Author: Krista Culbertson

Wicked Wednesday: Slumber Party Massacre (2021)

Remakes. The horror genre loves them. Sometimes they really work and transcend the original (The Thing). Sometimes they’re nearly universally hated (The Fog). And other times, they’ll surprise you (House of Wax – my go-to example now).

So I was both very excited and rather nervous about the remake of Slumber Party Massacre. The original film is by no means perfect. The sequel, however, is. Despite any flaws, the original trilogy remains a very important cult trilogy. It was the first series of horror films to be entirely written and directed by women. And to my knowledge, remains the only one.

I was fairly disappointed with the results of Black Christmas (2019), but overall was just bewildered by the backlash. Was it because it offended the men too much? Lord knows. But 2021’s Slumber Part Massacre wasn’t met with nearly any of the vitriol that the other was. And it’s kind of obvious why.

In 1993, a group of friends are targeted by a drill-wielding killer, Russ Thorn. There was only one survivor of that slumber party – Trish. She manages to knock the killer into the lake, but years later remains unconvinced that the man is dead.

Present-day Trish is paranoid. After Russ’s assault and the murder of her friends, she keeps a close eye on her daughter, Dana. She’s been reduced to being a nameless joke while Russ’s name continues on in infamy thanks to trashy true crime podasts. When Dana and her friends go off on a trip together, Trish can’t help but fret more than ever.

The girls casually lie to Trish, but quickly make their way to a cabin at the lake. Not the cabin, but one nevertheless. They begin their night of fun. When Maeve’s little sister discovers a body nearby with its eyes missing, the girls admit this: they were trying to lure out Russ all along, finally catching and killing the son of a gun.

And surprise! Nothing goes quite to plan. With their “no murders” goal already shattered, the girls must work together to stop Russ once and for all and save themselves. They’re not the average nameless characters in a slasher movie: they’re smart, funny and flawed. The perfect heroines!

The girls eventually stumble upon a cabin full of men. The boys are there to have a party! They have pillow fights, dance around in their undies and just let loose! The cliches are over-the-top for a reason: to make a point. And some of these points are very on the nose.

“This is part of your big feminist plot to get rid of all the men!”
“That was a really sexist thing to say.”
“Yeah. I’m sorry.”

But some are more subtle, like the way Trish is able to fight back and claim victory over her own trauma (there are plenty of references to podcasts and the lack of respect for victims throughout).

The movie doesn’t make fun of men, so much as it pokes fun at the stereotypes genders are often forced into for slashers. They’re flawed in a horror-movie way, but they also seem really nice? The Guy 1/Guy 2 gag cracked me up, even after the joke was repeated for the fifth time. Chuckling even now writing this! Director Danishka Esterhazy and writer Suzanne Keilly did a great job of embracing the genre while also picking it apart.

I loved the little nods to the original movies: the little sister getting in the way, the red guitar, the telephone repair van, the cooler gag. It made me want to rewatch the originals all over again, while still managing to make me love it on its own. And that, I think, is the sign of a good remake.

Slumber Party Massacre (2021) was much more of a comedy than I was expecting, but I’ve actually grown fond of that idea after the initial shock. It doesn’t take itself seriously, but it’s still passionate about the ladies at the centre of the story. There are definitely some loose threads at the end, making me very hopeful for a sequel. I can only hope it has the freedom and budget to truly let loose.

I’m looking forward to marathoning all four movies. This remains top-tier horror fun.

Wicked Wednesday: Night Owl (1993)

Vampires are one of the most enduring monsters of horror. Even from their earliest iterations, they always symbolised our fears. With each generation, we see a new take that reflects its society.

So a 1990s vampire film set in 1984 (?) is most certainly a take on the dangerous city New York was at the time, as well as the AIDS epidemic.

Jake is a vampire on the hunt for victims, most often found in nightclubs. But he chooses the wrong victim when he kills Zohra, the sister of a young man named Angel. With his sister missing, Angel begins his search for her. But it isn’t a search that will have a happy ending.

Despite his best attempts, Jake cannot stop himself from feeding. Even when he meets and falls for a young poet, he soon feeds on her as well.

When Angel eventually catches up with Jake, the fight ends very quickly. But Jake needs to run before he can finish the job – continuing the circle of death and infection.

Night Owl is very light on the plot. The vampire at the centre of the story feels almost secondary to the world around him. The House music of the era is something to behold! Nightlife icons of the era (Holly Woodlawn, Screamin’ Rachael) bring the ambience to life. Though this makes things even more confusing when we hear of Indira Gandhi on the radio – placing the story in 1984, not the 90s as we had assumed.

