Synopsis: A young woman grieving the loss of her mother, a famous scream queen from the 1980s, finds herself pulled into the world of her mom’s most famous movie. Reunited, the women must fight off the film’s maniacal killer.
A couple days ago in the opening paragraph of my review on 2012’s Girls Gone Dead I asked if horror movie cliches had become cliches in themselves. The standard cut and paste job is why the genre fizzled out in the mid to late ’90s and the only time when the iron was put back into the fire was when film makers took a step back and looked at the most popular concepts from a completely different angle. One of the highlights of Schlocktoberfest 2014 was Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon which focused a majority of that film solely from the perspective of the slasher villain himself. A year later featured Tucker and Dale vs. Evil where a game of role reversal was played with a pair of Hillbillies being the normal ones and a group of college kids were the homicidal maniacs. Looking to top both of those The Final Girls throws a group of movie goers into a ’80s themed summer camp slasher flick that is a loving tribute (right down to the Harry Manfredini-esque theme song) to Friday the 13th. Ever since Scream established the rules one has to follow in order to survive who wouldn’t mind having the opportunity to jump into their favorite horror movie and see if you could out smart the machete wielding hock mask wearing killer when all of the main cast were done in by the over three decades worth of cliches that we spotted coming from a mile away. One of the movie goers even uses this knowledge to try and guide the rest through without any harm but the movie itself isn’t having any of that and uproots all those normal horror tropes to the point where there isn’t a playing field to try and get a level advantage from.
Whenever the buzz for certain projects hit the internet I always remain the reserved skeptic. It’s not that I don’t believe a lot of the positive word of mouth I’ve always kept my guard up until I’m about halfway through the feature. The Final Girls attention to detail is my favorite quality about it where the normal world is very crisp and sharp much like any high definition camera one would pick up at Best Buy. Once everyone is thrown into the 1980s though the look changes drastically to be more in tune with that of VHS tape where the contrast dial is turned all the way up and every now and then you could almost sense that there’s a speck of dirt that appears on the film grain. From top to bottom the casting is near perfect with Malin Akerman Alia Shawkat and Alexander Ludwig being instantly recognized by my subconscious. It took about a half hour to realize that Thomas Middleditch is also featured but quite honestly the only thing I know him from is a Conan ‘O Brien sketch. Where Final Girls stumbles a couple steps is an observation that many have brought up pertaining to red corn syrup or lack thereof. I don’t quite get that decision as Middleditch’s slasher horror aficionado even ponders if the movie’s characters blood is made up entirely of red corn syrup. I mean come on in my 35 years of life I’ve never heard of a thing as a PG-13 slasher film. The writers and directors can drop a couple F-bombs and various sex and drug references yet they’re too afraid to throw vats of fake blood on everyone? Makes me wonder if The Final Girls had an initial R rating and the studio up and stepped in to try and reach a wider demographic. Other than that if one wants to create an obscure horror trilogy of unrelated modern classics Behind The Mask, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil and The Final Girls is an imposing trifecta of hilarious terror that everyone shouldn’t be afraid to tackle between now and October 31st. Don’t worry there’s still plenty of time… Right? Right!!!…
Synopsis: A group of six ex-high school cheerleaders are stalked by a killer with a medieval war hammer and battle axe during their first Spring Break from college.
I often wonder if horror movie clichés have managed to become clichés in themselves. Jump scares, buckets full of fake blood, high body counts, scream queens with an impressive lung capacity. Each of these unique traits have built the genre and yet as soon as film companies found out that the general public had a rabid obsession for gruesome terror they began to crank out sequel after sequel after sequel at a relentless assembly line rate. Revolutionary concepts that were dreamed up over three decades ago by visionary directors don’t quite have the same bite when that idea is being dumbed down by people who’s biggest claim to fame are being behind the camera for music videos or a Victoria’s Secret commercial. The line between expanding a vision and truly making a genuine contribution to an established genre becomes greatly faded and it certainly doesn’t help matters when Hollywood goes into full on cash grab mode. Who cares if not everyone is satisfied? We’ve taken their hard earned money without remorse and there is nothing they can do about it. This is why I said that the clichés have become cliches in among themselves, go to a theater and check out any horror movie out in the market right now. Don’t over analyze too much just let your brain take in the current model of film making. I’m willing to bet by the time the end credits start to roll you’ll predict where 95% the suspense filled tension was supposed to be and maybe one or two of the jump scares actually got to you. On the one hand this ends up being a fun little game that you can play against friends however unless drastic measures are put into effect Hollywood will continue to be stuck deeper in an uninspiring rut.
A few years ago while bumming around on Amazon Girls Gone Dead was a film that would frequently end up in my suggestions in terms of my browsing habits. Jerry The King Lawler is when I caved and decided to give it a watch. As the film progressed whenever King would come on the screen I’d yell – ‘Do the Piledriver!’ and once things began to slow down I’d just sit there thinking to myself man if Jerry Lawler would just knock at the door and give someone the piledriver all would be right in the world. Then as luck would have it during the last 10 minutes old King-fish actually delivered it in grand fashion to the point that if Andy Kaufman were still with us he’d give a standing ovation. Get a hold of your pals,buy a couple six packs and every time The King comes on the screen start recalling your favorite moments from Memphis Championship Wrestling or some of his vintage heel commentary back in the glory days of the World Wrestling Federation (before the World Wildlife Federation laid the smackdown on Vince McMahon in court). What else can be said we’re now three days from the end of this year’s Schlocktoberfest and it will now most likely be remembered for Happy Gilmore’s Grandma and one of the most devastating pro wrestling maneuvers ever created. Variety is truly the spice of life!
Synopsis: Six young actresses auditioning for a movie role at a remote mansion are targeted by a mysterious masked murderer.
The lengths some actors/actresses will go to to deliver truly iconic performances are what separates those who set their sights on Hollywood because of their model good looks and just want to be famous for the attention to those who start out with simple bit parts as they slowly struggle their way up the ladder of success to one day be nominated for the biggest prize in the industry, a coveted Oscar. The late great Heath Ledger got his first big break as a heart throb in the teen comedy 10 Things I Hate About You and after the monster success of that film refused to be typecast choosing his next roles very carefully. By the time he accepted the role of The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight the initial reaction from people was how could someone who did lighthearted comedies like 10 Things and A Knight’s Tale play the clown prince of crime? In preparation Health locked himself in a hotel room for the better part of a month keeping a journal and slowly created the Joker’s voice, laugh, and mannerisms. With Heath’s unexpected passing months before the film’s premiere there were some who wondered if he perhaps went a little too far down the rabbit hole in order to attain the performance of a lifetime. I never really thought of the events surrounding Heath’s death as more than a unfortunate tragedy and upon watching the first half of Curtains I can definitely see where that certain line of thinking can come into focus. An actress decides that in order to fully embrace a character that she is going to be playing convinces the director of the film to have her committed to a woman’s insane asylum and surround herself with individuals who have a wide array of disorders. At first she is able to play along relying on her acting to convince the staff that she has had a complete mental breakdown yet as the days wear on her interactions between fellow inmates legitimately begin to take their toll on her own mental stability. It certainly doesn’t help matters when she comes across an issue of Variety with front page news that the director has decided to hold an open casting call looking for another actress to play the role instead.
So what do you honestly think is going to happen when an aging actress is conned into being institutionalized and then finds out that the director of the film she was set to star in had little to no interest in using her in his production? Anyone… anyone… Bueller? Bueller? Congratulations, if you said that the emotionally crippled, highly jealous, now potentially insane former starlet was going to find a way to break out of the women’s asylum and begin plotting her revenge give yourself a pat on the back. Curtains has a solid dynamic behind the first 30 to 45 minutes where you’re naturally intrigued as to whether there is going to be a huge payoff or not. The director and writers go so far to introduce a second killer to really try and keep you second guessing but like any murder mystery of the week it doesn’t take much sleuthing to figure out who is behind the other set of killings. What’s even worse is there’s a point a good three quarters of the way through where the plot starts to drag itself around like the dead body of one of the film’s victims. I like the fact that Curtains takes the secluded approach of The Shining by having the main setting be a house that is out in the middle of nowhere while a blizzard has all the roads are snowed in. I love that John Vernon (National Lampoon’s Animal House and Killer Clowns From Outer Space) gives audiences another solid performance as a vile/cutthroat director that treats all the actresses auditioning for him as nothing more than mere set decoration. There’s certainly a sense of style here and regrettably its marred down by trying to do too much too fast and not allowing that much breathing room in between. While I understand that Curtains has developed a cult following over the years after my one and only viewing I think I’d find more enjoyment in comforts of a straight jacket and a comfy padded/soundproof cell.
Synopsis: A homicidal twelve-year-old paperboy becomes obsessed with a woman and her daughter next-door and will do anything to make his fantasy of the “perfect family” come alive.
Three days into Schlocktoberfest 2016 and I figured now is the perfect time to dive head first into the why does this even exist??? end of the pool. In fact after torturing myself for a grueling 87 minutes my mind is still screaming out in agony WHY IN THE BLUE F**K DO YOU EVEN EXIST?!?! It just renders me utterly speechless that someone would even think this idea would make for a white knuckle edge of your seat psychological horror spectacle. Something that is supposed to act as a young teenager’s introduction into adulthood by learning the values of hard work and responsibility has every right of being cashed in on for a bargain basement cheap thrill as much as having a Ford Pinto included as part of a classic car show. And look I’m not trying to be PC here anyone who has followed this blog since its inception knows its anything but PC. What I’m saying is the film makers could have taken the occupational horror genre to new heights by going with something the likes of The Landscaper or The Pool Cleaner or The Air Conditioning Repair Man. That alone would have drawn in a far wider audience than the ones dying to see some 12 year old snot nosed punk begging for puberty to hit that way he wouldn’t have to stress over his voice cracking every time he threw a hissy fit.
For a lot of you who grew up in the mid-90s I can see you sitting there debating on whether or not to track The Paperboy down and walk away with your sanity still intact. In fact there is one major advantage to watching this and that’s Alexandra Paul. Any guy who was a red blooded teenager back then loved watching her run down the beaches on Baywatch in a one piece bikini. My one hope out of watching this was maybe she’d go wild and break out a nice little two piece bikini and show off that killer midriff but sadly that did not happen. There are actually a couple of mysteries I’m pondering with here. The first being why is it that the VHS box art logo looks nothing like the title card that pops up on screen at the beginning of the movie? The second is how come Alexandra Paul and William Katt get top billing over Happy Gilmore’s grandmother? That’s right you read that correctly Happy Gilmore’s grandma gets terrorized by the neighborhood paper boy. You know what, that’s going to notch up the final grade a little bit more. Thanks Happy Gilmore’s grandma!
Synopsis: After a young girl is gang raped by a crew of construction workers, someone starts killing off members of the group with a nail gun.
Nothing defines a quintessential slasher movie better than giving the main villain a wide assortment of power tools to use. Chainsaws, hedge trimmers, weed eaters you name it the horror industry marched down to nearest Hardware Hank and promptly put them out of business for a week or two. I’m surprised that the major power tool companies didn’t make under the table deals back then to have their products prominently featured as a weapon of choice and most probably thought it over for a moment before turning such an idea down because 18 year old Peter or Billy weren’t planning in enrolling in a trade school (that and having a power tool associated with any vile horror film would have sparked mass picketing faster than a wildfire). Thanks to its main slogan The Nail Gun Massacre takes into consideration that some stark raving maniacs might not be able to afford a chainsaw. I’m convinced however this wasn’t done for the sake of trying to deviate from the genre but rather because the director wasted what little budget he had procuring a nail gun and then quickly came to the realization there wasn’t enough scratch to pay for everything else. Besides why reimburse snooty overworked egotistical actors when you can drive to the nearest small town and ask complete strangers if they’d like to be in a movie. Don’t worry about if any of the performances come off bad all the mono-toned mumbling dialogue will be overdubbed by a badly synthesized score that sounds like John Carpenter’s second cousin failing miserably to emulate his style when all of a sudden the Dukes of Hazzard came on and it had to be magically woven in as well.
Whenever KISS open up their live shows they’ve always been quoted in saying – ‘You wanted the best? You got the best!’ Even though Schlocktoberfest 2K15 has dove deep into a plethora of terror we have yet to reach Schlock-Con 1. Well folks you wanted the Schlock you’re definitely getting the Schlock in an overly repulsive tsumani of hearse driving, Darth Vader with laryngitis voice modulating, Canadian tuxedo wearing proportions. Expectations? Might as well leave ’em at the door. The editing (or lack thereof) could have been done better by a film school dropout but that would be looking down on film school dropouts. Plus its been a little over a week since Schlocktoberfest last had an ample amount of T&A so if you still don’t know what else to make of The Nail Gun Massacre some 30 years later nudity can and will win over the most frivolous Schlock hound. Bon appetit!
Synopsis: A photographer sees his nightmares realized in the daily news of a killer at large.
The formula for 1980s horror reminds me a lot of what the music industry did to over commercialized the hair/glam metal scene where you’d follow a set pattern in order to gain monster success. Everything is well and good up until a certain point where your target audience begins to tire of the third rate bloated cash cow doing the same old song and dance. Even though Double Exposure is undoubtedly a product of that era of excess the film bravely attempts to mesh slasher horror tropes with a murder/mystery of the week whodunit and for the most part succeeds (think of it as an alternative punk band making waves way before Nirvana and the grunge explosion). While the run time here isn’t that bad (94 minutes) in my opinion there was a little too much exposition and not enough pay off and that’s mainly in part because Double Exposure is treated more like a thriller/crime drama instead of a full on horror gore fest. Nevertheless if you’re looking for some inventive kills (one involving a rattlesnake and a trash bag) and a steady amount of T&A you’ll probably won’t be disappointed in that category.
As Schlocktoberfest 2K15 kicks off Double Exposure is for those who have an acquired taste some might find it dull, bland and excruciating to sit through however it does actually try to spin the viewer in multiple directions to keep you guessing. I say throw on a trench coat and do your best Columbo impression as you try to figure out whether the photographer is actually a homicidal lunatic or if its all in his head.
Final Grade: B-
Interesting in checking out Double Exposure I found my copy on Amazon via Mill Creek Entertainment’s Pure Terror 50 Movie Pack for under $10 via Amazon Wholesalers.
Oh and as a quick little side note when I was looking up the trailer for this on YouTube I was quite surprised to find that it features scenes with topless women. The 1980s truly was a decade that didn’t give a flying F-bomb who it offended (boy oh boy how I wish I had a time machine to go back and re-witness it as a full grown adult).