Film Review: April Fool’s Day (1986)

Also known as: Horror Party (Germany)
Release Date: March 28th, 1986
Directed by: Fred Walton
Written by: Danilo Bach
Music by: Charles Bernstein
Cast: Jay Baker, Deborah Foreman, Deborah Goodrich, Ken Olandt, Griffin O’Neal, Leah King Pinsent, Clayton Rohner, Amy Steel, Thomas F. Wilson

YCTM, Hometown Films, Paramount Pictures, 89 Minutes

Review:

“[watching Kit and Rob through binoculars] Respectable young Quaker couple returning from a quiet afternoon of nonviolent sex.” – Chaz

I have never seen April Fool’s Day until now and that has a lot to do with the twist ending being spoiled for me at a young age by friends who were annoyed by it. While I have seen some clips and scenes over the years, this is my first time checking out the total package, as it was intended to be viewed.

Overall, this wasn’t bad but it’s really just a paint-by-numbers slasher flick with a unique ending.

If you’ve never seen the film and don’t want the ending spoiled, you might want to skip reading.

Anyway, the title sort of does give the ending away, as once we reach the climax of the film and the last two surviving teens are faced with the killer, it’s revealed that everything in the film was just a big, elaborate April Fool’s Day prank.

This upset a lot of people and others that weren’t as upset just wrote this off as dumb. I’m actually fine with it now that I’ve seen the movie, as it’s an original take on the genre, which was already exhausted to death by 1986, and because it was effective at being a decent slasher flick before the big reveal.

Plus, the ending makes it stand out in a sea of slasher clones and without it, no one would still talk about this film. While some said it killed the genre, that’s bullshit. Slashers kept being pumped out for years and in fact, they still exist today and often times have little resurgences even though Scream actually broke kayfabe on this subgenre of horror.

April Fool’s Day is a mediocre slasher movie but at least it tried something different. I get why altering the formula may be upsetting to some but it’s not like there aren’t about three-thousand other slasher pictures out there.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other ’80s slasher flicks.

Film Review: Hack-O-Lantern (1988)

Also known as: Death Mask (alternative international title), Halloween Night (US alternative title), The Damning (UK)
Release Date: March 25th, 1988 (UK)
Directed by: Jag Mundhra
Written by: Dave Eisenstark (as Burford Hauser), Carla Robinson
Music by: Greg Haggard (as Gregory T. Haggard)
Cast: Hy Pyke, Gregory Scott Cummins, Carla B., Katina Garner

Spencer Films, 87 Minutes

Review:

This weird ass movie is a combination of being abysmally bad and kind of entertaining, when not mulled down by the really dull parts. The abysmally bad parts kind of win out, though.

Hack-O-Lantern is a Halloween-themed horror movie directed by an Indian guy that doesn’t seem to know much about Halloween. Also, he is relying on tropes and themes that were kind of played out by the time this was released. It’s like the guy watched Halloween nearly a decade earlier and said, “Let’s do that but crazy! Very, very crazy!”

The film is about an old grandpa that runs a Satanic cult while also featuring a slasher, who goes around killing teens. There’s also some weird rock and roll band subplot that sees music videos just kind of randomly appear out of nowhere. I guess it’s not even really a subplot. This is just an amalgamation of bonkers ass shit that makes little to no sense.

I only watched this because it was featured on The Last Drive-In. I can’t call it the worst movie featured on there, as it was at the very least, amusing in spite of its massive flaws.

I don’t think that I’ll ever watch this again or even recommend it but I didn’t hate it, so that’s something.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: other Halloween-themed horror movies.

