Archive for Slasher

**Fifth Anniversary Review** Hayley’s Top 10 Favourite Horror Death Scenes Of All Time

Posted in Anniversary Pieces, Ghostface Girls, Love Horror with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2016 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Five years ago I was a film and television student in my first year at University. I decided to start a blog as a side project separate from my studies. It began as a way to express my views on recent films both independent and mainstream that I’d seen from all genres. Naturally, the first review I ever wrote was of Scream 4 (2011) then eventually I made the site completely horror specific and Hayley’s Horror Reviews is what it is today. Several great opportunities have come my way since beginning the blog, including the chance to get to know and review the work of a number of talented filmmakers. I am now very lucky to be writing for the Horror Movie review site LoveHorror.co.uk and working alongside Caitlyn Downs (from Scared Sheepless) on our collaborative project Ghostface Girls where we provide festival video coverage and record podcasts. Our next event will be the UK’s Horror Con in July 2016!

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In previous years my anniversary reviews have covered My Top 10 Horror Films of all time (since 2011 it has more than likely altered!), Urban Legends on screen and behind the scenes, why we watch Horror Films and last year my favorite underrated slashers. This year I’m taking on a countdown of a subject I’m surprised I haven’t covered by now. It’s all about the visual effects as I reveal my personal favorite horror movie death scenes. Death scenes are at the core of horror movies, even if a film might be particularly badly executed sometimes the saving grace can be some good old splatter. On the opposite end of the spectrum sometimes it’s what you don’t see and what’s implied that can really get under the skin. There’s also nothing more heart-breaking for a horror fan than when one of your favorite characters is hacked to pieces leading to emotional trauma!

Here are my top Horror Movie death scenes of all time! Remember folks, as always its subjective.

There will be spoilers, so get that TV on if you haven’t seen any or some of these films and come back to this article.

**WARNING** This Article will include blood, guts, gore and strong language. Not for the faint-hearted! 

Comment below if you agree or disagree with my choices or tweet me on @Hayleyr1989.

10. Final Destination (2000): Terry Chaney is splattered by a bus!

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To kick things off is a death scene so quick and unexpected it’s pure brilliance! This moment marked the beginning of the darkly twisted sense of humour in the Final Destination franchise. Up until this point Alex Browning (Devon Sawa) and his friends have survived a harrowing plane crash and are grieving over the apparent “suicide” of best friend Tod (Chad Donella) whose brother died on Flight 180. Both scenes deliver a suspenseful build up with gruesome results. This moment however takes place in the middle of the day, Alex and love interest Clear Rivers (Ali Larter) are trying to figure out death’s design. Enter rival Carter (Kerr Smith) and girlfriend Terry (Amanda Detmer). Carter is convinced that Alex is to blame for the deaths of the plane victims as well as Tod but he soon gets more than he bargained for! While antagonizing Alex, his long-suffering girlfriend finally snaps. In an ironic speech, Terry speaks about never wasting another second of her life and states Carter should have better things to do than fight with Alex. She then utters the immortal lines of “you can just drop fucking dead!”. Backing into the road Terry is hit by an incoming bus and the remaining survivors recoil in horror as her blood splatters on their faces. It’s the twisted irony of this scene that makes it surprising and thrilling letting the audience know that anyone can go at any time by any means.

9. Zombie Flesh Eaters (AKA. Zombi 2) (1979): Eye Splinter Scene

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Even without context the eye splinter scene from Lucio Fulci’s notorious ‘video nasty’ Zombie Flesh Eaters is an iconic cinematic moment in horror. The scene is so sqiurmworthy as you (literally!) see it coming a mile off but it doesn’t let up on the suspense. Paola, the wife of Richard Johnson’s character Dr. David Menard is alone in the house when a zombie breaks in. Actress Olga Karlatos displays a genuine look of horror as her vulnerable character attempts to bombard the Zombie from entering the house. Unluckily for her she is dragged through the door and impaled right through the eye with a piece of splintered wood. Her eye is pierced right through in a masterful visual effect, we see the eye squelched and the object penetrate right through her skull!  The moment sets the tone for the carnage to come making it one of Italian Horror’s nastiest kills.

8. I Spit on Your Grave (1978): Blood Bath

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The second video nasty on this list. I Spit on Your Grave is unapologetically exploitative cinema centering on the brutal, unrelenting rape of a young woman. Aspiring writer Jennifer (Camille Keating) retreats to the backwoods as she works on her novel, but she is horrifically brutalized and gang-raped by a group of local men. However, it wouldn’t be a rape-revenge film without a nasty dose of payback! After some time has passed Jennifer is back tougher and stronger than ever as she sets about to seek vengeance on her attackers. In one of the film’s most gruesome scenes Jennifer lures ring leader Johnny (Eron Tabor) into her car, inviting him around for some wet, and bubbly fun…or so he thinks! Jennifer hides a knife under the bath mat and as she begins to seduce Johnny when he least expects it she takes a knife to his most sensitive area!! It takes him a few moments to comprehend what’s happening while Jennifer leaves him there to bleed to death. She proceeds to lock him in the bath room and makes her way downstairs while Johnny yells that he can’t stop the bleeding. She drowns his screams out with a nice bit of classical music. The scene is particularly disturbing as Jennifer allows herself to be in a sexual situation with her rapist. Johnny completely goes along with it showing what a horrendous character he really is. It’s so well executed and unsettling, making ‘blood bath’ from I Spit on Your Grave one of cinemas best revenge death scenes of all time.

7. Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987): Welcome to Prime Time Bitch!

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There are many inventive death scenes in the most highly regarded Elm Street Sequel Dream Warriors but this one had to be selected as it captures Freddy Krueger’s (Robert Englund) darkly menacing, twisted sense of humor. While the Puppet Master moment and Needle fingers sequence are exceptionally creative and unique death scenes it’s difficult to overlook fame-seeking Jennifer’s (Penelope Sudrow) TV demise. This moment is fourth wall breaking and surreal as Freddy possesses the television, manifesting himself onto a late night talk show. The television turns static encouraging Jennifer to approach it. In a crazy visual effect mechanical arms emerge from the sides of the television, clutching Jennifer. Freddy materializes from the top of the television set sprouting antennas. He then smashes her skull through the television set uttering the iconic line “Welcome to prime time, bitch!”. The Elm Street franchise is known for its elaborate and creative death scenes that are more entertaining than a man in a mask just slashing with a knife. This scene is a solid example of how the franchise utilizes its special effects accompanied with quirky dialogue enhancing that when it comes down to Freddy Krueger anything is literally possible!

6. The Burning (1981): We’ve found our canoe!

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The Burning appeared on my list last year as one of my favorite underrated slasher films. It centers on a scorned caretaker who seeks revenge on the inhabitants of a summer camp where he suffered a horrific accident several years previous. It’s under the radar due to the success of Friday the 13th (1980) but then became infamous in the UK once it appeared on the Video Nasties list, and this death scene is the reason why! Tom Savini’s sensational gory FX during this scene cemented The Burning as being one of the first to receive it’s ‘video nasty’ reputation. A few of the camper’s head down the lake on a makeshift raft in order to fetch their canoe back. The typical teenagers argue while rowing but become excitable as they get nearer to the abandoned canoe. The scene is set up well using a sense of dread as they become closer and closer. No matter how many times you watch it and are aware what lies ahead it’s still shocking as the killer Cropsy (Lou David) appears from the canoe with his shears and the bloody massacre commences! This moment of the film features the image that appeared on the iconic cover art of Cropsy’s silhouette holding up the shears. It’s pretty harrowing as unlike the majority of slasher films the teenagers cast in the film genuinely look their age rather than having 25-year-old’s playing a 16-year-old’s. The fact that it takes place in broad daylight in an idyllic location makes this deadly moment even more horrific.

