Archive for Teen Slasher

**Fourth Anniversary Article** My Top Six Slaughter-tastic Underrated Slashers!

Posted in Anniversary Pieces with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 17, 2015 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Slasher films; low-budget, gory-fuelled romps; masked killers lurking in the shadows ready to slash n’ hack their sexually charged teen victims who never ever learn their lesson!

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Despite being considered bottom of the barrel when it comes to our great genre especially after the 80’s mass saturation of endless sequels leading to never-ending franchises, there’s something that always brings us back to the slasher film. There’s the entertainment factor, the creative gore effects and on a deeper scale the social messages underneath the surface of all the blood, guts and sex! Let’s not forget that some of today’s most famous actors began their careers getting bloodied up by a super-human lethal killer, there’s that Depp bloke you may have heard of who’s done a few films here and there and that Kevin Bacon guy who is busy selling ‘the UK’s fastest mobile network’ these days; to name a few!

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Most will argue that the slasher reached its peak during the early 80’s; notably as Jason rose from the murky depths of Camp Crystal Lake for the third time. The slasher was  semi- revived in popularity again later in the decade with Child’s Play then most prolifically in the mid-90’s with post-modern hit Scream which has since paved the way for the train of remakes, spoof films and more a brutal type of horror in the shape of Saw, Hostel and The Collection from the mid 00’s to the present day.

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If it wasn’t for slashers I probably wouldn’t be the horror freak (I mean, fanatic!) I am today. It was discovering the Scream/Elm Street/Friday franchises at a young age that aided my growing interest in the genre. There was nothing better than coming home from school and watching the latest taped VHS of whatever slasher had been on TV the previous night instead of doing any of that boring homework stuff! For me, slashers represent nostalgia, escapism and fandom. To this day slashers still maintain a level of popularity, they prove increasingly marketable and continue to be revived. Thanks to films such as The Town that Dreaded Sundown (2014), Stage Fright (2014) and the Hatchet series (2006-2013) the sub-genre is alive and well and is slowly being taken in new, fresh directions! Slashers are pretty easy films to watch however there’s plenty lurking underneath the surface to interpret; there’s running themes of murder and revenge, a level of mystery and they are played out as cautionary tales for teenage viewers. There are always consequences for bad decisions. Slashers reflect a universal fear in society that are applicable to their cultural and historical contexts e.g casual sex in 80’s slashers used as a metaphor for the AIDS scare.

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Its been four years since I began reviewing so what better way to celebrate that take a look back at my personal favorite entries from the sub-genre that made me horror obsessed. This list will not contain the typical choices of Halloween, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, A Nightmare on Elm Street etc. we all know they are critically-acclaimed and completely awesome and rightfully so! However, this list will contain films that are appreciated by a genre audience and have generated a cult following over the years but are not as well regarded among the mainstream. Some films included also may have been popular on their original release but have since gone under the radar. So here it is, Hayley’s Horror Reviews most beloved slasher films.

**WARNING: Will contain Spoilers!**

6. Prom Night (1980)

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Prom Night is what happens when you capitalize on the popularity and cast the star of hit slasher Halloween in order to create low-budget Canadian horror flick. Filmed over 24 days during 1979, director Paul Lynch struggled to achieve finance for his movie about a massacre circulating around a high school dance; that was until Jamie Lee Curtis who was making a recognizable name for herself as the final girl of horror at the time came on board as Prom Queen Kim Hammond. Paramount expressed an interest in distributing the film however would only give it a limited theatrical release whereas Avco Embassy offered a much wider release in which Lynch decided to go with. Also starring Leslie Nielsen, Prom Night was popular around the drive-in theater circuit and was somewhat financially successful upon its release in 1980, making it Canada’s highest grossing horror movie of the year.  Its a classic tale of revenge, a prominent theme of the Slasher. Six years before the main events take place a young girl is taunted and accidentally killed by a group of mean-spirited kids and the blame is placed on a local pervert who is arrested for the crime, flash forward to the ‘present day’ of the movie and someone has bloodthirsty revenge on their mind; but the question is who saw the “accident” and knows what they did?

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Halloween’s Producer Irwin Yablans advised Lynch to center the film around a seasonal setting, building on the success of the  John Carpenter classic. Lynch opted for the prom scenario and tied the his premise around a story written by Robert Guza Jr. that told the tale of a tragic accident that had come back to haunt the children who were involved several years later. Prom Night has the classic makings of a traditional slasher but it has its own unique tone. What’s most striking is it builds up the characters and plot slowly, introducing us to the self-righteous teenagers who are about to get more than they bargained for. Essentially, its what happens when you cross Carrie with Saturday Night Fever, which is an apt description as there’s plenty of disco galore and polished choreographed dance sequences that sort of stall the carnage but creates a kind of spectacle. If you enjoy blood and dancing, like myself, Prom Night is one for you! While not as popular as its contemporaries, genre fans will take something from it as one of the more underrated slashers of the early 80’s that knew how to exploit the slasher movie marketing machine!

5. Scary Movie (2000)

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Scream set the rules, then generated dozens of copycats. Some really held up prominently I Know What You Did Last Summer and Urban Legend while too many to name fell flat. The concept had been taken so far and in the four years since its release, the slasher was dying out once again. Something needed to come along and shake things up and thanks to the comedic talents of the Wayans brothers, that something certainly did! While not the first slasher spoof, Student Bodies (1981) takes that crown, Scary Movie is hip, crude and satirical of the contemporary horror of that period. You will never be able to watch Scream, Last Summer, The Matrix and The Blair Witch Project in the same way again!

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Scary Movie cleverly weaves the fantastical story mainly poking fun at Scream and Last Summer, while being non-stop hilarious throughout. There are some genuinely amusing critiques, the characters ponder about who would be cast to play them if they were in a slasher movie; they comment that actors in their late 20’s-early 30’s would be the most likely candidates, creating an awkward exchange with that being the cast’s actual ages! Shannon Elizabeth’s aptly named Buffy Gilmore possibly has the best death scene, she fails to take the killer seriously, critiquing how a typical death scene in a slasher will go as she’s hacked to pieces until she’s a talking severed head!  Regina Hall equally steals the show in a too funny for words parody of Jada Pinkett-Smith’s Scream 2 murder scene and Marlon Wayans is completely memorable as loveable stoner Shawty. While its a product of its time by today’s standards, who still remembers the “Wassup” Budwiser advert that gets the parody treatment?! For fans you’ll be surprised how hilarious it really is even fifteen years later. A batshit blend of laughs and gore, Scary Movie poked fun but manages to be an entertaining and outrageous comedy that literally slashes the fourth wall!

4. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter

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Well what a misleading title! In all fairness, in the documentary Camp Crystal Lake Memories its stated that the intention was to lay the tormented Jason to rest once and for all after this instalment! But if something is profitable then why stop?! The Final Chapter picks up where Part III left off. Jason (played by stuntman Ted White this time around) is presumed dead is rushed to the morgue only for him to rise off the cold slab and brutally slay an unsuspecting nurse and frisky doctor! Immediately The Final Chapter ups the gore spectacularly with each kill proving more blood thirsty than ever before. Some kills come off as repetitive e.g. horror’s fixation with shower murders that inevitably aren’t as shocking as Psycho (1960) was but these are certainly some of Jason’s goriest moments. Its thanks to the return of FX master Tom Savini who effectively returned to finally kill off his own creation. Typically, The Final Chapter does feature a group of self-absorbed, horny teenagers with one thing on their minds but it also shifts the focus to a family staying at the camp. Divorced mother Mrs Jarvis (Joan Freeman), her teenage daughter Trish (Kimberly Beck) and young son Tommy (Corey Feldman) bring in a new dynamic, representative of the changes in familial roles in America that were emerging at the time, notably the father is absent in the film. A metaphorical external fear is present with Jason lurking in the backdrop of the family’s separation and it paves the way for Friday’s original theme of the protective mother figure to be incorporated.

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Corey Feldman is brilliant as the young Tommy Jarvis, establishing his status as one of the franchises most popular characters. He is the first pre-teen to be featured in the Friday series and his character single-handedly breaks the traditional final girl convention by being the one to ultimately defeat Jason and protect his older sister. His performance is genuine and brings in authenticity, he was actually frightened during the scene where Jason grabs him through the window. The Final Chapter is iconic in its own right, it continued Jason’s hockey mask legacy that began in Part III, it also confirmed Mrs Voorhees’s (Betsy Palmer) first name as Pamela, as seen on her graveside as the teenagers drive to Camp Crystal Lake. Finally, Crispin Glover starred as the awkward Jimmy Mortimer pre-Back to the Future fame. The Final Chapter is my favourite instalment for the grizzly gore effects, the shift in dynamics, the return to the Jason POV shots instead of the stepping into the frame style they used in Part III, it bravely having a young boy take on Jason and its ambiguous ending.

