I really love my VHS collection and watching VHS tapes, but when one starts a movie and a squeaky whirring noise starts to occur, with the picture getting wavy the entire time, I remember why DVDs and Blu-rays exist. Less than 30 minutes into SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE (originally titled SLEEPLESS NIGHTS), at around the (more…)
Some friends of mine entered a contest called the Horror Block Monstrous Movie Contest (in association with Rue Morgue) and the short film they made is (more…)
Director Adam Wingard (THE ABC’s OF DEATH, V/H/S, V/H/S/ 2) is no novice to the horror genre, having gotten his start at the tender, young age of of only 19 in feature filmmaking with HOME SICK, a slasher film starring horror genre regulars Bill Moseley (THE DEVIL’S REJECTS, HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES) and Tom Towles (NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER) and out on dvd from Synapse Films, and then moving on to the low-budgeted indie thriller POP SKULL (shot on high-defintion and with a total budget of $2,000) and it was (more…)
Not too long ago, SHU-IZMZ had a chance to talk with owner and sole creator at CRIMSON MASK STUDIOS, Collin X Major, in Logan Square, Chicago, IL where his mask-making shop is located. Those that have shopped in Bric-A-Brac Records may have not even known that deep down in the dark basement, tucked away in the corner, a very determined and talented young man is sweating away at making some of the most iconic masks in horror films.
You may have noticed that SHU-IZMZ RADIO took a wee break from broadcasting here and streaming at CORE OF DESTRUCTION RADIO. I could say that I was hella busy, or I can just chalk it up to pure laziness–which it was. I decided to get off of my ass and interview a friend of mine who has started up a business of making masks for those who really dig horror films and things that go bump in the night! Myself a big fan of slasher films and horror films of all sub-genres, I thought it would be a great idea to jump back into radio broadcasting/podcasting with an interview with a dude whom I have known for a couple of years now, meeting him for the first time when he was working for the circus. Yeah, I know someone who worked in the circus. That itself is fucking cool! (more…)
Wild Eye Releasing, whom many readers that read reviews here generally find that I abhor many of their films (but also have recently found a winner amongst them with MURDER UNIVERSITY), are back with a new seemingly low-budget horror flick revolving around the spirit of Christmas and Santa Clause. It has a plethora of B-film actors and actresses one will find familiar and is directed by (more…)
Upon grabbing a movie from the large pile of movies that I have to review for the website, one movie’s cover art caught my eye. It had on its cover a very veiny, bluish hand gripping a large, bloody axe. In the hallway crouched down, almost whimpering with fright is actress Samantha Acamora with the film’s tag line: “The tuition isn’t all that will kill you.” The title of the movie, in red and white lettering: MURDER UNIVERSITY. The film’s cover (more…)
Last week I had a chance to talk with independent film director Joshua D. Bruce. A New Jersey native, Joshua has gotten into indie filmmaking probably quite a bit earlier than most other filmmakers have, primarily due to his love of (more…)
This week on SHU-IZMZ RADIO, your host Shu really just talked about a couple of films he watched over the weekend with his pals, FIX (The Ministry Movie) (2011), HATCHET II (2010), and HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2 (Full Sequence) (2011). Don’t worry, I tossed on some cool tracks from Ministry to get one in (more…)
This week’s episode was a lot of fun, as each and every episode is! I talk to some of the coolest people on the planet because each and everyone I talk with is into movies and music. Show Download Link at bottom of the post
This week, I had the chance to talk with (more…)
CROSS BEARER is a slasher film about a religious fanatic who takes some white bedsheets and wraps them around his head, making holes for the eyes, and bashes in sluts, drug addicts, hookers, strippers, and complete douchebags heads in while reciting biblical shit as he does it.
On a side note, there is one stripper (more…)
The fifth horror feature from Canadian make-up/special-effects artist Ryan Nicholson entitled, FAMINE, is a direct-to-video, high school slasher flick that is heavy on obnoxious and mundane dialogue in the form of teenage “banter” between the popular kids and the losers, or unpopular kids. At times reminding me of cruel teenager antics like in such classic horror favs that depict hellish high school pranks and torment as in (more…)
SLAUGHTER TALES is a total piece of shit that was created by a kid not even 15-years old, but SLAUGHTER TALES is one of those “so crappy it’s completely awesome” kind of things and is full of laughs and great entertainment value. Director, actor, producer, cinematographer, screenwriter, make-up artist, and every other type of job one can think of needed on the set, Johnny Dickie, wears a plethora of creative hats. He is the creator of a zero-budget, z-grade, production with a zero-talented cast of “actors” that underneath it all is full of so much heart and soul that it is (more…)
The overnight shift at a large grocery store can be pretty mundane and run-of-the-mill, or it can be a total bloodbath with a maniac running around in the place hellbent on slaughtering every single person. This is pretty much the plot of director Scott Spiegel’s classic slasher flick from the end of the 80’s involving a number names familiar to fans of the EVIL DEAD films. Throw into the mix the boys from what used to be formerly known as KNB EFX doing the special effects and this is quite a film of huge names before they were huge, such as Bruce Campbell, Sam Raimi, and Ted Raimi. Well, some of them still may not be super A-List actors even now, but they have well been established in the movie industry, if not specifically the horror film industry.
The 6th episode is titled the EASTER EPISODE, only because this was the episode that I recorded and intended it to be aired on Easter Sunday. The episode has nothing to do with that silly holiday, but instead has to do with HORROR FILMS! That’s right, folks, I reviewed the new Blu-ray/DVD Combo pack release of HORROR EXPRESS put out by Severin Films. Hear what I have to say about the quality of the release, as well as the film itself. I also talk about the new Synapse release of INTRUDER, a slasher film that stars not only one Raimi, but two Raimi’s! Both Ted and Sam Raimi are in this film and the boys formerly of KNB EFX did the make-up and special effects. Here is the link to download the show. One can also tune in to COREOFDESTRUCTIONRADIO.COM to hear the show on Sundays. (more…)
One of my all-time favorite Japanese horror films is Nakata’s RINGU (1998), a film I first picked up while at a comicbook convention when I was in my early 20’s. It was my introduction to Japanese horror films and had it been any other horror film I may not have gotten so into J-Horror and just stuck to anime. The film GUROZUKA had elements of RINGU in it, as well as many American slasher films from the ‘80s and even more current ones such as SCREAM (which really pays homage to slasher films like HALLOWEEN and FRIDAY THE 13th).
GUROZUKA starts off (more…)
Troma Films, known for their low-brow toilet humor blended in with low-budget indie schlock “classics” such as THE TOXICAVENGER, CLASS OF NUKE ‘EM HIGH, SURF NAZIS MUST DIE, as well as distributing some solid cult-like entries in the sleaze market such as Joel M. Reed’s BLOODSUCKING FREAKS, we now have some modern-day films from Troma. As a young teenager, the company Troma meant T&A and gore, mixed with crude humor and I guess as a young prepubescent boy-I was ok with that. Now, grown up a little more (and I stress “little”), I need a bit more than flashes of boobies, some fart/toilet humor, and uber-cheesy gore and blood.
With KILLER YACHT PARTY, the feature debut of Piotr Uzarowicz, I believe Troma Films is still putting out some films that are more in line with the word “horrible” than “horrorfying”. In fact, I actually was a bit surprised that KILLER YACHT PARTY was not as bad as I thought it would be. The plot of the film revolves around a core group of douchebags that are only into the club scene and what it entails-getting drunk and getting laid. I used to work at a nightclub and it seemed that everyone associated with it just wanted to party every night, score with the hot ladies (or guys, depending on one’s preference), and either sell drugs at the venue or for promoters-make tons of money at the door and on liquor sales. This film throws in the mix a club on a yacht that has a haunted history, and a murderer racking up a body count.
The film is, essentially, a slasher film on a yacht. Oh yeah, and it advertises Kate Luyben is in it from TRUE BLOOD. Luyben was in two episodes of TRUE BLOOD in 2010, but I guess because she really was not in many other television or horror movies, this is the route to go in the ad campaign to get folks to want to check it out. Granted, this film is listed in IMDb as having been made in 2006, and then picked up by Troma about five years later (and 4 years after Lubyen was in TRUE BLOOD), this is really the only drawing aspect to me wanting to see this film, aside from the promise of “busty, hot girls” getting “butchered. Well, on this point, the film sort of delivers.
There are some very hot girls in this film—ya know, the plastic, fake kind that have had plastic surgery to get perfect noses, cheek bones, and tits. Also, most of these ladies look as though they wouldn’t know how to cook a microwave dinner, but then these are the girls that most viewers enjoy seeing slashed and gutted. I know I love when the spoiled, hot, rich girl gets it by the ugly, maniacal killing psychopath!
So, the club promoters, Brock (Eric Clark) and Monica (Kate Luyben) have set up this yacht party and Lacy (Becky Boxer) and Jane (Maggie Marion) who were at an event the club promoters were throwing the night (or week) before, get an exclusive invitation to attend this yacht party. Of course, the film tries to throw in some mysterious and odd characters to throw the audience off into not really figuring out for sure who the killer was, but after watching the film, it becomes fairly obvious who, or what, has been killing off everyone on the boat (oops, plot spoiler). Yeah, the film has quite a bit of murders and killing throughout most of the film. This would be a good thing, except that the murders are pretty straight-forward and really lack the creativity in how the victims are picked off one by one, which I think is an important aspect in truly making a solid slasher film. In all of the Friday the 13th films, Jason, or his mother, or a revenge-driven paramedic-they all have very fun and creative ways that the killer takes out his victims. It is one of the only reasons that I watch and enjoy slasher films, aside from the usual large amounts of gratuitous nudity from very attractive “actresses” (some of which are only cast for their screaming ability and luscious bodies), but it is, nonetheless, a valid reason.
KILLER YACHT PARTY lacks any type of imagination in the kill-scene department. Sometimes it is hard to think of new ways to kill a human being aboard a boat. There are only so many ways one can die, especially on a boat and there have been boatloads (pun intended!) of movies that have had victims dispatched on a boat. Therefore, why not at least have the full murder scene shown instead of dicing it up with annoying edits, spots of black screen breaking up the full murder. I guess that is the only way I know how to describe the edits when murder scenes occur. There are cuts in the middle of the murders where black nothing appears, almost as if the scenes were being cut and censored by the MPAA, but that is not the case because the film does not even have a rating on it.
The scenes of blood and little gore could have been done a bit better and would have looked better if there weren’t annoying editing spots tossed in during most of the murders. The scenes that were not shown, such as a girl lying on the floor with shards of a broken mirror stuck in her face and the rest of her body in random placement, were just after-shots of murders and usually were sub-par in the special effects department.
The gore and blood within this film is not up to par, but the acting in the film was not quite as bad as I thought it would be. Granted, many of the names in the film have been in small roles here and there or uncredited in some of the films they were in, but I felt that the D-List actors and actresses in the film did have some acting ability and gave the film a status that was a notch or two above an uber-low budgeted film that not only had extremely low production values, but also talentless bodies running through the scenes without any grace or purpose.
The plot directs viewers into the mystique of a woman that died on the boat and is believed to be haunting it, as well as having a creepy old guy taking care of the boat and also its captain. Then we have another old creepy guy, sort of like the old man’s character in the first few FRIDAY THE 13TH movies, warning the horny, playful teenagers and camp counselors that Crystal Lake was doomed and everyone that sets foot on the grounds will die. This old creepy guy in KILLER YACHT PARTY hangs around the docks and just acts creepy, as well as giving a lift to an unwanted drug dealer that was banned from attending the party, as well as the club promoters’ events. The film tries to confuse viewers into thinking one or several other characters or a ghost is doing the killing.
Is KILLER YACHT PARTY a ‘whodunnit murder mystery’ or just a less than good example of a slasher film? I would tend to lean towards the latter as the murders throughout the entire film don’t really conclusively lead towards any one particular character, especially when the only part of the murderer we see is black rubber gloves, which we see past the halfway point. The sad fact is that we don’t see any killing occur until almost an hour into the movie, a movie that is less than 90 minutes in duration. I guess, technically, there is one murder in the first 15 minutes, but we don’t actually see it but assume the victim is killed by her scream.
The hour leading up to the murders is boring dialogue intended to build up the characters and give them some depth, but unfortunately the characters are about as deep as a puddle after a light rain. It would a totally different matter if all the blood and gore towards the end of the film was over-the-top and incredible and made the tedious wait until the action started all be worth it, but that is definitely not the case. The wait is in vain.
KILLER YACHT PARTY is not the worse low-budget, indie film to come out on the market, but it is dismally close to being thrown in that category. I think this film is one that is normally not Troma material, as it is kind of light on the sleaze, nudity, and gore- all components of a fun Troma film. I also wonder about the reasons for the film being made in 2006 and being picked up by Troma almost five years later. It seems that this film is one that could have been passed up.
Heavy amounts of gore and nudity, as well as showing all the murders and not cutting parts out with lame editing techniques that make the scenes look as though they were censored, could have been the only saving grace this film had. Instead, I just felt that KILLER YACHT PARTY was a tedious waste of nearly 90 minutes that I could have passed up on and spent my time watching another movie.
I found the commentary, conducted by director Piotr Uzarowicz and writer Alex Silver to be far more interesting and engaging than the film itself. Aside from that, there is only a trailer for the film, as well as a slew of other Troma Team releases. I dug the cover of the movie, though. I wish the cover lived up to the content of the film and had as much blood within.
KILLER YACHT PARTY fails to stay afloat as a slasher film that holds any sort of merit in the genre. My advise is to pass up this lackluster slasher film and instead, rent some of the classics from the ’80s that defined the genre.
Kids that kill.
Those three words had me hooked on seeing this film when I read the film’s synopsis back in the mid-80s on the back of the VHS box at the liquor store/video rental store Elm’s Liquorland in Arlington Heights. What made this rental between me and my friends even better was the old, slimy store clerk (who, himself, looked to be a child molester) tried to tell my buddy’s mother that Bloody Birthday (’81) was a horror film about kids that killed adults, had a fair amount of nudity, and was nothing that anyone under 17 years of age should be watching. O.K., she said. I will worry about my kids viewing choices while you just make sure drunks have a choice of video rentals while they are picking up a bottle of Jack Daniels or a case of beer. I thought it was funny that a scumbag at a liquor store whom looked and smelled like he was drunk 24/7 was giving a mother of two kids advice on parenting. Dude, you work in a liquor store selling a vice to drunks and avid drinkers. Hell, if the guy decided not to sell alcohol to those he felt drank too much or whose livers were dying out, he probably would be out-of-business or barely scraping by financially. His “warning” made me and my two buddies even more stoked to watch this morally-depraved film about murderous little shits!
I remember that I was not disappointed with Bloody Birthday at all. In fact, I loved it. I had never seen a film where kids under the legal age of driving, as young as ten years old, were going around wasting anyone that they felt they wanted to kill or got in their way. What was even better about this film was the fact that there were a few actors and actresses that I was familiar with: K.C. Martel of E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial (’82) fame, Elizabeth Hoy from The Blues Brothers (’80), and Billy Jayne from Cujo (’83). These were actors and actresses that I knew from other movies, one of which was from the horror genre, and did not play evil and twisted roles as in Bloody Birthday.
Bloody Birthday’s plot revolves around three kids: Debbie Brody (Elizabeth Hoy), Steve Seton (Andy Freeman), and Curtis Taylor (Billy Jayne) whom all were born on the same day at the height of a lunar eclipse. The doctor at the hospital, credited as “doctor” and played by the incredible Jose Ferrer (Dune (’84), The Caine Mutiny (’54), and Lawrence of Arabia (’62) in a very brief role, notes this lunar eclipse as he goes in with a nurse to care for the new-born babies. We then skip to about ten years later where the kids look and appear to be nice little boys and girls, except for the fact that they are killing adults, some even as young as teenagers and any other kids that cross them. Some of the victims whom are killed lose their lives because they are out late at night having sex outside in a cemetery, as is the case in one murder, or are screwing around in the back of their van. In either case, the scenes contain some nice nudity and sexuality in which we are shown that the kids murdering the victims are watching the sexual foreplay for a bit before killing them in slasher film fashion. Along with the bad kids, there is one good kid amongst the group whom goes to the same school and lives in the same neighborhood whose name is Timmy Russell (K.C. Martel of E.T. and The Amityville Horror fame). His older sister Joyce Russell (Lori Lethin) is main lead in the film, also best friends with one of the devious children’s older sisters’, Beverly Brody (West Coast Julie Brown of MTV (not to be confused with Downtown Julie Brown also of MTV) and also starred in Earth Girls Are Easy (’88) and Clueless (’95)).
Joyce works at the school all the children attend and one night is researching the students’ birthdays and notices that the three kids whom all share the same birthday were born during a lunar eclipse in which the sun and moon block Saturn, which in astrology just so happens to control emotions. This is why the kids are remorseless and are stone-cold killers. At times, watching the little kids bash a teenagers head in with a shovel and choking his girlfriend with a jump-rope as if they were just playing a game of kickball or a game of tag outside is pretty damn disturbing. None of the murders in the film are extremely gory or even that bloody, but just the fact that 10 year old kids are peeping on girls screwing around with their boyfriends, breasts bare, or getting undressed and dancing around naked in the privacy of their own bedroom as is the case in which Beverly does while her younger sister Debbie charges her two young boy friends a quarter to watch through a homemade fashioned peephole in the closet is totally disturbing. I can’t recall a movie from the ’80s, or even off-hand right now that has kids this young and cute savagely killing off adults. The only film that comes to mind to me is Children of the Corn, but in the case of that film, there were some more supernatural elements at work and the kids all live in a cult-like cornfield and some of the kids are in their upper teens, if not even older. I think Bloody Birthday stands out more because of the innocence the kids exude in their perfect little white. suburban neighborhood where a lost dog is probably the biggest problem to occur.
One of my favorite scenes in the film is, aside from the nude dancing of Julie Brown (sorry guys, no full-frontal nudity by any actress at any point) in her bedroom is another scene in which a victim is killed by an arrow shot through the peephole and goes right through the eyeball. Now this scene is by no means comparable to a, say, certain scene in a certain Dario Argento movie in which a bullet is shot through a door’s peephole (Opera) or another epic eyeball scene in which a splinter is pierced through a woman’s eyeball in beautiful gory fashion from a Lucio Fulci film (Zombie)-but it is still fun…and a cute, little 10-year old girl is doing the killing.
As well as having some very brief scenes with screen legend Jose Ferrer, Susan Strasberg (Psych-Out (’68), Scream of Fear (’61)) also has some short screen time in the movie. I think it may be a unique role for her, as well. I found it very interesting that both Ferrer and Strasberg decided on being in a horror film about 10-year olds that go on a killing rampage.
The film, directed by Ed Hunt, is not his first only foray into the world of horror. Horror fans may recall another genre film starring David Gale (Re-Animator) in which a giant brain is being used by Gale (as Dr. Blake) to brainwash the town with mind-control and the rest of the planet for world domination. Hunt’s first horror film was Bloody Birthday and some of his other earlier works, one of which was first marketed as soft-core pornography (Corrupted (’73) ) and the other another sexually-oriented film (Diary of a Sinner), did not shy away from nudity and sexual themes. I guess one can assume it only fitting that Bloody Birthday cover an array of taboo subjects such as kids killing adults, peeping on girls undressing and couples having sex. Hunt seems to be in very familiar territory with Bloody Birthday. The Brain even had some scenes of nudity if I can recall correctly.
Severin’s release of Bloody Birthday comes packed with some special features, including an audio interview with director Ed Hunt, as well as an interview with lead actress Lori Lethin (who played Joyce Russell) entitled Don’t Eat the Cake. This is one of tw0 recent Severin releases that are of the slasher genre (the other being Nightmares a.k.a. Stage Fright) and both contain a short but interesting documentary on the slasher genre by none other than Adam Rockoff (author of Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film), entitled A Brief History of Slasher Films. Adam Rockoff is an active member of the horror community whom I have run into at various horror conventions and film festivals in the Midwest, and is also buddies with some of my buddies and professional acquaintances in the Chicagoland horror community. I also had the pleasure (or displeasure) of writing a fairly scathing review of Wicked Lake, a film he wrote the screenplay for.
In the end, I found out I probably enjoyed Bloody Birthday just as much as I did when I saw it for the first time as a young, warped youth, except that this time around I did not get so excited when boobs appeared on the screen or a woman’s ass was shown as I did when I was just starting to hit puberty in junior high or whenever the hell I started to. The years without a girlfriend are some dark years, indeed! As a slasher film, I feel that Bloody Birthday is very unique in that it portrays kids killing adults and has some perverted elements of kinkiness to it with the peeping of teenagers having sex and the sister dancing around naked while the boys pay to see. I wished the gore was more and the blood flowed more freely, but I suppose there is never enough blood, gore, and nudity in a film to ever satisfy my tastes. As a horror film and a slasher film, I really think one ought to at least view this film, if not even buy it.
P.S.-Don’t forget to look for low-budget action/adventure star Michael Dudikoff (American Ninja (’85)) in a very tiny role as the boyfriend of Beverly Brody (Julie Brown).
I have already seen Frat House Massacre (2008) and had the luxury of experiencing it on a huge screen at the Portage Theater in July of 2009 at a Horror Society event (a site I used to write for) in Chicago. I enjoyed the film, primarily due to the style and large amount of nudity, gore, and a phenomenal soundtrack by Claudio Simonetti (of Goblin fame). I am happy to be able to revisit this film once again and see if I still have the same affection for it as I did two years ago. Check back for my thoughts on this film once I have reviewed the dvd release of it from Synapse Films.
Frat House Massacre
Label: Synapse Films
Run Time: 116 Minutes In English
Color Widescreen 1.78:1 Region One Dolby Digital 5.1
Director: Alex Pucci
Stars: Rane Jameson, Chris Prangley, Jon Fleming
Production year: 2008
From the creators of CAMP SLAUGHTER comes FRAT HOUSE MASSACRE, a true homage to the best of the late 70’s grindhouse and early 80’s slasher films! Sean (Chris Prangley) and his little brother Bobby (Rane Jameson) thought joining the Delta Iota Epsilon fraternity would be the best time of their lives with parties, freedom, girls and sex. The fraternity president Mark (Jon Fleming of TVs WILL & GRACE and DANTEíS COVE), however, is a little strange. His twisted hazing rituals include extreme physical and mental torture that lead the boys down a horrific path of destruction and death. But death may be just the beginning, as this gritty twisted film unfolds. Inspired by actual events and set in the year 1979, FRAT HOUSE MASSACRE is a disturbing journey through the twisted world of fraternity boys, pledges and the not-so-innocent sorority sisters swept up in their madness. Loaded with violence, gore, nudity and a fantastic music score by Claudio Simonetti, this DVD is the director’s cut containing over twenty minutes of additional footage.
Bonus features include: Director’s Commentary, Crew Commentary, Deleted Scenes, “Making Of” Featurette.
SOURCE: Synapse Films
I am very unsure how to start my review for Intervision’s latest new-found unheard of ’80s slasher flick that could well have been forgotten amongst the shuffle of all the other far superior slasher films of the ’80s, such as Friday the 13th, Maniac, Prom Night,
Terror Train, The Burning, the later entries in the Halloween series since the first Halloween was made in the late-70’s, Pieces, The New York Ripper, Sleepaway Camp, Silent Night, Deadly Night, and so on and so forth. I mean, there are a ton of freaking slasher films out there, more than ten films made a year-every year! This was a thriving genre in the ’80s and I am sure that if I really did some research I would find well over a dozen slasher films made in ever year starting with the 1970’s up until present day. I am sure a bunch may be direct-to-video low-budget schlockers, some even may just be tiny independent flicks some buddies got together to make out in the backwoods of their local forest preserve or wooded backyard, but nonetheless, a slasher film would have been made and could be added to the numbers of mainstream and studio versions on the list to back me up and prove my point.
Slasher films are fun. Slasher films are violent. Slasher films tend to have nudity, when it be slight or gratuitous, and have raunchy sexual innuendos and humor littered throughout the film. Slasher films also tend to host a pretty intensive body count and the victims usually die in a creatively gory fashion. All these aforementioned attributes to the slasher genre are what I love about the genre. I am guaranteed a body count in a slasher film and characters will be killed off, usually in a bloody fashion. If there are some tits and ass thrown in- even better. Oh, the director wants some fabulous bush tossed in for a totally nude-efying experience, I am down with that as well (but that is just this critic’s personal preference).
Now I recently reviewed The Dorm That Dripped Blood (a.k.a. Pranks) (1982), which I felt was a pretty decent entry into the slasher genre and was very entertaining, primarily because of the creative kills and gore, but also because of the uniquely creepy score created for the film. I am finding out that the soundtrack to a slasher film, in terms of original music written for the movie, whether it be orchestrated or done on a Casio keyboard that one can pick up at Radio Shack or the local Target, the music must go along with the movie to create tension and intrigue while viewers wait for the slasher to strike again.
Now we come to Sledgehammer, a direct-to-video/shot-on-tape slasher film from 1983 that contains a ridiculous story, almost supernatural in nature, that the director does not even attempt to explain to audience members and you know what- it doesn’t even matter because the film is so quirky in every way, from the scenes created to the shoddy production values and how the director uses key elements in sound, lightening, and camera techniques to create a starkly original and unorthodox slasher film. The back of the dvd case states that this is “the first shot-on-tape slasher movie for the home video market as well as one of the rarest genre films of all!” This claim may be true.
Sledgehammer starts out with some polarized shots set to a very effective and eerie synth-heavy soundtrack as the credits roll on, actors faces scrolling by as their names pop up underneath. Serious and somber looks grace their faces. I thought this was very unique for such a low-budget film and set the tone nicely. Random shots of a person walking down some stairs, turning open a door know, possibly a sledgehammer in hand, and then a polar shot of the lovely red and white house which to me looked like a farmhouse but that just may be because of the traditional farmhouse paint job. Our farmhouse, without knowing from already listening to the commentary, I would say is located somewhere out West, maybe California or Montana, out in the hills. This standard, classic red-painted farmhouse is indeed important and integral to the plot of the film, or just really a nice farmhouse, because the director keeps the farmhouse in a very long, steady shot…then slowly zooms in for a closer shot of this nicely painted red and white-trimmed farmhouse. In fact, while watching this movie, one will notice there are a great deal of slow, zooming shots and pans accompanied by that terrific and splendid heavy bass synth soundtrack blasting its way through your eardrums and giving one an massive aural orgasm and censorial overload. The director of photography could be zooming in on an ant picking at a scrap or crumb on the ground, but a slow zoom followed with heavy synth that intensifies as the shot slowly explodes onto the screen fully makes the shot seem that there is some sort of impending doom looming over the horizon.
-Our next shot is now inside the house with a mother wearing a translucent nightgown yelling at her 10-year old son as a raging alcoholic on the last of nerves would telling him to shut his mouth as she throws him in a closet and bolts the lock shouting at him to not say another word this evening and repeatedly yelling at him to shut-up. She wins mother of the year, right? Get ready for the heavy synth music as it slowly builds up speed, camera slowly zooming in on that locked closet door, until our next shot goes back to the mother while she gets some action from a man, one that seems to be having an affair with this married mother of one. She goes down on the guy, and from out of nowhere, or just the locked closet, the shadow of a large man wielding a sledgehammer appears and bashes in the fornicator’s head in. This scene is the first gory shot in the film, done pretty nicely showing the head cave in with some gore, and then a close-up of the mother as she gives the camera a look of shock, terror, and a last plea for mercy.
Jump to ten years later and we have a classic slasher plot: a bunch of partying young adults, both good-looking males and females- head up to this red-and-white painted house (it surprisingly looks exactly as it did ten years ago) for some fun. We are not told whose house it is, how they rented or came to be using it, or really anything else…but who cares? It is a slasher film and I just want to get to the sex and violence. Well, there is both in Sledgehammer, but not as much sex and nudity as I would have liked to have seen. There are some brief glimpses of a breast of one woman and an ass shot of one man (careful, at first you may think its a woman’s butt before the shot opens up!), but mostly just ridiculous lines of dialogue delivered during partying scenes consisting of cast members drinking cans of Budweiser and crushing them on their foreheads or shaking the cans up and spraying the beer all over everyone and everyone yelling and cheering on because wasting booze and getting all sweaty and wet with alcohol is what fun is all about.
The film has a ridiculous amount of charm, mainly due to its off-beat lines of dialogue and humor, intentional or not. At times, I just think the director, David A. Prior, let the cast get ripped on booze and just say whatever the hell was on their minds. The scene where the camera is just set in front of the van with the cast unloading all the gear was a pretty long shot, with characters popping in and out of frame, simply unloading all the crap for the trip. It probably was really all their clothes, food, and booze for the film and cast or crew. As the commentary points out, there is one “vag grab” which only consists of having a “vag” (that is short for vagina, kiddies) and one to “grab” it. Usually this is done by a male grabbing a female’s vag, but I guess in this day and age women may engage in the practice as well.
With more partying and stuffing food into faces while young adults scream, clap, and cheer incessantly- this occurs at their dinner- and then breaking into a food fight with condiments, cake, potato salad, and whatever else was on the table flying all over and being smashed onto all cast, the film is only complemented with scenes that occur for no other reason than just occurring and pointless dialogue and banter between characters. Each female is paired up with a male, creating some sort of couples’ dynamics for the film in which the guys can’t talk shit about the girls and the girls can gossip and talk to each other about how their relationships are going. At no point did I really become attached to or care about any characters in the film. The characters don’t really develop in this movie. I did not mind, though. I was too busy marveling at the unique overall style of this shot-on-tape, slow-mo, bass-synthesizing bonanza of blood and bizarrely shot masterpiece. Well, maybe not a masterpiece but definitely a film to be added to anyone whom allots a particular section on their shelf for slasher films.
As Rick (Ted Prior, Raw Nerve) tells the young goofballs the story of Sledgehammer (replete a flashback from about thirty-minutes ago in case one forgot what happened) with only a candle to light his face, as well as the others’ faces (in a shot that pans the circle of actors and actresses while the cameraman holds a lit candle in front of the lens), the story unfolds and a mock-seance is performed. In a shot just prior to this, a sledgehammer just randomly pops up, resting in a room’s corner. This sledgehammer pops up randomly throughout the film. The reason for this is never explained, but who cares, right? (I will be saying this periodically throughout the review because so much occurs in the film for no apparent reason whatsoever).
The creepiest aspect to Sledgehammer, besides the incredible soundtrack and music within the film is the murderer’s mask he wears. The killer, played by Doug Matley, who goes around killing the young adults within the film with a sledgehammer all the while wearing this bizarre mask. It really is like half a mask and sort of transparent and very hard to describe. I wish I could get a replica of the Sledgehammer mask. Maybe one will be made if the popularity of Sledgehammer rises. The boy in the beginning of the film is portrayed by Justin Greer. Sadly, he has not been in any other films. His claim to fame is being locked in a closet and staring out a window of a house. The awesome synth-bass of the film was created by Philip G. Slate and sadly this was the only film he made music for.
David A. Prior, director and writer of Sledgehammer, went on to make more low-budget B-grade, some even Z-grade horror, sci-fi, and action flicks. Although I have never seen any of the films he made (I only heard of Killer Workout), I hear his talents as a director for unique use of a film’s music in it and slow-mo shots and pans as were evident in Sledgehammer did not get used in future films or lead to him making it into bigger budgets and more mainstream fair. Prior also did not make any more slasher horror films besides these horror/sci-fi flicks: Killer Workout (1987), Night Wars (1988)-which was more Sci-fi, Night Trap (1993), Mutant Species (1995)-again more Sci-fi than horror, Zombie Wars (2008) and Night Claws (2011). Killer Workout is the only horror film of the aforementioned films that is a slasher film. The rest of Prior’s work are Z-grade action flicks that probably are not on the level of Charles Bronson or Chuck Norris flicks from the ’80s. There is no Death Wish or Missing in Action caliber of awesome ’80s/’90s action/war flicks. I guess one can toss Stallone and the Rambo flicks in there, too. While were at it, Schwarzenegger can smash his way in, as well. I can tell by the titles and plot summaries that the rest of Prior’s flicks definitely will be fun views on a B-movie level.
Most of the cast and crew in Sledgehammer have not been in another movies, or anything else of any significance besides former Playgirl model Ted Prior (also the director’s brother) who has starred in a great number of films directed by his brother, as well as the epic Surf Nazis Must Die (1987) from Troma Entertainment and the earlier mentioned Killer Workout (1987). I found it mildly interesting, if not downright hilarious, that the character Joni (Linda McGill) was also in the video Shape-Up for Sensational Sex, credited as the “girl on table”. I think credited as a “fluffer” in a porn film would have been prestigious than just a “girl on table”. I mean, what does this “girl on table” do? Does she take or receive? Does she moan? Is she just a piece of eye-candy? Is she clothed or nude? Hmmm…the possibilities are endless as to what she can be doing!
Another actor in the film, John Eastman playing “John” in Sledgehammer, also appeared in direct-to-video’s Dollman (1991), as well as being what appears to be a very proud member of the USMC, judging by the pics in his IMDb credit. A personal quote from John: “When one Marine stands for a just cause, people take notice. When two Marines stand united for a just cause, America takes notice. When the Marines stand united for a just cause the WORLD better take notice!“ The extent of John Eastman acting in any other projects involving a military character or hero involved his voice being used in the 2005 video game Vietcong 2.
Actor Ray Lawrence, whom only had a small part as the drive of the van in the film was also in the cult-hit Suburbia (1983) as a Citizen Against Crime portraying a man with a shotgun. I loved that film and just thought I would mention Lawrence’s part in that film. The only other actor in Sledgehammer that has been in a significant amount of films or television besides Ted Prior has been Luci-Lynn Norris (whom is not even credited to a character in Sledgehammer) whom has been in tons of television shows, although uncredited in quite a few of them. Most notable of those television shows was Dallas (1981-1986) and The Twilight Zone (1985-1986).
The cast and crew of Sledgehammer was, for many, their first involvement in a film’s production and for some, their only involvement in a film’s production. I think for a crew’s first slasher film, they could have done far worst. At any rate, in some film buff’s eyes, Sledgehammer is notable entry into the slasher film genre of the ’80s, will probably be likely to gain a cult-following after Intervision’s release onto dvd, and for this cinephile’s purposes, will be a great addition to my horror film collection and one that will be a chronicle of why there, to this day, are so many avid collector’s of VHS Horror and Sci-fi tapes. WIth the advent of Blu-ray discs and high-definition, there still is a loyal cult following of VHS enthusiasts. Hell, just check out the fanzine Lunchmeat (one that I have been trying to keep up with buying) as well as the fellas at Bleeding Skull and Alamo Drafthouse programmer Zack Carlson (author of Destroy All Movies!!!).
The special features on the DVD release of Sledgehammer from Intervision include:
an audio commentary with director David A. Prior
an audio commentary with Bleeding Skull creators Joseph A. Ziemba and Dan Budnik
Hammertime: Featurette with Destroy All Movies!!! Author Zack Carlson
SledgehammerLand: Featurette with CineFamily Programmers Hadrian Belove and Tom Fitzgerald
Interview with director David A. Prior
Sledgehammer is one of those films that you either love, hate, or love to hate. To me, it is an important entry in the slasher genre because it was the first slasher movie to be shot on videotape and be distributed for the home video market. The film has so many quirks and nuances within it, always offering a new piece to the puzzle of a z-grade slasher flick and continually popping questions into my head such as, “What the hell was the director thinking in this scene?” The film is not by any means a “great film” but it is one worth watching, whether to make fun of or laugh at, but is one that is entertainment in every sense of the word and one that I recommend watching.
What defines a slasher film?
I guess that the term can be loosely applied to a great deal of horror films that involve a maniac running around slashing victims apart with various “sharp” tools of carnage-such as machetes, butcher knives, chainsaws, axes, etc… Some might say that a slasher film also has to have 80% of the cast being killed off required to be female and at various times to have their breasts, bush, and buttocks exposed for a titillating effect to male viewers and females that dig women. The killer generally has to be masked or at least his or her face hidden from view of the camera and be human-no supernatural murdering allowed in a slasher film. Finally, most decent slasher films will begin by showing a flashback of some sorts. Friday the 13th (1980) did it. Halloween (1978) did it (even though it was made two years before the ’80s). My Bloody Valentine (1981) had a flashback. Terror Train (1980) had a flashback, too. Even The Burning (1982) did it. Almost all five of these films are slasher films from the ’80s, some classics, some just fun flicks that horror fans worldwide adore. The three aforementioned films I love the most are Friday the 13th and Halloween which any film buff and individual who does not live in a cave knows of. Some other slasher films from the early ’80s include Prom Night (1980), New Year’s Evil (1980), Happy Birthday to Me (1981), Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) and so on and so forth.
