Prom Night; or I Had The Time of My Life Until I Was Axed in the Face

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Hello and Hallo-welcome to this year’s final edition of Slasher Saturday, where the only answer to pre-martial sex is a good stabbing! You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, as they don their prom duds and get ready for the best night of the lives–no matter how shortened-by-axe-murderer they may be.

Today’s film offering: Prom Night

Lilly: Our story starts with several kids playing a game of ‘Murderer’ being stumbled upon by three other children, one of which wants to join in. She goes into the building (an abandoned convent, which of course children love to play in) and her attempts to join in lead to a tragic accident (not to mention a tragic scene where her whole family, siblings included, show up to see her body being taken away–I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again, get a SITTER, people).

Andy: Of course, there’s not any explanation as to why she’s being excluded; only that these kids don’t like her because they are angry, hateful jerks. As to why she’d want to play with these kids isn’t really touched upon either – they’re just a little bit too young to be the ‘popular’ kids, something I associate more with teenagers. And of course these kids immediately swear never to tell anyone about the tragedy because they’ll go to JAIL.

Lilly: Fast forward to six years later, and it’s prom night! Because nothing says revenge like getting it on prom night–or so Carrie taught us. The children have grown up and it’s time they paid for what they did, damn it! Throw in a few red herrings, like a man who was charged with the little girl’s murder getting loose and a creepy groundskeeper at the school they all attend, and you got yourself Prom Night.

As long time fans of Jamie Lee Curtis, we felt we might be robbing ourselves, having not seen this classic from 1980. Well, we weren’t. Surprise! A cheesy slasher I don’t like! Well. It was funny at times–at one point, a guy named ‘Slick’ punches the killer clear out of  the back of a van which I found hysterical–and Jamie Lee was fantastic in her dance scene, but…okay, well, a slasher having a dance scene I’m usually for (The Final Girls is a great example of this), but even Jamie Lee boogie-oogie-ooging couldn’t save this from being not all that great.

Andy: Yeah, this one commits the cardinal sin of horror movies anywhere; it’s really, really boring. There’s no sense of suspense or build up, the setup is long, long, looong, and there’s nothing I can really point at and say “Yes. This is a reason you should see this.”

Lilly: Some upsides? The children were scary enough to warrant the little girl’s accident while running from them–I wanted to run from them and I wasn’t in the spooky abandoned building. Then there was Leslie Nielsen, who was a great principal/grieving parent for as little as we saw him for his top billing. That man was a national treasure. And there were some brief glimpses at actual weighty moments, like when Nick, one of the kids who chased the girl (and JLC’s little sister) to her death, tries to admit his guilt to JLC because he cares about her, but doesn’t because, well. That’s a relationship deal breaker for most people.

Andy: Yes, but even then it’s not all that much, because even in the really drawn out snoozefest first half, the film still somehow fails to give us much sense of who these people are or what they’re like. They’re not even developed enough to be stereotypes – even the girl chiefly responsible for the death at the beginning only comes across as vaguely bitchy rather than the High School Villainess that appears everywhere else in movies. There’s not enough here to be angry about. It’s all just so boring.

Lilly: Some downsides? Well. A lot of it. Gratuitous breasts and bums, weird characterisation (why did Wendy hate that old lady she lived with so much, she seemed lovely!), a confusing ending, and why did the murderer start with a shard of glass and suddenly upgrade to an ax? Stay on message, murderer!

Andy: Not to mention the problematic elements of showing the tits of someone we last saw as a ten year old. You can probably skip this one.

Lilly: As long time fans of JLC, we’re saying don’t bother going, watching, and trying to enjoy this one–it’s just a collection of moments that have been bettered in other films, in other franchises, and even other JLC films! Go watch those! Prom Night, however, is a miss for us.

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I Know What You Did Last Summer; or Who We Did In On Our Holidays

o-i-know-what-you-did-last-summer-570Hello and Hallo-welcome to another edition of Slasher Saturdays, where sexy teens need to watch out, there are killers on the loose! You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, as they make a pact to never talk about what happened last Halloween again.

