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FrightMeter

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101 reviews in total 
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Basement Jack (2009) (V)
5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Mediocre at best., 30 August 2010
5/10

A serial killer, nicknamed Basement Jack because of his penchant for hiding out in his victim's basements before killing them, is released and returns to the small town of Downer's Grove to continue his massacre and finish off the one victim who was able to escape is slaughter years before.

This film desperately tries to be a throwback to 80's slasher films, but it is too slow-paced and padded with the killer's backstory that it commits the worst crime a slasher film can: it becomes boring. The pace does pick up in the end and there are some ambitious attempts at heavy gore; however, it is extremely fake looking and some is obviously CGI. However, the director is able to create some nice atmosphere is spots and, despite the fake looking gore, the film looks great. In the end, though, this is nothing you haven't seen before and it has been done much, much better.

FrightMeter Grade: D+

8 out of 24 people found the following review useful:
Ambitious first effort., 30 August 2010
6/10

Four very different friends, including two sisters, find themselves in an epic predicament when, after a night of partying, they discover a dead hooker in the trunk of their car. While trying to find out just who she is and how she got their, the group encounter several crazy situations, including a serial killer who is hot on their trail.

The film is a breath of fresh air in its originality; it sheds all genre clichés to offer an unpredictable, and for the most part entertaining ride. The film blends several genres, one minute acting as a brutal grindhouse slasher, the next a buddy road trip comedy. I works and it's an accomplishment in itself that a film that attempts to be so many different things never loses focus. Despite this, the film is not as effective as it could have been. The characters are underwritten and unlikable. Their reactions to the situations they encounter are often inappropriate or unrealistic to the point of being distracting at points (after having an eyeball knocked out, exactly how long can one go with no medical attention and a piece of duct tape over the socket?) Still, Dead Hooker in a Trunk is a creative, ambitious first feature from the Soska sisters. With a tighter script and a bigger budget, they certainly could be forces within the genre.

FrightMeter Grade: B-

4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Nice homage to Psycho., 30 August 2010
8/10

College student Scotty Parker waits too long to apply for on campus housing and as a result must rent a room at a spooky seaside mansion owned by the equally spooky Engels family. Soon, one of the other college student renters is brutally murdered and Scotty unknowingly begins to unravel the secrets of the Engels family and the murders.

The creepy, atmospheric little gem is a homage to Psycho through and through. Though it is a slow-burner, there is always an uneasiness present as the viewer is made aware through minor clues that something is not right with the Engels family. There is little to no gore; instead the focus on on building tension leading into the frantic and frenzied climax. Barbara Steele steals the film without saying a word and her performance will certainly give you chills. Highly underrated and one of the better entries into the early 80's slasher genre, though today's audience may be turned off by the slow pace.

FrightMeter Grade: B

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
The Easter Bunny doesn't like you...., 9 August 2010
8/10

Following in the tradition of the slasher genre, Easter Bunny, Kill! Kill! uses a beloved holiday as the backdrop for a madman's murderous rampage. However, instead of stalking babysitters or sorority sisters, this film tells a much more interesting and sinister tale.

Mindy, a single mother of a sixteen year old mentally challenged son, Nicholas, struggles with the responsibilities involved in raising a special needs child. She often works double shifts at her nursing job and relies on the wife of her handyman for childcare. So when Rem, a smooth talking and by all appearances, a genuinely nice, caring guy comes into her life, she instantly begins to have feelings for him. However, Nicholas is immediately suspicious and takes an instant disliking to Rem, and for very good reason. Turns out Rem is really a cruel, low-life drug addict with ulterior motives. He is cruel to Nicholas when Mindy is not around, calling him degrading names and threatening to kill her new pet rabbit if Nicholas tells. When called into work a double shift on Easter day, Mindy, with really no other option, allows Rem to care for Nicholas. Rem immediately calls his pedophile friend and sells Nicholas to him for the evening while Rem goes out in search of hookers and drugs. When the pedophile arrives to have his way with Nicholas, it doesn't take long for a psychopath wearing an Easter Bunny mask to show up and begin wreaking havoc with various electrical tools. When Rem finally shows back up to the home with his hookers, the stage is set for a bloody showdown.

Though far from perfect, Easter Bunny, Kill! Kill! is an ambitious entry into the holiday themed horror genre. The tone of the film is its most effective asset, at while some may find it a tad too cruel at times, it will, without a doubt, stir at least some emotion in even the most hardened horror fans. Apart from the inclusion of such sensitive subjects as the treatment of people with disabilities and pedophilia, the film possesses a grittiness and atmosphere that is unsettling at times. Despite the simple and confined setting of a small, suburban house, the director is able to create some serious tense and suspenseful scenes, mostly involving the various victims making their way through the hallways of the home, which are covered in plastic on both sides because of renovations. The use of the plastic is hugely effective as the viewer at times knows the homicidal rabbit is lurking its prey from somewhere behind it. The deaths are fairly brutal and bloody as heads are drilled, circular saws are wielded, and hammers and brought down. Though the deaths are nasty, they are never over the top, and since most of the victims are vile human beings, these is slight sense of justice. The actors, for the most part, are highly committed to their roles. Timothy Muskatell is truly outstanding as Rem and viewers will be truly disgusting by him.

Still, though the film is highly effective, some will be quick to point out its flaws. The low budget does, at times, show. Some of the scenes, particularly ones involving Nicholas talking to his pet rabbit, come off as extremely cheesy and cringe-worthy. Since the first real kill by the maniacal rabbit doesn't come until at least the halfway point, some may be turned off by pacing, subject matter, and questionable depiction of a mentally challenged teen. Additionally, some scenes are unnecessary and late attempts at humor fall flat and don't complement the overall tone of the film. Though I am sure some figured out the identity of the killer, I was actually pleasantly surprised, though the last few minutes of the film were rather unbelievable and a tad to tidy and storybook.

Overall, Easter Bunny, Kill! Kill! is highly effective, low-budget tribute to exploitative grindhouse films of the 70's and slasher films of the 80's. There are some truly creepy, atmospheric, and disturbing scenes, and though the film is a cheesy in parts and seem to loose focus a few times, it is a welcomed and highly recommended entry into the holiday themed horror catalog.

Fright Meter Grade: B

3 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Nicely done homage., 28 July 2010
6/10

The cover art for "Spring Break Massacre" tells you everything you need to know about the film; yes, it's a homage to "The Slumber Party Massacre." Anyone expecting anything but a slasher film featuring a killer murdering topless co-eds will be sadly, sadly disappointed. At least you can say the DVD cover was deceiving.

Plot wise, the film is very similar to the original "The Slumber Party Massacre." A group of female friends decide to have a sleepover where "no boys are allowed" by order of our heroine's father. Needles to say, an escaped psychopath known as the slumber party killer has just escaped prison and happens upon the little gathering. Meanwhile, the local sheriff (Robby Bannister) and his deputy (Linnea Quigley) are alerted to the psychopath's escape and must try to keep the town safe.

Fans of 80's slasher films will undoubtedly enjoy this film because it does possess a nostalgic feel with its simple, straight-forward premise and tongue-in-cheek reference. Though the pacing lags in the second act, enough happens to keep us interested. The kills come fast in the last act and seem a tad rushed. Additionally, they aren't all that gory or bloody, and for a homage to an 80's slasher classic, I'd expect the kills to be better thought out, a tad gorier, with much more suspense leading to them. Along those same lines, there is no final "chase scene" with our heroine that is a staple of 80's slasher films. Still, the film is technically well done and, again, does enough to keep the viewer interested.

Unlike "The Slumber Party Massacre," this film does attempt to be different and set itself apart. Much like his other unknown-killer-stalks-group-of-friends-having-a-sleepover film "Reunion of Terror," screenwriter Michael Hoffman, employs a mega-twist ending and motive that is clever, unexpected, and disturbing. I can see this being his trademark as a writer simply because he is so good at it.

Overall, "Spring Break Massacre" is a nicely done homage that doesn't really offer anything new to the genre, but succeeds in taking us genre fans back to the simpler days of horror.

Fright Meter Grade: C+

October Moon (2005) (V)
4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Effective character study., 4 May 2010
7/10

Contrary to my initial assumption, "October Moon" really isn't a horror movie. Not that there aren't some rather disturbing moments, but the film plays itself out more like a psychological drama in the vain of "Fatal Attraction" (yes, the comparison is inevitable) or "Unfaithful." The climax of the film verges on "slasher" territory, but ends up being more depressing that actual scary.

The film centers around Corin, a thirty year old professional, and his younger, party-loving boyfriend Jake. The two have been together for awhile. but it is obvious that all is not rosy in their relationship. While Corin has settled down and likes to spend quiet evenings at home, Jake still loves the "bar" scene, and often views his relationship with Corin as holding him back from enjoying his youth. At work, Corin is able to confide in his boss and good friend Nancy (Brinke Stevens) about his relationship troubles. She listens with a caring ear and seems to be the only person to really understand him. Due to an increased work load and his unstable home life with Jake, Nancy decides to hire an assistant of sorts name Elliot to help Corin with some of his duties. At first, Elliot is awkward and somewhat nerdy, but likable nonetheless. Corin learns that Elliot lives with his over-protective mother (Judith O'Dea) and is engaged to be married to long-time girlfriend, Marti. Corin begins spending some time outside of work with Elliot, inviting him home and to various outings. Before long, Elliot begins to develop feelings for Corin and realizes that he is a homosexual. This causes severe mixed emotions in him; his mother is deeply against this lifestyle because he husband left her years earlier for another man. With no real support for his new feelings, Elliot's feelings for Corin begin to become a dangerous and disturbing obsession, resulting in a dark, depressing climax.

"October Moon" is truly a character driven story and because of this, may cause some viewers to lose interest. No real action occurs until the films final moments, but the build-up is almost more intense. Elliot's behavior does become more and more disturbing and where the film excels is in its believability. The characters actions and reactions are realistic and because the characters are developed extremely well, it is easy to sympathize with their individual situations. Even at the end of the film, it is hard to really blame Elliot for his actions; he desperately just wanted to be loved and accepted, and like many gay men, the emotions that came with falling for another man, when his entire life he had been told how wrong that was, were almost too much to handle. The writers takes careful steps to ensure that Elliot never becomes a despicable character and it works to the film's benefit. While there is some clichéd and dialogue steeped with stereotypes, overall, it does an adequate job of moving the plot along and creating interesting characters.

The biggest flaw present in "October Moon" is certainly its low-budget, resulting in extremely amateur looking production values. For example, the picture looks dated and often times is no better quality than you'd get with an old hand-held camera. The sound fades in and out in many spots, making conversations hard to comprehend. These issues don't necessarily make this a bad film, but do, at times, make it hard to take seriously. The acting really is a mixed bag; the actors portraying Corin and Jake are adequate, but often times some cheesy dialogue interrupts their performances. Jerod Howard is effective as Elliot, but some particular scenes seem to put noticeable strain on his range. Horror veterans Brinke Stevens and Judith O'Dea are both serviceable, but criminally underused. What is really distracting about the performances is that in some scenes, the actors are brilliant, but in the very next scene, verge on being terrible. The climax is rushed and, while somewhat effective, doesn't pack the punch that it really could have.

Overall, "October Moon" is an interesting, engaging little independent film. Like so many other low-budget films out there, it is very apparent that the filmmakers actually cared about the final product and did the best of their ability and resources to make a decent film. While those expecting gore and non-stop action will likely become extremely bored with "October Moon," it is an effective that not only cares about its characters and presents a believable portrait of obsession and desperation, it subtly makes a statement about expectations, relationships, and the consequences of intolerance. It's a slow burn, but "October Moon" is an effective, creepy film that puts substance before style; the end result and a memorable portrait of love gone wrong on many levels.

Dead Snow (2009)
3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Stay out of the outhouse!, 31 March 2010
8/10

A group of medical students on Easter break decide to spend a relaxing weekend in a friend's cabin located in the isolated mountains of Norway. However, they are unaware that during World War II, a group of Nazi soldiers disappeared into these very mountains never to be seen again, Well, it turns out that these soldiers are all but dead and are now zombies who murder anyone unlucky enough to cross their path.

The Good: The cinematography in this film is breathtaking. Much like the Norwegian slasher film "Cold Prey," the isolated mountain setting is used to full effect here. The production values are all top notch and it is refreshing to see a genre film that looks this good. Similarly, the acting is pretty decent across the board and the actors obviously took their roles seriously. The film is pretty fast paced and plays homage to several well-renowned horror films, most blatantly "The Evil Dead." Suspense is well built, particularly with the outhouse scenes and the zombie attack scenes on the tiny cabin. The film really picks up the last 20 minutes or so, and gore/zombie fans should not be disappointed. These zombies also use weapons, such as bayonets and hammers, as well as their teeth, to attack their victims and the ending of the film is an adrenaline pumping, blood soaked, good time.

The Bad: The film has so much going for it in regards to the horror/suspense elements, but decides to play up some comedic elements that seem, at times, out of place. The film would have been much more effective without the unnecessary comedic elements had amped up the horror. There are some confusing elements, mainly concerning a box of treasure that may or may not be the reason for the zombie's attack on the group of friends and makes the ending rather confusing. The characters are pretty likable, but do some pretty questionable things; for example, late in the film, after several of their friends have been murdered, we discover that a character or two has had a cell phone the entire time. And they actually get a single! Why they didn't decide to call for help earlier is a questionable point and, like the treasure, is an example of some holes in the script.

Overall: "Dead Snow" is a great entry into the zombie genre. It's a great looking, fast paced film that isn't without its flaws, which come mainly from weak writing. Definitely worth a look for horror fans.

My Grade: B

Staunton Hill (2009) (V)
3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 156, 31 March 2010
3/10

The year is 1969 (supposedly). A group of friends traveling to a rally in Washington, D.C. hitch a ride with a nice enough fellow they meet up with at a run down gas station. However, a few miles along their journey, the fellow's car breaks down, causing the group to have to hike through the hills in search of shelter and help. They happen upon an isolated farmhouse, which at first seems abandoned. They take it upon themselves to camp out in the barn for the night, only to be greeted by the Stauton family in the morning. This odd bunch consists of the the mother, grandmother, and a mentally challenged adult boy. At first, the family is nice (except the boy, who takes a hammer to one of the traveler's face for saying HI to him). It doesn't take long before the true intentions of the Staunton family is exposed and they friends begin getting brutally butchered and dismembered one by one.

The Good: The acting in "Staunton Hill" is actually pretty good. The setting is creepy and used to full effect. However, what the film has going for it is a few inspired moments of gore and how the killer casually goes about brutally disposing of his victims. It is rather disturbing, though the motive behind the killings is confusing and not fully elaborated on.

The Bad: The plot is EXTREMELY clichéd. This is the same old "friends venture upon a isolated house and are slaughtered by a disturbed family" formula that we have seen many, many times before. Worse yet, director Cameron Romero (horror icon George Romero's son) does absolutely nothing new with the formula. It is business as usual as characters do the exact things we expect them to do and the film ends the exact way we expect it to end. The film is also suppose to be set in 1969; however, it is painfully obvious from the clothing, hair styles, and some set pieces that it is modern day. This is troubling because there is absolutely no reason mentioned for WHY the film has to be set in 1969. It would have been the exact same film had it been set in 79, 89, or 09. Romero's direction shows some inspired moments, yet is still pretty run-of-the-mill. When your last name is Romero and you are directing a horror film, you should probably take painstaking steps to make sure your film stands out among the countless others like it; this does not happen here. Maybe it us unfair to hold Cameron Romero to a higher standard, but with the Romero name plastered numerous times of the DVD cover, I think it is fair game. Does he show potential? Yes, but hopefully with his next project he makes an interesting movie that is not steeped in your typical horror clichés.

Overall: While "Staunton Hill" isn't the worst movie of its kind, it certainly has very few redeeming qualities. It's clichéd, rather boring in parts, and offers nothing new to the genre. Rewatching "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" would be time better spent if you are dying to see a deranged family kill of innocent victims who stumble upon their residence.

My Grade: D

To Become One (2002) (V)
2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Two Different Films?, 30 March 2010
1/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This film begins much like any of your countless teenage slasher films; a young girl named Melinda helplessly watches her mother get brutally murdered by a killer disguised in a gas mask and armed with a sword. Flash forward a year later--this same killer begins picking off this same Melinda's friends one by one on a quest to capture her (why he didn't just get her a year earlier after murdering her mother while Melinda was in the same room is beyond me). In order to escape the killer, Melinda and her few remaining friends pack up their cars and take off for the isolated countryside. Predictably, the killer follows, dispatches Melinda's remaining friends, and reveals his identity to her. Now, this is where the film completely shift gears and tone. You see, the killer is her Siamese twin brother who was separated from her when they were babies. He has decided that this procedure robbed him of his "true" life, so, with the help of a crazy-as-a-loon doctor, he plans on being conjoined with Melinda once again. From this point forward, the film takes place in a giant hospital which looks much like your typical suburban hospital. However, the patients are all mentally disturbed and the doctor and nurses are performing what seems to be religious-themed brainwashing ceremonies on them.

The Good: The film is ambitious with its screenplay and I do not think that I have witnessed a horror movie that has switched plot elements so severely and abruptly. Somewhere in this amateurish mess of a film lies an actually pretty interesting and unique premise. The film is extremely low budget (said to have been filmed for under $2000), and while his fact is painfully obvious, it does make some of the hospital scenes/procedures that much more effective. The acting is a mixed bag, but the main girl is serviceable and carries the film pretty well.

The Bad: Pretty much EVERYTHING else. The decision to switch from slasher movie to psychological drama midway really fails here because it makes the first half of the film irrelevant. Why did the brother have to stalk and kill Melinda's friends if his sole goal was to get her to the hospital? There are other glaring plot holes, but that is the least of this film's problems. The directing is awful. The director finds the needs to switch from color to black and white indiscriminately and without any real purpose except to make himself seem "innovative." There are several shots, particularly in the beginning, that are so dark that the viewer can't even make out what is going on. The dialog is clunky and characters do things (again, particularly in the beginning) that are so ridiculous that it is hard to take the film serious. There is not character development at all and we don't even learn the main character's name until a third into the movie. In fact, it seems like the MAJOR issue with this film is the first 40 minutes when it attempted to be a slasher film. Nothing works here. However, when the film switches gears to the hospital, it becomes incredibly dull and contrived that it becomes a test of patience to sit through.

Overall: I know there is an interesting movie to be found SOMEWHERE in this mess of a film. Unfortunately, this film was in extremely incompetent hands and ends up being an absurd, boring chore. There are really no redeeming qualities present to recommend this film to anyone--even die-hard horror fans.

My Grade: F

Dead Tone (2007)
7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Entertaining Enough...., 2 March 2010
6/10

"Dead Tone" opens with a group of young children making prank phone calls while their clueless parents party and carry on in the other room. With one of the phone calls, they reach a psychopath who isn't at all happy to be bothered with their childish banter. This puts a damper on their game and they decide to go to bed. A short time later, the telephone rings. When one of the kids wakes up to answer it, he is greeted by an axe-wielding psycho- path who proceeds to murder his parents and their friends. Flash forward 10 years to a group of college students who decide to spend the weekend at the rich jock's secluded mansion for some partying and sex. All is going well when, while drunk, they decide to make prank phone calls as a game. The rule: you must keep the person on the other end for at least 75 seconds. Needless to say, they (again) reach a psychopath who ends up showing up at the secluded house with his trust axe.

The Good: "Dead Tone" is a slasher flick through and through. There is no lame attempt at comedy or self-referential moments. In fact, in resembles something that came straight from the 1980's, where slasher films were only interested in one thing: getting a bunch of teenagers together in an isolated setting and killing them off brutally. The killer, though a rip-off of the "Urban Legend" killer, is quite brutal and it doesn't take long to realize he means business. The production is top-notch and the acting is fairly decent (Rutger Hauer gives some credibility to the film). For the most part, the action is fast paced and there is no real boring parts. Once the killer arrives at the mansion, the killing and action doesn't let up.

The Bad: The script is clichéd as all get out and I swear I have some some of the exact lines uttered in this film said in countless other slasher film. Additionally, the film is VERY formulaic--it is like the screenwriter and director took a cure from "How to Make A Slasher Film in Three Easy Steps." We are even subjected to the "let's stop at the creepy old gas stations where we can get a few false scares while one of the characters ventures into the incredibly filthy bathroom and the be warned by the equally filthy and creepy gas station attendant before we speed off a tad shaken" scene. Really, the filmmakers offered absolutely nothing new to the genre and, again, this film could really be a combination of about twenty five other slasher films I have seen lately. The ending is predictable and a tad silly and unbelievable. Oh, and the main blond girl isn't that great of an actress and is definitely the weak link in the cast.

Overall: An entertaining 80's style slasher film that you just might enjoy if you go into it with no expectations. The action is brisk, there are some decent death scenes for gore hounds, and the production is nice. However, it is clichéd and you will roll your eyes at the predictably of some of the scenes, particularly the ending.

Fright Meter Grade: C+


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