5. Hellraiser (1987): Jesus Wept

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This scene is one of my earliest, goriest cinematic memories and has made the list for being downright gruesome. At a young age this was one of the coolest death scenes in horror that I’d ever seen. It’s time for Uncle Frank (Sean Chapman) to get his just desserts at the hands of the Cenobites. Wearing the meat suit of his brother Larry (Andrew Robinson) he attempts to kill niece Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) in the attic but thankfully (as thankful as it gets in a horror movie situation!) Pinhead (Doug Bradley) and his demons appear ready to drag Frank’s damaged soul directly back to hell. Pinhead promised he had “such sights to show” us and this unrelentingly proved what the Cenobites were capable of. There’s an otherworldly presence to the scene with the bell chime ringing and the mist surrounding the attic. Hellraiser was famed for its dynamic make up effects, with Pinhead’s appearance making him an intriguing horror villain; but it’s Frank’s demise that is as grizzly and gory as it gets. As he raises a blade to Kirsty he is stopped in his tracks with a hook through the hand, chaining him to the Cenobites world forever. Hooks pierce his skin, tearing his face. As Kirsty recoils in sheer disgust Frank says “Jesus Wept” before being ripped apart, with blood and guts galore!

4. Inbred (2011): Dwight’s Dirrrrty Death!

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Over the past five years Inbred has become one of my favorite horror films. One of the several reasons is due to its creatively nasty death scenes. It stands out in what it does, with strong character development allowing the audience to empathize with its protagonists, as well as a twisted sense of tongue in cheek humor that equally puts us on the side of the villains. It’s somewhat of a black comedy but goes right for the jugular with a set of cruel and mean spirited methods of bumping off its victims. The warped villagers of Mortlake attend a show put on by local landlord Jim (Seamus O’Neill). Having already killed off one of the young lads involving vegetables and a horse, this time the Inbred’s capture Dwight (Chris Waller), the remaining protector of the group. Sacrificing himself for the safety of his care worker and fellow youth offenders, Dwight is subjected to a rather dirrrrrrty demise! Tied to a chair and forced to wear a wig, he is cruelly tormented by a man resembling a droog from A Clockwork Orange (1971) who proceeds to empty a hosepipe of shit down Dwight’s throat until he explodes all over the unusual members of the audience! It needs to be seen to be believed but commended for its use of old school FX over CGI giving us an old school backwoods bloodbath!

3. Der Fan (AKA. Trance) (1982): Killer Obsession

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Der Fan is a film I’ve mentioned a bunch of times on the site. An undiscovered gem that screened at Celluloid Screams in 2013, Der Fan enters unexpected territory with an unforgettable and bizarrely crafted death scene. A German Exploitation film, it pushed the boundaries with its female lead being played by a 16-year-old. Household name Desiree Nobuch of Radio Luxenburg fame played psycho fan Simone and did full frontal nudity in the film as well as acted out a scene of murder and cannibalism which certainly would not be done in cinema today! Simone sleeps with R (Bodo Steiger), a Gary Numan inspired pop star who she’s absolutely obsessed with. When reality bites and Simone becomes another used fan girl to R what happens next is completely out of the left field. In my original review I described it as one of the most “chilling and extreme” deaths in cinema. It’s lengthy, horrific, controversial and unsettling leaving the viewer feeling grubby once the credits roll, making it feel like a completely different film from the one that started. This is one I won’t spoil for you however if you’ve already had the experience of watching this underrated exploitation check out my original review.

2.Scream 2 (1997): Randy Meeks Death Scene

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Master team Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson taught us no one was safe in their iconic slasher-revival Scream. When Drew Barrymoore is killed off in the opening moments of a film it’s guaranteed that anything can happen! Scream 2 is the strongest sequel in the franchise as it raised the stakes. There are so many excellent set pieces in the entire film from the cinema slashing’s at the beginning to Sarah Michelle Gellar’s brutal demise being stabbed in the back and thrown out of a window; however, the death that really cuts close to the bone is that of Jamie Kennedy’s popular character Randy Meeks. Self-confessed “movie buff” Randy survived Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) and Stu Macher’s (Matthew Lillard) reign of terror in the first installment closely following the horror movie survival rules. But even he knows that he could be disposable as a new Ghostface stalks the campus of Windsor College. Randy’s death scene is well executed and unexpected. The most shocking aspect is that unlike the previous deaths this one takes place in broad daylight. He is pulled into Gale’s (Courtney Cox) news van and stabbed repeatedly. It’s horrific as it goes unnoticed by crowds of people on the campus. The camera focuses on the van’s wing mirror as Randy is brutally killed, a group of students unknowingly walk by with a boom box drowning out his screams of pain! His bloodied face is then revealed. It’s tragic and heart-breaking as he never does get the girl and is a missing presence from the dynamics of the core characters. It’s certain that it’s Mrs Loomis (Laurie Metcalf) who murders Randy as she viciously attacks him for speaking “poorly” of her delightful son Billy in an act of revenge. The most ironic element of Randy’s death is because he knows the rules of a horror movie inside and out the killer cleverly catches him at the most unexpected moment and doesn’t wait until dark. Craven and Williamson kept the franchise fresh with surprises like this!

  1. I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997): Death of the Beauty Queen 

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What sets I Know What You Did Last Summer apart from its slasher counterparts is the well written and well-acted main characters. Sarah Michelle Gellar gives a tragic performance as Helen Shivers, the former Beauty Queen who loses her future after being involved in a hit and run and an ill thought out cover-up. After she witnesses the murder of her boyfriend Barry (Ryan Phillippe) at the hands of the psychotic fisherman; the police do next to nothing to help her. Helen’s death scene is harrowing as she almost makes it to safety. There’s a slow-paced build-up of tension from escaping a crashed police car to running for her life and hiding out in her sister’s store; Helen fights for survival. Her death isn’t shown explicitly but is incredibly effective and atmospheric set to a chilling score composed by John Debney. Helen falls from the stores window but then finds an alleyway leading to the 4th July Summer parade. Fireworks blast into the air and there’s a sense of relief; albeit momentarily, Helen then approaches the parade but becomes distracted and looks behind her. She is then face to face with the evil fisherman and slashed with his sharp hook amongst a stack of tires. There’s quick cuts, flashing lights and the sound of screams but one thing is certain, the true heroine of the film has met her demise. Helen’s body is later discovered by traumatized best friend Julie (Jennifer Love Hewitt) on the fisherman’s boat officially confirming there is no return for her within future films in the series. It’s Gellar’s helpless performance as the doomed young woman that hits hard with emotional impact. As sad as the scene is it’s essential to the progression of the film as many fans agree if Julie had been the one to meet her maker it wouldn’t have achieved the same upsetting impact. Helen’s death goes to show that you don’t need to go gory to execute an effective and gut-wrenching death scene.

As always thank you for reading and supporting Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

….

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Halloween Returns

Posted in Press Release with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 15, 2015 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Michael Myers is set to return in a brand new reboot of the Halloween franchise according to concequenceofsound.net. The iconic mad man is back in what sounds like a very intriguing plot line for hardcore fans of the series. Halloween Returns sees Michael attempt to stalk n’ slash a whole host of new victims including the child of one of his past casualties (potentially a character we’ve seen before?). Returns will also feature a cop who is so obsessed with the Myers case he even neglects his own daughter in the process; a role created reference to the beloved Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence) perhaps?

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Weirdly enough after being left unimpressed by the Zombie remake and losing interest in the franchise, Halloween Returns could be the fresh blood the series needs in order to shake things up. According to the article, the film will see Myers on death row for his crimes which seems an unexpected direction to go in when dealing with one of horror’s most prolific slashers; but is interesting all the same. Of course being the unstoppable force that he is, Myers escapes placing two friends with their own personal vendetta against him in great peril.