Today’s Film Offering: I Know What You Did Last Summer

Lilly: One of those films that slaps you in the face with a choker and some Spice Girls bubble gum, I Know What You Did Last Summer smacks of the nineties. Starring Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Freddie Prinze Jr, and the minimally-named-by-comparison Ryan Philippe, Last Summer is the tale of a July 4th that goes horribly wrong when a quartet of teens runs someone over and tries to cover it up. Turns out, they ran over the wrong someone, because one year later, cue the menacing and murder!

Andy: Which you might have deduced from the title, really. And the fact that this got taken off on The Simpsons pretty quickly. Not to mention everything else. In fact, along with Scream, I would put money on the fact that this is the other movie people remember from the late 90s teen horror revival, even if all they remember is the title.

Lilly: IKWYDLS covers some ground in the plot, from class differences to trust in the police to whether it gets cold enough in July in Maine to justify wearing large, black rain slicker. You’ve got poor Freddie Prinze Jr, struggling with the fact that he is poor (I think?) and doesn’t have family (that’s mentioned a few times) while the three others have rich families which is what is important, then there is Missy Egan, hanging out in her massive house ‘out in the sticks’ with no visitors. You could easily think ‘man, being poor sucks’ but then the film keeps going because being rich sucks, or so Sarah Michelle Gellar shows when her acting career doesn’t pan out and she ends up being home and working for her really bitter older sister. Basically, life just sucks in the IKWYDLS universe unless you are that creepy host of the beauty contest. He got away with oogling teenage girls on the regular with no comeuppance, sooo.

Andy: There is definitely a very interesting atmosphere hanging over the movie, from the opening onwards. There’s this wonderful sense of dark hopelessness hanging over the town, where fishing really does seem to be the only industry and getting out takes some real effort and willpower.

Lilly: Also, the whole ‘the police aren’t going to trust us, we are rich white kids’ thing doesn’t really translate to today’s climate. Like at all. And it’s awkward. But, it was those heady days in the 90s where everyone was afraid of the police thinking they murdered someone because they actually murdered someone, I guess.

So, as Andy says, this film is one of those films that you know even if you haven’t seen it. I hadn’t seen it until this year, but had the jist of it. Not the ins and outs, of course. Like if I got rang up by Ghostface from Scream and was asked who the killer was in this film, I’d definitely get killed because I had no idea–even when they thought they super know who it was, I was still accusing Freddie Prinze Jr. of being the killer since I’m classist, apparently. Poor kid so did it. And actually, the film was more batshit than I had originally thought it would be–but then, slashers do do that to you, I find. I admit I had a low opinion of slashers once, like it was all teens get killed by a killer, straightforward and all that. But it just isn’t straightforward. Even when it is clear who the killer is, there are still twists like one of the sexy teens are related to them or they are a ghost or something. Ooooo. You know? Which is why I was happy to do a Slashers Saturday this year. Give them a chance, is what I’m saying. They might surprise you, even if it is just with a delicious example of urban myths in action, where they all know a different story of ‘the hook’, or weird moments like a body being covered in crabs (the seafood kind, not the sexual ones).

Andy: Or the weirder moment where the body, and ALL OF THE CRABS vanish in like, 30 seconds. Or that was just dumb. Probably the latter.

Lilly: Or was it a third option, AWESOME? No. No, it was the dumb one. It was dumb. Though, come on, a killer running around with a body and a bag of crabs, unnoticed? Love it.

Andy: It was like something out of a Dario Argento movie. Seriously.

Lilly: So, the thing is, I Know What You Did Last Summer made me laugh. It had some moments that definitely would be scary if I was alone and watching it at night and maybe living in a fishing village at the time, but overall, it entertained me.

