, who used to shout “What the fuck are you looking at?” to the men watching her take off her clothes.

Without a commentary to explain the decisions that went into the making of the two films I am forced to guess at the reasons behind them, which is always a dangerous thing to do, but also a large part of what I find so intellectually intriguing about such stubbornly anti-intellectual films.

It doesn’t help that the credits only add to the confusion. SHM II is credited (on the actual print, not via the IMDb) to Bob Sheridan and James B. Rogers (a protégé of the Farraly Brothers who would eventually direct American Pie II), while Hard To Die is credited to Rogers and Mark McGee despite the fact the rewrite required to differentiate the two films couldn’t have taken more than a single day to complete. Wynorski takes full directing credit on SHM II, but credits the job on Hard To Die to Arch Stanton, a pseudonym I’m assuming is a reference to the name on the grave where the gold is buried in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

What I am 100% certain about is that in 1986 Roger Corman produced a movie called Sorority House Massacre. It’s an exceptionally unexceptional slasher effort; made memorable only by how ardently it rips off the plot beats of John Carpenter’s Halloween. And it would have been very easy to use footage from the film as flashback fodder for the sequel, but that isn’t what happened. Instead, at some point the decision was made to use footage from the original Slumber Party Massacre in its place.

And it would seem that this was a decision made while the script was being written, since the backstory Orville Ketchum tells the girls in both SHM II and Hard To Die bears no relation to the story of Sorority House Massacre. It also bears no relation to the story of Slumber Party Massacre either, but that’s easily solved via editing and Ketchem’s narration. Interestingly the story he tells changes in the two movies, despite the fact that the exact same footage is shown in both films.

The biggest question this begs is, simply, why? It would seem to me that the minimal time and effort expended to incorporate the footage from SPM into SHM II could have just as easily been used to change the script enough to justify SHM II’s sequel status, rather than confuse things with scenes from another franchise. Was it a matter of authentic confusion (it’s not hard to mix up the titles of the films), outright indifference, some random legal impediment (such as one of the actors in the original film refusing to have their likeness appear in the sequel) or just a deliberate “Fuck you!” to anyone devoted enough to the genre to notice?

Whatever the reason, the end result is a film that almost becomes its own meta-commentary on the strange relationship genre fans have with horror movie franchises that often seem to exist for no other reason than to anger and disappoint them.

While the motive behind turning a project into a franchise is the same regardless of genre—capitalizing on previous success—the nature of the horror genre dramatically lowers the standard by which that previous success is judged. During the 80s and 90s, the decision to make a horror movie sequel wasn’t based on how many people it was believed actually wanted to see it, but rather by how many video cassette units it was believed the sequel could sell. Video store operators were just as guilty as audiences of preferring the recognizable to the new and were much more likely to order the latest Leprechaun sequel than something original, despite the fact that no one you ever met ever actually claimed any desire to see Leprechaun 4: In Space.

For that reason, there were many franchise films that bore absolutely no relation to each other, often because they were retitled by their distributors simply to capitalize on a marketable name. SHM II would seem to be one of those films, but it takes the added step of implying it’s actually a sequel to a completely different franchise, one that by 1990 was already three films strong. The implication being that when it came to these kinds of films, the title was meaningless, so long as it sold a videotape, which made the actual content itself only an afterthought.

The cynicism of this appears to have inspired Wynorski to make two films that would seem to exist on no other than the most base exploitation movie level—80 minutes of non-stop tits, ass and blood—but he does so in such an extreme fashion that they transcend their LCD ambitions and force the viewer to reconsider what they are watching and why they are watching it. His apparent antipathy infecting the material in such a way that it actually achieves a strange measure of relevance.

Things get even more bizarre when you realize that two years later, Wynorski’s friend and sometime-collaborator would essentially remake both SHM II and Hard To Die as Evil Toons.

But, unfortunately, it’s getting late and I have to wrap this up so I can get it formatted and posted before the day ends. Next week I shall actually discuss the content of the films, such as they are.


 Sorority House Massacre II & Hard To Die



The Wynorski Project - Part Two "Chopping Mall"

The Wynorski Project

Part Two

 Chopping Mall




Midway through my revisiting Chopping Mall specifically for this review I found myself slightly annoyed by how much I was enjoying it. Having started this project with the hope that it would go on to justify my prejudices against Wynorski, it didn’t seem right that I would end up liking his first two films as much as I did. Like The Lost Empire, Chopping Mall is a flawed film, but also a good example of what Wynorski could do before he seemingly stopped caring. Even better, it’s one of his few films where the humour is used to good affect, rather than to excuse the production’s obvious limitations. What I like most about it is that it’s a sincere film, making it one of the few he’s directed thus far,

It’s also the film that introduces many of the actors who would go on to become members of Wynorski’s unofficial repertory company, including Kelli Maroney, John Terlesky, Ace Mask, Lenny Juliano and—in an eye blink silent cameo as a bikini clad beauty queen—Toni Naples (see video below), all of whom would appear in many of his movies over the next decade.


Co-written by Steve Mitchell, Chopping Mall (originally released to theaters as Killbots) largely eschews the terrible puns and slapstick humour that defined The Lost Empire and instead replaces it with slightly more sophisticated in-jokes designed specifically to appeal to movie geeks.

For example, in the film’s first scene Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov appear as Paul and Mary Bland, the characters they played previously in Bartel’s Eating Raoul. Also in that same scene we see brief appearances by Lost Empire’s Angela Aames, Paul Coufos (who looks a lot better without the cheesy mustache) and Angus Scrimm (whose appearance is so brief I would have missed it if Wynorski hadn’t pointed it out in his commentary). Dick Miller also appears—once again—as an older version of Walter Paisley, the murderous beatnik artist from Roger Corman's A Bucket of Blood, who apparently survived his original fate and went on to become a shopping mall janitor, Perhaps the funniest of all the film’s references comes when the embattled characters decide to head to Peckinpah Sporting Goods to load up on firearms and ammunition.

Shot in the same Californian shopping mall made famous by Fast Times at Ridgemont High (which also featured Kelli Maroney in a supporting role), Chopping Mall is a fast-paced variation on the Spam-In-A-Cabin subgenre (in which a group of people find themselves trapped in a building with a murderous threat of some sort) in which the killers turn out to be malfunctioning security robots armed with unsuitably powerful laser weapons (see video below).


Coming in at just 73 minutes, minus the credits, the film succeeds largely because Wynorski doesn’t give us enough time to become bored and populates the film with characters who manage to avoid being the usual obnoxious assholes normally found in this kind of movie. That said, the film’s brevity and lack of complexity also work against it since we’re never given enough time or any reason to come to care about the poor folks trapped in the shopping mall with the killer robots, robbing the film of any potential emotional impact. There are at least three deaths in the film that in theory should affect us, but Wynorski isn’t capable of exploiting the drama inherent in these moments and as a result elicits shrugs rather than gasps or tears.

To its credit, the film shows no signs of the potential misogyny I expressed concern about in my previous review. Kelli Maroney’s character is given the typical final girl character arch, which I appreciate since that happens to be my favourite horror movie cliché. My only problem with her character’s significance in the film comes from Maroney herself. With her teased 80s blonde hairdo and chubby cheeks, its hard not to think of her as a human version of a certain popular Muppet character who was famously prone to violent rages and deeply in love with a lovable, if slightly milquetoast frog emcee. Perhaps I would feel differently if the film didn’t also feature Karrie Emerson, an extremely attractive brunette (see video below), who retired from acting not long after appearing in Chopping Mall and another film in which her character should have lived to the end, but didn’t—the astonishingly terrible Evils of the Night.


If it seems like I’m not saying a lot here, it’s because there’s really not enough meat on Chopping Mall’s bones to deconstruct. It is what it is and by that standard it’s quite fun and a definite check in Jim Wynorski’s win column, which is good, because I don’t think it will be very long before the other column starts filling right up.

Next Week

Big Bad Mama II

Repost - My Bloody Valentine

The indexing continues with a look at the only movie to ever combine the celebration of Valentine's Day with the gritty world of mining.

My Bloody ValentineAwhile back a friend from my old job mentioned to me that she had recently rented the 1981 holiday slasher flick My Bloody Valentine and remarked that she had been surprised to find out that it was Canadian.  Being the obnoxious geek that I am, I explained to her that it must have been one of the infamous "Tax-Shelter Films" from that period.