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In some ways resurrecting the franchise seems a little redundant however in the right hands, Halloween could possibly be safe and redeemed. Its been discussed that Marcus Dunstan of The Collector and SAW films is to direct and will also write along with fellow SAW collaborator Patrick Melton; not a bad choice, Dunstan did a great job with The Collection (2012) with some inventive ideas and visuals and the two are no strangers to the concept of franchise. The fans are owed an apology for Halloween: Resurrection (2002) and on a lesser scale the Zombie re-imagining. Personally I’d like a retcon where Laurie is still alive and Resurrection doesn’t exist however Myers return would therefore be problematic seeing as Strode killed him at the end of Halloween: H20 (1998)!

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As the article says, Halloween’s mythology is so messed up its hard to work out the chronology as to whether Halloween Returns will be a standalone film or a sequel to either adaptation. The premise is promising and maybe Halloween Returns will provide the ultimate closure the series needs; much like how Curse of Chucky (2013) revived Child’s Play (however due to its success has spawned an upcoming sequel). Stylistically I hope Halloween Returns doesn’t attempt to replicate the grizzly, gory horror that’s prominent in modern movies and goes back to the roots of less is more, suspense and as little blood as possible. Its reported that Dimension films will be distributing the film which is again familiar for its horror/slasher brand.

What do you guys think? Should there be another Halloween film and what would you like to see from it?

Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

The Town that Dreaded Sundown (2014)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 27, 2015 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

**WARNING: CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS**

If you’re seeking out a decent modern slasher then look no further. Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s (Director on American Horror Story) semi-remake/re-imagining of The Town that Dreaded Sundown is a solid slasher film reminiscent of the classic period of 70s and 80’s slash n’ hack fests!

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The Town that Dreaded Sundown is not a direct remake of the 1976 film of the same name that delved into the brutal slaying’s that took place in 1946 Arkansas. Gomez-Rejon completely does his own thing, updating the story for modern horror goers while bringing in a clever and refreshing meta-narrative that separates it from the generic remake it could have become if fallen into the wrong hands.

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In 2014 Sundown (that takes place in 2013!), 1976 Sundown is merely a movie adaptation of the true and tragic events that darkened the little Texan town of Texarkana back in the 1940s. The film is used by police officers as evidence in order to decipher a pattern between the original murders, the film depiction and the horrific crimes that are taking place in 2013. Having authority so active in a slasher is atypical as normally they ignore the warnings of the heroine and end up sliced and diced by the masked killer. The Town that Dreaded Sundown has a strong sense of community running through it with the safety of others being integral.

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The use of clips of the murder scenes from 1976 Sundown inserted in with footage from the current film pays a fantastic homage to the source material while emphasizing the copycat killer angle and the impact of the infamous crimes on Texarkana. There’s a strong sense of the film’s legacy, the clips from 76′ are grainy while modern Sundown is stylish and polished, highlighting the passage of time and how advanced filmmaking has become on a technical level since the 70’s. We even meet Charles B. Pierece Jr (played by American Horror favourite Denis O’ Hare), the fictional version of the son of original director Charles B. Pierce in order to gain an insight into the behind-the-scenes of the film and theories into the identity of the 1946 murderer, breaking the fourth wall.

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1976 Sundown is screened on Halloween at the drive-in movie theatre despite protests from the town’s religious figure Reverend Cartwright (the late Edward Hermann) with claims of it being a ‘Godless film’. The drive-in movie setting is the first element that aesthetically brings in a nostalgic factor to the film, already making the slasher fan comfortably at home. Its there we meet our heroine Jami (Addison Timlin) who sneaks off with love interest Corey (Spencer Treat Clark) to the former spot known as ‘Lovers Lane’, they are attacked by an ambiguous figure wearing a sack over his head with small holes where the eyes are meant to be (early inspiration for Jason Voorhees a la Friday the 13th: Part 2 maybe?). Corey is brutally slain in a scene of high octane violence. With Corey coming in as victim number one, this killer wants to let the town know he has returned after 65 years. The Phantom has some unfinished business with the inhabitants of Texarkana and his sights now set on Jami!

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Addison Timlin plays Jami as the modern final girl with classic qualities. She’s reminiscent of a Sidney Prescott (Scream 1-4) type with a tragic back-story vital to the impact of the Phantom’s reign of terror. She’s relentless and resourceful, aiding the police in their investigation and determined to bring the perpetrator of these violent crimes to justice. Timlin’s performance carries the film well keeping the audience firmly on her side. There’s a subversion on the final girl theory that she must remain virginal in order to survive and the twist that comes with it. However there’s plenty of sex equals death moments to keep things a certain degree of traditional.

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The violence is fast paced and grizzly providing a squirmworthy viewing experience and shocking death scenes. The Phantom speaks sinisterly and is cruel and torturous with his aimless killings, the most brutal being his attack on a teenage interracial gay couple, most likely producer Ryan Murphy’s influence. The scene is quite profound acting as a metaphor for the intolerance of sexuality combined with race in a predominantly religious town. The scene in particular aids Sundown to stand out from the shallow slashers out there with nothing interesting to offer whereas Murphy is never afraid to push the boundaries when it comes to the taboo. The final showdown and killer reveal could have incorporated more depth, feeling too rushed but the outcome works well and is unexpected.

The Town that Dreaded Sundown (2014) is daring, nostalgic while keeping things modern and challenging.  Its slashertastic and one of the better remakes out there that can be appreciated by fans new and old!

Hayley Alice Roberts.

https://www.facebook.com/HayleysHorrorReviews

Stage Fright (2014) Review.

Posted in Horror Festivals with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 18, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

**WARNING: CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS**

A camping slasher that’s also a musical happens to be right up my street. This enjoyable genre hybrid that played at FrightFest 2014 is what happens when you combine Sleepaway Camp with Glee adding a splash of The Phantom of the Opera into the mix. Much like how Astron-6’s The Editor delivers an affectionate parody and homage to the giallo sub-genre, Stage Fright sends up the musical movie and parallel’s it with the slasher, creating something different in its own way. Seeing more intelligent horror parodies this year is a breath of fresh air, made by people who appreciate the genre; a far cry from the toilet humoured Scary Movie type spoofs that have emerged from the Hollywood Machine during the last decade or so.

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Stage Fright goes straight for the jugular with a surprising opening sequence that gives horror fans exactly what they want, echoing Scream. The plot centres on Camilla Swanson (Allie MacDonald), a tortured young woman haunted by the brutal murder of her Broadway star mother. Now working in a kitchen at a stage school summer camp, Camilla breaks the rules and auditions for the revival of the musical production that shot her mother to fame ten years prior. The head of the camp is played by Meat Loaf, a former Broadway producer named Roger who ruthlessly uses Camilla as an avenue for his own showbiz gain. Since the death of the talented Kylie Swanson, cut down in her prime, Camilla and brother Buddy (Douglas Smith) have been under Roger’s care.

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History begins to repeat itself when cast members of the fantastically titled kabuki version of The Haunting of the Opera are slaughtered one by one. Its a wonder they even manage to raise the curtain on opening night! Its a tale of mystery, murder and musicals as Camilla proves she has what it takes to become centre stage!

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Judging by several reviews of Stage Fright, it appears critics haven’t been too kind toward the film as understandably it is an acquired taste. Its not the The Rocky Horror Picture Show that gravitates its appeal toward cult/horror audiences with its strangeness but also it struggles to attract a more commercial audience because of its graphic violence. It has several upbeat numbers, an Andrew Lloyd Webber style score and some 80’s heavy metal sounding songs making it a somewhat experimental piece. There are a few teething problems with its pacing, leaving the majority of the kills nearer the end. The extended sub-plot of Camilla feeling pressured into degrading herself for the slimy amateur director Artie (Brandon Uranowitz) also takes up too much of the run-time. The callous Artie, plays Camilla and her rival, spoilt brat Liz Silver (Melanie Leishman) against each other for the opportunity of bagging the leading role that shows Uranowitz completely relishing his villainous part.

