Film Review: Maniac (1980)

Release Date: May 10th, 1980 (Cannes)
Directed by: William Lustig
Written by: C. A. Rosenberg, Joe Spinell
Music by: Jay Chattaway
Cast: Joe Spinell, Caroline Munro, Tom Savini, William Lustig

Magnum Motion Pictures Inc., 87 Minutes

Review:

“I told you not to go out tonight, didn’t I? Every time you go out, this kind of thing happens.” – Frank Zito

William Lustig made some really interesting horror films in his heyday. While I knew about Maniac Cop first, I spent a lot of my time in mom and pop video stores in the ’80s and discovered this at a pretty young age. It was one of those horror movies that left a lasting impact on me because I was much more scared of the real and plausible than I was of supernatural monsters or ghosts.

I definitely saw this film at a much younger age than I should have but us ’80s kids didn’t have great supervision and a lot of video stores would rent anything to anyone because society wasn’t overly pussified back then.

Anyway, this always had a special place in my mental nostalgia locker due to its impact on me, the fact that it has the mesmerizing Caroline Munro in it and because Joe Spinell was one of the coolest actors of his era. That could also be because I knew Spinell from the Rocky films and because he just has a very unique and memorable appearance. He, along with Dick Miller, were the two character actors that I started to notice in all the cool movies.

The one thing that is really cool about this picture is that it is American but it really has an Italian giallo style to it. Granted, it’s not as vivid, visually, and relies more on the gritty realism of New York City, at the time, but it still feels like it belongs in that very specific, short-lived genre.

I’ve talked before about how giallo kind of gave birth to the American slasher movie. This might actually be the best example of that. And while this isn’t specifically a slasher flick, as the killer uses guns and other tools, it really sort of bridges the gap between the two genres or styles.

Honestly, it just feels like it is both parts, a product of it’s influences and something that was a wee bit ahead of the cinematic horror trends. I don’t think any of that was something that Lustig thought about or planned for but it’s the way I see it and it really cements this film as one that is eternally relevant due to its significance to the larger picture.

Plus, this also has an awesome cameo by special effects maestro Tom Savini. The scene where he blows up his own head is one of the absolute best head splatter shots in motion picture history.

Also, this has an ending that is absolutely bonkers and kind of surprising.

Maniac isn’t a great film by any stretch of the imagination but it is a culturally significant one for those who love these sort of flicks.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other William Lustig films, as well as late ’70s/early ’80s slasher flicks and Italian giallo.

Film Review: Prom Night (1980)

Also known as: Bloody Midnight (Netherlands)
Release Date: July 18th, 1980
Directed by: Paul Lynch
Written by: William Gray, Robert Guza Jr.
Music by: Paul Zaza, Carl Zittrer
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Leslie Nielsen

Guardian Trust Company, Prom Night Productions, Simcom Limited, 92 Minutes

Review:

“Killer’s coming! Killer’s gonna get you!” – Young Wendy

I don’t know why there are a slew of slasher fans that seem to hold this in high regard. Is it because it’s got Jamie Lee Curtis in it? Because she was also in Terror Train around the same time and that was kinda shit too. Granted, I enjoyed Terror Train more than this disco train wreck.

Weirdly, this also has Leslie Nielsen in it in a non-comedic role as the high school principal. But honestly, he’s barely in it.

Anyway, this is a pretty uninspiring slasher flick that’s fairly devoid of imagination or anything remotely cool. I mean, the only thing I kind of liked was the simple mask of the slasher but that’s mainly because it was a bit sparkly for some reason and that looked cool during the scenes at the disco themed prom.

Also, the decapitation that saw the prom king’s head land in the middle of the light-up dance floor was kind of cool too. But honestly, that’s all this film’s got.

The plot is about a group of kids that bully a young girl and accidentally push her out of a window, killing her. They get away with it for awhile but there is a person who witnessed the incident and that’s the same person who puts on the mask and starts slicing teens on prom night, years later.

It’s not a wholly original plot, well maybe it was for 1980, as slasher flicks were still kind of new and just gaining in popularity. But regardless of that, it’s still pretty fucking pedestrian and some basic bitch shit.

My biggest problem with the movie though has to do with the pacing. It’s slow as absolute fuck and the good stuff doesn’t start happening until the very end. What that leaves us with is an hour of high school teen drama and shenanigans that isn’t very interesting and that is acted out by a cast of people that didn’t get any real work after this. Well, except for Curtis, who honestly just looks bored in this. I feel ya, babe.

Now this film would go on to inspire a much better sequel that had a cool supernatural twist to it. And I’ve already reviewed that one, since it was featured on The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs a year or so ago. Just go watch that one.

Rating: 4.75/10
Pairs well with: other late ’70s/early ’80s slasher movies.

Film Review: Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland (1989)

Also known as: Nightmare Vacation 3 (UK, Germany)
Release Date: August 4th, 1989 (limited)
Directed by: Michael A. Simpson
Written by: Fritz Gordon
Based on: characters by Robert Hiltzik
Music by: James Oliverio
Cast: Pamela Springsteen, Tracy Griffith, Mark Oliver, Michael J. Pollard

Double Helix Films, 80 Minutes, 84 Minutes (uncut)

Review:

“Good thing you’re dead ’cause in a couple of years your breasts would have been sagging something terrible!” – Angela

Since I recently watched Sleepaway Camp II, I thought that I’d follow that up with a viewing and review of the third movie in the series.

Honestly, this one is pretty much just more of the same and it’s fairly consistent to the one before it. My only really gripe about it is that the kills aren’t as creative as they were in the previous installment.

Now there are a few good kills like the lawnmower one but most of them are pretty basic and repetitive. Usually, we see Angela just beat someone to death with a flimsy branch and then follow that up with a stab or a fire.

Pamela Springsteen is really the glue of these two films, as she’s simply entertaining and commits to the bit so well. Even though these are far from the best slashers or horror comedies out there, I could’ve easily watched her return a few more times to do the same schtick. She’s just funny and has a lot of charm, even when she’s brutally murdering someone.

I liked that this movie brought in Michael J. Pollard, as I’ve always liked the guy. He’s mostly a character actor that most people might recognize from Scrooged or Bonnie & Clyde but he always comes off as enjoyable and likable. In this film, however, he plays a scummy pedophile summer camp owner. While his character is weirdly played up for laughs, he handles the controversial material pretty well and you enjoy seeing him get what was coming to him.

Overall, this is a goofy, violent picture that actually doesn’t push the gore as hard as I had hoped for a late ’80s slasher picture but it’s still amusing, entertaining and it kept me distracted from the pandemic that has taken over the world in 2020.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Sleepaway Camp films, as well as the Friday the 13th film series and The Burning.

Video Game Review: A Nightmare On Elm Street (NES)

I actually hated this game as a kid. I didn’t really understand what you were supposed to do and it wasn’t made clear within the game. The similar Friday the 13th made some sense and ultimately, I figured out how to beat it.

Well, I fully grasp this game now, thanks to skimming over an online walkthrough, which weren’t available in the late ’80s. So now I’ve played through this and beat it and have more of an appreciation for it, even if it is a pretty flawed game.

I’d actually say that I prefer this a bit more than Friday the 13th but it still isn’t as great as an A Nightmare On Elm Street game could’ve been in the 8-bit realm. However, it is better than most licensed games based on larger properties.

My main gripe with this is that there isn’t much difference between the real world and the dream world. I love that you can play in both but I find the real world to be more of a pain in the ass, even if the enemies seem somewhat weaker. But why are there zombies, monster snakes and giant rats in the real world? Is Elm Street next to a zoo that did insane lab experiments and then released them on the suburbs?

That being said, this game lacks creativity. What sucks about that, is that A Nightmare On Elm Street is a franchise full of some of the most creative slasher movies ever made. I don’t think anyone can really deny that.

Granted, this offers up more boss battles than Friday the 13th, which only really has two. However, the boss battles in this game primarily consist of disembodied pieces of Freddy Krueger floating around a screen or being attached to a chain like Chain Chomps from the Super Mario games.

When you do actually fight Freddy in his normal form, the boss battle is pretty underwhelming.

Additionally, the level design isn’t great and the game is pretty repetitive.

Still, this isn’t a bad way to waste about an hour of your time. While it’s damn difficult, it’s not unbeatable and it does give you a sense of accomplishment once you toss Freddy’s bones into the furnace.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: the Friday the 13th game for the original Nintendo.

Film Review: Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (1988)

Also known as: Nightmare Vacation 2 (UK, Germany)
Release Date: February 28th, 1988
Directed by: Michael A. Simpson
Written by: Fritz Gordon
Based on: characters by Robert Hiltzik
Music by: James Oliverio
Cast: Pamela Springsteen, Renée Estevez

Double Helix Films, 80 Minutes

Review:

“Easy. I’ve got great recommendations from doctors, psychiatrists, even clergymen. I did my time. Two years of therapy, electroshock, was on every pill you ever heard of, plus an operation. I’m completely cured. If I wasn’t they wouldn’t have let me out. How do you know so much about me?” – Angela

Over the years, I’ve noticed that fans of the original Sleepaway Camp are split on whether or not they like this almost parody sequel. It’s certainly goofy, somewhat bizarre and it isn’t in the same league as its predecessor but it has charm to it while being amusing and giving its audience some unique and creative kills.

Unfortunately, Felissa Rose does not return to the role of Angela in this one, but that may have been for the best due to the tone and comedy approach of this installment. And even though Rose will always be the Angela, I thought that Pamela Springsteen was great in the role, especially for how hammy she played it with nothing less than pure enthusiasm and spirit. Seriously, I enjoyed her so much in this that I’m actually excited to check out its direct sequel.

Side note: Felissa Rose would return to play Angela again, years later, in a more serious installment.

Anyway, this was a pretty cheesy and enjoyable picture. And by “cheesy” I mean cheesy in the best way possible.

The film is stuffed full of great kill sequences, I especially liked two of them.

The first is the one where Angela is literally bludgeoning and stuffing a camper into an outdoor toilet.

The other is the one that parodies the top slasher franchises of the era, as it has homages to A Nightmare On Elm Street, Friday the 13th and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre all in the same scene.

I mostly dug the rest of the cast as well, as they all played archetypes well, especially the buff, jock counselor with the ’80s power mullet.

Now I can’t quite call this a classic like its predecessor but it’s definitely a film that should be rotated into a horror/comedy marathon. Especially during these troubling COVID-19 times, where most of us are stuck at home.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Sleepaway Camp films, as well as the Friday the 13th film series and The Burning.

Film Review: Deep Red (1975)

Also known as: Profondo Rosso (original Italian title), Profoundly Red (European English title), Dripping Deep Red (US pre-release title), The Deep Red Hatchet Murders (US DVD box title), The Hatchet Murders (US censored version)
Release Date: March 7th, 1975 (Italy)
Directed by: Dario Argento
Written by: Dario Argento, Bernardino Zapponi
Music by: Goblin, Giorgio Gaslini
Cast: David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi, Macha Meril, Eros Pagni, Giuliana Calandra

Rizzoli Film, Seda Spettacoli, 127 Minutes (original), 101 Minutes (R rated cut), 105 Minutes (export cut)

Review:

“It seems there are just some things you can’t do seriously with liberated women.” – Marcus Daly

This was the first giallo film that Dario Argento directed after what’s unofficially referred to as his “animal trilogy”, which featured the films The Bird With the Crystal Plumage (1970), The Cat O’ Nine Tails (1971) and Four Flies On Grey Velvet (1971). This also came after Argento took a break from the giallo style with 1973’s The Five Days, which was a dramedy about the Italian Revolution.

Like most of Argento’s giallos, this film was a proto-slasher movie that employed some pretty good, artsy gore. You know, the type that isn’t just gore for the sake of gore but is instead creative, full of vivid color, especially in regards to blood and other bodily fluids, and done so masterfully with practical, real effects that you kind of just stare in awe of it.

The story is about a killer that seemingly kills at random and that you are only given small clues about over the course of the film. Eventually, the crime is solved but there are great film-noir-esque twists throughout the picture and the most haunting thing about this movie isn’t the killer but it’s the picture’s atmosphere.

I’ve often mentioned about how film-noir influenced giallo and how giallo influenced slasher films. This is a movie that, honestly, makes one of the best supporting arguments for my theory. In a lot of ways, it pulls from the best bits of Argento’s previous giallos but it also reminded me a lot of Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace, which might be the best example of giallo bridging the bizarre gap between classic noir and slashers.

I thought that some bits of the movie were bonkers and insane, like the bit with the robot doll. But stuff like that is so surreal, cool and terrifying in its own way that it actually makes the picture work better in how it overwhelms you with weird, creepy shit.

Certain things don’t have to make sense and Deep Red is an example of how bizarre, nonsensical moments can actually throw your scent off just to hit you with something else unexpected and jarring. This was something that Argento would actually get even better at, as can be seen in films like SuspiriaInferno and Phenomena.

Deep Red is not Argento’s best picture but it is well constructed, visually rich and it delivers the type of experience a giallo fan should greatly enjoy.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other Dario Argento giallo films of the ’70s and ’80s.

Comic Review: Everglade Angels

Published: February, 2020
Written by: Scott Lobdell, Blake Northcott
Art by: John Upchurch

Northworld Publishing, 48 Pages

Review:

I backed this campaign on Indiegogo several months back and I was really excited to finally get my copy of the graphic novel.

For one, I love slasher movies. I also live and grew up on the edge of the Florida Everglades. So combining those two things is a win/win for me.

Additionally, this was written by Scott Lobdell, a writer I’ve liked for years, and Blake Northcott, a mutual follower on Twitter, who has a great personality, a solid perspective on how to manage her social media, and most importantly, a stupendous track record.

That being said, I really liked this quite a bit.

The characters were all cool and well developed in the minimal space they had to live and breathe. I also liked the backstory for the villains.

The art is also really good and for a crowdfunded book, this truly is in the upper echelon of comics I’ve seen. It’s actually better than most of the mainstream comics coming out in 2020. I especially like the colors and overall visual aesthetic of the book.

There’s not much else I can say without spoiling too much and I’d rather people go out and pick this up, assuming they still can somewhere.

I’m not sure if any follow ups are planned but I’d probably support a sequel.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other horror/slasher comics. It really reminded me of Hack/Slash stories.

Film Review: The Marshes (2018)

Release Date: 2018 (Australia)
Directed by: Roger Scott
Written by: Roger Scott
Music by: Tristan Coelho
Cast: Dafna Kronental, Sam Delich, Mathew Cooper, Zac Drayson, Amanda McGregor, Eddie Baroo

28 Productions, 85 Minutes

Review:

Holy fuck this was a dreadfully bad movie!

That sucks because I saw a pretty glowing review for this but that reviewer must have been someone that worked on the film or the director’s mother.

The story taps into the Australian legend about the Swagman. He’s a sort of Boogeyman that lives in the marshes. Other than that, I don’t know anything about him and the film doesn’t do much to spell it out for you either. So those watching it that aren’t privy to Australian folklore are pretty much left in the dark. Honestly, maybe it’s not even a real legend and I’m just assuming that because the plot here is so thin that a bulimic ’90s supermodel is in awe of it.

The worst thing about this film is that you don’t care about the peril that the main characters are in. Why? Because there isn’t a single character in the movie that is remotely likable. They’re all know-it-all douchebag Millennials that are so into themselves and their bullshit that they’re pretty damn insufferable. So I guess these type of youngsters aren’t exclusive to just the United States. And that’s not a shot at Millennials in general, just the dominant type of Millennial.

Anyway, there are also two redneck characters but they’re even worse than the three leads.

The Marshes tries really hard to be a slow burning suspense thriller but it fails in that regard. Not a lot happens and it takes awhile to get to the good stuff but the slow build is kind of just derivative shite, mostly boring and totally predictable.

When it comes to the killer, he’s not that exciting or cool. His powers are confusing and you never fully see him or get to understand him on any level.

This film is a complete failure of storytelling, character development, pacing and just about everything else that’s important to a motion picture.

Well, on a positive note, it’s pretty short.

Rating: 2.5/10
Pairs well with: the crappiest of crappy foreign slasher films.

Film Review: Silent Night, Deadly Night, Part 2 (1987)

Release Date: April 10th, 1987
Directed by: Lee Harry
Written by: Lee Harry, Joseph H. Earle, Dennis Patterson, Lawrence Appelbaum
Music by: Michael Armstrong
Cast: Eric Freeman, James L. Newman, Elizabeth Kaitan, Jean Miller, Lilyan Chauvin (archive footage), Robert Brian Wilson (archive footage), Linnea Quigley (archive footage)

Silent Night Releasing Corporation, 88 Minutes

Review:

“[about to shoot a man carrying a garbage can] Gaaarbaaage daaay!” – Ricky Caldwell

While I enjoyed Silent Night, Deadly Night, I’ve never seen the sequels except for the fifth one that stars Mickey Rourke as the creator of killer Christmas toys.

Seeing this one now, I was surprised to discover that I like it more than its predecessor. While the first third-to-half of this film is bogged down by flashbacks of the original movie, once this becomes its own story, focused on the younger brother of the original killer, the film becomes pretty awesome.

Frankly, you can probably just start with this film as everything important from the first movie is shown in this chapter and honestly, you’re not missing much from the scenes that were omitted.

While this movie has been panned for years because of how bonkers and absurd it can seem at face value, I absolutely love the performance of Eric Freeman as the killer younger brother. His performance is over the top but that just adds to the insanity and tone of the film, which honestly, would’ve been kind of drab without his intensity. He makes the picture work and if I dare be so bold, he saves it from just being a rehash of shit we’ve already seen.

The whole sequence surrounding the infamous “garbage daaay!” moment is schlock of the highest caliber. From the moment he kills his girlfriend’s ex, his girlfriend, the cop and then goes on a gun toting killing spree that ends in a damn good car stunt, we’re treated to one of the most entertaining, bizarre and unintentionally stupendous cinema moments of ’80s horror.

While the average person would find this movie off-putting and stupid, I found it to be a true hidden gem that hits the right notes, perfectly, for those of us that like hearty helpings of ’80s horror schlock. Plus, it’s a Christmas movie.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: it’s predecessor, but then again, that whole movie is basically re-told in the first half of this film. So I guess the sequels, which all veer off in their own weird directions.

Film Review: Jack Frost (1997)

Release Date: November 18th, 1997
Directed by: Michael Cooney
Written by: Michael Cooney, Jeremy Paige
Music by: Chris Anderson, Carl Schurtz
Cast: Christopher Allport, Stephen Mendel, F. William Parker, Rob LaBelle, Shannon Elizabeth, Jack Lindine, Zack Egniton, Brian Leckner, Marsha Clark, Eileen Seeley, Kelly Jean Peters, Scott MacDonald

Frost Bite Films Ltd., Moonstone Entertainment, Storyteller Films Ltd., A-Pix Entertainment, 89 Minutes

Review:

“Gosh. I only axed you for a smoke.” – Jack Frost

I’ve heard people refer to this as the movie that made Shannon Elizabeth famous. Actually, I think this is the movie that Shannon Elizabeth made famous after she blew up from her part in the original American Pie and rumors that she was also nude in this flick.

Apart from Shannon Elizabeth, there really isn’t anything in this film worth looking at.

It’s a horror comedy about a killer that has his body turned into shapeshifting sentient snow. So basically, he’s a killer snowman with some nonsensical snow-based powers and lots of really bad one-liners.

While this isn’t a movie made by Full Moon, it has a similar vibe in its cheapness, its terribly bad humor and its lack of anything that will make you want to sit still for 89 minutes. Well, except the infamous Shannon Elizabeth scene but that only takes up about three percent of the film’s run time.

The special effects are bad, the acting is bad, the jokes are even worse and the film is pretty boring, even though it features one of the strangest horror monsters of its time.

There’s not much else to say about the movie, as there isn’t much worth talking about other than Shannon Elizabeth. But you can just watch her important scene online and skip the other 97 percent of the movie.

Rating: 2.25/10
Pairs well with: it’s sequel and other terrible, terrible horror movies.