In the 70s and 80s, in an attempt to boost the Canadian film industry, the federal government decided that anyone who invested a certain amount of money into the production of a feature film could write off the amount from their taxes.  This did in fact result in the bankrolling of many Canadian movies, but the problem was that rather than put their money into serious and important films, these tax-shelter investors preferred to produce movies that actually had a chance of turning a profit and allow them to make some money out of their tax dodge.  As a result of this a majority of the Tax-Shelter Films ended up being low-budget genre films just like the one currently up for discussion.  


My Bloody ValentineBut unlike most of the films from this strange period in Canadian cinema, My Bloody Valentine stands out because rather than deny its Northern origins, it embraces them almost to the point of unintended self-parody.  Fearful of alienating American audiences, the majority of films shot in Canada (even to this day) are either set in specific American locales or in nameless, unidentified places where all hints of Canadiana are carefully kept away from the camera.  This is definitely not the case with this film, though, as it could very well be THE MOST EXPLICITLY CANADIAN MOVIE EVER MADE.  Seriously, the only way the movie could be more Canadian would be if the killer turned out to be a beaver in a hockey mask who killed his victims by stuffing Timbits down their throats.  And in case any movie producers are reading this, THAT is a movie I would very much like to see.
 From the general hoser behaviour of its characters, the maple syrup thick Canadian accents (I swear I actually heard several examples of the fabled "a-boot"), the constant references to Moosehead Beer and a cast filled with familar Canadian actors (including Don "The Voice of Mok" Francks and Cynthia "Not Quite As Hot As Her Sister Jennifer" Dale) My Bloody Valentine isn't afraid to wear its country of origin on its sleeve, even though it does avoid mentioning it specifically.  In fact this aspect of the movie is so strong, it's difficult for me to judge it in terms of a general audience.  Frequently I found myself so enthralled by the blatent Canuckness of it all, that it never occurred to me whether or not a non-Canadian might find it as amusing as I did.  I admit that to the eyes of a foreigner, My Bloody Valentine could be just another lame slasher movie with some odd accents and a cast of smalltown characters who strangely never talk about football.  I, however, loved every minute of it.
Though I have in the past admitted that I love many of the more obvious slasher movie cliches, I also enjoy it when a movie attempts to subvert them, even if just a little.  To that end, the movie changes things up a bit by featuring a cast of 20-something actors who are actually playing 20-something characters, rather than the usual overaged teenagers.  And rather than taking place at a college/private school/summer camp the film is set in a small mining town, which gives the picture a distinctly blue collar tone not normally seen in the genre.  In fact the film's setting is so unusual, that one cannot help but assume that it was chosen only to credibly provide an excuse for its maniac killer to don his effectively unsettling miner costume of dark overalls, gasmask, flashlight helmet and pick-ax.  That said, the killer's obsession with a particular date--in this case February 14th aka Valentine's Day--is straight out of the slasher handbook, so all is not completely out of whack.
 As the film's requisite Creepy Old Man tells the skeptical young miners who hang out in his bar, there's a reason why the town hasn't held a Valentine's Day dance in 20 years.  It all began when two foreman--eager to leave work so they could get cleaned up and go to the dance--left six miners alone in the mine, all of whom were trapped when a methane leak caused an explosion.  It took six weeks to clean up the rubble and only one of the six miners was found alive.  Harry Warden, having lost his mind during the ordeal, resorted to cannibalism to survive and was more than a little pissed at the two foreman who left him and his friends alone in the mine that Valentine's Day.  Wearing his workclothes, he killed the two men with a pick-ax befor being caught and sent to the nearby mental hospital.  Since then all of the town's Valentine's festivities had been canceled, out of fear Harry might escape and return to mete out further vengeance against the town.  But after two decades the story of the killer miner has become the stuff of boogeyman legend and everyone assumes it is safe to start celebrating the holiday of love once again.  It goes without saying that they are mistaken.
  Given the nature of the holiday the movie is centered around, it's only natural that a part of its plot is devoted to a love triangle.  T.J., the film's nominal hero (if only because he manages to survive all the way to the end) is the mayor's son who has returned to the town after failing to make it on his own "out west."  During his absence he left behind Sarah (who also survives, but can't accurately be described as a proper Final Girl) who--never knowing if or when T.J. was going to return--started dating Axel.  Sarah is clearly torn between the man who left her and now wants her back and the man who's been with her ever since T.J. went away, while the audience has trouble figuring out why she's attracted to either of them.  I suspect many folks will find these more dramatic sequences difficult to sit through, but I found myself much taken by the low-rent CBC-ness of it all.  It doesn't hurt that in the final scenes T.J. wears an open shirt, neck-bandana ensemble that is hilariously mesmerizing to behold.
 Beyond that the film features the standard authority figures trying to keep the return of the murdering maniac a secret, the young adults defying the authority figures and throwing the party anyway and the shocking discovery that the killer isn't who everyone thinks it is.  The gore is kept to a minimum and the filmmakers show an unfortunate restraint in their presentation of sex and nudity.  Unlike most slasher movie victims, who at least get to enjoy penetration and/or a climax before they are killed, all of the amorous folks in this movie get whacked before they can even get past second base.  And those folks who actually expect a movie like this to be frightening (which I've never really understood, but anyway...) will likely be disappointed as director George Milhalka keeps the action as predictable and suspense-free as possible.  Despite this, anyone interested in seeing a completely straight-faced version of Strange Brew should definitely make every attempt to check out My Bloody Valentine.Now before I tally up the official Slasher Statistics, I thought I'd give you a chance to enjoy the song that plays over the closing credits.  I could probably read the credits and find out what it's actually called, but I prefer to just call it "The Ballad of My Bloody Valentine".  Whatever it's called, it's pretty awesome:

Slasher Statistics

Body Count: 17 (Onscreen: 5 women and 6 men/Offscreen: 6 miners)

Shower Scenes: 2 (but neither count since the first features a bunch of dudes and in the other the female is fully clothed)

Instances of Nakedity:0 (Booooooo!!!!  Hisssssssss!!!!!)

Obligatory Has Beens: Anyone who calls Don Francks a has been is looking for a mess of fists in their face!

Instruments of Death: Pick-Ax, Explosion, Boiling Weenie Water, Shower Nozzle, Large Drill Bit, Nail Gun, Rope

Moments of Inexplicable Female Jealousy: o

Creepy (and therefore suspicious ) Old Guys: 1 (but he dies too early to probably count)

References to Moosehead: Too many to humanly count.

Amount of Time Required to Correctly Identify Killer: The film fails to provide a crucial clue until the moment of revelation, so you might actually be surprised.  I guessed correctly about an hour in.

Exploding Heads: o

Cheesy References to Other Horror Movies: 1 (Since Valentine's Day in the movie falls on a Saturday, then that means all of the events on the day proceeding it take place on Friday the 13th)

Utterly Pointless Trivia: The movie's ending was deliberately left open for a sequel and director George Milhalka did actually try to convince Paramount to produce a second film in 2001.  They decided to pursue different projects.

Final Girl Rating: 6 out of 10

Repost - The Prowler

I've mentioned before in previous posts that I've been going through a real horror movie dvd collecting phase--to the point that I have a stockpile of dozens (maybe even as much as a hundred) of movies I've yet to actually sit down and watch.  To do something about this, and make it so I don't have to wonder what I'll post about on Sunday's, I've decided to do an online index of my collection, in which I'll write a post about one of these movies each week.  To keep things easy for me, I've broken them up into different sub-genres, which I will focus on individually until I run out of movies and have to move on to the next one.  I am going to start off with the Slasher genre, which will probably take me all the way to September or October to complete.

And for the premiere edition of this regular feature (and I mean it this time, damn it!) I've decided to take a short look at an occasionally-entertaining and frequently gory movie that was made in 1981 during the peak of the sub-genre's popularity.