Stage Fright does gradually build up but doesn’t quite manage to balance both its genres equally. The majority of the first act focuses on the musical aspect diverting away from the jaw dropping slasher moment that’s offered at the beginning. That said, when the conventional masked killer slays his victims they are some of the most inspired and creative kills in a film of this kind. The gore compliments the retro 80’s slasher aesthetic. It unashamedly homages classic horror films from Carrie to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre providing nice little nods to some of horror’s most iconic films.

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Allie MacDonald is sensational, elegant and stunning as Camilla. She most definitely has the makings of a future starlet. Camilla sings a selection of beautiful numbers including ‘Alfonso’, this production’s ‘All I Ask of You’ in concept and ‘The Audition’.  Contrasting is the killer’s hard rock medley of Iron Maiden sounding tracks that perfectly suit the masked maniac, who’s construction is of a classic slasher villain with a simple eerie mask, reminiscent of the KISS look and a black cloak.

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The big cast number ‘We’re Here’ is side-splittingly funny as it pokes fun at wannabe stage school kids and pulls up every stereotype imaginable, making a comment on bullying and sexuality. Thomas Alderson’s openly gay stage manager David Martin is wonderful in a comical supporting role along with Ephraim Ellis’s ‘gay but not in that way’ character Sam Brownstein. There’s an interesting dynamic at play through the conflict their characters share. Stage Fright also exposes the darker side of amateur theatre, the ruthlessness and entitlement these possible rising stars will strive for in order to climb to the top which makes it the ideal subject for the horror metaphor treatment. Its meta-narrative of a play within a film is cleverly orchestrated with having the plays events spill into the film’s world.

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Over the course of the film, Stage Fright supplies the recognizable tropes and red herrings a slasher movie can offer, making it a joy to watch. There’s also plenty of twists and turns in store. While it might be overly ambitious in taking on two usually separate genres and moulding them into one, something about it just works well. Incredibly clever, emotional, tongue-in-cheek and full of fun, Stage Fright stands out on its own amongst the horror of 2014. Director Jerome Stable (‘V’ is for VacationThe ABC’s of Death 2) pays compliment to his influences and makes Stage Fright something totally offbeat. I most certainly love it for that.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

Halloween Month: The Burning (1981)

Posted in Halloween Month with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 20, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

This week its time to present a campfire chiller all vengeful and bloody ready for Halloween. With the Abertoir Horror Festival on its way next month, complete with a notorious video nasties theme, it seemed appropriate to offer one of the first films that made it onto the UK’s banned list back in the 1980’s. Now while I’m all for recommending a certain iconic hockey-masked wearing, machete-wielding psycho that goes around slaying sexually-charged happy campers, The Burning is an interesting film in its own right. This is mainly because while the film pays homage to the sub-genre and shares its style and themes with the studio-slasher from the previous year, Friday the 13th (1980), it doesn’t wholly stick with expected conventions. However for its time of production The Burning still played it safe in terms of not diverting too far from conventionality. The early 80’s saw a out pour in popularity with the stalk’n slash teen movie and this was one of the earliest. Before Freddy Kruger there was Cropsy.

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A summer camp prank goes horribly wrong when a group of young teen males band together to exact revenge on their mean caretaker Cropsy (Lou David). What begins as a harmless scare turns into terror as the boys accidentally cause a drunk Cropsy to burn alive after knocking over a lit, decomposed skull. After five years of hospital rehabilitation, Cropsy is unleashed back into society, hell bent on murdering groups of youths near the summer camp he endured his fateful accident. The hormone-driven adolescents have no idea what’s in store once Cropsy and his sharp shears returns to bump them all off.

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The Burning materialized following well-known movie producer Harvey Weinstein’s desire to break into the film industry. Spotting the opportunity to capitalize on the success of low-budget horror films such as Halloween (1978) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Weinstein discovered a niche and then began to swap scary stories with his producing partner Michael Cohl. Recalling the legend of The Cropsy Maniac (the intended title) that he heard at a upstate New York summer camp as a child, Weinstein and Cohl had an idea on their hands. Upon the film’s release certain reviews (one found in J.A. Kerswell’s Teenage Wasteland (p.192) suggested that The Burning had attempted to replicate the success of Sean. S Cunnigham’s Friday the 13th which coincidentally was released a year prior. Weinstein has adamantly stated that he wrote his treatment for The Burning in 1979 and registered it in April 1980 a month before Friday the 13th was released. Tom Savini who was noted for his effective make up work on Friday the 13th opted to work on The Burning over the second part in the Friday franchise also released in 1981. His effects that transform Cropsy into a frightful monster are exceptional, providing a sense that he’s not quite human like the storytelling campers talk about within the film.

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The Burning is a classic tale of a murderous maniac exacting revenge on those who wronged him, one that has been heard from a friend of a friend and so on. Cleverly The Burning doesn’t let on as to whether the events of the film are real or not. Are we the audience just part of a campfire tale? Delving into the anxieties modern society faced such as the rebellion of youth and the lack of adult authority, The Burning is one of many 80’s horror films that achieves the notion of paranoia. Much of the killings take place during daylight which frighteningly allows the threat (the killer) to step into our supposed safe every day lives.

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There’s plenty of horror in store but also an interesting mix of teen movie/comedy tropes involving pre-marital sex ( a big no in slashers!) and elements of the coming-of-age film which lulls the viewer into a false sense of security as the The Burning really does slow-burn before getting to its bloodiest moments, allowing us to get acquainted with the young campers and their care-free attitudes that makes us forget horrible things are about to happen. There’s a sense of friendship at play as The Burning does something rare in comparison to the lot of slashers, it shortly does touch on the subject of remorse experienced by the remaining survivors following the discovery of the bodies of their dead friends on the abandoned raft; highlighting the severity of the ghastly events and their impact on the young.

Glazer is persistent for Sally’s affections.

Just like several films of its era, The Burning is a fable to suggest that if teenagers engage in sexual activity there will be dire consequences. However this is made complex throughout the narrative, the young female characters aren’t completely susceptible to the charms and occasionally forcefulness of their male peers, providing uncomfortable viewing. Interestingly, Cropsy’s first three on-screen victims are female (excluding the infamous raft scene). The first is a prostitute that Cropsy visits on his release from hospital, a sequence echoing the famous scene from Peeping Tom (1960), where we see the victim’s fear from Cropsy’s point-of-view. The second is Karen (Carolyn Houlihan) after she behaves like a cock-tease towards Eddy (Ned Eisenberg). She goes as far as skinny dipping with him but refuses to let him go the whole way, apprehensive due to his ladies-man persona, Karen worries that she’ll just be another “statistic” which hints as a metaphor to the fear of contracting a sexually-transmitted disease. Despite her decision to not have sex she still ends up dead, ironically a statistic in a teenage bloodbath. The frustrations of Eddy and Karen mirror those of the killer’s, all based in rejection, rejection from human contact.

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Cropsy’s third victim is Sally (Carrick Glenn). Sally plays hard to get against Glazer (Larry Joshua), who’s persistent and makes promises of a wonderful experience. On the outside Glazer is a brute and disrespectful to his peers but demonstrates signs of naivety and vulnerability. Sally eventually gives into him but the sex is far from the greatness she expected and is then the next to meet her demise. Even though the female characters are written a little more than one-dimensional with elements of headstrong personalities, they all fall into the the sex equals death category which wasn’t turned on its head until mid-90’s horror and beyond.

Todd, The Final Boy seeks out to defeat Cropsy.