While actors John Leguizamo and James Raftery do a good job with what material they are given, there isn’t any character development (or many character traits to begin with). So it is very difficult to care about what is happening in the story. Rather, it’s the city itself in all its filth, tragedy and vibrancy that steals all the attention.

This is a gorgeous film, and I think it’s worth watching for that alone. It was shot on grainy 16 mm film, bringing feelings of the earliest vampire films like Nosferatu and Vampyr. It even predates other 90s vampire black-and-white films like The Addiction and Nadja (which, incidentally, I think are also set in NYC).

Clearly the epidemic occurring at the time was a catalyst for these stories. Making the vampire film all that more harrowing and bleak.

*By the way, I had no idea that Beyonce would be bringing House music back this week with her new single. Maybe she was inspired by me watching this movie? I can only assume.

Wicked Wednesday: The Last Thing Mary Saw (2021)

I have the attention span of a fruit fly. The only way I can give full attention to a film is by going to the cinema. But at least I know and can fully admit I have a problem!

Watching “slow” horror is a struggle at home. But a film like The Last Thing Mary Saw demands full attention. It’s a quiet (literally) and soft film that’s equally filled with torture, pain and suffering.

Mary and her family’s maid, Eleanor, are in love. But it’s 1843 and a Puritan household, which makes for a dangerous life for the pair of young women.

When the rest of the family discovers their romance, the girls are both subject to a series of “corrections” to change their ways. Despite this, Mary and Eleanor cannot be separated. Especially since no other family will take Eleanor in.

As the girls become more desperate to be together, the film flicks forward in time to when Mary is being interrogated by several men. As the two timelines get closer to each other, it becomes very clear what sort of darkness the girls felt they needed to partake in.

The Last Thing Mary Saw is definitely more slow-paced than anything I’ve watched recently. But while it doesn’t necessarily have the action of an 80s slasher, it definitely knows how to build tension. There is a moment when it becomes very clear what is about to happen. The audience knows it, the girls know it, but watching it unfold is very tragic… And yet, it’s the circumstances that led the girls to their desperation.

If you’re looking for a queer film to watch for Pride that has a happy ending, don’t seek this one out. The Last Thing Mary Saw is a tragic horror story that won’t leave anyone feeling vindicated.

Wicked Wednesday: The Boogeyman (1982)

One of my deepest, darkest secrets is that I’m not really much of a Stephen King fan. Now I have nothing against him as a human or a writer, but I’ve just never connected with his stories like so many others have. Does that make me a bad horror fan? Oops!

So when it came to watching a short film adaption of his short story “The Boogeyman” I was in the dark when it came to what to expect.

I had to read the short story’s synopsis on Wiki just so I could better understand what’s happening in the film. The film itself is a bit…lacking in the writing department.

Lester Billings is the father of several children who have been killed in his home. The police suspect he has something to do with it, but Lester knows that the truth is: they’ve been killed by the Boogeyman.

He goes to a psychiatrist to talk about what has happened. With each child’s death, he heard them call out “BOOGEYMAN” (I think – though I couldn’t really tell with the quality of the video I was watching). And each time he found a dead child in bed, the closet door would be ajar.

So is Lester insane? Or is there really a mythic creature hunting him and his family?

The end of the film sort of gives you that answer. But then again, I’m happy I read the synopsis as I watched this.

This was apparently a student film made in 1982. For a student film, I like the mood and lighting in some of the scenes, which seem to be Italian inspired with the blue, purple and red tones. But it isn’t spectacular by any means.

The Boogeyman was a part of Stephen King’s Dollar Baby programme. According to its website, “These stories are not under contract for movies, which means they are available for film students who want to try their hands at a Stephen King story. If you want to be one of my dollar babies, send us your info.”

It’s a fun idea, and I’d be curious to see more! Interestingly, “The Boogeyman” is no longer listed. It’s apparently do a feature-length adaptation by Rob Savage (Host) and Mark Heyman (co-writer of Black Swan). Having read the synopsis and watched this, I’m not entirely sure what can be done to make this an interesting 90+ minute film. However, I do love to be proved wrong.

What’s your favourite King adaptation? Or what sort of his am I sorely missing out on?

Wicked Wednesday: Blood Theatre aka Movie House Massacre (1984)

I was about 35 minutes into watching Girls Nite Out for this week’s post before I realised I had already seen this movie. Everyone movie is special and unique in its own way…I just forget that. Apparently.

Having to reset and start over again, I wanted something quick. When I spied Blood Theatre‘s 75-minute running time, I knew I had struck gold. Mary Woronov starring and Hobgoblin director Rick Sloane behind the camera were only the cherries on top.

Blood Theatre is like a bloodless version of many cinema-set slashers such as Popcorn, The Last Matinee and Demons. There are kids at the theatre, they get killed at the theatre. Only Sloane manages to make this so unwatchable that it comes back around on itself and becomes watchable again.

Years after a massacre at a theatre, the owner of the Spotlite multiplexes, Dean Murdock, buys it. Get it to successfully open, and he gets a $75,000 reward. He bribes three of his young co-workers to open it for him. A $1,000 bonus is their dangling carrot.

But when the three kids get to the theatre, things generally go a bit wrong. As they remain aware, their classmates arrive at the theatre, only to get killed off by a lurking man. Some get stabbed, and others get blown up (?) in a magical popcorn machine. Some just get…blown at by some wind?

There’s not too much more to this basic plot. Nor is there much character development. However, the bonkers editing, hammy performances and ridiculous outfits save this. I mean, the outfits look like what people wear when they buy 1980s costumes from the Halloween store. The posters on the wall for featured films are clearly just hand-drawn. Most of all: at no point is the killer really explained. (Is he a ghost? Is he just really old? Does this old guy have powers??)

Make no mistake: this is a really bad movie. But somehow, I was pretty charmed by it. I can’t help but admire indie filmmakers, even if things turn out…less-than-successful. If you enjoyed Hobgoblins, you need to see Blood Theatre. Any member of the “so bad it’s good” club will get a kick out of this movie.

Also, if you love Mary Woronove: run, don’t walk. She plays a harassed, tough-as-nails, chain-smoking secretary and is a star. As always.

Wicked Wednesday: True Crime (1995)

Many people think that the current wave of true crime obsession is something new. But there was the crime novel boom of the 80s and let’s face it, people loved this stuff in Victorian times.

We’re fascinated by the dark side of the human psyche. And certainly, in recent years (as well as the work of Ann Rule), we’ve also spent time getting to know the victims of these tragedies.

So it was plenty of fun to learn there was a movie about a true crime-obsessed teen in 1995. Surely with a girl as our heroine, we’ll get some of that insight into our victims? Oh no? It will just be a really weird romantic thriller? Well…

True Crime follows high school senior Mary. She loves mysteries and wants to be a police officer one day, just like her dad. She pesters the local police detective for leads and listens to the police scanner for fun.

Following the murder of one of her classmate’s sisters, Kathleen, Mary begins to look more closely at the series of murders, understanding that they are likely all done by the same person.

While trying to learn more about Kathleen, Mary ends up at the local swimming pool where she catches a man creeping on some of the younger girls. She follows him home, and eventually, he begins to follow her. After she attacks him at a supermarket, they both are dragged to the precinct where Mary learns the man is a young police cadet.

The cadet is introduced as Tony. We’re meant to think he’s trustworthy and just as eager to solve the case as Mary, but actor Kevin Dillon plays him in such an unconvincing way. Tony immediately becomes #1 on my suspect list! But he certainly isn’t on Mary’s as she begins to fall in love with him (ick).

The two try to solve the murders together. They chase after a guy working at a carnival. They look for a blue car. They continue to make huge leaps in logic.

Mary eventually breaks into Tony’s house. She finds bleach and other cleaning supplies. She knows that the killer cleaned his victims after their murders. He has the right kind of car as the killer. But surely he’s not the killer! Any sort of true crime fan would be able to accept Tony’s very weak defences!

And then we’re only two-thirds of the way into the movie! It keeps going! We know Tony is the killer, but the film pretends that there’s absolutely NO WAY he is. This is absolute disrespect to the audience’s intelligence. At least wrap it up quickly if we want to make it that obvious!

Unfortunately, True Crime seems to only get worse at that point. It’s really not a fun time for anyone.

I think I was maybe too optimistic for a movie made in 1995. By the end of the 90s minutes, I still know nothing about the victims (well, Katheleen liked to swim!) and even the motivation for the killings is just…vague? So there’s nothing satisfying about the story or the mystery.

We’ve come a long way in the world of crime storytelling. Not to say that there weren’t always good stories, but I don’t know – I’m trying anything and everything to explain away this film! It’s baffling!

Mary was played by the always-adorable Alicia Silverstone. She’s hardly convincing as a mousy loser, but I’ll suspend my disbelief on that one. She’s easily the best thing about this movie, as well as Bill Nunn’s detective character (he, unfortunately, also plays a very dumb character).

This movie wasn’t released theatrically, and I can see why. Give this one a miss and find yourself a good mystery to sink your teeth into.

Wicked Wednesday: Teenage Exorcist (1991)

There are just some genres that can only exist in certain eras. You just don’t get wild trash (and I mean that in a good way) like you did in the 80s (er…I guess I mean 90s?).

Teenage Exorcist has nothing to do with teenagers or exorcists. But it does deliver a good horror comedy nevertheless!

Diane is a young grad student and a bit of an uppity one at that. She’s not big into having fun or letting loose. Wanting to get out of campus housing, she finds a mansion for sale at a price that’s a steal. And we know: if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. And if it’s being sold to you by a man who looks like Michael Berryman*, you might want to ask a few neighbours if they’ve ever seen anything odd.

While in her new abode, Diane begins to feel reinvigorated and inspired. But it might not be only because she’s moved out on her own. She’s got a demon living in her cellar who wants to make her his lackey.

One night, Diane finds a spirit board on her table. She speaks to a spirit through it and is somehow lured into her cellar. It’s then that she becomes a possessed succubus.

After Diane calls for their help, Diane’s sister, Sally, and brother-in-law, Mike, arrive at the house. They’re both surprised to see Diane in all her glory – no longer the quiet, mousey type. They know immediately something is amiss. And when Diane tries to kill Sally with a chainsaw, they knock her out and tie her to a bed.

It’s when Diane’s boyfriend arrives that things get zanier. Once he believes Sally and MIke’s story of possession, they call a priest. When that priest can’t remember how to exercise a demon they accidentally order several pizzas from a local pizza joint.

Does everything make sense from this point on? Absolutely not. Did they make sense before this? Not really. Does any of that matter? Hell no!

Teenage Exorcist was made in 1991, but it did not receive a video release until three years later in 1994. And by that point, it probably felt like opening a time capsule. Horror movies were about to change in a big way come 1996, so I can see why this movie would have been overlooked. It definitely fits the vibe of late 80s sleazy horror comedies like Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama.

There’s surprisingly no gore here. There are no deaths (sorry, spoiler for a 30-year-old movie). But that doesn’t really detract from the film. It remains funny and stupid in the best of ways.

And as an added bonus. This movie includes my favourite thing: an original song.

*MB seems like a sound guy IRL. But I would never buy a house from him in a horror movie. Just saying.

Wicked Wednesday: Dawn of the Mummy (1981)

The saturation of the slash in the 80s market was great. With so many out there, how on earth do you set yourself apart?

You could make a quality movie with a lot of passion. You could maybe even create characters that will resonate with audiences for decades. OR you could create an absolutely bananas plot with a unique killer.

And when you read the synopsis of “A group of American models travel to Egypt for a photoshoot and awaken an ancient mummy’s curse” – you know it’s going to be the last option.

Dawn of the Mummy is a poorly lit, 80s slasher with forgettable characters and the pacing of a sail on roller skates. But it’s also clearly enthusiastic about its Egyptian setting (shot on location in Egypt) and manages to have a great final 15 minutes.

In Ancient Egypt, Pharaoh Sefirama dies and locals are kidnapped to be buried with him. A priestess places a curse on the tomb: whoever disturbs the tomb will be cursed to die.

Thousands of years later, a group of explorers discover the entrance to Sefirama’s tomb. Despite being warned away, they blow up the entrance and begin to look for gold.

They’re disappointed when they later only find “old junk”, which is mildly infuriating. The old junk is quite clearly going to be incredibly valuable? But gold, I guess. Some people clearly have no taste.

Meanwhile, a group of models arrive from New York. They begin a photoshoot in the desert. After being shot at by the explorers, they eagerly enter the tomb and decide to have the photoshoot there.

All sorts of things go wrong for everyone: the graverobbers, the models, the explorers. It gets even worse when they finally awaken Sefirama from his eternal slumber.

Sefirama wastes no time exacting his revenge on the people who have disturbed his tomb. He raises his army of undead to help him. Mayhem ensues in a delightfully gruesome fashion.

This movie is quite clearly meant to capitalize on the success of Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, which was released only a few years prior. Unfortunately, there is a severe lack of zombies here to justify it. Though we do get zombie mummies and they are so fun to watch in the third act’s mayhem.

There are versions of this film without some of the key scenes of gore. Make sure you get a version with all the good bits: they make it worth watching Dawn of the Mummy through to the end.

You can’t help but wish that this movie was more. More 80s. More camp. More…more! But we only have what we got. Though it might be the darkest movie you’ll watch in a while (the lightning, that is, not the themes), there’s still plenty to deem watching for slasher enthusiasts.

Wicked Wednesday: Dead End Drive-In (1986)

“When life gets you down, watch Ozploitation.” – ancient Wisconsin proverb

What a week! A hectic schedule and crazy life meant that I really needed a movie that grabbed my dwindling attention this week. Seeing that the Australian film Dead End Drive-in had cars, punks and a miserable dystopian future, this seemed like the perfect fit.

Following a series of events, including the second crash of Wall Street, the world is in a dystopia. One of the side-effects is a decline in manufacturing thus cars are in short supply. Gangs of people fight over scrap parts.

Crabs is a young man who loves fitness, cars and girls. When he takes his girlfriend, Carmen, on a date to a drive-in movie theatre one night, their car tyres are stolen. Crabs realises, to his surprise, that they were stolen by the police. He’s unable to get them back, so the young couple are forced to spend the night at the drive-in.

When they wake up the following morning, they see that most of the cars are still there. It’s a community of people like them who have been forced to stay around, collected like toys.

Carmen quickly takes a liking to her new surroundings. The food is fun. The kids are their age. Crabs, however, is more suspicious of the place. Everyone is seemingly complacent and unwilling to try to escape.

Seemingly all is alright until one day a truck full of foreigners arrives at the camp, angering the white population at the drive-in. Carmen is pulled further into the racist ideology while Crabs continues to plot his escape.

I was pleasantly surprised by the film’s messaging, which is both very Australian yet resonates in many countries. I would have liked it to be taken even further. So bus of immigrants arrives, but we never see much interaction with the group. Not that I’d want to see racial abuse, but I wanted to know more about these people. Even making one an actual character with dialogue would be something at least. Would any of them try to escape or does everyone fall into the same trap of contentment?

This world is so interesting in Dead End Drive-in, I really think there could be sequels to it or even a remake after all these years. If anything, beyond its political message, this movie is just fun. There are plenty of car chases and shootouts. Plus it has the added bonus of the unique Aussie humour.

I don’t watch nearly enough Ozploitation, but I think I found my new favourite pick-me-up genre.

Wicked Wednesday: Devil Times Five (1974)

Devil Times Five, originally titled People Toys aka The Horrible House on the Hill aka Tantrums is a 1974 killer kids movie. The Omen, Rosemary’s Baby, It’s Alive, The Village of the Damned – the 60s and 70s just loved creepy kids.

This isn’t one that’s going to stand out from that particularly strong bunch. If it does, it’s sort of for all the wrong reasons.

In the snowy mountains, a bus carrying a group of children crashes. The children manage to escape with a nun, who was also on the bus. They manage to make their way to a chalet, where a group of not-so-great adults are spending their time.

The adults include Julie and her boyfriend, Rick, her father and his wife, and another couple to help bump up the body count. They fight. They have petty jealousies. It’s all meant to give character development, but it doesn’t add much texture.

When they find the children (and nun) in the house one morning, they decide to take them in and help them. Unbeknownst to them, the kiddos and their nun killed off their physician. Surprise! They’re all super dangerous.

The kids, with no moral conscience, begin to kill off the adults one-by-one. But of course, they’re a bit subtle about it at first, making only some of the adults suspicious. It’s too late by the time they realise that the adults are the prey and the children the predators. The children remain cool and collected throughout, making it even more unnerving watching them do these heinous crimes.

This movie definitely doesn’t have a happy ending. But it’s gleefully bad-mannered. And it’s fun.

According to an article cited on the film’s Wiki, the team had a great time filming this. And for that, I’ve very glad for them! In the end, you created a whole damn movie! That’s an amazing achievement.

However, this movie didn’t work for me. The editing, for one, is super odd. There’s so much slow-motion used. I wonder if that was just to make the running time hit 88 minutes. Disguise it as art and no one will know! But it does kill the suspense.

There is very little gore here despite good setups for each of the kills. I’m not sure if it was a budget thing or what, but there are a lot of cutaways here.

If you like killer kid movies, give this one a watch. It’s unlikely to be in anyone’s top five – but it’s an oddity worth seeking out for fans of the subgenre.