Andy: It isn’t what I would call good, and it takes itself far too seriously, which pushes it all the way through dark and gloomy to hilarious, and it’s been taken off too many times and it’s not very scary and the plot is nonsensical but also somehow predictable. It’s an artifact of its time, and won’t do you any harm, and is too silly to be offensive.

Kudos to one shot though – an overhead of a woman being menaced in an alleyway while feet away a parade marches past oblivious. Stopped clocks and all.

Lilly: Also kudos to the soundtrack, since alt 90s can get some. Anyway, go, watch, enjoy!

Oh, but if you want to google it, make sure you don’t just end up watching the music video for Shawn Mendes’ song of the same name. Especially because it has nothing to do with murder at all. Boo.

Andy: And it sucks deep-fried donkey ba…

[WE ARE EXPERIENCING TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES. SEE YOU TOMORROW FOR ANOTHER REVIEW AND ABSOLUTELY NO OFFENSIVE COMMENTS ABOUT SHAWN MENDES SONGS.]

Wes Craven’s New Nightmare;or Dream a little dream of OH GOD

nn2.jpgHello and Hallo-welcome to another edition of Slasher Saturday, where queens scream and killers go bump in the night! You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, who are chugging coffee and pinching each other–no, they aren’t trying to stay awake, that’s just date night for them!

Today’s film offering: Wes Craven’s New Nightmare

Andy: Out of all of the big three slasher villains –  Michael, Jason and Freddy – Mr Krueger of Nightmare on Elm Street fame is somewhat unique. He’s the only one that is explicitly supernatural, he’s the only one that talks, he’s the only one associated with one actor (Robert Englund) and he’s probably the one with the most widespread fanbase. Everyone knows who he is, and there are toys that prove he’s even popular with thlittle tykes who should absolutely not watch his films.

Which is a shame, because he’s also possibly the most diluted of the three. Michael and Jason are still scary, no matter how many crappy sequels they turn up in, but somewhere between the wisecracks and the merchandise, something about Freddy was lost.

In 1993, Wes Craven decided to do something about that.

Lilly: Cue New Nightmare!

Andy: The story concerns young Heather Langenkamp, mother of a young son, wife of a loving husband, and occasional talk-show guest asked about that time she played Nancy on Nightmare on Elm Street. Wait, what? 

Lilly: No, seriously. What?

Andy: That’s right – many people return from the original movie, not as characters but as themselves, or at least fictionalised versions of themselves, including Robert Englund and Wes Craven himself. If this sounds a touch disorienting, it is, but in many ways, it’s an extension of the reality-bending of the first movie, just moved a layer up. After all, what are movies but the dreams of our combined subconscious? And of course, everything gets even more confused when it appears Freddy Krueger – the actual, vicious killer – begins stalking Heather, her son and those around her, manifesting himself in the ‘real’ world.

Lilly: This film kicks off quick–Freddy is menacing in the first scene, which is definitely disorienting for those of us who like a slow build in a horror film. Not this time! Want explanation? Shut up and go watch another film, you aren’t getting it here until mid-way through, when Wes Craven decides to stop being a dick and explain what the Hell is going on to poor Nancy. Wait, Heather. Wait.

Andy: The trope of nobody believing people in horror movies when they are being hunted by whatever is so old hat that pointing it out is itself a cliche. The trouble is here, Heather is in a double bind. When her son starts insisting that “Freddy” is coming for him, the response is always “You didn’t let him watch your movies, did you?” with a raised eyebrow. When Heather herself starts experiencing the same, it’s assumed she’s mentally ill – another cliche – but here with the obvious explanation that all those scary movies she was in got to her in some way.

Which is an interesting question in itself – do Scream Queens get a kind of PTSD?

Lilly: I’d love to ask Jamie Lee Curtis that. Someone set that up. Get on that.

Something unexpected and almost distracting in this film was actually representation of men and women–wait, what! I know! When Nancy heads to the hospital with her son, the hospital is literally crawling with women. The main doctor is a black woman (because contrary to the belief of airline stewardesses today, apparently, that can happen!), there was an Asian nurse, another black woman nurse, two blonde nurse ladies–the hospital was run by women and two security guys, and one grey haired man on the phone. Maybe he was lost. I don’t know, but it was spectacular. In fact, the people getting shit done in the film were all women, from Heather/Nancy to Julie the babysitter to the no-nonsense doctor who was really concerned about whether or not Heather let her son watch her films. I don’t know if that makes it a step forward or just a fun fluke, either way. Fancy that!

Andy: So yeah, women-ran hospital included, this movie is ambitious. But the key question is, does it work? Well, kinda. It’s nowhere near as successful at slasher meta-narrative than Scream, Craven’s other side glance at the genre he helped create, and it seems more of an interesting curio and companion piece to the original than a full-fledged movie in its own right.

However, it is a million times better than any of the other Elm Street sequels (way to set the bar high there, Andy), and if you enjoy the original it’s worth checking out.

Lilly: I found it to be a bit too much, too fast for a film that lasted over an hour and a half, myself. You were in the action by five minutes in, and while yes, that throws you off your feet like a dream could (I get it), it also had me thinking ‘What if the dreams are actually the boring bits where she is doing tv interviews and chats with producers?’ because how could I know what is going on so early in the film? I supposed they had a lot to get through, with all the meta-things, but it still felt a bit like it was ‘getting to the good part’ right away then sputtering in the middle for a bit then kicking off in the last twenty minutes again. It wasn’t consistent for me, which is a bummer when the idea is there. Then again, if the film is Heather’s life, and Heather’s life is the film, maybe just maybe that is the message. Sometimes life is fast and hard and then it slows for a bit before knocking you out. Huh. Deep.

Meanwhile, favourite part? Heather punching Freddy in the face and yelling ‘Fuck you!’ Fuck your pithy one liners, Heather ain’t got time for that.

So it’s a recommendation from me in a sort of ‘Hey, watch it, why not’ fashion. Best I can do!

Andy: Although if you really want a movie that covers this same ground far more successfully, I prescribe a dose of John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness before bed, and call me in the morning.

Scream; or Not All Scary Movie Fans Are Murderers, Right?

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Hello and Hallo-welcome to another edition of Slasher Saturday! You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, who would be happy to explain the rules of horror films to you, if you’d just stop screaming.

Today’s film offering: Scream

Andy: It felt only right to review this 90s classic. If The Blair Witch Project was all about looking forward to what horror was to become, this movie was all about looking back – an ironic, post-modern take on the slasher glut that had utterly taken over the horror industry since the early 80s. If Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon had the conceit that all slasher villains existed in the real world, this one has it that the victims have at least seen all of the slasher movies.

The plot concerns one Sidney Prescott, who while still grieving after the horrific killing of her mother, is embroiled in another series of brutal murders – this time of her school friends. It’s almost like she’s caught in a horror movie, and everyone knows that there are certain rules you have to follow if you want to survive…

Lilly: Well, everyone does by the end of the film, since you get those rules listed off to you, just in case you didn’t get it.

Scream was one of those films I hadn’t seen but had heard of for years, and seen the spoof of in Scary Movie. Now, having seen it, I’m sort of surprised how much of a copy Scary Movie was with just a few late nineties gags fitted in. To the point where I was sort of having flashbacks to Scary Movie plot points as it went along. But maybe that’s just because 90’s heartthrobs all look like goofy comic relief. Or murderers, as I kept saying throughout the film.

Andy: Yeah, Scary Movie was a weird one, because they were parodying something that was all ready so self aware and witty. Which, whatever you think of Scary Movie, are not two adjectives that can really be applied to it.

Lilly: Now, having missed out on all the years of enjoying this film, I’m almost embarrassed because it was completely up my alley. Serial killer, sarcastic teens, 90s alt rock, and Henry Winkler. Henry Winkler is in it, people! Not only was he in it, he is like film MVP in my opinion, for ripping into two teenager boys who were making really, heartbreakingly inappropriate jokes–in this day and age, it was so satisfying to watch a principal yell at two asshole kids for being assholes, let me tell you. Or maybe that was just me.