Now where the film differs from its Halloween’s and Friday the 13th’s is by subverting the traditional dynamic of the inclusion of the final girl. The active character this time round who faces the killer head on is in fact male and one of the pranksters from the beginning of the movie, camp counsellor Todd (Brian Matthews). From a storytelling point of view this made sense with Todd confronting his mistakes in early adult-hood as he was partly responsible for Cropsy’s disfigurement. Interestingly he rescues another male character, Alfred (Brian Backer), the observant one that first sees a glimpse of Cropsy from the window early on while the others dismiss him. Together these characters embody the tropes associated with the final girl. The Burning remains one of the only films of the genre to feature a final boy instead with Todd representing the muscle and Alfred the mind. Together they combine the essential ingredients for a horror movie survivor while eliminating the boy saves girl or vice versa convention.

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The identification with the killer in slasher cinema was fast becoming a sub-genre staple. Point-of-view shots from Cropsy are depicted early on within the film, the effect was created with the use of vaseline rubbed onto the camera lens to indicate distortion. In this case the teenagers describe him as a monster and use him as scary-story material but from an audience perspective there is a slight sense of empathy for our shear-swinging psycho. The Burning doesn’t establish enough as to what sort of brutal acts Cropsy conducted during his time as a caretaker and whether he warranted such an unpleasant fate at the hands of the kids who claimed his cruelty. Therefore there’s a complexity at play as to who’s side the audience should be on, or possibly we’re meant to see it from both angles. Unlike Michael and Jason, Cropsy does not disguise himself with a mask, however he embodies the tropes of the silent killer. His burned face was possibly an early inspiration for Freddy Krueger.

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Strangely, the BBFC over here in the UK had let Friday the 13th off the hook and was released uncut in 1980. James Ferman, the censorship director at the time had deemed it too “far-fetched” to even be considered realistic. However by 1981 things had changed. 26 cuts to the gore effects were made to The Burning when it came out on September 23rd 1981 with a big, fat X certificate. The 26 seconds did reduce the impact of the film’s goriest scenes which depict close-ups of impalements courtesy of  a sharp object. When home video was on the rise, Thorn-EMI allegedly put the the uncut version of the film by accident onto VHS. This was where the controversy began. When the film was seized under the Obscene Publications Act, Thorn-EMI tried their hardest to ensure the government that they had not purposely intended to release the film in its original state. They attempted a compromise where they would bring out a BBFC-approved version, however video-store owners and gore-hungry horror fans alike tried to keep their copies of the version that was meant to be seen making it one of the most infamous video nasties of the decade. Looking back now in 2014, it does go to show that when banning certain films, while letting others into the public domain unscathed that were thematically similar to each other that there was little knowledge about horror films when it came to censors, making them appear contradictory and ignorant but this is something that has been covered exceedingly well in both of Jake West’s Video Nasties documentaries, Moral Panic, Censorship and Videotape (2010) and Draconian Days (2014).

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The Burning is one to watch this Halloween. While it didn’t hit the same chord as the Friday the 13th franchise or generate mindless sequels (thank God!), its a gem in its own right. While not the greatest horror film ever made, its by far not the worst, it includes some of Tom Savini’s best FX work and an insight into a different slasher perspective. Who could forget the iconic imagery of Cropsy holding up his shears ready to kill?! Its based on a real-life urban legend too! The Burning launched the careers of Holly Hunter, Jason Alexander and Fisher Stevens, all the best actors start out in horror (yes I’m referring to you Johnny Depp!). But best of all you can watch it completely and totally uncut!

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Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

Halloween Month: Halloween: 20 Years Later, H20 (1998)

Posted in Halloween Month with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 15, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

It wouldn’t be Halloween month without a revisiting a film from this well-loved franchise. This time round we’re swapping Haddonfield for sunny California; where Laurie Strode returns under a new identity for a showdown with her murderous long-lost brother, 20 years after the night HE came home. Halloween: 20 Years Later or most commonly referred to as H20 (easily confused with the chemical name for water!) unsurprisingly returned to the slasher screen following the resurgence in popularity for the sub-genre thanks to Scream. Miramax’s genre based film company Dimension garnered success with Scream and also owned the rights to the Halloween franchise so it made perfect sense to attempt to generate another horror hit. Considering fans were disappointed with the outcome of the sixth film in the franchise, The Curse of Michael Myers following negative feedback at test screenings that resulted in cuts, another film in the series was therefore a must.

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Twenty years following the Haddonfield Halloween Massacre, Michael Myers breaks into the home of Dr. Sam Loomis and steals confidential papers that contain information about his long-lost sister’s whereabouts while slashing his way through some brand new victims including Joseph Gordon-Levitt in an early role. Now, we’re in the post-Scream era, there needed to be a big important opening death scene to convey that anything can happen. Nurse Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens) Loomis’s nurse in the first film was therefore one of the first to be butchered by Michael. Under the new identity of Keri Tate, Laurie is now a headmistress at Hillcrest Academy, still living in fear of the traumatic events she suffered at the hands of Myers while raising a teenage son and turning to alcoholism to cope. Soon enough Laurie is confronted by her past as Michael continues to kill until he gets to her.

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In the late 90’s every slasher poster was constructed by featuring images of the cast posing with their ‘afraid faces’ at the forefront, spawned after the success of Fisherman stalk n’ slash flick I Know What You Did Last Summer. Typically a famous rapper of the time (in this case LL Cool J) would also star and be a main attraction on the cover to y’know be hip! In all fairness LL Cool J gives an entertaining performance in the movie, much better than Busta Rhymes in Halloween: Resurrection but we’ll talk about that insulting film later!

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While it wasn’t the worst idea in the world to resurrect this franchise and provide the grizzly showdown fans had been waiting for, H20 goes by in a blur with a short run time of 86 minutes, making it the shortest of all the Halloween movies to unsatisfying effect. There’s heaps of potential there to explore while placing the story in a 90’s context. Laurie Strode’s arc is strong, Jamie Lee Curtis packs a punch in her performance and updates Laurie from frightened teenager to a headstrong but damaged woman. Ultimately, H20 is Laurie’s story however the inclusion of younger teen characters didn’t bring as much depth as it could have which has its short run time to blame; causing the film to feel rushed and underdeveloped. Fresh off the new teen show at the time, Dawson’s Creek, Michelle Williams starred as Molly Cartwell. Williams is the one actress in the film that didn’t receive enough screen-time which was a shame considering how talented she is, there was potential for a new scream-Queen in the making rather than just the ‘girlfriend’ archetype. To its credit, while slightly bloodier than the 1978 original, H20 didn’t go down the gratuity route with the camera lingering on gruesome death scenes like studios had insisted on with previous sequels in order to keep up with horror trends. It managed to keep the spirit of Halloween while generating its own edge to determine that a Halloween movie could translate into post-modern 90’s horror.

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In general the Halloween franchise is a problematic mess in terms of its story arc. H20 decisively ignored the presence of IV, V and The Curse of Michael Myers. Part IV indicated that Laurie Strode had died in a tragic accident leaving a daughter she had around 1980 in the care of foster parents. Her apparent husband only referred to as Mr. Lloyd was also killed. Clearly the idea was to awaken the terror all over again, ten years after the Haddonfield massacre with Laurie 2.0. Same story, different characters with links back to the original. Young Jamie Lloyd (the first horror role for Danielle Harris) was subsequently targeted by her psychotic uncle throughout the span of three films. Jamie (later played by J.C. Brandy) eventually met her demise in the sixth part, The Curse of Michael Myers, prior to that she had a child.

Jamie Lloyd, Laurie’s forgotten daughter.

