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Cutting Class (1989)
Worth A Watch For Young Brad Pitt
Every star has to start somewhere, but I'd be surprised if Brad Pitt was proud of his work in this film. Of course, no one expects high art from a typical, by the numbers slasher film and especially not one from the late 80's when that subgenre had run its course, but Cutting Class lacks the pep, smarts, and suspense of some of the better examples of the subgenre.
80's horror staple Jill Scholen plays a teenager whose in the middle of a love triangle involving Donovan Leitch and Brad Pitt. Apparently, we're supposed to root for her. I think we'll all agree that most of us would gladly take her place and accept either or. Even worse, there's a mad slasher running around killing everyone in sight.
Cutting Class occasionally dips its toe into satirical comedy throughout, but it never quite takes off. Scholen's father (played by, of all people, Martin Mull) is shot with a bow and arrow early on during a hunting trip and the film routinely cuts back to him wandering through the forest and surrounding highways limping along. One gets the feeling that this is supposed to be funny, but it ends up playing more silly and distracting than anything else.
Roddy McDowell as the lecherous school principal gets some of the funnier and sleazier material of the film and he handles it with the upmost professionalism. Honestly, all the actors do a good job with what they've given, but they can't disguise the lousy, slow, and predictable screenplay.
Trilogy of Terror II (1996)
"You've Made Bobby Angry, Mommy!"
Trilogy of Terror II is a lot like the original film in that they are both decent stories and less exciting ones peppered throughout the runtime. Dan Curtis returns to direct this sequel with somewhat mixed results. For starters, Lysette Anthony, while mostly competent, seems like an odd choice to replace someone like Karen Black, who, love her or hate her, had a unique style that made her incredibly watchable on screen. Anthony's never terribly interesting or quirky enough to carry off some of the lesser stories, but she proves decently capable when she's only required to bug her eyes and scream in fear. I'm guessing that's all her audition called for, so I guess she delivers in that respect.
The first story is a mediocre, but not entirely un-engaging film noir-esque "we should murder my husband and collect his money" story with an ok twist at the end. It's the least exciting of the stories, so at least we get it out of the way.
The next story is based on a similar segment from Curtis' Dead of Night entitled Bobby about a woman who makes a pact with a demonic entity to bring back her dead son with predictably horrifying results. Curtis appears to have stuck very close to the original script (and even some of the shots are almost identical) and it probably works the best out of all the segments. The final reveal, unfortunately, comes across as more laughable than terrifying.
The final story brings back the infamous Zuni fetish doll and picks up right where the original story left off with the doll being taken to a museum to be studied as it terrorizes the night staff. It has its effective moments, but it can't quite compare to the claustrophobic terror of the original story.
Trilogy of Terror II is a merely respectable sequel that's not bad to have on in the background if you're bored.
The (Sur)Real World
A group of 20-somethings are lured to a house under the guise of doing some sort of Big Brother type reality show and they end up getting killed one by one in various grotesque ways.
Kolobos doesn't really make that much sense, but it's well made, decently acted, and has a handful of unforgettable images that will stick with you for awhile and I'll take that over a generic, by the numbers Hollywood movie anytime. I suppose you could chalk all the weirdness up to the nightmare logic of the film. In this way, it does resemble a Bava or Argento film. The dialogue, character arcs, and storyline might be a bit flat, but it's never dull and the film looks excellent.
The ending seems to be the major issue with everyone and I'd agree - it feels tacked on and strange and almost like they were trying too hard to explain everything while, somehow, managing to make everything even more convoluted.
Besides that, Kolobos is a likable and enjoyable piece of nightmare cinema that comes highly recommended.
"Be Gone, Banana Republic@*t"
There's an insanely brash and annoying teenager named Callee who only has one friend - a shy gay guy named Ian who's latched onto her because he doesn't see any better options in their backwoods town. Though she has no talents to speak of, Callee wants to be special more than anything else in the world and when a serial killer comes into the picture, she takes a break from screaming at her classmates (and teachers) about various forms of perceived bigotry and decides that pretending to be one of the killer's latest victims is a better way to get her dream.
While borrowing from several teen movie cliches (Heathers, Scream, Jawbreaker, and Female Trouble came to mind a few times while watching it), Triggered creates something unique and unlike anything I've ever seen. The character of Callee is so disgustingly unlikable from the first few lines out of her mouth that you just want to punch her and, yet, Meredith Mohler's performance (while occasionally over the top) is grounded in what seems like real human pain. Jesse Dalton is equally wonderful as Ian and he's very much the eyes and ears of the audience throughout. Amanda Wyss shows up in what, at first, seems like a glorified cameo, but she ends up featuring much more heavily in the film than I was initially expecting which was a very pleasant surprise and she gets a few wonderful moments (including a moving/hilarious bit where she's telling Callee about the worst year of her life as Callee scrolls through her phone, not caring).
The comedy and drama sometimes play better than the slasher/horror aspect (though, I did jump a few times and I rarely ever do that), but the film never bored me and I was always totally invested in the story. I'd recommend it.
Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (1988)
Never Outstays Its Welcome
There's something to be said for good trash that knows when to call it quits. Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers gets in, gets out, and you don't feel like you've wasted too much of your time. In fact, you'll probably have a pretty good time with it if you go in with the right expectations.
This movie isn't great art and it doesn't have anything important to say, but it keeps things breezy and light for its short runtime and seems to have a great sense of humor about itself. Linnea Quigley and Michelle Bauer are fun and committed as always.
Apparently, this was shot in 5 and a half days and I'm pretty wowed by that. It certainly looks and feels low budget, but it's well put together and doesn't suffer from heavy padding like a lot of these films do.
Definitely worth seeing for low budget horror enthusiasts.
Scared Stiff (1987)
Imaginative Low Budget Horror
I'm not going to sit here and say that Scared Stiff is some sort of lost classic of the genre. It's not. It has pacing problems and you're never quite sure if it's a haunted house movie, a "she's losing her mind" movie, or an installment of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, but when it gets something right, it really gets it right.
A single mother pop star moves into a spooky antebellum mansion with her child and boyfriend and not only begins to unravel the house's gruesome history, but starts to believe that she's actually seeing the previous owners in her day to day life.
Scared Stiff starts out as a typical haunted house film. The lead character is plagued with visions and dreams of the wicked slave owner who used to live there and she thinks she's losing her mind. All of a sudden, it seems as if her doctor boyfriend can't be trusted either and it turns into one of those "is she crazy or being gaslit?" movies, before pulling out all the stops in a genuinely imaginative and nightmarish final act.
It's not as if Scared Stiff is brilliant, but it's competent and the final act is incredibly memorable, creepy, and downbeat.
Don't Hang Up (1974)
Bizarre Low Budget Chiller
Don't Open The Door comes from S.F. Brownrigg who made the equally bizarre Don't Look in the Basement which has become a drive-in/grindhouse/cheapie VHS and DVD staple for years. While this film doesn't have exactly the same kind of manic, low budget energy that film has, it has enough charms of its own to make it worth a watch.
Don't Open the Door follows a young woman who returns home to the house where her mother was murdered and begins receiving strange, obscene phone calls from a psycho who wants her dead.
The acting, much like Basement, is enthusiastic but amateur hour. No one is really awful, but no one is exactly brilliant either. You get the feeling that you're watching the area's most competent community theatre actors having a good time. The concept is solid, but the suspense and scares seem to be put on the backburner until towards the end of the film, which gives us a lot of time to watch the leading lady take a bath or go exploring the house, which isn't terribly exciting.
Where Don't Open the Door excels is with the creepy phone calls and the mood. The phone calls are perhaps some of the genre's creepiest and most unsettling. It also manages to produce a fairly haunting ending.
With a little more effort put into the script, pacing, and scares, this one could have been a contender, but as is, it's an interesting regional time capsule. It's worth seeing once.
Splatter University (1984)
Middle of the Road Slash Fest
Splatter University doesn't have an awful lot going for it. It looks the cheap, the sound is lacking, most of the performances are awful, and the gore effects rarely convince, but there's a certain low budget 80's charm that keeps you tuned in for its fairly short run time.
Francine Forbes makes for an incredibly appealing lead and she's easily the best actor in the film. Thankfully, we spend most of our time with her (although, maybe not enough time). She plays a young teacher who's replacing a teacher at a local college who's just been brutally murdered. Needless to say, the murderer isn't done yet and seems to have an issue with both the teachers and the entire student body of this university.
There's not a lick of suspense or terror in this movie and, as I said earlier, even the death scenes feel a bit uninspired, but Forbes keeps us invested and along for the ride. The finale does manage to surprise due the sheer mean spiritedness of it all, so I've got to give the fimmakers props for that. I certainly didn't see it ending that way and it was a genuine shock.
Splatter University is more of a movie to play in the background than one you really need to pay much attention to. It's saved by charm, Forbes, and a shocking finale.
Hospital Massacre (1981)
This Movie is INSANE!
Wow! Where to begin?
Hospital Massacre seems like one of those movies that an alien from a different planet would make about humans. So many characters behave in such ridiculously bizarre ways that no one seems like a real person. It's probably best to turn off your mind before going into this one and just rolling with it.
The story itself might make zero sense, but it seems as if it's just a coat hanger to hang a series of gory, imaginative death scenes on and those scenes are certainly memorable. It's never terribly gory (in fact, it tends to cut away before it shows too much most of the time), but the scenes themselves are unlike anything you've ever seen. Watch a nurse turn a corner and come face to face with the killer at the end of the hall who's walking towards her with a sheet stretched out in front of him. Like most of the film, it's hard to tell if this is dreamlike and creepy or incredibly hilarious.
Much like the same year's Halloween II, there are only a handful of patients in this entire hospital and the people in charge must be trying to save money on electricity, because there are so many dark corners and hallways everywhere.
Barbi Benton isn't half bad in her meager role which just consists of her looking scared, angry, or hysterical. At least when she isn't being subjected to hysterically gratuitous nude examination scenes.
I'm not sure what Hospital Massacre was intending to be, but it sure turned out fun.
Final Exam (1981)
Don't Expect Gore
Final Exam is kinda what would happen if someone made a made for TV slasher movie in the early 80's. There's absolutely no gore that I can remember (maybe some blood on a knife at one point?), but the filmmakers seem like they're trying to create suspense and characters that you can root for. I guess that's not most slasher fans' bag, but I really enjoyed it.
Some will probably say it's boring, but I'm glad they put more of a focus on character and suspense than blood and guts. It's not quite Halloween (or even Friday the 13th), but it has its effective and memorable moments.
Definitely not worth flunking.