The ProwlerAlso released as Rosemary's Killer in Europe, The Prowler is best remembered today for featuring some of Tom Savini's more memorable slasher movie make-up effects and for being the film that got director Joseph Zito the job of putting together the fourth (and some believe best) film in the immortal Friday the 13th franchise.
Shot for $1,000,000 in New Jersey (which comes as a surprise, since it so clearly resembles many of the Canadian-made tax shelter films from that same period) The Prowler, like many other early slashers, attempts to be as much a mystery as a straight-ahead body count picture.  To this end the film begins with stock news reel footage of soldiers returning home from WWII, during which a narrator informs us that:
For some--the psychological victims of war--it will be a long road back.  These men will need time to rebuild the lives they set aside when Uncle Sam called.  For others--the G.I.s of the "Dear John" letters--it means starting over, replacing what they have lost.  They faced one challange and won!  They can win this one too!
The Prowler

At this the movie then begins to pan down one of these "Dear John" letters as we hear the voice of a young woman, Rosemary, read it aloud, explaining to her overseas beau that she can no longer wait for him and needs to move on with her life.  It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the recipient of this letter is probably going to prove to be a little less than understanding.

With this set up, we are taken to a town called Avalon Bay and informed that it is June 28th 1945, 'The Night of the Graduation Dance."  Given the movie's low budget, The Prowler deserves some credit for bringing some authenticity to this period sequence.  Though Zito admits in his commentary that the costumes were all eight years out of date, having been found in a warehouse with tags labeled "1953" still sewn inside them, these scenes manage to avoid being as overtly anachronistic as others found in similar movies from the height of the slasher era.  It helps that it's a short sequence that ends when the unnamed soldier her letter was addressed to arrives to impale Rosemary and her new boyfriend with a pitchfork, indicating that he didn't take the rejection as well as she had hoped.
We then jump ahead exactly 35 years later and are introduced to our heroes and future victims, learning in the process that they are about to hold the first Graduation Dance since the two kids were murdered all those years ago.  It soon becomes clear that our two main protagonists are an amazingly bland blonde named Pam (Vicky Dawson) and Mark, the deputy sheriff with the embarassing 70s haircut she's been known to flirt with on occasion (Christopher Goutman, who later forged a career as a director of afternoon soap operas).  Turns out that the dance coincides with the Sheriff's (Strangers on a Train's Farley Granger) annual fishing trip, which means that Mark will be on his own if any trouble occurs. 

In an attempt to keep the mystery going, the filmmakers fill the town with as many creepy old men as their budget could afford, hoping to keep the audience from guessing the true identity of the killer.  Personally it took me 20 minutes to figure it out, but I can be a bit slow about these things.

The ProwlerFor reasons that are left to the audience's imaginations rather than actually explained, the never-caught psycho ex-soldier responsible for the murders that night 35 years earlier decides to suit up once again and arm himself with a bayonet, a sawed-off shotgun and his trusty pitchfork.  He then proceeds to make his way to the almost-vacant dorm rooms and finds a young couple who are just about to get squishy with it.  The young man gets a bayonet in the head and his naked girlfriend gets pitchforked in the shower. 
Thanks to the efforts of noted make-up guru Tom Savini, The Prowler is probably one of the gorier examples of the sub-genre.  Not only are we allowed to see the murderer's weapons fully penetrate the bodies of his victims, but the camera is left to linger as they cut and stab their way through the foam and latex flesh.  Despite their reputation for bloody excess, the majority of slasher films (if only for reasons of budget) left much of this violence to the viewer's imagination, but The Prowler is completely content to show us everything it can. 
 The Prowler

Returning to the dorm to change out of her punch-splattered dress, Pam manages to avoid discovering the bodies of her murdered friends, but does suffer a run in with the man who killed them.  She manages to escape from him (largely because, like most slasher villains, he seems unwilling to catch his victims if it means running after them) and finds Deputy Mark, who is just shitty enough at his job to not only not find the killer, but also completely miss out on finding his first two victims as well.

The ProwlerFrom that point on the movie does what its supposed to do and intercuts scenes of The Prowler killing folks with Pam and Mark trying to figure out what is going on.  The script does try to be a bit different by ignoring some of the more blatent cliches.  For example one couple (who ultimately serve absolutely no purpose to the film's narrative) are allowed to have sex without dying and the male protagonist is allowed to remain alive.  But even here the picture is a bit clumsy, since we are lead to believe The Prowler has killed Mark, but he is shown to be alive and unharmed after Pam finally manages to kill the murderer in typical Final Girl fashion.  This could have been cleared up with a single line of dialogue, but the filmmakers seem too eager to get to the film's last shocking surprise (which ends up being neither shocking or surprising) to bother tying up such an obvious loose end.
On the whole The Prowler is a film that slasher enthusiasts can easily enjoy, but whose appeal will be lost on more casual genre fans.  While it does not transcend its limitations, it manages to make for an entertainingly gory 90 minutes and is easy to sit through since its characters are more bland than outright hateful.


Slasher Statistics

Body Count: 8 (4 men and 4 women)

Shower Scenes: 1

Instances of Nakedity: 1

Obligatory Has Beens: Farley Granger, Lawrence Tierney

Instruments of Death: Bayonet,Pitchfork, Sawed-Off Shotgun, Regular Shotgun

Moments of Inexplicable Female Jealousy: 1

Creepy (and therefore suspicious ) Old Guys: 4 

References to Pot: 1 ("Do you have any rolling papers?")

Amount of Time Required to Correctly Identify Killer: 20 minutes

Exploding Heads: 1

Cheesy References to Other Horror Movies: 0

Utterly Pointless Trivia: The movie was co-written by Neil F. Barbera, son of the recently-deceased c0-creator of The Flintstones, Scooby-Doo and Tom & Jerry, Joseph Barbera.

Final Girl Rating: 5 out of 10

Repost - Slumber Party Massacre II

There is a theory in Hollywood that the last 10 minutes of a movie are by far the most important for its overall success.  The argument goes that a mediocre film can be saved by a memorable conclusion, while a disappointing ending can easily derail an audience’s appreciation of an otherwise great film.  The reason for this is simple—many people are linear thinkers who base their judgments solely on their most recent experiential data.  Ask them what they thought of a film and they’ll base that judgment on how they felt when they walked out at the end.  Even if they sat bored for the first 80 or so minutes, it’s the rush of excitement they remember from the last 10 that will cause them to praise the picture and—vice versa—cause them to denounce a film with an unsatisfactory climax that they otherwise enjoyed.

It is for this reason that any filmmaker who employs the infamous “It was only a dream!” device, no matter how cleverly or innovatively they do so, ultimately dooms their work to popular failure.  Over the years audiences have come to think of this ending as a hackneyed rip off and as a result are inclined to revolt against it and any film it appears in—no matter what the context or how it is employed.

The best example of this is the vehement reaction Cameron Crowe’s Vanilla Sky engendered during its 2001/2002 holiday release.  As documented by Chuck Klosterman in his essay “The Awe-Inspiring Beauty of Tom Cruise’s Shattered, Troll-like Face” (from his book Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs), audience members walked out of the movie visibly hostile in a way that bore no relation to the quality of the film they just sat through.  “…[I]n the parking lot outside the theater, I overheard one guy tell his girlfriend he was going to beat her for making him watch this picture,” he writes in stunned amazement.  A well-made film filled with excellent performances (I personally have never found Penelope Cruz more enchanting) that features at least one truly amazing sequence (Cruise’s desperate jog through a deserted Times Square), the reaction the film received ultimately had everything to do with its final few minutes, in which we learn that everything we have seen has been the computer-programmed dream of a man in cryogenic stasis in preparation for his rebirth in an unknown future.  Having primed viewers to expect a more complex explanation for its events, the film’s creative variation of “It was only a dream”—alongside its refusal to show the future world it alluded to—alienated viewers to an extreme degree.  I strongly suspect that if the Brothers Medved had conducted a poll that year, the movie would have easily made the list of the worst films of all time, even though it wasn’t even the worst film released that particular weekend.

I mention this as a way to explain why the utterly harmless and fitfully amusing sequel to the subject of my previous DVD Horror Movie Index was only until very recently ranked as one of the IMDb’s Bottom 100 rated movies.  Rather than enjoy it as an entertaining—if also occasionally cheesy—comedy nightmare, most people upon seeing it choose to dismiss it as nothing more than a weird/stupid slasher movie with the lamest of all possible endings.