 

In H20, its revealed that Laurie faked her own death to escape her evil brother all those years ago. There’s no mention of the daughter she would have practically abandoned or the notion of a grandchild, however as mentioned Laurie does have a teenage son John Tate (Josh Hartnett). John is seventeen in the film to make it all the more fitting that he’s the same age his mother was when she was originally targeted by Myers. The time span between Laurie faking her own death and then having another child doesn’t really add up, considering John would have been born in 1981.  It has been said in  Kevin Williamson’s (Writer of Scream & Scream 2) original idea, there was to be a scene where the Jamie Lloyd arc was acknowledged. A bitchy student at Hillcrest Academy reads out a class report on Michael Myers reign of terror discussing what happened to Jamie. The revelations become too much for Laurie, who is seen to flee the classroom to throw up. Many fans tend to place the 1978 movie, 1981 sequel and H20 as in canon with parts 4-6 set in a separate universe while avoiding the horrible Halloween: Resurrection completely.

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Laurie’s seventeen year old son, John Tate.

 

The idea for Halloween: 20 Years Later initially came about when Jamie Lee Curtis expressed interest in developing a movie to mark the anniversary of one of slasher film’s greatest. Excitingly John Carpenter was named as a possible director and Curtis eagerly wanted to collaborate with him again. Carpenter did agree to direct but with a starting fee of $10 million which he deemed as fair after some financial problems with the revenue following the original Halloween. His salary for H20 would have been his compensation however when he was refused the money he made the decision to step away from directing a further sequel. The directorial reigns ended up in the hands of Steve Miner, director of Friday the 13th Part II and III. Its possible that if Carpenter had been director then fans may have experienced an even better film than the final product despite Miner’s horror background.

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As previously mentioned the initial treatment for H20 was written by Kevin Williamson. Known for his edgy and witty dialogue and ability to challenge horror conventions incredibly well. If Williamson had written the finished screenplay and teamed up with Carpenter as director, much like his pairing with Wes Craven two years previous then H20 could have been even bigger than Scream. There were attempts in H20 at being meta. When the characters of Sarah (Jodi Lynn O’Keefe) and Molly (Michelle Williams) are preparing for their Halloween party, the scene where Cici Cooper (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is terrorized by Ghostface in Scream 2 plays on the television. The purpose of this was to break the fourth wall. In Scream, Jamie Kennedy’s character Randy Meeks dissected and analysed the first Halloween film as part of constructing the rules of the horror genre. Incorporating the Cici death scene in H20 came as a homage. Originally, it was said that Sarah and Molly were to be watching So I Married an Axe Murderer (1993) with an in-joke that they were watching a film starring Mike Myers which in terms of irony works a lot better. The Scream 2 clip was added in post-production as a nod to Williamson’s involvement.

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Another reference to Scream is where Laurie tells her son and his girlfriend to “go down the street to the Becker’s house” which is of course referring to Drew Barrymoore’s short-lived character Casey Becker who spectacularly opens the first Scream movie. However in Halloween, there is a similar line which is “go down the street to the McKenzie’s house”, it was also uttered in the Barrymoore death scene. The most meta aspect of all was the casting of Jamie Lee Curtis’s real life mother Janet Leigh as her secretary Norma. Leigh was of course famous for her portrayal of Marion Crane in Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece, Psycho (1960) and is even accompanied with the original car from the legendary film. Having these two appear together in the film is a real joy for fans especially with the tongue-in-cheek dialogue between them. Curtis and Leigh had starred alongside each other in John Carpenter’s The Fog (1980) however their characters did interact as much, sharing only one scene to my recollection. P.J. Soles was asked to play the role of Norma Watson initially but was sceptical toward the idea of playing a different character to Lynda, her character from the 1978 film who was killed off.

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John Ottoman composed the score for this instalment but was however displeased after part of the Scream score by Marco Beltrami was placed in during post-production as producers opted for a darker, 90s slasher edge. The inclusion of Mr Sandman performed by The Chordettes to open the film on the Dimension logo added in a nice touch and brought in a reference to the old school Halloween. Another controversial aspect of production that was discussed in documentary Halloween: 25 Years of Terror (2006) was a dispute regarding the masks used for Michael Myers. Several re-shoots were done with a CGI mask inserted over footage of Chris Durand (The Myers Actor) and in total 4 masks were created.

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H20 opened  in the August of 1998 to a mix of reviews. Many were disappointed with its ignorance of previous instalments while other criticized its slow pace. It is a difficult film to watch considering the knowledge of what came after it especially with how final this film feels. Laurie’s battle with Myers is one of epic proportions, providing the satisfying closure the series deserved as she unapologetically slays him with an axe. It is considered one of the more favourable sequels and is second highest grossing instalment within the franchise, next to Rob Zombie’s 2007 remake.  As a stand alone it has its moments. The cinematography is stunning, romanticizing the Halloween season, capturing the holiday incredibly well. Even though underdeveloped the young cast do well with the given material. Josh Hartnett is believable as Cutis’s teenage son and Curtis herself delivers a phenomenal and unforgettable performance.

Laurie face to face with her evil brother is one of the film’s most iconic moments.

H20 is one to watch this Halloween because despite its flaws it wouldn’t be Halloween without it and it has Laurie Strode kick some psychopath ass!

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

‘Tie me Kangaroo Down’ A Review of Wolf Creek 2 (2013).

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 3, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

**WARNING: CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS**

Slashing its way onto DVD and Blu-Ray this summer is the eagerly-awaited sequel to the popular yet brutal Australian shocker, Wolf Creek (2005). Director Greg Mclean returns to continue the murderous exploits of Mick Taylor (John Jarratt) in the film that he began developing as early as 2010, its delay purely down to some funding issues which held back initial production. Still emphasizing the ‘Based on True Events’ angle to bring in the added fear factor, Wolf Creek 2 incorporates a more fast-paced tone in comparison to its predecessor. The body count is bigger and Mick shows us once again that he pulls no punches when it comes to slaughtering unwitting tourists travelling through the Australian outback.

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To its credit, setting itself apart from the original works in its favour rather than re-hashing the exact same events the first outing, that said on occasions it does play it safe with nods to the first film. This time round Mick goes straight in for the kill, with the focus on numerous victims from Germany to Britain, all unfortunate to cross his deadly path. The xenophobic mad man’s main target is Paul Hammersmith (Ryan Corr), an unknowing young man who unluckily stumbles upon one of Mick’s latest victims, he falls straight into his blood soaked hands and becomes terrorized in a violent game of cat and mouse (with added Kangaroo’s!).

Jarratt’s performance is one again larger than life, he clearly has fun with the role as the sadistic serial killer with a side of a sense of humour. Its clear the direction Mclean seems to be taking his creation in, a modern horror icon in the league of Leatherface and Jason Voorhees, a hack-happy, unmerciful  killer that continually defies the odds! However in the post-modern world of horror, having the killer unmasked with a menacing personality creates a more horrifying effect demonstrating the killer is just as much human. Its apparent that Mclean intends us to root for Mick, a conception that’s often referred to as “Freddy Kruger meets Crocodile Dundee”.

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Jarratt single-handedly carries the film that has an interesting balance of dark comedy, splatter, grotesque violence and suspense. On the down-side, there is too much packed in, characters are introduced but become difficult to get invested in due to the rapid, slasher approach it unashamedly takes. Corr’s performance as Paul comes across as emotive at times enabling the audience to develop a sense of empathy for him and root for his escape. Where the film becomes problematic is using the ‘Based on True Events’ aspect. As stated understandably it plays on fears, ‘this could potentially happen to you’, but with brutally graphic scenes and close ups of bodies being cut up to shreds without any focus on a sense of justice it becomes uncomfortable viewing, particularly when you throw in the hammy nature of Mick’s one-liners used for comedic effect. In the original, there was distressing moment where the film toys with the idea of sexual violence towards women and the same is done here, providing a major conflict in tone that leaves viewers questioning “is this still a black comedy right now?”.

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Another conflict at play on a personal note is on one hand using male protagonists in place of ‘the final girl’ in these films is a refreshing take; however at the same time it does put the female characters in a light where they’re just disposable victims rather than portraying both genders on an equal level.

