Wicked Wednesday: Jack Frost (1997)

Tis the season for “it was really just okay but mostly forgettable” holiday films! Apparently, I guess.

I don’t set out to watch average films, but the heavy hitters of Christmas horror movies are far and few between. Jack Frost is certainly an average fare.

If you like the original Child’s Play but want more Christmas spirit and a lower budget, this movie is really made for you.

Jack Frost is a serial killer. A particularly nasty one at that. While he’s being transported to his execution, the van he is in collides with a truck carrying chemicals.

Jack’s body combines with the genetic material and the snow, turning him into a snowman.

As a snowman, Jack is able to terrorise a small town. The small town, in fact, where he was caught by the sheriff, Sam Tiler.

So as the townspeople begin preparing for Christmas, Jack wrecks havoc by killing them. Two men from the FBI arriving, looking for Jack but refusing to admit to anyone that they still believe he’s alive.

But Tiler soon realised something is amiss, especially when his son’s bully is killed in a freak sled-related accident.

Eventually, the agents must admit the truth when the snowman Jack appears at the police station. Ruler and the others try to fend the killer snowman off repeatedly.

When blowing up the police station or sticking Jack in the incinerator doesn’t work, Tiler has the idea to use antifreeze instead. The townspeople all believe it’s done the trick. Only, it’s a horror movie that demands a sequel – so of course it’s not the end of things.

When I was younger (I was six when this movie was released), the VHS cover terrified me at the rental shop. I thought about it constantly. Because of that fear, I never was keen to watch it. But turns out there is nothing remotely scary. It’s very much a comedy with gore.

I actually chuckled a little, whereas I never felt any sense of tension. That’s not to say the film doesn’t try its best. Some of the deaths are rather gross and one actually pretty humorous. Only, a killer snowman is so ridiculous it is so very hard to take seriously.

The same could probably be said about a certain killer doll, but there’s plenty of evidence that says otherwise.

If you’re looking for something ridiculous, this certainly fits the bill. It just depends on how much late-90s tastelessness you can handle.

Wicked Wednesday: Sint (2010)

Growing up, my family always kind of celebrated Saint Nicholas in December. It was a strange sort of tradition, not something that was ever really explained to me. We’d just wake up and there would be gifts in our stockings on the 6th. I suppose it was just a leftover “thing we do” from my mother’s family (who were from Brannenborg and Zachodniopomorskie).

I never really “got it” but I really enjoyed it. Especially because a lot of my friends didn’t. It was some wacky thing my mom was obsessed with when we were kids.

So really, what better way to celebrate this, er, holiday I have a vague understanding of than watching a Dutch film about dear, jolly Saint Nicholas?

Much of the Sinterklass (the Dutch name for Saint Nic) lore is ripe for the horror movie treatment. Exhibit A: The endless amounts of Krampus movies that were churned out in the last decade. Many of Saint Nicholas’s “companions” are really rather terrifying or a bit offensive. And clearly, it was an well of inspiration for Dutch icon Dick Mass.

In 1492, the 5th of December, Niklas terrorises a town with his cronies in tow. Fed up with the attacks, a group of villagers seek retribution and set fire to Niklas’ large ship.

And for every 23 years later after, a full moon on the 5th, Niklas begins to rise from his watery grave to attack once again. In 1968, his team kill of an entire farm film except for one small boy, Goert.

In the present day (2010), Frank is a young boy stirring up his own sort of trouble. After being dumped publicly by his girlfriend Sophie, Frank and his friends get dressed as Sinterklass and two Zwarte Piets before heading out into the night before debauchery.

Only their fun is over before it even begins. On their way to the party, the boys stop and attacked by a group of ghouls. Frank’s friends are promptly torn to bits. Frank, on the other hand, manages to get away in the car. But he’s promptly stopped and arrested.

Frank later learns about the shenanigans going on in Amsterdam that night. Several people, including Sophie, have been brutally killed by someone dressed as Sinterklass. And Frank seems the most likely suspect?

He is later moved, where the police transporting him are stopped by the ghouls. They’re also promptly killed off, one is even crushed by Nic’s horse (!). Before Sinterklass can get to Frank, the Saint is attacked by a man wielding a flamethrower.

After the older gent fends of Sinterklass, he introduces himself to Frank as Goert.

Goert is a policeman in Amsterdam, hellbent on ending the Sinterklass’s crime-spree after his family’s murders. He tells young Frank that he plans to set fire to the Sinterklass’s boat, ending his reign of terror.

Frank decides to go along with. I don’t know – seeing is believe, the spirit of the season, etc. The two men set off together to find the ship, hoping for the best and knowing they’ll get the worst.

Sint will appeal to a certain type of horror fan. Anyone who already enjoyed A Christmas Horror Story and the like will certainly enjoy this. The idea alone to twist jolly old Saint Nicholas into a brutal killer will delight many. There are a few fun deaths, though not very terrifying or imaginative.

I, personally, didn’t enjoy it even half as much as Maas’s De Lift. But I do always lean towards older, mouldier cheeses. If you’re looking for a film that you’ll talk about for years afterwards, watch that classic. Otherwise, Sint is fairly standard affair that you might just forget about later.

Wicked Wednesday: Blood Rage/Slasher (1987)

There are a number of films based on everyone’s third-favourite holiday. Each one is a treasure to be admired in its own right. While Blood Feast is bonkers and Poultrygeist is vomit-inducing, I think I like Blood Rage best.

After last week’s Final Exam, was 100% jaded with 80s slashers. Had been feeling it coming on for a while. But Blood Rage certainly perked me up a bit. It has everything a b-movie slasher should: great one-liners (“It’s not cranberry sauce…”), a memorable final girl and cast of zany characters, and great moments of gore with a fun killer to go with.

In 1974, twin brothers Terry and Todd are in the back of a station wagon ‘sleeping’ while their mom makes out with her date at the drive-in. The boys decide to exit the car quietly. Terry (somehow) finds an axe, which he promptly puts through the skull of a sex-having teen.

Terry quickly cleans the blood off himself and hands the axe over to Todd. Being in such a state of shock, Todd is unable to move. Ten years later, it’s Todd in the mental hospital, not Terry.

But as Todd grows older, his memories of that night begin to come back to him. Todd’s doctor is fairly certain that he is innocent, and that Terry was the killer. But the twins’ mother, Maddy, is much less convinced. She becomes hysterical after hearing the suggestion from the doctor.

Maddy decides to leave Todd behind in the asylum. She instead joins her family on Thanksgiving, as if nothing were wrong. And seemingly nothing is until she announces her engagement.

The announcement seems to upset Terry, who becomes sullen. But the news that his brother has broken out of the asylum cheers him up considerably.

Soon Todd’s doctor and her assistant arrive at the apartment complex that Maddy and Terry reside in. The two head out into the woods while Maddy’s fiance goes to his office. But he soon discovers that it’s Terry who is the true threat. And the deviant soon makes quick work of the rest of the search party.

In between his deadly shenanigans, Terry meets up with his friends. He slowly stalks and torments each one of them. The while his poor mother is losing her mind, cleaning the house and getting drunk off red wine. But when his wannabe-girlfriend Karen accidentally meets Todd, she begins to suspect something is not quite right.

And she definitely knows something isn’t right when Terry begins chasing her with a machete. But soon the brothers must come face-to-face and learn the reality of a mother’s true love.

So no. Blood Rage (also known as Slasher and Nightmare at Shadow Woods – none of which are any good) isn’t an out-an-out Thanksgiving him. Not quite like some others. But I would say it definitely is in the league of “most fun”. Is it cheesy? Oh fuck yeah.

I do have to say, this is one slasher there more than one character is memorable (a true rarity). Both Terry and Todd are incredibly different, played excellently by Mark Soper. Equally excellent is Louise Lasser, the quickly-losing-it Maddy. Each work very well with each other, delivering some fantastically silly and bizarre lines. Also, shout-out to my girl Karen, played by Julie Gordon.

Anyway. You’ve got nothing to do on Black Friday. You’re shopping from your sofa and binging on turkey leftovers. Check out the Arrow Film Blu-Ray release of Blood Rage, which includes several version of the movie. Watch it with your family, I’m sure they’ll love it.

Wicked Wednesday: Final Exam (1981)

It has come to a point in my life where I’ve asked myself, “Have I watched too many 80s slasher movies?” After watching Final Exam, I’m leaning towards “yes”.

There is nothing wrong with this movie. It’s not even the straw to break the camel’s back. But at some point during the course of these 90 minutes, I realised I’m a bit over the formula.

While one of the earlier Halloween knock-offs, Final Exam easily fits into the slasher mold. A group of students at Lanier College are preparing for their final exams of the school year.

During a chemistry exam, a fraternity stage a mass shooting ‘prank’. The frat boys involved receive no punishment when their coach steps in to help them against the sheriff. It’s ok, though, as the real joke will be on them.

Afterwards, one of the frat’s pledges, Gary, is asked to break into a professor’s office and steal the exam. He does so quite easily, but is then hazed by his potential brothers. He’s tied to a tree in his underpants, freezing in the cold. After an age, he’s finally released – by a motiveless killer.

After Gary’s death, his fellow frat brothers are killed off, as are the nerds and girlfriends. None of the deaths are particularly interesting or gruesome. The death in the gym reminds me of a very tame version of Killer Workout or Fatal Games (both of which were much more fun and memorable) – but was easily the best bit of this movie.

Then we reach our final girl: Courtney. We don’t know anything about her other than she’s insecure because her roommate is really confident. Courtney finds everyone on the campus is murdered, and the sheriff sure as hell isn’t about to arrive and help. She’s eventually chased throughout the school and escapes to the top of the school’s clock tower.

During the ensuing scuffle, the killer falls from a height, seemingly dead. When Courtney attempts to escape past time, he grabs her – forcing her to stab him ’til he’s real dead.

There’s never a backstory given to the killer, only that he killed at another university before attacking Lanier College. In some ways, I could see where this angle could really work. It’s why I love Black Christmas. But mystery doesn’t have to mean boring.

Perhaps I need a long break from the genre. Or next time only seek out something with a very serious reputation (whether that be good or bad).

Final Exam is by no means bad. It certainly tries to do something a little different with its frat-boy shenanigans. (Though those have, unfortunately, aged very poorly.) Personally, I didn’t care about any of the characters other than the nerdy Radish. They weren’t likeable or dis-likeable enough. And if you aren’t cheering or mourning the deaths, what’s the point?

This all being said – I’m always a sucker for an 80s slasher movie. I’ll probably be here again next week with another one…

Wicked Wednesday: Escape Room (2017)

***Warning: The following post contains an excessive use of exclamations and all caps.***

Turns out there are quite a few horror movies called Escape Room. I could almost dedicate a month to solely watching escape-room themed films. (I’m definitely not.) No, this isn’t the semi-successful one from earlier this year. No it isn’t the other one starring Skeet Ulrich and Sean Young. This is the other, other one. The one free to watch on Netflix.

A girl has priorities, and that’s saving myself from spending money on movies I probably won’t like. I’ll save my money for real escape rooms. Certainly wish I had escaped watching this movie.

Heh-heh.

Escape Room is essentially what is says on the label: a group of friends go to a secret escape room for a man’s birthday.

The birthday boy, Tyler, is a real tool. He’s cheating on his girlfriend, Christen, with the not-so-subtle Natasha. He hates on homeless people for fun. He thinks he’s really intelligent despite constantly being proved otherwise. And he’s just an all-around asshole.

And in slasher movies, I enjoy a really hate-able cast. That is, as long as they’re fun to hate. Somehow Christen and Tyler have assembled the worst group ever as friend to surround themselves with. And it’s a blessing when they all start dying off.

About half of Escape Room is literally just the groups trying to play the game. They begin in three separate rooms to be later reunited. It isn’t until later that they realise Christen is nude in a cage, not playing along.

Though it turns out that watching other people solve clues isn’t always fun. This is mostly due to the script’s leaps in logic and the ease in which the players guess the answers to the clues. Perhaps it would have been a bit better if the viewers could have helped solve things along the way, but er, the script isn’t quite so refined.

Soon Tyler’s sister and her boyfriend get strapped in a room and are “acid gassed” to death. So the three remaining player know for certain that this isn’t just a simple game.

Somehow Tyler knows they need to leave the room by using the ventilation system (?). But they discover more puzzles along the way, one in which kills Anderson, Natasha’s husband.

But Natasha and Tyler (the remaining two) find themselves back in the original room. The two find the last puzzle: a lever linked to the exit door. Tyler puts Natasha in charge of pulling the lever, and her arm is ripped off.

Tyler leaves Natasha to die alone, and he comes face-to-face with a screen of Christen. They’re finally able to talk to each other, and Tyler spends his last remaining two minutes in the escape room blaming Christen for everything.

At the one minute mark, buttons light up in their respective locations. They’re each given an option: “Save Me” / “Save Him/Her”. Tyler, of course, saves himself. Christen choose to save him.

She escapes.

Christen goes to a payphone and calls 9-1-1. The call is hacked (again – ?) by the man who orchestrated the escape room. He kindly reminds Christen that she brought everyone there so it’s her fault they’re dead. She wanted an escape and she got it. OR DID THEY WANT TO ESCAPE HER????

Uh. I guess that’s an option?

There is a lot here that’s very confusing:

  1. There is a friend at the dinner party who cannot join in on the game. Why this character is important is never explained.
  2. Why the heavy hints that Christen was the one plotting the escape room? Just as a red herring?
  3. The fuck was that video footage of the sex party? Just ‘cus?
  4. WHY WAS THIS CHRISTEN’S FAULT?? There’s a line at the end that the ‘organiser’ delivers to Christen, something about them escaping her. It literally makes no sense. Unless she deserves to suffer because she’s so boring?
  5. Why did I even bother with this movie?

It seems like these are things the world may never know.

It’s safe to say that this is one of the worst movies I’ve seen in a while. It’s the usual culprits: the editing, the acting, the dialogue, the plot. But Escape Room fails on to hit any marks.

This film tries desperately to be the next Saw but is very, very far from it. I certainly think with the right script it could be something interesting. It’s really just bemusing that the movie opted out of any sort of twist. I mean, why play it so straight? This is a movie about puzzles, dammit! WE NEED TWISTS!

Maybe one of the many other Escape Rooms have done better, but I’m a bit too jaded to find out.

Wicked Wednesday: Paganini Horror (1989)

You probably can’t tell from the films I tend to write about, but I love Italian horror. They just get me. But I tend not to write about these things. First of all, I prefer watching them subtitled in Italian (which makes note-keeping a bit trickier), and sometimes – just sometimes – I like watching movies for my own enjoyment.

I made an excuse for Paganini Horror, as my copy from 88 Films had sat on my shelf unwatched a few weeks too many.

This was a complete blind buy. I had never seen this 1989 film before but it had all the right ingredients: Venice, Daria Nicolodi, fictional bands, Donald Pleasence and Luigi Cozi. Plus the slipcase promised this would be my new favourite bad movie. What isn’t inciting about that?

And for one, this actually lived up to all my expectations and more!

Singer Kate is a bit washed up, and her manager isn’t happy with it. Kate continues to churn out uninspired music. But her drummer, Daniel, gets an idea and makes a trade with the mysterious Mr Pickett.

In exchange for money, Daniel is given a sealed, unpublished work by the Italian composer Niccolò Paganini. It was apparently written for some sect after selling his soul to the Devil (very Faustian of him).

Kate immediately takes to the music and agrees to use it. She’s inspired to create a “Thriller”-style music video and call the song (surprise!) “Paganini Horror”. The score sounds exactly like ELO’s “Twlight”, but I guess we’ll keep quiet about that (sorry, Jeff). Paganini was clearly well ahead of his time.

The band go to an old house in Venice to create the music video. They’ve got a larger budget than Bonnie Tyler for white cloths and a whole lot of mannequins. While the video seems to be going well, it doesn’t take long for things to start going south.

There are strange going-ons in the Venetian home. The group find a room full of strange light and noise that terrorises them. Band members and crew start getting killed off by the ghost of Paganini, dressed in a skull mask.

Though, this isn’t some typical slasher affair. The deaths are creative (even if they are off screen): death by violin mould, being incinerated next to an hourglass, electrocuted by invisible barrier.

When we spiral into explanation-territory, the story begins to become a bit of a head-scratcher. Kate discovers true secret to defeating Paganini: playing his piece backward. Why? Well, something about music being the key to the universe (I think).

Paganini Horror is an ambitious horror movie, quite clearly hindered by time and budget. It certain gets convoluted, but it’s worth it for the excellent Italian cheese.

Cozi apparently wasn’t happy with the film’s outcome, and if you read about the original story, it’s quite clear why. Paganini Horror may well be a part of the “horror movies that never were”, joining the ranks of Book of Shadows and Deadly Friend. We’ll never know what the film would have been like if producers allowed his original vision, but I certainly think what we did get is memorable and entertaining.

For me, Paganini Horror will certainly go down in the books as a classic. Maybe not for the reasons it wanted to be, but that’s fine, right? If you can parallel the mastery of Pod People, I really think you’re doing something right.

Wicked Wednesday: Tales of Halloween (2015)

Halloween eve is finally here!

As always, the day snuck up on me faster than I could imagine. It’s been a heck of a month, so it was really nice to just sit down and watch something with some good Halloween spirit. Unfortunately for me, I chose Tales of Halloween.

Anthologies are, at the best of times, a mixed bag. There aren’t very many anthologies that I’d flat-out say I enjoy, let alone enjoy it from start to finish. Tales of Halloween is even more ambitious than the usual, as there are ten short stories! Not only are there ten films from ten different directors, but several are connect with a fairly-similar style throughout.

But when that style isn’t to your taste, it makes for a very bumpy hour and a half.

While made in 2015, this movie feels much more dated than that. Think “punks” in bad wigs listening to bad pop-punk and women in very short costumes (including one meant to be underage). And a very random cameo from Adrianne Curry. I mean, who even remembers her? These things are just…well, I’m bored by these things. It felt much more 2005 than 2015, and I had to double-check my dates again just to be certain.

There were a couple stand-outs in the pack, for me. First, I love the insanity that was “Friday the 31st”, written and directed by Mike Mendez and Dave Parker. The opening sequence is of a woman in a Dorothy costume running from a Jason Vooreehs-like killer. After the girl dies, an alien stops by planet Earth for trick-or-treating (because of course).

When the alien doesn’t get a treat from the killer, it becomes angry and possesses “Dorothy”. The killer gets his own when he must face a Deadite-style Dorothy in combat. It’s completely nuts, but it’s also hilarious and works quite well.

But my absolute favourite was Axelle Carolyn’s segment, “Grim Grinning Ghost”. One, this stars both Alex Essoe and Lin Shaye. But it’s also a great little ghost story that’s pretty effective. Oh and there’s a cute dog.

🙂

Otherwise, there were a lot of lows. Again, I don’t think it’s necessarily because they’re bad. They just aren’t my thing. 100% not my thing. There were some segments that irritated me so much, I would have loved to fast-forward them. But I didn’t because I’m a champ (also it might not far to judge things otherwise).

A lot of the themes overlapped, and I get it. There’s a great gag about creepy children and children getting scared or killed. But it was slightly overkill that six of the ten went this direction. So it’s not really surprising that the ones that didn’t go this route were the more interesting ones (though not necessarily for the better).

There’s a lot of cameos here, which is fun to see. Landis, Barbeau as the DJ, Dante, and everyone’s favourite camper Felissa Rose. But my favourite part was the inventive animated title sequence. Whoever did those did a fantastic job. Some of my favourite credits I’ve seen in a long while!

On a different note, one of the biggest disappointments was that there were only two women writing or directing in this project. Two. Perhaps if there was more of a diversity in directors, the stories would have felt a little more unique.

That being said – Halloween is nigh! May it be full of ghouls, goblins and trick-or-treats.