I am, of course, talking about:


Roger Corman is not the kind of dude to fuck up a good thing.  Having made enough of a profit from video and cable revenues to produce a sequel to 1982's The Slumber Party Massacre, it must have occurred to him that the fact that the film had been made by women might have had a hand in its success, so when it came time to assign the sequel to the sort of starving and desperately ambitious film school graduate upon which he built his low-budget movie empire, it only made sense that in this case this person would also be a female-woman type.  After what I'm sure was an exhaustive search, he settled on UCLA grad Deborah Brock, who had been making no-budget 8mm films since she was a teenager, but had yet to helm an actual feature at that point.  But although she shared the same chromosomal makeup and genitalia as Amy Holden Jones and Rita Mae Brown, she came to the project with a different attitude than her predecessors.  Her intention in making the film wasn't to--as Brown wanted--to mock the genre or--as Jones successfully did--simply create a highly-effective representation of it, but rather to instead do what they could not and create the first slasher film that effectively represented an entirely female point of view. 
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To that end she wrote a screenplay that attempted to include all of the necessary slasher movie cliches, but that also explained them away as the nightmarish imaginings of a severely traumatized mind--in this case, Courtney, the 17 year-old version of the 12 year-old girl who survived the events of the first film.  Right from the very first shot of our sleeping main character it is clear that what we are going to be seeing isn't a literal representation of a horrific event, but rather the extended dream of a disturbed young woman whose traumatic experiences have left her incapable of willingly making the transition into female adulthood.
In Courtney's dream she imagines herself as an attractive woman (future Wings star Crystal Bernard) who is at least 8 years visibly older than her actual age.  The same is true for all of her friends (one of whom looks just like 1982's January Playmate of the Month) and the handsome boy she has a crush on, who looks far more like a 30-something teacher than one of her peers.  She and her friends are in a band and though their songs really, really suck, it is clear that music means something important to her--something deep and intimate that is innately connected to her own nascent sexuality.
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We know this because whenever her dream turns nightmarish she is tormented by glimpses of a leather clad psychopath, whose look, cadence and demeanor is that of a 50s era rockabilly performer.  And though the identity of this dark, evil Elvis Presley manque is forged by Courtney's love of music,  he actually represents her inner sexual conflict.  Now a young woman dealing with natural carnal desire, she cannot help but associate the loss of her virginity with the massacre she survived five years earlier, due to the overtly phallic nature of the murderer's weapon of choice.  That is why she imagines Val, her now-insane older sister (who also became a lot less attractive in the intervening half-a-decade), urging her from underneath her mental hospital bed to "Don't...go...all...the...way...."
But despite these strong inner fears, Courtney's attraction to the handsome Matt is too powerful to be denied, which is why she invites him to join her at the slumber party being held at her friend Sheila's father's condo. 
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Now, If there is any validity to the idea that every person you dream of doesn't represent that actual person, but rather an element of yourself that they best exemplify, then Courtney's three friends (and bandmates) can be viewed like this: Sally (Heidi Kozak) is the self-loathing Courtney feels for not being able to overcome her minor imperfections (ie. the shallow bimbo), Amy (Kimberly McArthur) is the voluptuous symbol of the impossible physical ideal that plagues many women's psyches (ie. the busty centerfold), Sheila (Juliette Cummins) is the overt expression of Courtney's sexual desire (ie. the exhibitionist slut), while she imagines herself as a near-perfect symbol of purity and innocence, struggling to retain her virtue in a dangerous world (ie. the final girl).  Beyond her love of music, she imagines herself and her friends as a band because it allows her to better appreciate them as the cohesive aspects of her own identity and the music they create together allows her to more creatively ponder such ideas as her own personal dissatisfaction and desire for new experiences, which she addresses in a song that asks "Why do you want more?":    

It's only a matter of time, though, before Courtney is unable to keep the two separate halves of her dream--the one based in a normal reality and the overt nightmare--from colliding together.   
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First she dreams of a dead chicken coming back to life in her hands--an incident whose symbolic relevance is lost to me, but could be dismissed as merely one of the random elements that naturally pop up in these unconscious inner narratives.  Next she images her bathtub filling up with blood--an obvious allusion to menstruation and the inevitable loss of her girlhood.  Most disturbingly she imagines Sally's face transforming into a pus-spewing monstrosity--an image that works to confirm her terror that at the end of the journey through adolescence (Sally spends much of the movie fretting about the kind of nearly invisible facial blemishes that is the bane of many teenagers life experience) there is only disease, ugliness and death.
When the Sally aspect of her identity disappears following the projectile-pus incident, Courtney dreams that she and the others contact the local police (one of whom she--in a nod to her narrative's subconscious state--names Officer Krueger after the famous villain of the similarly dream-inspired Nightmare on Elm Street series).  Rather than take her concerns seriously, they question her sanity and berate her for wasting their time--especially when Sally eventually reappears unharmed and without a care in the world.  It's clear that there's no help or comfort to be found from the adult world.
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It would seem that her only comfort from the terror of her nightmare comes in the arms of Matt (Patrick Lowe), the symbol of romantic perfection, but as the two of them finally attempt to "Go all the way"--Valerie's dire warning proves entirely wise.  With a weapon that grafts a guitar with the electric drill of her previous tormentor, The "Driller Killer" (Atanas Ilich) penetrates Matt before Matt can do the same to Courtney.  The rockabilly killer then proceeds to lay waste to the rest of Courtney's subconscious identities, with superficial Sally being the first to go.  Throughout the ordeal it is clear that the killer--and therefore also the young woman responsible for manifesting him--takes a special joy in seeing these less-ideal aspects of her personality die at his hands.  This is most obvious when he turns the death of Sheila into a musical number:   
Soon only Amy (arguably the least objectionable of her three female aspects) and Courtney remain.
The police express only indifference to Courtney's pleas on the phone for help, so she and Amy have no choice but to escape from the condo and attempt to outrun the mysterious guitar-drill wielding psychopath.  Unfortunately, he easily catches up to them and quickly dispatches Amy, leaving Courtney only with the most idealized version of herself to battle against her own fear of personal corruption.  For a time it seems as though she is victorious, when she is able to set the Driller Killer ablaze with a blow torch, but her victory is short-lived.  No matter how much she wants them to be gone, her aspects cannot be so easily disposed of.
Witness the resurrection of Amy:   
(Move pointer over image for full nightmare effect)
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Of course this also means the resurrection of Matt, but her fear of sex is too strong to allow him to remain for long and she quickly replaces him with the killer.

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The film then ends with the implication that Courtney, not Valerie, was the person driven insane by the experience of the first film, as we see her screaming and tormented on a hospital cot in a dingy unfurnished room, but even this is called into question as it becomes clear that her nightmare hasn't ended as the credits being to roll.  This is no "It was all a dream" happy ending, but rather the discomfiting suggestion of a torment without end--a perpetual state of insanity from which its victim, whoever it may be, cannot ever escape.
Viewed this way, Brock's Slumber Party Massacre II is a much more interesting film than it's low IMDb rating and negligible reputation would suggest.  The problem, no doubt, is that most viewers come to it expecting another straight-ahead slasher tale in the same mold as its predecessor--thus they are alienated by deliberate choices Brock made that make no sense in that context, but that fit in perfectly with the nightmare narrative  she instead chose to pursue.  That's not to say the film isn't without its faults (bad acting, low production values, truly terrible music and the utterly inexcusable failure to get Kimberly McArthur naked, considering that her famously copious breasts remained explicitly visible throughout the entirety of her previous three screen credits), but when viewed as a whole and with the right mindset, many of these faults actually work to the film's advantage--making it seem that much more like the dream of young woman (if that is indeed the person who is doing the dreaming) who is familiar with the genre only through its most obvious weaknesses and cliches.  It's precisely the kind of narrative tomfoolery that has made David Lynch a cult icon, but without the self-congratulatory pretentiousness that I personally find so alienating in much of his work.  For that reason I was surprised and impressed by the film, although I suspect that my admiration for it is definitely going to remain the minority position.
Slasher Movie Statistics
Body Count: 6 (three men and three women) 
Instances of Nakedity: 1 (Sadly, not from the playmate)
Instruments of Death: Guitar drill
References to Pot: o (Courtney apparently isn't a subconscious toker)
Amusingly Dated References to 1980s Culture:  At their band rehearsal, Sally requests a can of Slice, while Sheila gets pretentious with some Perrier.
Cinematic Girl Band Comparison: Not as good as: The Carrie Nations or Josie and the Pussycats/Better than: Mystery (from  Satisfaction)
Cheesy References to Other Horror Movies: I already mentioned Officer Krueger, but I didn't mention that his partner is Officer Voorhies.
Utterly Pointless Trivia: Bernard and McArthur both had roles in Garry Marshall's feature film directing debut Young Doctors in Love.  As mentioned above, nearly all of McArthur's screen time is spent without a top. 