Interestingly, back in 2005, Wolf Creek was unfortunately placed in the the tabloid-coined ‘torture porn’ category for horror films at the time, without real warrant for it. The sequel however seems to play up to the label in a tongue-in-cheek manner, especially with the drawn out, intensely funny bargaining sequence toward the film’s final act.

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In a review earlier this year where I looked at my most eagerly-anticipated films of 2014, Wolf Creek 2 was on the list. I had reservations as to whether a sequel to a modern genre classic was necessary but was willing to make an exception if it had something different to offer. Sadly, Wolf Creek 2 is no more than a standard Ozploitation, splatter-fest, but in several ways it comes across as enjoyable enough with some clever suspense techniques thrown into the mix so its not entirely predictable. Worth a watch for fans of the original and for a casual viewing.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

Women In Horror Month: Final Girls and Psychotic Women. (9-7)

Posted in Women in Horror Recognition Month with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Once again I bring you three more women of horror. From the spine-chilling and the sadistic to the tragic heroine.The Horror genre is versatile in terms  of the different types of characters it portrays, I hope that the choices about to be discussed will illustrate the eclectic mix that’s on offer.  Here is part three of my Women in Horror Recognition Month coverage. I am really enjoying working on this mini-project and would like to thank everyone for their support and feedback especially the shares and re-tweets on Twitter. You’re all awesome. **Gory Hugs**

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Oh and here’s the obligatory SPOILER WARNING. Therefore if you haven’t seen the films I’m about to discuss go check them out then return…!

9. Angela Baker, The Sleepaway Camp Series (1983-2008)

  • Played By Felissa Rose and Pamela Springstein
  • Written and Directed By Robert Hiltzik
  • Sequels Directed By Michael A. Simpson & Written By Fritz Gordon

angela  Now this addition to the countdown may be a little complicated for two key reasons. The first is that Angela (Felissa Rose) technically isn’t female. For those of you who are fans of the bizarrely warped 80’s slasher Sleepaway Camp, you’ll be aware that the most iconic aspect of the entire film was it’s shock-tastic ending that not only reveals the sweet, misunderstood Angela as the killer but she is also genetically a boy! The welcome yet fascinating surprise deviates Sleepaway Camp from *just* being the run-of-the-mill slasher like many that emerged that decade even receiving it’s own spoof in the stop-motion animation comedy series Robot Chicken (2005-) where it’s exclaimed “somebody remembered this movie and wrote a comedy sketch about it”. Well myself and Seth Green certainly did! The second problematic element faced when discussing Angela is the subsequent sequels.

Now some fans like to disassociate Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (1988) and Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland (1989) from the original but for me they are too entertaining and enjoyable to disregard. Felissa Rose was concentrating on her university studies at the time of filming therefore had to decline reprising the role (she does however make a comeback in Return to Sleepaway Camp (2008)). Pamela Springstein stepped in as a more confident, post-sex change Angela, the only similarity being she still has a lust for the blade and now as a camp counselor she rids “Camp Rolling Hills” of the morally corrupt teenagers it inhabits! Now it’s fair that Angela qualifies for this list as she has lived as a female her entire life and eventually underwent reassignment surgery to do so; so it counts!

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The opening of the original Sleepaway Camp introduces young children Angela and Peter on a boating lake with their father. Following a tragic accident that sees their boat flip over, the family attempt to swim to shore but are subsequently wiped out by an incoming motorboat. Due to some clever editing techniques it is presumed that Peter and his Father are now dead! Fast forward a few years later and cousins Ricky (Jonathan Tiersten) and Angela are heading to Camp Arawak for the summer where her murderous rampage begins! Towards the climax the film reveals that Angela’s Aunt was behind transforming young Peter into his deceased sister Angela, creating the “daughter” she always wanted. It’s then heavily implied that Angela’s deviant and anti-social behavior is a product of discovering her father’s homosexual tendencies. Freud would certainly have a field day! However its not difficult to feel empathy for Angela due to her confusing upbringing, leading to a gender/identity crisis as well as the constant bullying she receives from the more well-developed girls at camp that illustrate her insecurities. There’s plenty of symbolism in place that hints at Angela’s true identity in her kills, alpha bitch Judy (Karen Fields) is raped with a hot straightening iron for example. With a cold, icy stare, Felissa Rose plays the vulnerable Angela fantastically bringing in her own youth and innocence to the role. Springstein’s interpretation however is far more campy and menacing but still an incredibly fun performance to watch and she does use some creative methods to murder those who don’t live up to her “moral ideals” namely sexual activity and cursing. The character of Angela is definitely an interesting study of the psychotic female. Sleepaway Camp sets itself apart from other slashers of its time through its use of plenty of underlying subtext relating to gender, creative and well thought through kills and the fact it’s a seemingly innocent thirteen year old girl committing the gruesome murders. Compared to most, Sleepaway Camp demonstrated more authenticity by featuring teenagers portraying their actual ages. On the surface there is a lot of sleaziness but Sleepaway Camp is far more sophisticated than it’s given credit for. Felissa Rose’s performance marks the original film as ahead of it’s time by exploring avenues that the majority of slashers of the time never dared to.

8. The Grand High Witch, The Witches (1990)

  • Played By Anjelica Huston
  • Directed By Nicholas Roeg
  • Written By Roald Dahl (Novel), Allan Scott (Screenplay)

witches-thewitches2-590x350  Now for some kiddie-horror. Like many children growing up in the 90’s, this woman haunted my nightmares! Since watching more Nicholas Roeg films over the years, most recently The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976); I finally have an understanding of the warped, nightmarish vision that’s prominent in his work and he certainly doesn’t tone it down for a film aimed at a family audience. Roeg takes an unsettling approach to the material and uses intense close ups especially in the more frightening moments.

There is nothing redeeming about The Grand High Witch who originally emerged from literature, in Roald Dahl’s twisted, fantasy novel. However it’s sensational actress Anjelica Huston that brings this wicked witch to life in a spine-chilling and unforgettable performance. Her character enters the film later on following a careful set-up that establishes what the witches of this universe are capable of. Once she’s made her entrance her presence is really felt as Anjelica Huston delivers one of children’s cinema’s most scariest performances. I’m pretty sure when this film has been broadcast on television it comes with a content warning. Merging between beautiful and grotesque, The Grand High Witch sets out to achieve one objective, to rid the world of children by introducing a special formula she has personally brewed. She organizes a convention at a picturesque English hotel bringing together a large number of witches to do her bidding of transforming the children into mice then squishing them! The face she displays to the world is actually a disguise, underneath the mask is a monstrous creature that’s incredibly unnerving created with special effects courtesy of Jim Henson’s creative make up department. When willing to reveal her true identity, the Grand High Witch literally peels her face off! Nasty Stuff. She wears a wig in order to hide her bald, bloody scalp, gloves to shield her long, sharp fingernails and flat shoes to disguise her toe-less feet. Fear not though as this evil woman does not succeed in her plans and is thwarted by a young boy named Luke (Jansen Fisher) and his knowledgeable Grandmother (Mai Zetterling). The meddling duo literally give her a taste of her own medicine through slipping the formula into the hotel soup. Before her demise, the Grand High Witch once more transforms into a freakishly over-sized rat that is almost as nightmare-fuel worthy as what’s under her mask! The Grand High Witch is one woman of horror I’ve never, ever forgotten and the film as a whole may be partially responsible for my curiosity of the genre from a young age. Whether in awe of or feared, The Grand High Witch is one sinister creature.