Film Review: Slumber Party Massacre III (1990)

Also known as: Captive Women (Philippines title), Stab In the Dark (alternative title), Night Light (original script title)
Release Date: September 7th, 1990
Directed by: Sally Mattison
Written by: Catherine Cyran
Music by: Jamie Sheriff
Cast: Keely Christian, Brittain Frye, M. K. Harris, David Greenlee, Hope Marie Carlton, Maria Ford

Concorde Pictures, 87 Minutes, 75 Minutes (R-rated)

Review:

“I don’t wanna play this game anymore!” – Ken

The original Slumber Party Massacre didn’t need a sequel, as it was incredibly derivative of the slasher genre and also re-used the neat killer concept from the movie Driller Killer.

However, the second film was very different and had more personality and cool rockabilly charm, setting it apart and making it a unique slasher flick experience.

This third movie, sadly, is just derivative of the derivative first film and lacks the musical flair and uniqueness of the second one.

This is cookie cutter shit at its worst that’s both highly predictable and doesn’t offer up anything new to the genre or even its own series.

Although, by 1990, the slasher genre was becoming passe and horror was trying to get smarter and more introspective. I wouldn’t say that slashers were dead but they had definitely been made in abundance over the course of the previous decade and to stand out, you really needed to do something different.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike this film. I just don’t have much love for it when there are dozens of better slasher flicks to watch and re-watch.

The characters are simple archetypes devoid of real personality and the mystery of who the killer is, is made quite obvious in the film’s opening. Sure, there’s a red herring but I even found that to be predictable as hell.

Being that this was produced by Roger Corman, it probably made money. So the fact that there wasn’t a fourth one is kind of interesting. But maybe Corman saw the writing on the wall and knew that this film was one too many in the Slumber Party Massacre series.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: the other films in the Slumber Party Massacre series, as well as other teen slasher flicks.

Film Review: Slumber Party Massacre II (1987)

Also known as: Slumber Party Massacre: The Sequel (working title), Don’t Let Go (Germany), Massacre 2 (Brazil)
Release Date: October 16th, 1987
Directed by: Deborah Brock
Written by: Deborah Brock
Music by: Richard Cox
Cast: Crystal Bernard, Atanas Ilitch, Kimberly McArthur, Juliette Cummins, Patrick Lowe, Heidi Kozak, Joel Hoffman, Jennifer Rhodes, Michael Delano

Concorde Pictures, 77 Minutes, 85 Minutes (Unrated version)

Review:

“Oh come on, baby. Light my fire!” – The Driller Killer

I dig this movie.

The thing is, it doesn’t need to make a lick of sense or even have a great story. This film features a driller killer that is some sort of singing rockabilly ghost and his objective here is to try and murder all the members of a girl band and their doofus love interests.

The film also stars a young Crystal Bernard before she would go on to greater stardom, as a core cast member of the long-running NBC sitcom Wings. She was also on the syndicated sitcom It’s A Living but I don’t think anyone, other than me, even remembers that show. But my mum made me watch it every weekend when it was on and I sort of liked it, back in the day. I was also crushing hard on Bernard because of that show.

I like that this film taps more into the realm of black comedy more than its predecessor, and while I think the original is a tad bit better, I like that this installment was more creative and lively. I love the singing rockabilly driller killer, as well as his tunes. I also love the girl band and all the female characters were fun and kind of cool in their roles, even if their characters didn’t require Oscar-caliber performances.

This film also ups the ante from the original, as it has more gore and some cool gross out moments. The big zit scene was well done and superbly executed for a film with a Roger Corman micro-budget. But this film, like so many from the realm of ’80s horror, just goes to show how great practical special effects can be over the easy-out of modern CGI.

Slumber Party Massacre II is hardly a classic but it’s still a fun romp with an energetic soundtrack, killer tunes and a much better than decent finale that exceeds the climax of its predecessor.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: the other films in the Slumber Party Massacre series, as well as other teen slasher flicks.