 3.The Burning (1981)

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Tom Savini turned down Friday the 13th: Part 2 to bring his splatterific, gory visuals to life in 80’s camping slasher The Burning. Taking inspiration from Peeping Tom and the slew of similar films that were consistently being churned out during the decade (its been debatable that it was in production the same time as Friday 1), The Burning was certainly ahead of its time featuring a killer audiences were able to empathize with. Bizarrely, it found itself banned in the UK under 1984’s video recordings act due to the graphically violent and now infamous raft scene. It challenged typical conventions in regards to pre-marital sex, it was much more self-aware than the films that came before it and also featured a final boy instead of the final girl slasher staple. I wrote extensively about The Burning during one of my Halloween Month specials which can be read here. I also discuss The Burning in the context of the Video Nasties panic in this video:

2. Tourist Trap (1979)

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Stephen King took the words right out of my mouth; in his book Danse Macabre he describes Tourist Trap as an “obscure classic”. J A Kerswell, who wrote my favourite guide to the slasher ever, Teenage Wasteland referred to it as “an interesting sub-genre film”. Both are incredibly valid statements. Unlike Halloween released a year previous, Tourist Trap doesn’t have the mainstream appeal but there’s something so freakish about it you won’t be able to take your eyes off the screen. Possibly used as the primary inspiration for 2005’s non-remake of House of Wax, Tourist Trap sees five teenagers become the victims of a deranged psychopath with telekinetic powers who lures them to his run-down Wax museum located  in the middle of nowhere.

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Aside from the undeniably creepy visuals that see wax figures come to life entering into uncanny valley territory, what’s incredible about Tourist Trap is its use of sound. Italian composer Pino Donaggio creates an otherworldly sense using breathy female vocals for the mannequins that proves effective. The sound effects are the film’s most outstanding factor, a bizarre atmosphere is created placing a sense of unease for the audience throughout, without its strangeness diegetic sound the film certainly wouldn’t have managed the same impact. Tourist Trap has a considerably small core cast creating an isolated and compact feeling. Chuck Connors is unforgettable as the ambiguous Mr Slausen, who is definitely a fascinating slasher villain. We discover his back-story is again cemented in the slasher’s favourite trope of revenge however he is phenomenally creepy in his methods of murder. One victim Tina (Dawn Jeffory-Nelson) meets a painful end by having her face slowly covered with wax, her skin is burned and she is suffocated. The whole film’s tone, including the death scenes has something so mean-spirited about it! Many genre fans will say Tourist Trap needs to be seen to be believed. Its a truly fantastic, bizarre and mesmerizing slasher film that wholly deserves its cult status.

1. Sleepaway Camp (1983)

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Happy Campers gather round as we take a look at the best underrated slasher film of the 1980’s (In my humble opinion, of course!). Instead of a masked maniac slicing and dicing his victims, Sleepaway Camp offers a whole new kind of killer, the mysteriously sweet, thirteen year old and trans-gender Angela (Felissa Rose). A tragic accident occurs in the opening sequence that sees a young child killed, years later cousins Ricky (Jonathan Tiersten) and Angela are sent to Camp Arawak for the summer by Angela’s eccentric Aunt (one of my stand out performances in any film of this kind!). At the camp, a bloody rampage begins, which sees a bunch of young teens with enraging hormones and the corrupt staff slaughtered! Sleepaway Camp weaves in some taboo themes which were becoming prominent within society during the 80’s. Both gender and sexuality are explored along with bullying and familial issues. Strong hints are evident throughout the film in regards to Angela’s anxieties and motive with the symbolism of phallic objects used as murder weapons, hair straighteners anyone?! Sleepaway Camp heavily uses POV shots, conveying that the killer could literally be anyone, cleverly masking Angela’s reveal until the shocking end!