7. Helen Shivers, I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)

  • Played By Sarah Michelle Gellar
  • Directed By Jim Gillespie
  • Written By Lois Duncan (Novel), Kevin Williamson (Screenplay)

helenshivers  Neither a psychotic woman or a final girl, this character is a rarity in the genre, the best friend archetype being preferred over the heroine herself. In this case it’s down to the strong writing and acting that brings the character to life. Helen Shivers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is a young woman with her whole future ahead of her. Wavering on the superficial side, Helen dreams of escaping the small town life and venture to New York to become a famous actress. Helen is aware of her looks and uses them to get where she wants to be and is particularly proud of her long, blonde locks. When we are introduced to her she is the winner of the local beauty pageant, the girlfriend of the high school football star Barry Cox (Ryan Phillipe) and best friend of the protagonist Julie James (Jennifer Love Hewitt). However Helen’s life changes forever on that fateful 4th of July night where the four friends including Julie’s boyfriend Ray (Freddie Prinze Jr.) accidentally run over a mysterious bystander lurking in the middle of the road. Fearing him dead, the foursome decide to dispose of his body in the ocean. On doing so, the fisherman momentarily comes back to life stealing Helen’s pageant crown which Barry then retrieves for her down the murky depths of the sea.

A year later and Helen is a shadow of her former self. The pretty, blonde, hopeful actress is now gone and in place is a tormented, lonely girl who’s constantly watching her back. Seemingly just going through every day life, the realization of her part in the hit and run crime is restored when Julie brings the gang back together after receiving a threatening note claiming “I know what you did last summer”. On the surface Helen comes across as the typical, blonde female that is more than often butchered by a hooded killer in films of this nature and in theory she is. However due to some smart writing on the part of Kevin Williamson and a fiery performance from Sarah Michelle Gellar, Helen is more than meets the eye creating a sense of empathy with her. She has always been a far more interesting character to watch over Julie as the audience realize she is more than just a weak victim offered up to the killer. The killer fisherman raises the stakes with Helen over Julie as he cuts off her most prized possession while asleep, her long, golden hair, signifying the depth and change in her character. Gellar’s on-screen chemistry with Phillipe is electrifying, making Helen and Barry a believable couple that genuinely care about each other.

After witnessing Barry’s murder in a room full of people from the stage of the Croaker Queen pageant, Helen is an emotional wreck, stripping away any facade she may have previously had. She struggles to be believed by the police and even up until her final moments, she isn’t afraid to fight back and prove her resourcefulness just like any true final girl would. She runs and takes refuge in her snarky, older sister Elsa’s (Bridgette Wilson) store, hiding from the killer then jumping out of a window and running to safety. Sadly, she is too late, as she gets closer to the 4th of July parade and the comfort of crowds of people, the fisherman catches up with her, slicing her up with a hook. Helen is a tragic victim and her presence is even felt in the not-so-memorable sequel, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998) where Julie reminisces about her deceased friend by picking up a photograph of her taken from the pageant as Hooverphonic’s Eden plays non-diegetically. What’s interesting about the character is that she is a product of the post-Scream slasher where it was self-awareness over stereotype. Williamson offered a female, horror movie character who the audience could care about despite killing her off in order to raise the stakes and create suspense. Helen’s death is still considered to be one of the most remembered of this era, despite the film not gaining the popularity that was intended for it.  Well rounded and dynamic, despite not surviving, Helen still deserves a place as a woman of horror.

Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews

“It’s No Scream!” A DVD Review : You’re Next (2013)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 13, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

**WARNING: CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS**

You’re Next (2011) is one of the most disappointing, hyped-up films to emerge in recent years. For those of you who follow my Facebook page you will already be aware how much this film particularly aggravated me. Prior to viewing I had heard a mixed-bag of reactions from various sources however as I do with most films went in indifferent. You’re Next has gained a great deal of attention since its premiere at Fright Fest back in August 2013 however I was only able to finally sit down and watch it today following its UK DVD and Blu-Ray release. I suppose all in all it’s a marmite film, some of you will get a kick out of it while others (like myself) will be reeling for something more.

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Before we begin, I must establish that I’m a huge fan of slasher films, particularly from the 70’s, 80’s and late 90’s. Slashers were the sub-genre that primarily made me the horror geek I am today. It all started with a slick, game-changer of a film, directed by one of the masters of Horror Wes Craven, Scream (1996). I originally caught the film in a late night slot on channel 4 during my pre-teens. What began as a personal endurance test turned into a life-long obsession with cinema’s darkest genre. Scream was self-referential, critiquing the horror movies that came before it. Soon, I had familiarized myself with Michael Myers, Freddy Kruger and Jason Voorhees and the rest is history. Scream did something that the horror films since have struggled to achieve so when Adam Wingard’s You’re Next splattered itself onto festival screens with strong comparisons made it seemed more than promising. Could it be the sophisticated, modern slasher film we’ve all been craving since Craven?!

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Interestingly, You’re Next technically came out in 2011. It circulated a few small festivals but did not obtain a wider and more commercial release until 2013. To be fair, home invasion movies are pretty trendy at this moment in Horror, and it came out just in time to rival The Purge within the space of a couple of months.

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You’re Next is the story of the Davidson family who come under attack during a family dinner by a mysterious gang disguised with animal masks. Prior to the family’s introduction, there’s a weak opening sequence which sees two severely underdeveloped characters murdered just to lead the way for the words “You’re Next” to be painted in blood on the wall. Need I remind everyone how this doesn’t compare to Scream in the slightest! In one of cinema’s most iconic and terrifying opening scenes, a character played by Drew Barrymoore is brutally murdered following a very clever and intense build-up. When your movie opens with a famous actress being killed off that sets the standard that anything is possible and was shocking for its time. You’re Next’s opening didn’t even compare. If this really wanted to be marketed as a “game-changer” then at least do something to surprise the audience instead of the derivative, seen-it-all before, meaningless cliche.

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This is then followed by some filler scenes which are a poor attempt at establishing the Davidson’s. The Mum and Dad characters, Aubrey (Barbara Crampton) and Paul (Rob Moran) look far too young to be the parents of their four thirty-something children but I imagine we are supposed to suspend our disbelief in this case. Their obnoxious offspring are accompanied by their dull partners and the scene is set for carnage to take place. The main focus is on Erin (Sharni Vinson), son Crispian’s (AJ Bowen) girlfriend, predictably set up as the intended final girl. It’s an attempt at placing a strong, empowered, resourceful yet flawless woman in the lead in order to tick their post-modern feminism box but that’s the problem, she is too good to be true, more caricature less character. That said, Sharni Vinson is easily the strongest actress in this blood-soaked mess and does well with the material she’s given, despite her characters backstory being incredibly far fetched. Prior to the brutal attack on the family during what could be described as a tense meal time, there’s tedious talk about Ti West’s character Tariq being a documentary filmmaker who gets his films screened at “intelligent” underground festivals which comes across as either pretentious or being self-aware about pretentious mentalities in filmmaking. The brothers then begin arguing amongst themselves in a shouty, uninteresting manner before a crossbow smashes through the window taking the family down one by one.

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That is pretty much the film. There’s too much shouting that quickly becomes irritating, there’s shaky cam particularly at the dinner scene which feels unnecessary and possibly done pretentiously. Erin’s “strong woman” act is over exaggerated, there’s only so many times you can watch someone being bludgeoned before it becomes boring. I found myself yelling at the screen, “That’s enough now!” and “Oh was that meant to be funny” at its poor attempts at humor. The acting was terrible as a whole, no empathy was created with anyone and as for the twist, I doubt it will leave you thought-provoked or astonished!

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Not for a long time has a film completely irritated me to this extent. It’s Scream comparisons as you may have gathered has a lot to do with it. Hype like this for a mediocre slasher doesn’t bode well for the future of these kinds of films. Unfortunately You’re Next has no redeeming qualities, it comes across as lazy, predictable, badly constructed, poorly written and just one huge disappointment. It could have possibly been forgiven if it had not marketed itself in that way and been hyped up so much. The masks may be gimmicky and hold some appeal but as a film it doesn’t hold up as one of the slasher greats.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews