Splatter University (1984)

Splatter University (1984) movie poster

director Richard W. Haines
viewed: 10/06/2017

“St Trinian’s college
The next semester
Yesterday …”

When the text on the screen reads like a non-sequitur.

Early parts of Splatter University felt like Rock ‘n’ Roll High School minus the Ramones and everything else. But it plays out as sort of a slasher, sort of a mystery. One thing is for certain, the director had a thing for redheads.

Some people think it a very bad, terribly inept slasher. Others adore it. All I can tell you is that they are both right.

The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)

The Slumber Party Massacre (1982) movie poster

director Amy Holden Jones
viewed: 09/19/2017

Wow, The Slumber Party Massacre is such a remarkable slasher film.

It has frequently been noted that the film’s script was originally crafted as a satire by feminist writer Rita Mae Brown, and that it is one of the few classic era slashers directed by a woman, Amy Holden Jones. The Slumber Party Massacre has been read (and fairly so) as feminist and/or a genre critique specifically one the issue of “the male gaze”.

My reading, though, focused not so much feminism or the female gaze, but more the female experience and to a smaller extent feminine desire. That it is a female dominated story, in which women are all the main characters (the killer, despite showing his face, is much more symbolic than a real entity). Bechdel test the heck out of this one.

Even when the camera lingers over the gratuitous nudity or the blatant phallic nature of the killer’s weapon, this film’s perspective is novel and unique in genre so typically focused on female victimization.

I found the creepy older neighbor guy a fascinating trope on its own. This film is so ripe for analysis, Freudian, feminist, whatever. There is so much text to work with, and also to enjoy.

This is where my star rating really fails me. I might give it 3 1/2 stars but I would give it five full hearts.  The movie is only so good quality wise, but off the charts in lovability. Maybe I need an equivalent heart rating to accompany my star rating.

Slaughter High (1986)

Slaughter High (1986) movie poster

directors  Mark Ezra, Peter Litten, George Dugdale
viewed: 05/21/2017

Slaughter High takes place in an alternative universe. In England, “public school” means the exact opposite of what it means in America. Maybe that’s why this not quite gothic mansion of a school stands in for an American high school circa the 1980’s.

But really, logic and reality are shirked at every turn, so much so, you stop really caring, even when really outlandish things happen (outlandish by even genre standards).

The kills in the movie range from benign to bizarre, and the latter ones are also done with quite cool practical FX.

I too was brought to mind of Terror Train (1980) in which the promise of sex turned to cruel prank leads to psychosis and slaughter. Only in Slaughter High, that prank is just the start. It only gets worse and for a slasher, there is quite a lot of story behind what turns poor Marty (Simon Scudamore RIP) into a vengeful, scarred jester. The ending takes a turn quite unusual for the genre, adding further character to the whole shebang.

It’s weird. And I kinda liked it.

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984) movie poster

director Joseph Zito
viewed: 12/20/2016

If you think about it, it’s kind of clever to have The Final Chapter before the halfway point of your film series.  Like the makers of the Friday the 13th movies, I guess I had no idea when they’d finally think that the series was totally bankrupt and out of breath.  I wasn’t even sure.  Had I seen this one?

Turns out I had.

It’s easy to see why it’s popular with some fans. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter has a good cast, not just young Crispin Glover and Corey Feldman, but other familiar faces like Lawrence Monoson or Bruce Mahler.  And behind the scenes Tom Savini.  It also features the strange addendum of watching old porn movie reels.

Director Joseph Zito keeps the pace popping along, sometimes making some of the kills a little perfunctory even.

That final kill, that effect is pretty slick.  And that final shot of evil Corey Feldman.  Most memorable moments from episode 4, The Final Chapter.

The Mutilator (1985)

The Mutilator (1985) movie poster

directors  Buddy Cooper, John S. Douglass
viewed: 12/12/2016

What a movie!  What a weird, weird, weird movie.

Love the poster, by the way.

It’s the story of a split personality.  The film’s own split personality.

The “Fall Break” theme song (the film’s original title) really sets the vibe.  It’s like something from Christopher Cross or some other 1980’s AM radio sentimental pop, which matches the strange vibe of the film, about a group of North Carolina college buddies with no place to go for a holiday.  The joke and josh and tease and have a good time, getting a call out of the blue from the semi-estranged father of one of the guys who has them head out to his beach house for the weekend.

This light comedy and genial atmosphere is accompanied on the soundtrack by piano motifs that promise more light comedy and good times.

You might almost forget that the flick opened on a story of a boy who accidentally shoots his mother on his father’s birthday, earning his father’s anger and enmity.  Sending his father into alcoholic misery. That kid and that father are the ones united at the beach house.

And then the movie’s other personality: a very violent and gory slasher with some very gruesome and pleasing kills and real surprises.  You can easily tell when this switch has happened because the score changes rather dramatically to the strains common to horror.

One other thing rather weird about the film, too, is the cast of college peeps.  They are doubtlessly gathered from the locality of the production (several of them have mild Southern drawls).  But they are odd in their “normality”, if you will.  None of them have “movie star” looks or particular “acting” skills, though they are totally decent for the most part.  It’s just a little on the odd side.  As much of this movie is.

Terror Train (1980)

Terror Train (1980) movie poster

director Roger Spottiswoode
viewed: 10/31/2016

The prologue sets the story but starts things rather oddly.  Medical students at a party haze freshmen with various pranks.  The worst one sets up a virgin fellow with a body of a corpse, which freaks him out and pushes him over the edge.