Final Girl Rating: 7 (out of 10)

Repost - Slumber Party Massacre

One of the nice things about this internet of ours is how quickly and easily it can solve those little mysteries you’ve always wondered about, but were never before able to answer with any real satisfaction.

Case in point, the subject of today’s Sunday Thursday Horror Movie DVD Index—a film whose significance comes largely from its lack of significance.  One of the few original early 80s slasher movies to have been written and directed by women, the film begs knowledgeable viewers to engage it as a work of feminist comment, but stymies such commentary by presenting the genre’s clichés without any significant irony or insight.

I always wondered why the film’s screenwriter, Rita Mae Brown, and its director, Amy Holden Jones, decided to take no advantage of their unique-for-the-genre perspective and instead chose to make a by-the-numbers reproduction of the slasher template.  What I did not know and only learned as I started to do a little bit of research for this post, was that though Brown received sole credit for the film’s screenplay, the draft she wrote was completely different in tone from the script that was eventually filmed.  Brown originally wrote the film as a satire of slasher movies, but as the script was revised by a handful of uncredited writers the satire was (mostly) lost and the film ceased to be an ironic commentary on the genre and instead became a typical representation of it.

To which I say:
Thank Yahweh we dodged that bullet, because if there’s anything worse than a bad slasher movie, it’s a bad slasher movie parody and—based on the few satiric elements that managed to survive the various rewrites—I suspect that’s exactly what the film would have been if Brown’s draft had been made.  As directed by Jones the film is a taut, well made slasher classic that is smart enough to realize that sympathetic characters equals effective tension and benefits greatly as a result.

I am, of course, talking about:
In truth it is a bit disingenuous of me to claim that there are no examples of potential feminist commentary in the film, but those moments that do make it into the movie bear little distinction from similar scenes in other films made by (if the popular feminist critique of the genre is to be believed) supposedly misogynistic male filmmakers.  A good example of this is the brief sequence that opens the film in which Trish (Michele Michaels), the first of the film's two potential Final Girls, goes through her room and disposes of the items that represent her childhood, including a Barbie doll, a slinky and various other toys.  Having become what she considers to be a woman, she no longer wishes to cling to these reminders of the girl she once was.  But her conviction is not an absolute one, as she does decide to hold onto at least one stuffed animal she cannot bear to include with the other items destined for the garbage can.  Watching this brief scene one gets the sense it's supposed to be at least a little bit important, but--apart from being a nice character moment--it ultimately adds nothing to the picture and is not further developed into any kind of notable theme.


Actually I lied, the scene does add something to the film, since it is as Trish is gathering up her old toys that we hear a newscaster on the radio announce that police are on the lookout for an escaped killer named Russ Thorn.  Apparently Russ is eager to reclaim his old ways, as he appears in the next scene, where he pulls an unusually shapely phone company employee into her van and kills her with a very large (and very unsubtle) electric drill.  In this way TSPM represents the purest kind of slasher movie, in that it makes no attempt to disguise itself as a mystery and is only too happy to identify its killer right from the very beginning of the movie.  Following the linewoman's shocking demise, the movie cuts to a girl's basketball sequence that can only be described as--WAIT!--why should I bother wasting valuable brain cells attempting to describe it, when I can just let you watch the scene yourself?  (God bless you internet--truly you are the greatest boon we lazy-ass writers could ever hope to have been given!)


One Word:
Now in a normal slasher movie, this basketball sequence and the lengthy group shower scene that immediately follows it, wouldn't seem the slightest bit odd or out of the ordinary, but when viewed with the knowledge that they were directed by a female filmmaker, they seem just a tad off-kilter.  The tightness of the uniforms takes on the air of almost-satirical exaggeration, while the slow-panning of the camera as it moves across the sloping curves of the actresses' naked, soapy buttocks gives the impression that Jones is attempting to supply her own withering deconstruction of the Predatory Male Gaze of the Camera's Eye.  The problem with this analysis, however, is that it is impossible to tell how much (or if any) of this is intended and how much comes from our desire as an enlightened viewer to assume that a female director would not be so crass as to fill her film with the requisite T&A without at least trying to meet her obligation with some form of deliberate spin. 
In terms of the actual plot, the sequence does a good job of setting up the dynamics of its main female characters.  Trish, who we met earlier, is the kind, sympathetic girl who is planning on throwing a slumber party that night.  Valerie (Robin Stille --an extremely attractive actress of admittedly limited talent whose 1996 suicide serves as further proof of my thesis that the IMDb is the most depressing website on the planet) is the beautiful new girl, whose perfection has alienated her from her new classmates, especially Diane (Gina Simka), the snob with the perpetually turned up nose who is far too self-centered to be alive at the end of the movie.  And joining Diane on the doomed list is Kim (Debra Deliso), the vaguely tomboyish blond, Jackie (Andree Honore), the black girl and Linda (Brinke Stevens) the skinny brunette whose butt gets the most attention in the shower scene, but who doesn't even make it out of the school--much less to the slumber party. 
After Linda's drill-induced decision to shuffle off this mortal coil, the movie spends the next few minutes introducing the rest of the victims/characters, before it gets to the sweet slumber party action that one assumes is its raison d'etre.  Most important of these is Val's 12 year-old sister Courtney (Jennifer Myers), who spends most of her screen time ogling a copy of Playgirl, providing far too many false-scares to keep track of and inspiring the future writer/director of the film's 1987 sequel to place her at the center of that movie's memorably wacky dreamscape.
Naturally, once the party gets underway (during which beer is imbibed, cannabis is inhaled and nighties are slipped into) Russ decides to join the fun and quickly (literally given the movie's abbreviated 75 min running time) drills his way through the relevant cast members.  With the exception of the scenes where a hungry Jackie lifts and eats a piece pizza off of the back of the murdered delivery boy and the one where Val's first attempt at an offensive attack is stymied by the shortness of her extension cord, the film resists any signs of obvious comedy or satire.  Considering how short the film is, Jones actually does a commendable job establishing a sense of suspense and tension, largely because she has managed to make us like some of these characters and thus makes their situation horrifying and tragic, rather than karmically just.  That said, she is unable to resist the temptation to provide the kind of obvious symbolic imagery the murderer's weapon of choice (perhaps too) easily provides:
Despite playing mostly by all of the rules, TSPM does deviate slightly from the formula in that it presents two of its characters as possible Final Girls and waits until the film's final moments both deciding who is going to earn this important honorific.  Though both characters survive the night, Trish remains more a victim, while Val clearly establishes herself as the capable heroine who gets the job done.
In the final analysis, I believe one could argue that the reason Jones elected to not make her debut movie a work of overt feminism is because she was smart enough to understand that despite its unjust reputation for misogyny the slasher formula is one that openly embraces the concepts of female empowerment.  One need only look at the most important of the genre's archetypes and appreciate that there is a very good reason that it is virtually never referred to as the "Final Boy".
Slasher Movie Statistics
Body Count: 11 (six women and five men, which--interestingly--makes it one of the rare slasher movies in which female victims outnumber the males)
Shower Scenes: 1 (and it's a long one)
Instances of Nakedity: 8 (7 and 1/2 if I wanted to get all pissy and deduct half a point for use of an obvious body double) 
Obligatory Has Beens: N/A
Instruments of Death: Electric Drill, Butcher Knife and Machete.
Creepy (and therefore suspicious ) Old Guys: 0
References to Pot:  It's a slumber party in a movie from the 80s!  You expect me to keep count?
Amount of Time Required to Correctly Identify Killer: N/A
Cheesy References to Other Horror Movies: Val spends some time watching a horror movie I couldn't identify on TV.
Number of Seriously Awesome All-Girl Basketball Scenes That the Folks Who Run the WNBA Would Be Wise to Watch: 1
Utterly Pointless Trivia: Amy Holden Jones is married to the guy who shot Raging Bull and also--more importantly--directed Clan of the Cave Bear.  


Final Girl Rating: 7 (out of 10)

Repost - Jason Goes to Hell

Having just recently dipped my toes into the murky, deadly waters of Camp Crystal Lake, I thought I’d wait awhile until I indexed another installment in the Friday the 13th series (which, for reasons I myself cannot decipher, is the only major horror franchise I own in its entirety) but then it occurred to me that having pinpointed A New Beginning’s lack of any genuine Jason Voorhees action as its fatal flaw, it could be enlightening to talk about the film for which that exact same narrative attribute is its chief virtue.  

In truth, many fans would disagree with this assessment, insisting that today’s film is just as misbegotten as A New Beginning, both for its heresies against the Crystal Lake mythology and general crappiness.  One only has to look at their respective IMDb pages to appreciate this—4,745 registered users have given A New Beginning an average rating of 3.6/10, while 4,365 voters have given our present subject an average rating of 3.9/10.  
This is fucked up.  A New Beginning deserves a much, much, much lower score than 3.6 and today’s movie definitely deserves better than a measly 3.9, but their .3 difference in public regard serves as ample proof that often people’s expectations blind them to what they are actually seeing.
Fanboys are a fickle, impossible-to-please group of malcontents.  Obsessed with re-experiencing the simple pleasures of their childhoods, they are forever doomed to disappointment as their loss of innocence and ascent into adulthood makes finding those experiences virtually impossible.  In part this because on the one hand they demand that they be surprised and delighted by things they have never seen before, while also insisting that filmmakers do not deviate even one iota from their frequently-ridiculous narrow realm of expectation. 
This leads to such amusingly paradoxical situations as people online spending years and years demanding that a studio commit hundreds of millions of dollars to make a live-action version of an adored cartoon from their childhood, only to react with terrible fury when a studio finally takes the bait but—CAN YOU FUCKING BELIEVE IT?—doesn’t make it EXACTLY like they imagined it should be.  I’ve never actually seen the first live-action version of Scooby-Doo, but I did find it hilarious that when it was released so many online commentators were outraged that a movie based on a TV show they had watched as children was <GASP!> turned into a movie actually intended for children!  

This is why today’s film, which is a perfectly enjoyable and adeptly made example of the slasher movie, is held in such low regard—not because of what it actually is—a fun rip-off of The Hidden—but because of what it isn’t—all Jason, all of the time.

Of course, I’m talking about:
For a time it appeared that Jason Goes to Hell was actually going to be true to its words and in fact be The Final Friday--unlike Part IV, whose status as The Final Chapter didn't even last a year before we saw the nigh-craptaculer A New Beginning.  That this is the case seems especially odd given the history of the film.  Unlike the previous 8 films in the franchise, JGTH wasn't produced by Paramount Studios, which had finally decided after the lacklustre b.o. of Jason Takes Manhattan that they finally had the opporunity to do what they had always wanted and get out of the Friday the 13th business for good.  But rather than just bury the series, they decided to make a quick buck and sell the rights to it to New Line, the little studio that could, which at that time was best know for its A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, but would later become a far-more major Hollywood player as the studio behind the Lord of the Rings trilogy. 
This wouldn't be the first time New Line purchased the rights to an apparently moribund horror movie franchise.  In 1990 the studio had attempted to restart the inert Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise with Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, but the film seemed to be cursed from its conception and failed to make an impact with horror fans, many of whom resented the changes the movie made to the previous film's characters and back story. 
Since it's impossible to believe that the studio would buy the rights to the franchise simply to bury it, one has to assume that they dubbed it The Final Friday not because they actually believed they wouldn't continue the series if the film proved to be a hit, but because a) they figured that they might trick sentimental fans who were disappointed by the last few Paramount films into seeing it and b) they were going to rejigger the formula to such a noticeable degree that the next film in the series could reasonable be released as The New Friday.  For proof of this one only has to take a look at a film they released a year after JGTH, 1994's New Nightmare, which attempted to take the apparently-concluded A Nightmare on Elm Street series into an entirely new direction.
But unlike A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 6: Freddy’s Dead, which earned enough money to justify the making of New Nightmare, JGTH proved to be as much of a flop as Leatherface had been three years earlier.  Rather than reinvent the franchise, which had been it’s obvious intended purpose, the ninth Friday the 13th instead did what it had advertised and stopped the series cold, forcing fans to wait 8 years before Jason Voorhees finally returned to the screen in 2001’s Jason X, which—like Jason Lives—solved the continuity problems created by its predecessor simply by ignoring them and taking the series in an entirely new direction.

However the story of JGTH doesn’t end there.  Despite all of the antipathy it earned upon its release, the film was notable for including a final shot that teased a confrontation that fanboys everywhere spent a decade demanding they be able to see, only to vehemently decry the result once it was given to them and wasn’t exactly what they wanted or expected.
But enough with the backstory, let's talk about the actual movie.

In attempting to reinvent the franchise, the makers of JGTH, decided to do something at the beginning of the film all of their predecessors insisted on leaving to the end—they killed Jason (in so far as Jason can be killed).  And not only did they kill him—in the words of the exalted critics of SCTV’s fabled “Prairie Film Report”—“They blew him up real good!”

For it’s opening sequence alone the 9th Friday the 13th deserves to be held in much higher regard than it’s spiritual peer A New Beginning.  Unlike the fifth film, which is so inept that it plays like a self-parody when it clearly isn’t, JGTH immediately establishes a sly self-mocking tone that it carries with it throughout its entirety. 
The film begins with a beautiful young brunette driving to a cabin out at the infamous Crystal Lake.  Although she first appears in the overtly tomboyish clothes of a final girl, she wastes no time stepping out of them and revealing an amazingly toned body as she takes her requisite shower.  But no sooner does she get out of the bathtub and cover herself with a towel then she is attacked by a machete wielding Voorhees.
Clad only in the towel (which she apparently stapled onto her body, such is its determination not to come off) she runs from the cabin and is chased by the zombified murderer throughout the forest.  Despite her obvious athleticism (she easily hurdles the hood of her own car) she somehow manages to trip and fall several times before she arrives at a large clearing where Jason catches up to her and goes in for the kill.  But this isn’t no ordinary clearing and no ordinary uber-hottie in a towel.  As he steps towards her, a series of bright spotlights turn on and illuminate the area.  A squadron of soldiers appear from behind camouflage and begin to attack the confused maniac.  True to his nature, Jason is able to absorb hundreds of bullets without any seeming affect, but even he proves no match for the missile that is fired at him from a helicopter up above.  Our favourite anti-hero explodes into a hundred little pieces, including his dark, black heart, which is ordered to be bagged up by the officer in charge, who also takes the time to congratulate the still-towel-clad Agent Marcus.


Not Safe For Work!
With this, director Adam Marcus (who was only 24 when the movie was made) and his screenwriters manage to both honour, mock and seperate themselves from the cliches and necessary contrivances of the series and the genre it helped to spawn before the film's opening credits have even appeared onscreen, which then allows them to move on to what amounts to an admittedly cheesy, but still entertaining riff on a classic sci-fi/horror movie New Line released 6 years earlier.
In Jack Sholder's The Hidden, two police officers--one human, one alien--join forces to track down a psychopathic parasite that is able to fulfill its voracious physical and monetary desires by jumping into different human hosts (including--most memorably --a pre-Babylon 5 Claudia Christian).  In JGTH, the evil spirit of Jason Voorhees remains alive in his evil black heart, which--after his decimation--is taken to the medical examiner who has been tasked to perform the autopsy on Jason's various remains.  Unfortunately for the examiner Jason's evil is too great to be defeated for long and it compells the poor man to eat the pulsating organ, causing his body to be taken over by Voorhees' murderous psyche, which--like the parasite in the earlier movie--is able to jump into another person's body whenever the one it's currently in proves to be no longer desirable.
And this time our anti-hero actually has a mission.
Did you know that Jason Voorhees had a sister?  Turns out he did and she's a dead ringer for Wilma Deering, which suggests that the genetic material swirling around the Voorhees clan was capable of very high highs and very low lows.  Strangely, no one around her seems to know this except for the mysterious bounty hunter who's offered to catch Jason for the princely sum of $250,000, which is odd since she still lives in the area around Crystal Lake and you'd think it would eventually come up in conversation:
Small Town Yokel #1: Hey, there's that Diana Kimble.  She was the prettiest girl in our class.

Small Town Yokel #2: Wasn't there some fuss awhile ago involving her family?

Small Town Yokel #1: Well, there was the time everyone thought her retarded brother drowned at the lake down the road, because some teenagers were too busy fooling around to look out for him.  That bothered her mother some, so she killed a bunch of kids, before she got her head chopped off, which was a shame because it turned out that the boy hadn't died, but had instead raised himself alone in the woods.  He hadn't seen his mother for awhile, but he got mighty annoyed when he heard what had happened to her, so he decided to kill some kids on his own.  They eventually killed him, but he rose out of the grave like one those whatchamacallits--

Small Town Yokel #2: --Zombies--

Small Town Yokel #1: --That's right.  Since then he's been an unstoppable monster leaving nothing but misery and terror in his horrible wake.

Small Town Yokel #2: I guess that's why she changed her name.

Small Town Yokel #1: Actually no.  She just married some fellow named Kimble.  It lasted long enough for them to have a kid, who's all grown up now.  Lately she's been dating the sheriff and working as a waitress at the restaurant that serves hamburgers shaped like the mask her evil zombie brother wears.

Small Town Yokel #2: The sheriff, huh?  What does he think about her family?

Small Town Yokel #1: Y'know, I've never heard him bring it up.
But before this becomes too big of a plot-hole, the possessed M.E. arrives at the lake to kill some campers Jason-style, including one unlucky young woman who I think earns the title of goriest death in the series. 
Judge for yourself (warning--even censored this probably ain't safe for work): 
(Note: Once again use your mouse pointer to create some truly gory misogynistic mayhem) 
It turns out that Jason requires the body of a fellow Voorhees to return to his full NHL ready form, which leaves him with just Diana, her grown up daughter Jessica and Jessica's newborn baby as his only options for salvation.  But, luckily for the world at large, these three also have the ability--while wielding a magical dagger--to stop the black sheep of their family once and for all.  Thus the majority of the movie is composed of Jason's spirit jumping around in different people's bodies doing that voodoo he do so well, the frantic attempts by the father of Jessica's baby to prove that he isn't responsible for the murders and save the woman he still loves and Jessica learning about the extreme nature of her family tree. 
In short, JGTH actually has a plot, which is probably the major reason so many fans of the series have seen fit to reject it.  In truth, most average viewers will finally little praiseworthy in the film, but I found it just so darn goofy and energetic that I couldn't help but like the lil' fella.  It helps that I took the time to listen to the commentary by director Marcus and co-screenwriter Dean Lorey, which is one of the more honest and entertaining audio track discussions I've had the pleasure of hearing.  Both men were in their mid-twenties when they made the film and are only too happy to admit to its flaws while also pointing out many of its less-noticeable strengths.  They describe how the film released to theaters with an R-rating was admittedly much more confusing than the unrated video version, which may also account for its dire reputation.  They neither defend nor seem ashamed of the film they made, enjoying it purely for what it is, which makes them far more enjoyable to listen to than someone defending the indefensible or apologizing for something they don't need to feel sorry for.
And, make no mistake, neither Marcus nor Lorey have anything to feel sorry about.  They made an amusing film on a low-budget that is disliked by many only because it wasn't exactly what they had expected when they purchased their ticket or rented the video.  They would do well to ignore what the film isn't and instead enjoy it for what it is.
And, of course, I can't talk about Jason Goes to Hell without mentioning its immortal final shot, which caused so many fanboys to ruin a perfectly good pair of pants.  But since words don't do it justice, I shall allow images to say it for me instead:
(Note: You really should know what you have to do right now)
Slasher Statistics
Body Count: 21 (15 male/6 female)
Shower Scenes: 2
Instances of Nakedity:
Obligatory Has Beens: I'm sorry Erin, but it had been a long time since Silver Spoons....
Instruments of Death: Mesh Table, Car Door, Crow Bar, Knife Sharpener, Brute Force, Boiling Oil, Machete, Magical Dagger and Evil Spirit Possession
Creepy (and therefore suspicious ) Old Guys: 0
References to Pot: 1 (some folks talk about smoking pot, but we don't actually see them do it)
Amount of Time Required to Correctly Identify Killer: N/A 
Cheesy References to Other Horror Movies: Beyond the ending's obvious nod to Wes Craven's most famous work, the movie also features an officially approved Sam Raimi shout out in the appearance of The Evil Dead's Necronomicon Ex Mortis, which our hero finds on a shelf in the old Voorhees homestead.
Utterly Pointless Trivia:  John D. Lemay who plays Steven, the film's male lead, also starred in the Paramount produced Friday the 13th tv series, which--beyond it's title--had nothing to do with the films. 

Final Girl Rating: 6 out of 10

Repost: Evil Laugh

Make no mistake about it—the Internet Movie Database is one of the most depressing websites you could ever possibly visit.  I’m sure to most people it is simply a handy reference tool capable of ending a nagging bout of unresolved trivia within a few short minutes, but to my eyes it has always served as a catalogue of broken dreams and unmet promises—the single most powerful example of the heartbreak inherent in attempting to live a show business existence.

Don’t believe me?  Well, let’s take a quick look at the IMDb page dedicated to former 70s/80s teen idol Scott Baio.  Like so many IMDb pages, it starts off promisingly with a TV movie directed by the man who would later bring George Lucas’ vision of primal teddy bears to life, continues on with a cult classic all-kids musical co-staring a young Jodie Foster, takes a bit of a detour with a rare Garry Marshall 1970s sitcom failure and some random guest spots, before jumping into the big time with the role that made him a star—Chachi on Happy Days.  During that same period you also can find the awesomeness that is a certain “lost” 1979 roller disco classic, another cult classic starring a slightly less-young Jodie Foster and one of the more memorable “teen message” TV movies from that period.  

Unfortunately it soon goes downhill from there, beginning with the wretched feature film that utterly failed to make him a movie star and the spin off that no one asked for.  Then comes Charles in Charge, a truly terrible sitcom with an opening theme song that was a thousand times more memorable than any one of its episodes (with the possible exception of the one where he dated Samantha Fox).  Around that same time he managed to appear in some movies you’ve never heard of and played a pig in Irwin Allen’s highly unfortunate star-studded two-part adaptation of Alice in Wonderland.

After two years of not appearing in front of a camera, he then returned to television as a co-star on a medically themed Murder She Wrote rip off, but when that joyride ended he managed only to snag the occasional sitcom guest spot and the kind of independent movie role that forced him to play characters named Zack Ramses and co-star with fellow sitcom has been Todd Bridges , while also occasionally directing episodes of the least-watched sitcoms in the history of the format.  Finally, in 2004 we see his career reach its lowest point with a gig playing second banana to a crew of creepy digitally manipulated talking babies.  But all was not without hope, since this was followed the next year by a four-episode arch on a critically acclaimed sitcom that was only too happy to stunt cast him as a successor to his former onscreen mentor.

That said, this brief victory was immediately undone by the two clearest signs that a celebrity’s career has reached its end—a depressingly self-deprecating cameo as himself in a major box office flop and a reality TV series based on exploiting his famous off screen behaviour.  

In just one document we can watch the rise and decline of this man’s professional life—from successful kid actor to teen superstar to TV hack to pop culture punchline—and appreciate the cruelty that fate can play with those who merely want to entertain us.  But this alone does not prove my contention that the IMDb is one of the most depressing websites known to man.  No, what truly makes my thesis incontrovertible is the fact that Baio’s page actually serves as the documentation of a Hollywood success story.

By the standards of his business, Scott Baio had an amazing ride, the likes of which 99% of his professional peers will never experience themselves.  Every day people demean and debase themselves in the hope that someday, with the right kind of luck, they might be blessed with a career that sucked ten times as much as Baio’s did.  For proof of this you only have to look at the IMDb page of Steven Baio, Scott’s brother of indeterminate age.

Now this is what I’m talking about when I refer to the inherent pathos of the Internet Movie Database—a page filled only with a handful of sparsely divided nepotistically-achieved acting, writing and producing credits and the lone accomplishment of a truly terrible 1988 slasher movie that managed to be made during that brief period in the 80s when the demands of the home video market made it possible for anything ever recorded on film to make it to the hands of unwary viewers.