Film Review: The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)

Also known as: Don’t Open the Door, The Overnight Massacre (working titles), The Slumber Party Murders (UK), Slumber Party (France), O Massacre (Brazil), Sleepless Nights (alternative title)
Release Date: September 10th, 1982 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Amy Holden Brown
Written by: Rita Mae Brown
Music by: Ralph Jones
Cast: Michele Michaels, Robin Stille, Michael Villella

Santa Fe Productions, New World Pictures, 77 Minutes

Review:

“Y’know, I think your tits are getting bigger.” – Diane, “Mine?!” – various girls

Man, this is just about as bare bones as a slasher film can get. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing, as this does stick pretty close to the core of what made these films great in their heyday. But on the flipside of that, this isn’t as great as the better offerings from this subgenre of horror.

I do like this film, though, as it gets down to the nitty gritty and doesn’t waste a lot of time getting to the gruesome point. Although, the version that I’ve seen over the years, cuts away before you get to see any real gore. Which is pretty weak, considering that the killer’s weapon of choice is a very large power drill.

The weapon isn’t all that original, as the more over-the-top and violent Driller Killer was released in 1979. But it’s certainly a better weapon that just having the guy use some big, generic knife. Also, the drill became the instrument of death in this film series and this is actually a better movie than Driller Killer.

I actually found the simplicity of this film to be refreshing, as many slasher movies get bogged down by trying to make you care about the teens and by trying to make a memorable monster with a cool look. This film just says, “Fuck it!” and gives you normal, kind of generic teens, as well as a killer that’s just some normal dude that escaped a mental hospital. And really, that’s all you need to know. Dude’s crazy, chicks are hot, crazy dude wants to kill hot chicks because he’s crazy.

In its simplicity, it actually works well for the characters because it kind of lets the actresses’ personalities come out, as they’re pretty much just versions of themselves. And with that, you strangely care about them more than them simply playing a trope.

In fact, there’s this part of you that feels bad when one of the heroines actually has to fight back and kill the driller creep because you don’t want them to end up permanently damaged from the ordeal. It’s weird how that worked but I felt legitimately sad that the girls had to go there when typically, in a slasher film, this is just accepted as part of the narrative.

The Slumber Party Massacre is a better film than it should be and that’s really what I like about it. As I’ve said, it’s bare bones but it is damn effective.

Being that this was put out by New World Pictures, also means that it could’ve just had that magical Roger Corman touch. Also, the films in this series are all written and directed by women and maybe that perspective made for a better final product in regards to the final girl formula.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: its sequels, as well as other ’80s slasher flicks.

Comic Review: I Kill Giants

Published: 2008-2009
Written by: Joe Kelly
Art by: J.M. Ken Nimura

Image Comics, 221 Pages

Review:

This came and went and I never knew about it until recently when I heard about the film that’s based on it. So before checking out the movie, I figured I’d read the source material first. Plus, it was pretty cheap to pickup on Comixology.

I wasn’t expecting the story to get as serious as it did but at the same time, it’s pretty comedic. Honestly, it has the tone of a manga story and since it also features manga style art, it’s a much more Japanese feeling comic than a Western one.

That being said, I was fairly impressed by it and even if it wasn’t my total cup of tea, I liked the idea of a young girl with a massive hammer kicking the shit out of parasitic giants out to harm her community.

While the main character is strange, she’s likable and for the most part, relatable.

This gets into some heavy things but I also feel like this would really be enjoyed by pre-teens, close to the same age as the kids in the story.

I liked the art, the tone was different and refreshing and the characters kept my interest. Plus, the story was a neat concept that was well executed.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other American manga-esque comics.

Film Review: Jumanji: The Next Level (2019)

Also known as: Jumanji 3 (alternative title)
Release Date: December 4th, 2019 (Finland, France, Indonesia, Philippines, Taiwan)
Directed by: Jake Kasdan
Written by: Jake Kasdan, Jeff Pinkner, Scott Rosenberg
Based on: Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg
Music by: Henry Jackman
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, Awkwafina, Danny Glover, Danny DeVito, Marin Hinkle

Matt Tolmach Productions, Seven Bucks Productions, The Detective Agency, 123 Minutes

Review:

“Getting old is a gift. I forget that sometimes, but it is. What more could a guy possibly want?” – Eddie

To start, this wasn’t as good of a movie as the one before it but it was still an entertaining, lighthearted and fun picture that allowed for real escapism, which seems to be a lost art these days.

I also like that there are minor jabs at modern political correctness. Or it’s possible that the filmmakers just haven’t gotten the memos that the rest of Hollywood has gotten over the last few years.

This film focuses on the same core characters from the previous movie but it also adds in Danny DeVito and Danny Glover and this time, when they all enter the video game world, most of the characters find themselves in different avatars. This is kind of the big gag of this film but it runs out of gas fairly quickly.

It was initially funny seeing The Rock a.k.a. Dwayne Johnson trying to act like Danny DeVito but the joke wore thin pretty fast. Now that’s not a knock against The Rock, it’s a knock against the writers pushing it so hard for too long in the film.

But this was also offset by Kevin Hart playing old man Danny Glover. Hart was actually great at this and he was my favorite character in this chapter of the franchise because he did it so well.

We also get a few new avatars added to the cast, as there are now seven players in the game instead of just the five from the first movie.

The problem with this movie, is that it feels completely unnecessary and it’s just more of the same. Simply switching personalities around in the avatars isn’t going to carry or even justify the story. Like I said, it’s a gag that worked but flattened out quickly.

If you liked the first movie, you’ll still probably like this one. While it just rehashes the whole concept just because it can, a lot of the sequences at least feel creative. I liked the part with the moving bridges and thought that the new mountain setting for the finale was cool.

Still, I didn’t need this movie and I don’t really feel like another film is necessary but we’re probably going to get it anyway because if something makes money, Hollywood will just recycle it with as little effort as possible.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the other Jumanji films, as well as Zathura.

Film Review: Chronicle (2012)

Release Date: January 28th, 2012 (France – Gerardmer Fantasy Film Festival)
Directed by: Josh Trank
Written by: Josh Trank, Max Landis
Cast: Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan, Michael Kelly, Ashley Hinshaw, Anna Wood

Davis Entertainment, Dune Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox, 89 Minutes, 89 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“Please believe me, Steve. Please, it’s just I-I don’t know what I did. I lost control, and I’m so sorry. This thing, it’s just becoming a part of me now and I don’t… I miss you, Steve.” – Andrew Detmer

I kind of wanted to see this back in 2012 when it came out but apparently not enough to actually get off of my ass and go to the theater. That was also a busy year for me, as I was at the height of writing political commentary and free time was a fantasy.

Years have now passed and I kind of lost interest after seeing how awful Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four movie was. However, this was available on Cinemax and I figured I’d finally give it a shot.

This isn’t a bad film but it’s not a particularly good one either. It’s fairly impressive for being made on a very small budget but it also takes advantage of the “found footage” style that was way too popular at the time.

Still, the big finale is superbly executed and pulled off really well. Everything leading up to that, however, is just okay.

The plot follows three teens who find a weird glowing star thing in a cave in the woods. This thing gives them telekinetic powers. Over time, they grow stronger but one of them is a tortured teen that comes from a terrible home life and is also picked on relentlessly by bullies at school. So, you probably know where this is going.

Anyway, angsty teen ends up hurting people and also accidentally kills one of his friends. The finale sees the angsty teen’s cousin try to stop him from hurting more people, as the police come out in full force to take him out.

For the most part, this is enjoyable and certainly worth checking out for those who like this genre. But it’s nothing special, which is probably why it’s fallen down the cultural memory hole.

The acting and direction are okay but nothing really stands out. Ultimately, it’s a bit better than meh but much better films have explored these concepts already.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Brightburn, Super 8 and Project Almanac.