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The film is mainly overlooked due to its low-budget feel and hammy acting (more so from the adults!) but this film and its subsequent sequels have an endearing quality to them, even Return to Sleepaway Camp (2008) which is pretty laughable, in a good way! The sequels starring Pamela Springstein as Angela are also amazingly fun to watch, especially Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (1988).  It pushes the boundaries in regards to actually featuring characters playing their ages, a risky move for the sub-genre at the time having a cast so young in a film of this kind. Sleepaway Camp is pretty much an enjoyable entry in the sub-genre. The killer’s identity is unexpected and fantastically twisted. Angela endures cruelty at the hands of the more ‘well-developed’ campers especially Judy (Karen Fields) who utters the quotable line, “She’s a real carpenter’s dream: flat as a board and needs a screw!” adding to the tension and building on Angela’s insecurities, therefore its no surprise that she snaps! Sleepaway Camp is distinctive in its own right. Its memorable enough to be beloved by its fans and is extraordinarily warped.

Hope you’ve enjoyed my trip down slasher movie memory lane. Here’s a big thank you to everyone who follows and supports my site as well as the other side projects I’m involved in. You’re why I keep on writing about the movies I adore. Here’s to another four years of blood, guts and gore!

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

What happened in 97′ should stay in 97′! Thoughts on the Re-boot.

Posted in Press Release with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 20, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

**Contains Some Spoilers**

I Know What You Did Last Summer has always been somewhat of a guilty pleasure. Released in 1997 hot on the heels of the teen slasher revival thanks to Scream (1996), IKWYDLS showcased a young, talented cast of the time including Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ryan Phillipee; arguably the film is filled with nonsensical plot-holes and unbelievable scenarios but still manages to engage the viewer. Maybe nostalgic tainted glasses are at play here but there is something about the tone of the film that comes across at unnerving and is what it is a cheesy slasher that takes itself too seriously at times.

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Originally a teen thriller 1970’s novel by Lois Duncan, the film version was far removed from what the book intended. In Duncan’s novel four teens Barry, Helen, Julie and Ray are involved in an accidental hit and run resulting in the death of a young child, without giving too much away the teens are targeted by a mysterious stalker in which the novel culminates in a heart-pounding satisfying finale that unfortunately would be difficult to translate over to film. In Kevin Williamson’s script, the teens led by popular actress Jennifer Love Hewitt as protagonist Julie James are also involved in a hit and run but with that of a Fisherman with a dark secret who manages to return from his shallow grave to warn the teens he knows and wants revenge! Ben Willis is more or less an unmemorable villain and terribly hammy, failing to match the heights of Michael Myers, Freddy Kruger and even Ghostface he is mostly forgotten.

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Lois Duncan was less than impressed at the ‘hot new slasher movie’ in town. Sitting in the cinema back in 97′ she was disturbed to discover her mystery thriller had been transformed into a typical horror movie featuring young women in danger, some even ending up killed. This was in bad taste considering Duncan’s daughter had been brutally murdered back in 1989.  This in-depth article covers the tragic story of a mother’s anguish in bringing her daughter’s killers to justice. Williamson himself wasn’t completely at blame here. In his original script that was potentially in the works before he hit the big time with Scream, he had treated the film as a suspenseful thriller where no slashing took place until much later on. As expected this didn’t test well with audiences therefore director Jim Gillespie had to go back and shoot a death scene for minor character Max (Johnny Galeki) to satisfy audiences blood-thirsty taste buds and up the ante to determine Ben Willis really meant business.

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While popular in its time, the film grossed $125,586,134 at the Box Office and won a few awards e.g. MTV. An awesome soundtrack featuring tracks from Korn, The Offspring, Type O Negative and Hooverphonic was released.  Despite Sarah Michelle Gellar’s powerhouse performance as Helen Shivers and believable chemistry with Ryan Phillipee’s Barry Cox, I Know What You Did Last Summer isn’t a film that’s heavily discussed among the horror community as its simply a product of its time much like a slew of forgettable 80’s Slashers that emerged following Friday the Thirteenth etc.

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News just in Oculus director Mike Flanagan is penning a new script in plans to re-boot the movie which in itself seems quite random. Flanagan has stated he will not be directing or producing however original producer Neil H. Mortiz is said to be on board. Oculus may have done commercially well however among the convoluted plot it didn’t come across as anything that hadn’t been done before therefore I suspect a remake of IKWYDLS won’t be a vast improvement on the original. Flanagan is supposedly going to create a screenplay closer to the original book which is completely problematic.