Now we come to The Dorm that Dripped Blood, a film that came out in 1981 (also titled Pranks and Death Dorm), that stole one of its titles from another film entitled The House that Dripped Blood (1971). I personally think Death Dorm has the nicest ring to it and would have gone with that title. The directing duo of Stephen Carpenter and Jeffrey Osbrow, who also went on to direct together The Power (1984) and The Kindred (1987), two films which I have yet to view. Our story in The Dorm that Dripped Blood starts out with a flashback murder…I think. I am not sure who is murdered in the opening scene and what part it played in the film (unless I am missing something glaringly obvious), but it did have a nice gore effect in which a young man’s hand is sliced down the middle in between two fingers. This effect was done quite effectively by Makeup FX creator Matthew Mungle, fresh out of the famous Joe Blasco make-up school. Not even a minute into the film and there already is a grisly murder. I thought the film was on to a glorious start.
As our film progresses, viewers learn that a college dormitory has been closed down and a group of students have volunteered, or been picked (not sure which) to help get the building in order so the new owners can renovate it. Their duties include clearing out 100s of desks, kitchen supplies, beds, and all furniture. All of which has to be done in two weeks so the buyers can than destroy the building and build something else there. Joanne Murray (Laurie Lapinski), Craig (Stephen Sachs), Brian (David Snow), Patti (Pamela Holland), and Debbie (Daphne Zuniga) have all decided to stay to clean up the dorm during the college’s Christmas Break. As things progress and the group starts cleaning up, trouble has already surfaced. Debbie (Zuniga) finds out that her parents are coming to pick her up for break and that leaves Joanne in charge of one less individual to help her get things cleaned up. If that is not enough, a local vagrant or drifter by the name of John Hemmit (Woody Roll) has been seen hanging around the empty dorm, possibly living there, and he is giving everyone the creeps.
When people start getting killed off, one by one, everyone seems to think that the creepy Hemmit is at the source of all the grisly murders. The film slowly turns into a standard slasher film minus any sort of nudity whatsoever and no masked killer. Every scene in which someone dies in some pretty bloody scenarios by the killer is without ever seeing the killer- only his or her hands are shown. The high points in this film was the wonderfully creepy and eerie soundtrack written by Christopher Young. In watching the special features, one learns that this was one of the first soundtracks he ever created. I think he did a wonderful job. At times, I was reminded of the music from the ever-popular Friday the 13th films, but there were only slight similarities. One can only make a violin produce so many original sounds.
Some of the death scenes in The Dorm that Dripped Blood were very fun, such as a dude’s head getting drilled from behind, blood gushing out instantly or the scene where a victims gets slashed with a large machete right in the shoulder area, blood reminiscent of the color and consistency that H.G. Lewis used in his Blood Trilogy that was very red and almost resembled some red paint. I also really thought one scene where a man was beaten on the head with a baseball bat full of large spikes and nails sticking out of it. The scene does not cut away as the spiked bat wails upon the head, denting and bludgeoning the face with each strike. The scene put a very twisted grin across my face. I enjoyed that little piece of gore that was well-executed (pardon the pun) by FX artist Matthew Mungle. For this film being one of his first features he was given the chance to work on, I think he did a very fine job. He did such a fine job that after the film was released it was considered a Video Nasty by the U.K. and was banned.
With the release of The Dorm that Dripped Blood onto a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack by Synapse Films, this is the first time that the film has been out in any format completely uncut. This version of the film, formerly entitled Death Dorm, is a transfer created from the only existing 35mm answer print of the original “Director’s Cut”. This is the version of the film thought to have been lost for thirty years. This version contains additional scenes, extended gore sequences, and a different sound mix. The blu-ray disc is a high-definition 1080p widescreen presentation with an aspect ratio of 1.66:1 with DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono audio and a DTS-HD MA isolated music track. At times, the picture has a grainy look to it, but that is due to the fact of the original print it was taken from. This all adds to the vintage look and feel this forgotten slasher film with major sequences of gore totally removed from it finally restored to its completeness for fans of the slasher genre to get all hot and bothered over.
As with many slasher films, there is a nice little twist at the end of the film-one of which I did not see coming. The special features on the disc include a commentary by directors Jeffrey Obrow and Stephen Carpenter, interviews with composer Christopher Young and Make-Up FX Creator Matthew Mungle (won an Oscar for Best Makeup in Dracula), an isolated music track, and original theatrical trailers. One might notice that this film is actress Daphne Zuniga’s (Spaceballs, The Fly II) screen debut. Overall, I was very entertained with the film and very excited to find out how much gore and bloodshed was restored to this underrated slasher film, lost amongst all the other well-known and larger budgeted slasher flicks of the ’80s. The House that Dripped Blood may not be the finest example of an 80’s slasher flick, but it is definitely one to be remembered as part of the genre.