Flash forward 3 more years.

The slasher genre was in high swing by 1980, so it’s pretty obvious that when a group of the same college kids, including star Jamie Lee Curtis, board a steam train for their annual holiday fling, you kind of have to expect that the killer is going to turn out to be the guy who was so shell-shocked in the first sequence.  Right?

Well, whoever it is, starts knocking them off, stealing their get-ups (they are all in costume), and yet the movie coyly tries to play out the mystery.  Throw in David Copperfield as hired entertainment for the ride (nobody seems to know who hired the magician!) and the pretty terrific Ben Johnson as a conductor and bet you didn’t recognize beauty D.D. Walters (who was better known in life as Vanity) as one of the gang.

Terror Train doesn’t really seem to get the slasher vibe down but otherwise is a very accomplished production.  It’s well-shot and the characters don’t seem utterly generic.  Well, not all of them anyways.

While the gore factor is low, Copperfield helps up the cheese factor considerably.

Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland (1989)

Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland (1989) movie poster

director Michael A. Simpson
viewed: 10/14/2016

Shot on the heels of Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (1988), Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland does what none of the other films in this series did, bring back star of the previous film in a recurring role.  Not only does Pamela Springsteen return as Angela Baker, serial killer of the series, but the film was also shot at the same location as Sleepaway Camp II.

Continuity is a thing for some film series.  For others, it doesn’t mean squat.  And for the Sleepaway Camp series, even here with the same star, writer and director, it’s given relatively short shrift.

Because by Teenage Wasteland, Angela has shed any aspect of her transgendered self.  Virtually (maybe even explicitly) nothing is said about the most notable and radical thing about the original Sleepaway Camp (1983), leaving us with crazy, cheerful Angela creatively offing all of the folks at the camp.

Even so, the film is quite a bit of an improvement on Sleepaway Camp II.  It’s silly to the nearly intentionally comedic level, but smilingly so, and it moves along at a good clip.

The opening sequence, in which Angela tracks down a camper, runs her over with a truck and then composts her body, all to take her identity, is bizarre and ridiculous.  That she’s able to pull all this off after the prior killings at the same camp only months before with no one recognizing her is about all you need to know about the film’s logic or commitment to reality.

And that’s pretty well fine.

Bloody Birthday (1981)

Bloody Birthday (1981) movie poster

director Ed Hunt
viewed: 09/24/2016

Taken as a “straight” slasher, it’s easy to see how Bloody Birthday, from 1981, could prove a disappointment.  For one, it’s not particularly bloody.  For two, there is no mystery about the killer.  And it has that After School Special vibe and aesthetic.

And yet, that is why it’s so freaking hilarious.

Delivered during a solar eclipse, three suburban California kids are just plain born bad.  The bad juju comes to roost right before their collective 10th birthdays.  Though they start off murdering  a young couple copulating in a cemetery from an unseen vantage, the rest of the trios crimes are done in plain, banal sight.  When his daughter first lures the sheriff to get baseball batted to the head, the contrast of these oddball preteens and their inexplicable violence hits home.

And for me, it hit home pretty funny.

These kids are of The Bad Seed (1956) ilk; seemingly normal, but of a killing kind.  Fitting within the strange subgenre of “killer kids” (H/T Hollie Horrror).

What makes the shenanigans humorous is the flat, dull, world and the way it’s depicted.  This is a transitional 1970’s to 1980’s suburbia, and while it’s not at all terrifying, it is absurd and quite amusing.

Throw in scene of MTV’s Julie Brown being peeped upon whilst topless, and you’ve got a crumb of movie trivia to throw out at your next cocktail party as well.

All points scored for weirdness and unintentional humor.

Bloody Moon (1981)

Bloody Moon (1981) movie poster

director Jesús Franco
viewed: 11/13/2015

Inept as perhaps any movie committed to film with more red herrings than murders. This Jesús Franco flick seems more like a pseudo-slasher than a true slasher (with a little giallo thrown in), with more plot holes than plot.   It somewhat makes up for it in the final 15 minutes with a ga-ga gore and shock finale.  But it’s still a pretty terrible film.

Gotta like that they ran down the little kid, though.

 

The Burning (1981)

The Burning (1981) movie poster

director Tony Maylam
viewed: 10/24/2015

Who knew that The Burning, a solid slasher from the true heyday of the genre, was the first big feature film for the Miramax boys Harvey and Bob Weinstein?  And rather than hunting for films already made or talent already in development, the story emanated right from their heads, Bob even co-screen credit.

When the drunken camp handyman gets horribly burned by a prank gone awry, he somehow manages to survive his injuries, break loose upon New York City (briefly) and then take out his vengeance on all the campers he can get his trimming shears on.  That’s about all the story you need in a movie like this.

Loosely based on the Staten Island urban legend of Cropsey (given its due in the 2009 documentary of the same name), The Burning also features such unusual early roles for the likes of Jason Alexander, Holly Hunter, Fisher Stevens, and Brian Backer (the latter of Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1981) fame).  On top of all that, the gory FX are crafted by the ever-invented Tom Savini (Dawn of the Dead (1978), Maniac (1980) & Friday the 13th (1980), to name but a few).

The early 1980’s are crowded with summer camp slashers, but this is indeed another one that should not be overlooked.  Its connections and competitors have their merits but The Burning is a very competent flick, featuring some good gore moments courtesy of Savini, some gratuitous nudity courtesy of the period, and some good character courtesy of all involved.