I am, of course, talking about:


The genesis of this frequently excruciating exercise in incompentent filmmaking came about when Steven Baio, fresh from a couple of guest spots on Happy Days and Joanie Loves Chachi, met Dominick Brascia, who had just set the world aflame with his vivid portrait of a fat, chocolate-eating retard in Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning , in an acting class.


Acting classes serve several very important purposes in Los Angeles.  The first is that they keep out of work actors employed through the exploitation of actors even more out of work than they are.  The second is that they allow folks who can't even get an audition, much less a role, the illusion of professional progress.  And the third is that they enable potential soulmates like Baio and Brascia to get together and collaborate on screenplays designed to elevate them to the heights of show business stardom.


This is why acting classes are evil and should be outlawed for the sake of our common humanity.


Having bonded over their mutual homesickness for New York, Baio and Brascia first dreamed of making a comedy in the same vein of the classic Abbott & Costello films of the 40s, which they creatively dubbed Two Guys From Brooklyn.  Unfortunately despite the collective resources that came from being Chachi's homely brother and the guy who played Young Man Buying Ice Cream in the film that completely failed to make Jim Carrey a movie star, the two young filmmakers were only able to raise an infinitesimal fraction of the money they needed to make their dream project a reality. 


Undaunted, the two of them decided to take the money they had managed to raise from other wannabe actors and their parents and use it to make the same kind of  movie that had provided Brascia with his largest role to date.  Both of them worked on the screenplay (although the IMDb incorrectly credits the work solely to Baio) and though Brascia had written a key role with himself in mind, he elected to not appear in front of the camera when it was decided that he would direct the project.


Blessed with a generous seven day shooting schedule and a cast filled with other acting class "actors", they worked their asses off and got the script on film.  The result was truly terrible, but it made it to video and would forever remain the crowning achievement of their Hollywood experience.


That they were able to do this, when so many other of their fellow acting students didn't, makes Evil Laugh another counter-intuitive success story.   Just not an artistic one.


But the truth is that it is not the misguided hopes or creative incompetence of Baio and Brascia that makes the watching of Evil Laugh such an unusually melancholic experience.  No, the fault for that lies directly in the lap of the actress who portrays Connie, the film's requisite Final Girl.


In 1988 Kim McKamy was a 29 year-old transplant from North Carolina trying to make it as an actress in Los Angeles.  Since arriving in Hollywood she had managed to book some supporting roles in a handful of extremely low budget direct-to-video horror movies and a small bit part in the third film of a franchise based around the adventures of a young former streetwalker.  Evil Laugh would be her fifth film and her largest role to date.


Like all serious actresses who dream of future stardom, McKamy had been careful to avoid roles that called for nudity and when Baio and Brascia asked her to get naked in a shower scene at the end of their film, she balked and insisted that they hire a body double.  The woman they hired proved, predictably, to be considerably better endowed than she was, which meant she had to wrap a towel around her shoulders during the scenes she appeared in a chaste swimsuit, lest her true dimensions give the upcoming deception away. 


Given a script that allowed her to show off all of her emotive skills, McKamy gave it everything she had in Evil Laugh, but rather than vindicate her years of struggle the results only served to prove that for all of her enthusiasm and desire, she simply wasn't a good actress.  Nearing thirty and with the kinds of parts she had played drying up as the slasher cycle came to its inevitable end, she found herself unemployed and at what most would conclude was the end of her dream.


But then any student of Hollywood can tell you that it is a business in which ambition is frequently much more important than ability.  Despite her obvious limits as an actress Kim McKamy still very much wanted to perform and be a star, so when the mainstream industry turned its back on her, she decided to go somewhere else where her efforts would be much more greatly appreciated.


Two years after she appeared in Evil Laugh, McKamy's face and body started appearing on the shelves of a completely different section of the video store than where her previous films were usually found.  With the change in location also came a change in name.  Billed as Ashlyn Gere, she had made the leap to a genre of film where merely showing her breasts was the least of her concerns.  Now gifted with a pair of custom-made mammaries that must have made her former body double weep with envy, she would never have to wear a towel around her shoulders ever again.


The difference couldn't have been more dramatic.  While Kim McKamy struggled to reach even the lowest rungs of the show business ladder, Ashlyn Gere instantly climbed to the top of its less reputable alternative, where she found not only the fame she desired, but also an unheard of degree of respect and recognition.  In "real" movies her performances seemed overly mannered and contrived, but in the world of adult cinema they were considered award worthy.   In 1993 and 1995 she won a total of four acting awards at the pornographic equivalent of the Oscars, and that first year was named the first ever "Female Performer of the Year".


In the years that followed she became the extremely rare adult film actress who was allowed the opportunity to appear in guest roles on network television, thanks to the efforts of the writing/producing team of Glen Morgan and James Wong.  With their help she enjoyed featured parts on the The X-Files, Millennium and Space: Above and Beyond, as well as roles in their films The One and Willard

And, in a fitting irony, the actress who had insisted on having a body double in Baio and Bruscia's little slasher movie, herself became a body double for Sharon Stone and Demi Moore in Basic Instinct and Indecent Proposal--the two most successful projects she would ever be associated with in a career that finally ended in 2003, when she left Ashlyn Gere behind and moved to Texas to become a real estate agent.


Having found a way to achieve the fame and recognition she always wanted, Kim McKamy's IMDb page also represents another Hollywood success story, which--along with the other examples I've provided in this post--begs the question: If Hollywood successes are this pathetic and depressing, then what the holy fuck are actual failures like?


I suppose that before I end with the usual Slasher Movie Statistics, I might as well spend at least a paragraph discussing the actual film.  It sucks pretty damn hard.  It's not quite as unbearable as Girls Nite Out, but it's close.  Badly shot, directed, written and acted, the film's only real distinction is the inclusion of a character named Barney who manages to survive the initial ordeal entirely through the exploitation of his knowledge of horror movies--a satiric nod to the cliches of the genre that predated Scream by eight years.  That said, the actor who plays the character is extremely irritating and the poor execution of the conceit completely undoes its initial cleverness.  In the end the film definitely serves as a much better example of the terrible realities of life on the low end of the Hollywood food chain than it does as an entertaining slasher movie.


Slasher Movie Statistics Body Count: 11 (8 men/3 women

Shower Scenes:1

Instances of Nakedity: 2 (3 if you're willing to count man ass, which you are entirely free to do) 

Instances of Blatant Homoeroticism Played For Laughs of: 2

Instruments of Death: Machete, electric drill, ax, bare hands, microwave, hand gun and scissors

Instances of Unintentional Cannibalism: 1

References to Pot:  0

Amount of Time Required to Correctly Identify Killer: At a certain point midway through the film there is only one character left who could have conceivably been around to commit all of the murders we have seen thus far.  They are the person behind the mask.

Truly Terrible Pop Songs Repeated Throughout The Film Ad Naseam: 2

Cheesy References to Other Horror Movies: Too many to keep track of thanks to the Fangoria reading Barney.

Utterly Pointless Trivia #1: While Kim McKamy turned to porn after Evil Laugh, her blond co-star Jody Gibson went even a step higher (or lower, depending on your point of view) when she filled in the void created by the arrest of Heidi Fleiss to become Los Angeles' number one madam.

Utterly Pointless Trivia #2: Tony Griffin, the actor who spends a great deal of the movie's run time wearing a studded bondage collar, is the son of the recently deceased talk show host, game show impresario and famed crooner of "I've Got A Lovely Bunch of Coconuts", Merv Griffin. 

Final Girl Rating: 1 (out of 10)

The House of Glib Vlog Archive


Rather than repost each of my House of Glib Slasher Movie Vlog Reviews in its own seperate file, I've decided to just save myself some time and effort and throw them all together in one handy easy to find (and link to) post.  Scroll down to find your favourites, which are ordered chronologically by date of creation.


1) Posed For Murder


2) Killer Workout


3) Cheerleader Camp


4) Hospital Massacre


5) The Initiation


6) Open House


7) Slumber Party Massacre III


8) Pieces


9) The Last Slumber Party


10) Slaughter High


11) Cutting Class


12) Silent Rage