Archive for The Burning

**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.

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**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.

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.

Sally’s death scene. Sex = Death trope.

 

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.