Andy: There is definitely a running theme of a youth that had been somewhat corrupted by horror – a police chief remarks that two decades ago he wouldn’t have thought the kids in this movie capable of murder, but now he’s not so sure – and it does seem to be the only thing that they talk about. Even the killer quizzes his victims on horror trivia pre-stabbin’.

Lilly: This is definitely a cinematic answer to the age old question ‘Do violent films make people violent?’. All these kids knowing all these horror films,  does it bring it all on them? Oooooh. Wait. As we approach having reviewed over 90 films this year, I don’t like that thought. That said, a lot of people seemed to know a lot about horror films, like Officer Dewey knowing about The Town That Dreaded Sundown. I mean. Really? Or did I miss my era, the early 90s, where everyone knew random horror films off the top of their heads? Damn it.

Andy: People other than us, I mean. This is very much a movie that demonstrated that saturation in pop culture definitely creates an effect, even if it’s just an audience that is informed in one specific way. 

Lilly: So, we watch as a teen struggles with the town’s ideas about her late mother and the present day murders, and it’s sort of hard not to feel some sort of awkward about how today’s ‘locker room banter’ is seen performed so lightly about a woman who was raped and brutally murdered. She was the town bicycle, so it was fine, right? Right? And then, we have the opposite end of the spectrum, as Sidney struggles with not wanting to have sex with her boyfriend and feeling guilt over that. Hi, my name is Scream, and I’m apparently very relevant in 2016. Sidney’s best friend, played by the beautifully bleached blonde Rose McGowan, makes the point that Sidney doesn’t need to have sex if she isn’t ready, and it isn’t a matter of life or death (as is said in the rules) and ugh. I could merrily discuss that side of this film for days, but won’t. For the sake of not babbling. But please, get me on it in person, and I will.

Andy: Plus it has that rarest of character types – the guy who likes the main character and has no chance, but isn’t creepy or desperate beyond what you’d expect. How often do you see that? (Note: I may have a kinship with this character because he’s the one who iterates the actual horror movie ‘rules’, and while this could lead to him being something of a social outcast, being the guy waaay more into horror than even his friends, it essentially gives him this awesome sense of prophecy).

LillyScream surprised me. I was scared by the first scenes with Drew Barrymore, I was amused by the growing notion that there were ‘rules’ to surviving a horror film, and I was impressed by the fact that the ending wasn’t typical (and more importantly wasn’t pretentious about being not typical). When I think of loving horror spoofs, this definitely is on my list now. And when I think of fashion pointers re: baggy shirts and a deep red lip? Also thinking of this.

Andy: I was a bit worried about approaching this one again, fearing it wouldn’t have aged well. But while the fashion, and the music, and some of the language definitely places this film firmly within his era, its underlying blend of wit, whodunnit and scares means it hasn’t truly dated. It’s still a very entertaining watch. It’s a heavy recommend from both of us.

Lilly: I would heavily suggest watching this one if you haven’t, and watching it again if you have, but a long time ago, because it’s fun, and because it does have some really great moments that throw back to old horror films–like watch for a certain famous janitor who was hard done by to show up! Priceless.

Friday the 13th; or Camp Asking For It

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Hello and Hallo-welcome to yet another year of Hallowfest Octobfilm, a series of daily blogs reviewing horror films throughout the month of October! You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, as they sharpen their ‘His’ and ‘Hers’ machetes in preparation for this year’s Saturday theme–Slasher Saturdays!

Today’s film offering: Friday the 13th

Andy: I suppose a proper horror fan should feel some animosity towards this movie. Halloween may have codified many of the tropes of the horror genre, but it was the Friday the 13th franchise that showed you could essentially make the same movie again and again and again and still make money.

Lilly: Contrary to the old saying, it’s not a good man you can’t keep down, but rather a psychopathic bad man. Go figure!

Andy: And for all the slashed up teens, the only thing that the slasher glut really killed was anybody taking horror movies seriously for the next two decades. Dang.

Lilly: I mean, I disagree on this, because it wasn’t like horror films were really pulling in the prestige prior to the slasher wave. I think slashers did what any semi-entertaining sub-genre should do, which is bring in the money–I’m looking at you, Transformers films and the Marvel universe. Sure, it means that you are going to get loads of films that are sub-par at best, but at least people are watching, and you are developing a following that might not have stumbled into the horror arena at all if not for a cheesy slasher they saw some date night.

But I digress. Surprise! That happens a lot.

Andy: Now the plot concerns a group of camp counsellors reopening an old, abandoned camp at Crystal Lake, getting it ready for the kids who will presumably arrive later in the summer. Of course, this preparation mainly consists of having conversations with a crazy old man, sex, and getting axed in the face by a mysterious assailant. If this sounds familiar you may recognise it as the plot of EVERYTHING EVER.

Lilly: Meanwhile, this camp has not been abandoned that long, in truth, like it is almost insensitively not long. Twenty years is not long enough to say ‘Hey, the killer is probably not around anymore! Fluke!’ No, the killer, if he started young, could be only 38! Which is prime killing age. I mean, you’re not young and careless, but you also aren’t past your prime. Stupid. The people who thought to reopen the camp are stupid. How much wilderness is there in America? Find some other wilderness, build some cheap cabins, boom. No killer, no deaths hanging over the property. It sounds ideal. But maybe I don’t know enough about building children’s summer camps.

Andy: Anyway, this is the film that gets taken off in literally everything, from its own sequels, to The Simpsons, to The Final Girls, to friggin Lumberjanes. There is a real danger watching this film now, that any sense of originality and threat this film had back in 1980 has long since shrivelled up in the sun. It doesn’t help that Scream spoiled the ending way back in 1996.

Lilly: Something we are reviewing later in the month! Tune in!

Andy: Of course, it probably doesn’t help that this is not actually particularly well made. Michael Myers has been put through the same cultural exposure, but Halloween still maintains a sense of genuine threat. This, however, borders on, well, campy (I’M SORRY I’M NOT SORRY).

Lilly: For those of you just joining Hallowfest Octobfilm, it is best you know that sometimes, I love shitty films. I love them deeply and without apology. In fact, when something is described as ‘campy’, my black little heart flutters with enthusiasm. And in the case of Friday the 13th, doubly so. And I’ll tell you for why.

Friday the 13th is a perfect example of social horror. It’s got an easy to follow plot–murder happens at camp, camp closes, camp reopens, murders happen again, TWIST the murders are REVENGE–that is accessible to literally anyone who watches it, it has Kevin Bacon (swoon), and it is a film that you can make popcorn during and not be lost for the rest of the story because you missed a bit. And there is (listen carefully here) Nothing. Wrong. With. That. Also, since I haven’t seen Scream (later on in the month, tune in for when I have!), I didn’t even see the ending coming. I thought I had it pretty worked out, what with the hockey mask wearing fiend of the films being literally everywhere, as Andy mentioned, but it turns out he doesn’t even have the mask in the first film, AND SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER STOP LOOKING IF YOU DON’T WANT IT SPOILED…

…it wasn’t even him in the first place. How can I not be amused by the fact that the film depicts a man getting all the credit for the hard work of a woman? I love it.

OKAY YOU CAN CHECK BACK IN NOW, I’M DONE SPOILING, PROMISE.

Andy: To be clear, I do like this movie (maybe not love, like SOME people, but still). If it’s on TV and you feel like turning your brain off for 90 minutes, it’s probably OK. But there are also definitely better horror movies to watch in that time.

Lilly: Like Friday the 13th Part 2, which has the hilariously insensitive moment where they are looking for the charming, wheelchair bound Mark, and the first place they look is upstairs. Brilliant!