Film Review: Lucas (1986)

Release Date: March 28th, 1986
Directed by: David Seltzer
Written by: David Seltzer
Music by: Dave Grusin
Cast: Corey Haim, Charlie Sheen, Kerri Green, Courtney Thorne-Smith, Winona Ryder, Tom Hodges, Guy Boyd, Jeremy Piven, Garrett M. Brown

Twentieth Century Fox, 100 Minutes

Review:

“You can’t ever make me quit, ever!” – Lucas

In the ’80s, coming of age teen movies, whether they be drama, comedy or both, were a dime a dozen. And while I can’t consider Lucas to be one of the better ones, it still has real heart and it’s damn near impossible to not feel for the kid, as he experiences his first heartbreak when the girl he loves, also his best friend, falls for the cool guy that is like a big brother to him.

I think that the story is something everyone can relate to regardless of gender or situation. At some point, we’ve all had to deal with heartbreak for the first time. And since this movie actually tells that story pretty well, it’s a pretty worthwhile picture.

Corey Haim was really young in this and it was only his second starring role. He showed great promise as a young actor, as did the rest of the cast, who also made this sort of hokey picture into a real human, emotional drama.

This is a strange film in that it does sort of get buried by its outdated ’80s cheese but the important stuff still gets through to the audience in an effective way.

There are certainly a dozen or more ’80s teen movies I’d recommend over this one but if you’ve seen the cream of the crop and never watched this one, it’s definitely worth your 100 minutes.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other coming of age high school movies of the ’80s.

Film Review: Summer of ’84 (2018)

Release Date: January 22nd, 2018 (Sundance)
Directed by: François Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell
Written by: Matt Leslie, Stephen J. Smith
Music by: Le Matos
Cast: Graham Verchere, Judah Lewis, Caleb Emery, Cory Gruter-Andrew, Tiera Skovbye, Rich Sommer

Gunpowder & Sky, Brightlight Pictures, 105 Minutes

Review:

“You know you can get AIDS from looking through trash, right?” – Curtis Farraday, “Only way you’re ever getting AIDS.” – Tommy ‘Eats’ Eaton

*There be spoilers here! But not about plot details, more about expectations. It’s better if you go into this film blindly and ride it out.

I didn’t know much about this movie going into it, other than it was directed by the same trio that directed the fantastic Turbo Kid. Granted, this seemed to be very different but still also clinging on to some thick ’80s nostalgia.

At first glance, one might easily dismiss this as another one of many things trying to emulate the vibe (and success) of Netflix’s Stranger Things. However, the only real similarities is that this takes place in the same era, features kids as the main characters and also delves into the realm of horror. This is a very different kind of horror, however, and it stays grounded in reality without being swept away into a fantastical supernatural world.

Everything in this film feels like it could be real and very plausible. It’s well thought out, well written and meticulously constructed in how it builds suspense, genuine dread and a real sense of fear.

Also, it initially feels fairly predictable and like with all horror films that have some mystery to them, you’re waiting for a big swerve or for the obvious red herring to reveal itself as such, making you feel like the smartest viewer in the theater because you saw it coming.

However, this movie doesn’t quite do that. In fact, it subverts expectations. And that’s a term and concept I’ve grown to hate, as it’s often used to justify terrible creative choices in terrible movies. But in this film, it does it right! It really punches you in the gut and this film ends in a way that you probably won’t expect.

That’s why I ended up loving this film. It became a much better picture than I thought it could be, as I was watching it. The final twenty or so minutes will stick with me for a long time. And while I don’t know if the effect will still be there on repeated viewings, the ending did shock me and jar my senses in a similar way to the ending of Sleepaway Camp.

It’s worth pointing out that I don’t think this movie could’ve worked as well as it did without the cast. These kids were great. The lead kid was especially good, as was the girl he was crushing on. In fact, she was charismatic and genuine and she’s an actress that has that rare “it” factor. I hope she gets to do a lot more in the future.

This is the type of film that I see becoming a cult classic. A lot of people still don’t know about it but I think it’s legend will grow, as more people see it and tell their friends about it.

Rating: 8.75/10