As a franchise it failed, the sequel I Still Know What You Did Last Summer was rushed out in 1998 and left viewers on a cliffhanger and a 2006 straight-to-DVD monstrosity I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer followed and that was that. Various rumours emerged over the years that Love Hewitt and Freddie Prinze Jr would return in a follow-up particularly after Scream 4 but nothing was made concrete regarding the title until now.

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 No casting information has been revealed as of yet but the film is allegedly planned for a 2016 release, it will be interesting to see how this project develops despite how unnecessary it seems. Remakes are just tiresome and Hollywood has killed the horror genre. What is ultimately a product of the 90’s should stay in the 90’s…what next are we going to see a remake of Urban Legend?

 

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

 

 

 

Damnationland 2013: Natal

Posted in Horror Festivals with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 12, 2013 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Last time Corey Norman’s work was discussed on Hayley’s Horror Reviews was in relation to his up and coming feature film The Hanover House. Since wrapping up on the film, Corey and his team Bonfire Films had the opportunity to create a 27 minute short titled Natal. Natal is making its premiere on October 18th at the Damnationland horror festival located in Portland, ME. Damnationland supports independent filmmaking by showcasing a number of short films created  in Maine, tailored especially for the Halloween season. But that’s not the only connection Maine has to the horror genre. As most die hard fans will be aware its the birth place of iconic horror author Stephen King; and if his spine-chilling novels have taught us anything, its guaranteed something out of the ordinary is bound to take place there.

Corey has requested that Hayley’s Horror Reviews would be one of the first sites to review Natal, prior to its exciting world premiere. Therefore I would like to thank Corey very much for this opportunity which will hopefully generate some interest in the film over in the UK.

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Natal is without a doubt the perfect festival piece. As a festival-goer myself, this is definitely the type of film I’d expect to be watching amongst fellow hard core, gore-fiends. It most definitely has a nice indie tone to it, which is mainly down to the ensemble of relatively unknown actors who all gave strong performances, making the material very believable. That said, Natal comes across on a professional level, the film has some impressive cinematography which captures the beauty of the location used and gives a sharper cinematic edge to it. In one of the night time scenes, a lingering shallow focus shot really helped to ramp up the tension. Short filmmaking is a craft that requires a well-structured piece of storytelling conveyed in a short space of time, along with a good balance of pacing. Natal without a doubt achieves this, providing the audience with some intriguing well-rounded characters and an eerie little story thrown into the mix.

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Natal focuses on Carissa (Jessica Fratus), following a recent suicide attempt, her boyfriend Tristan (Erik Moody) and friends Jess (Chara Victoria Gannett) and Derek (Andrew Sawyer) bring her to her family’s former cabin for a weekend of rest. But Carissa’s world spirals out of control once again as an unnerving scratching sound consumes her sense of reality, which questions is there more going on with Carissa than she or her friends actually know? So far, the plot comes off as predictable and witnessed many times by horror enthusiasts, even sharing similarities with the recent ‘Evil Dead’ remake, however Natal proves this isn’t the case. The film soon takes a step back from familiar territory and focuses more on characterization rather than bumping everybody off in elaborate ways. What acts as a generic throwback to 80’s style cabin in the woods type films does a complete U-turn through incorporating a blend of styles, there’s elements of the slasher, possession films, body horror and teen drama. Natal does a great deal so the audience can get under Carissa’s skin and empathize with her. Even, Jess, a character who may come across as the stereotypical blonde air-head actually has more layers than it  first comes across. The conflict amongst the core group is parallel with the horror metaphor and is accompanied by a contemporary soundtrack that depicts the emotions felt. There is one moment where the soundtrack cleverly makes the entire scene which results in a moment of dark humour. There’s a strong build up  of tension  throughout resulting in a blood soaked finale that satisfies those who aren’t too squeamish. The use of sound is very effective, therefore it can only be imagined how that uncomfortable scratching will be heard once played on the big screen.

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As a short film, Natal is definitely one to watch, Corey Norman has created a tense piece of paranoid horror that stays true to existing tropes found in the genre while also bringing in his own spin on how these types of films can be done through playing it as straight horror rather than being too self-aware of the genre.

Hayley Alice Roberts.