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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

10 Most Underrated Horror/Slasher Films Part Ten:Funeral Home(1980)

The last installment of the list is one of my favorites, Funeral Home. It's a very creepy, atmospheric, old dark house type horror film, that doesn't really have any slasher trappings. In fact, I would say that it is most influenced by Hitchcock's classic Psycho. It stars Lesleigh Donaldson, who was almost a scream queen back in the 80's(Happy Birthday To Me, Curtains, Deadly Eyes).

Lesleigh stars as the teen aged Heather, who goes to the country to help her grandmother run her bed & breakfast for the summer. Almost immediately, Heather hears voices in the cellar, is grandmother talking to her dead grandfather? The director really knows how to utilize slow-building suspense in his favor. As the guests start disappearing, you mind will wander through all of the red herrings. There is a particular flashback scene that is really effective, it's one of the real scares in the film. This is another of the slow, atmospheric films that I love so much! It is out on budget DVD now, so please check it out.

10 Most Underrated Horror/Slasher Films Part Nine:The Prey(1984/1980)

Oh The Prey.....other than Don't Go In The Woods, is probably the most lambasted slasher film ever! It's definitely a love it or hate it kind of film, and even if you hate it, you might end up loving it for all of ineptness. But what most people fail to realize is, there are two versions of The Prey out there. I know most people don't believe it about the "unedited" version, but I have seen said version twice, and I assure you its real. Someone actually has a copy posted over at Cinemageddon if you are interested in seeing it.

The Prey is your standard kids going mountain climbing and camping, then getting killed slasher film. But there are several elements that set it apart. First, after the film was edited down from 95 minutes to 79, the filmmakers added in a bunch of stock nature footage to pad the running time. While it's not annoying to me, people endlessly bitch about all the shots of animals throughout the film, what do they think lives in the woods........animals??? The edited version just has a little mention at the beginning of the film that there was a fire in these North Point woods in the 40's and many people died, that's it. Then cut to the kids going camping, with no further mention of the back story. In the unedited version, at the campfire, when they are telling stories, Steve Bond's character tells the whole back story of the Gypsy's and the fire that killed them all except one. The scene is inserted right there, and it's 25 mins long. It gives the film a completely different feeling all together. Even though it does seem like it was shot at a different time, and then inserted in the film, you can finally understand the motive behind the killings. It also excises some of the stock nature footage, and a few little scenes, here and there. I thought it was cool to see the unedited version, but I still prefer the "classic" version.

So if you like very cheesy woodsy slashers, fix yourself some cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches(tisk tisk), and laugh for the next 80 mins. I love it!!

10 Most Underrated Horror/Slasher Films Part Eight:The Final Terror(1983)

The Final Terror has always gotten a bum rap! I've never quite figured out why people dislike it so much. Some claim that it's too dark to see what's going on(hello, Prom Night), but I have never had that issue with it, the DVD clears that up quite a bit. Some other naysayers say that it's boring, it's not, it just allows you to actually get to know the characters before they are slaughtered. Another cool thing about it is, there are several faces in it that went on to become pretty big stars. It features Daryl Hannah, Rachel Ward, Adrian Zmed and Joe Pantoliano, and surprisingly they all put in decent performances.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, it's not easy describing a simple slasher in the woods film without giving away key plot elements. So on paper, it sounds like every other slasher film that you have seen. Again, this one has loads of cool atmosphere(always a must for my horror faves), and probably the coolest looking killer that I have ever seen. The appearance still gives me the creeps after all these years. Several forest rangers and their girlfriends travel in the Redwood forest to clear some land, and run into all sorts of nasty deaths at the hands of a camouflaged killer. Not much more that I can say about this one, you'll know if that's your cup o' tea. It has been issued on budget DVD, and you can pick up a copy for 5-10 bucks easily. I am hoping that one day, one of these specialty horror companies will put an Anamorphic Wide screen version of this, but until, the budget DVD will do me fine.

10 Most Underrated Horror/Slasher Films Part Seven:Unhinged(1982)

Aside from The Prey, this is probably the most hated film on my list. It's definitely a "sleeper slasher", I can understand why some people don't like it. It has a small body count(but effective), there are long scenes where not much is going on, and the acting could have been better. What people fail to realize is that Unhinged is more atmospheric than most horror films from the 80's, and the shocking "twist" ending was ripped off by a much better known film.

The story involves 3 young ladies who are travelling to a jazz festival, when they encounter bad weather. Their car ends up in a ditch, and one of the girls is hurt. A man finds them and takes them to a huge, scary mansion inhabited by a crazy old lady and her spinster daughter. They agree to put them up, but there is no phone for them to call for help(imagine that?). After a day or two in the house, one of the girls decides to walk a few miles through the woods to the nearest village for help. Needless to say, she doesn't make it that far, she is attacked in the woods by a scythe wielding maniac. Back at the house, one of the girls starts hearing a mans voice at night, making sounds which could be accompanied by masturbation. She even gets a glimpse of this man out of the window, and the spinster tells her it's her retarded brother that is forced to live outside, because the Mother has a deep hatred for men. Then a second girl is murdered, and it's left up to the last girl to solve the mystery, and it's definitely not what you think it is. The twist ending is the best part of Unhinged, it's definitely a WTF moment.

You can get Unhinged on DVD for relatively cheap, and if you don't have to have a huge body count to enjoy atmospheric horror, check it out. It is a bit dramatic though.

10 Most Underrated Horror/Slasher Fims Part 6:The Mutilator(1985)

The Mutilator(aka Fall Break) is a very polarizing slasher film, you either really love it, or really hate it! I was one of the fortunate few that caught this at the theatre, because it was a very limited opening. Luckily, the south has a reputation for loving sleazy horror films, so we used to get all of the new cheezy treasures. In the theatre, everyone was hooping and yelling at this little film, with really bad acting, and some of the most inventive ways to kill people ever captured on screen. I couldn't imagine any slasher fan not loving The Mutilator, and if you don't, maybe you are not a slasher fan?

The story is a irrelevant as any slasher film, young Ed decides to clean his father's gun collection for a birthday present. Accidentally Ed fires a gun, and it goes into the next room killing his Mother instantly. Cut to 10 or 15 years in the future, and Ed and his friends are headed to the beach to close up his father's condominium. When they arrive they notice that several of the weapons that Ed's father has collected are missing. Before long the kids start getting picked off one by one. Now the acting may be horrible(Morey Lampley, I am talking to you), but the special effects are amazing!! That is where The Mutilator excels, we get the infamous "fish gaff in the girls cooch scene", there is a boat-motor massacre, a machete rammed in the face, fishing weights thrown into heads, bodies being severed, I promise you won't be let down.

The masters of horror, Vestron Video released this on VHS back in the day, in R-rated and Unrated cuts(don't even attempt to watch the R rated), and Code Red was supposed to release this on DVD last year. Sadly, that never came to fruition, in true Code Red manner, they are holding out for a better transfer of the film or something. If you haven't seen it, and really want to there are import discs that you can order, but most are missing the gaff scene. Maybe Code Red will get off of their asses and release it this year, because I am in dire need of a Fall Break!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

10 Most Underrated Horror/Slasher Films Part Five:Just Before Dawn(1981)

Just Before Dawn, is the holy grail of the "killer in the woods" sub-genre! Forget the films made by the major studios, and their zillions of sequels, Jeff Lieberman accomplishes in this film, what they couldn't do in 10!! On paper, it may seem like every other film in the genre, but on screen it drips with more atmosphere than you could imagine.

Shot in the forests and National Parks of Oregon for maximum beauty and atmosphere, Just Before Dawn has the best cinematography of ANY slasher film. The story concerns a group of five teenagers that go to check out some land that one of their fathers own. Somewhere along the way, kids start dying, we meet inbred families, and drunken men babbling about demons. Lieberman, instead of taking influence from Halloween and it's ilk, seems more influenced by Deliverance, and Poor White Trash. This, along with the beauty of the setting, and the acting all make Just Before Dawn the cream of the crop!! It also features one of the most shocking ways to dispose of a mass murderer ever caught on film. Do yourself a favor and Netflix it now!!

10 Most Underrated Horror/Slasher Fims Part Four: Night Warning(1983)

Night Warning is one of the strangest entries in the early 80's slasher boom. Like Silent Scream, it's really more of a thriller than a slasher, but it definitely uses a lot of the trappings of the genre. The most amazing aspect of Night Warning can be summed up in two words: Susan Tyrell!! She is an absolute maniac in this film, she is completely OTT, and one of the best horror villains I can think of.

The story begins with Tyrell watching her baby nephew while her sister and husband go on a trip. They find the brakes have been tampered with, and end up smashing into a logging truck(awesome beheading scene!). This leaves Tyrell with the infant as her own, and she raises him as her nephew, but acts like a doting mother at every turn. Billy(Jimmy McNichol) notices that Aunt Cheryl is getting to be a bit too controlling as she forbids him to leave home for college, then tries to discourage him from seeing his girlfriend. One night after she makes the moves on a TV repairman(who is also gay), and he declines, she stabs him to death. She tells Billy, who arrives immediately afterwards, that the man tried to rape her, and she killed him in self defense. Bo Svenson, in his usual redneck role, shows up as the Sheriff, and he knows that the TV repairman is gay, and was dating Billy's basketball coach. This leads the Sheriff to believe that Billy is gay, and he killed the man, not Aunt Cheryl. Things get really crazy after that, and Tyrell goes completely bat-shit crazy, it is definitely a sight to behold. There isn't a high body count, but when there is a kill, it's high quality. Definitely one of the best films of the genre!

I am happy to announce that the aforementioned Scorpion Releasing will be putting this out on DVD next year, under it's alternate title, "Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker", and I can't wait to replace my worn-out VHS!!!

10 Most Underrated Horror/Slasher Films Part 3:Silent Scream(1980)

I still remember going to see this movie back in the day and it scared the shit out of an 8-year old me!! Silent Scream is a little different than most films on this list, as it is more of a thriller, than a slasher film. Actually, to me, it seems more of a variation on the "old dark house" films, of the 40's & 50's, than a straight up slasher film. But because of the time of it's release, and the marketing strategies, it has always been labelled as a slasher film.

Boasting an incredible cast including Barbara Steele(horror-queen extraordinaire), Yvonne DeCarlo(that's Lilly Munster to you), and Rebecca Balding(the "almost" scream-queen), the acting helps elevate this film over others released at the time. The story concerns Scotti(Balding), who arrives too late to college to receive a dorm, and is forced to take up residence in a gloomy old mansion. Presumably only occupied by the teenage Mason, and his mother(DeCarlo), and 3 other students. When things start getting weird and a couple of the students end up mysteriously dead, Scotti and her new beau, stumble upon one of the creepiest settings in horror movie history. They are not alone in the house, and someone doesn't want them there!!

I am so happy to announce that Silent Scream will finally receive a DVD release by Scorpion Releasing(???) at the end of November, please check it out, you won't be disappointed.

10 Most Underrated Horror/Slasher Films Part Two:Madman(1981)

Madman seems to be relatively well-known in slasher circles, but even there it seems to get a bad rap. Ridiculed for a few silly scenes, instead of praising the atmosphere and the gore, which in my opinion, is better than than the Friday The 13th franchise. This film was originally going to be based on the "Cropsy" legend, but then the filmmakers found out that The Burning was using that legend already, so the film had to be modified a bit. Call me crazy, but I like this one better than The Burning anyway!

Starting out at a camp for gifted children, there is a campfire story about "Madman Marz", a local legend that killed his family, and then was hung from a tree, only to be found gone the next morning. The camp director warns the kids to never say Marz's name above a whisper, if you do, he will come for you and slaughter you like he did his family. Of course, in the grand tradition of slasher films, a dumb-ass teenager screams his name, and lobs rocks through the window of his old house. Needless to say, this is all it takes to send the murderous Marz into a rampage. Yes, this is a tried and true story that we have seen in countless "summer camp slashers", but Madman uses all of the cliches to it's advantage. It features the best lighting that I have seen in a slasher film, painting the night a deathly hue of blue. It also features some very original kills for the time, Marz jumps on the open hood of a truck, and decapitates a female victim. Marz himself, is far more scarier than the average Jason or Freddy, hulking in size, with crazy facial deformities. Check out Madman, and you are in for a night of creepy fun! Plus, keep an eye for the hot tub scene, which is the scene that everyone loves to make fun of.

10 Most Underrated Horror/Slasher Films Part One:Mortuary(1983)

Since it's October and most people are more interested in horror around this time, I figured that I would expound upon some of my favorite films, that I feel are underrated. Sure everyone knows about the Friday The 13th's, the Halloween's, and the Nightmares, but these are some classics that even hardened slasher fans sometimes neglect. If you have never seen these films, you should definitely do yourself a favor, and check them out. Today's installment is: Mortuary(1983)..........

Mortuary is what I like to refer to as a "sleeper slasher", a film that may not boast non-stop action or gore, but has atmosphere by the bucket loads! The film opens with a man taking a swim in his pool on the California coastline. As he exits the pool, an unseen killer shows up and bludgeons him to death with a baseball bat. The story that follows is about his daughter Christie(played by the Walton's Mary Beth Mcdonough), and her quest to prove that her father was in fact murdered, and not a victim of an accidental drowning. Her mother(the wonderful Linda Day George), thinks that Christie is crazy, even when she begins seeing a hooded figure in corpse paint following her and attacking her. She seems to be too busy having seances with the local mortician(her real life husband, Christopher George). Christie's boyfriend(80's heartthrob, David Wallace), tries his best to help Christie solve this Scooby-Doo style mystery, but his primary goal is to get in her pants(which he does.....little Erin Walton all grown up and naked!!). Bill Paxton, in his first role, stars as the creepy mortician's son, who loves Christie as much as he does Beethoven!

It takes things a while to get really involved in Mortuary, but to me it never feels stagnant. The last 20 minutes are definitely teeth-clinchingly great! This was put out in the 80's on VHS by the great Vestron Video, too bad no one has put this out domestically on DVD yet, as there is a gaping hole in my collection waiting for this gem. If you don't mind a more laid back slasher, and you get the chance to peep Mortuary, please do.......you won't be sorry.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Shriek Of The Mutilated(1974)

Sometimes I worry about my voracious hunger for bad movies. What do I actually get out of these films? There is no overt message in them, other than "look what we can do with a little money, and some courage". I think cinema is about being entertained, and I can be entertained in many different ways, but having fun is the best way, and bad movies are the best way to have fun.

I can't believe that I have never witnessed "Shriek Of The Mutilated" before!! It was made by Roberta & Michael Findlay, the pied pipers of garbage cinema. Anything that has their names on it, is guaranteed to be bad, and also guaranteed to be fun!! This one is about a group of college students who go an anthropology field trip with their Yeti-hunting professor. The professor has already taken several of these trips in previous years, and several students have been killed. Well, no sooner than they arrive at this mysterious cabin in the woods, do the kids start getting murdered by the hilarious looking Yeti!! This has to be seen to be believed!! As the number of kids dwindle down, the final students discover a horrible "secret" about the professor and his cohorts, this twist actually saves the movie from being one big laughable mess all the way through. I can't reveal the secret, but it's probably exactly what you are thinking. But if you are a fan of bad movies, there is no way that you should miss "Shriek Of The Mutilated".