Alice, Sweet Alice (1976)

Alice, Sweet Alice (1976) movie poster

director Alfred Sole
viewed: 09/12/2018

Alice, Sweet Alice is a vivid, well-shot and well-edited giallo-tinged proto-slasher shot on location in Paterson, NJ. Set for some reason in 1961, the Catholic Church looms large over the lives of a divorced mother and her two daughters, 12 year old Alice (Paula E. Sheppard) and 9 year old Karen (Brooke Shields).

With long brown hair, the girls could almost be twins, but Karen is the pretty goody-goody and Alice, well, she’s got a lot of anger issues. Brooke Shields was a child, but Sheppard, an intense young lady who could pass as a child was 19. The children are all too real, fighting and taunting and cruel and whiny.

Alice shows signs of psychological disturbance even before the killing starts. The film is loaded with insinuated child abuse and its psychological fallout, played out against the backdrop of Catholicism and a very dreary New Jersey.

“This kid is nuts!”

In the end, it’s maybe more brilliant, emotional and lurid, than logical. But Alice, Sweet Alice feels psychologically real and manages shocks along the way.

Three final points:
1. This would make a total double feature with Paterson (2016).
2. You’ve got to read the bio of Alphonso DeNoble, the obese and sleazy landlord. Such a strange and tragic life! 
3. If anything, the one movie that this really reckoned of for me was The Bad Seed, in a variety of ways.

Unmasked Part 25 (1989)

 Unmasked Part 25 (1989) movie poster

director Anders Palm
viewed; 09/03/2018

A world weary Jason Vorhees, here named “Jackson” and played by Gregory Cox, suffers from slasher ennui in 1989’s Unmasked Part 25. The film plays as not arch parody, but parody all the same. It’s comic, but with sincerity and heart (and gore).

“Really cathartic, man.”

Being not a little meta and no doubt ahead of its time probably helped lead it direct-to-video in its day and relinquished to relative obscurity until recently.

Jackson, hockey-masked, is a prototypical slasher killer until he stumbles upon Shelly (Fiona Adams), a blind girl who sees behind his masks at the sensitive and erudite person with the badly deformed face and a penchant for killing.

While it directly plays with the slasher film, the story reckons significantly more of Frankenstein, with clear allusions to Shelley (Shelly) and Byron (who is recited by Jackson. Most specifically, it recalls the blind man scene from Bride of Frankenstein and to some extent the parody of that scene played out in Young Frankenstein.

Great makeup, gore effects, and performances highlight this unusual and highly interesting horror comedy.

Nightmare (1981)

Nightmare (1981) movie poster

director Romano Scavolini
viewed: 08/24/2018

Freudian mama obsession, primal sexual trauma dominate Romano Scavolini’s 1981 movie, Nightmare.  Scavolini, unlike most slasher filmmakers, delves into the painful psyche of his killer, far from the faceless or deathless killers of many films. He even gives attention to the concerned and invested medical care, both in therapy and medications, that attempted to restore him to sanity.

There’s definitely something strange and palpable here, and this extends to the dysfunctional family of the killer’s ex-wife. A piece of shit 9-year old makes single parenting (and babysitting) a fucking “nightmare”.  And it’s this sense of realism that imbues the rest with some gravitas.

There are some awesome NYC shots before the film moves down the coast to Florida.

I found the computer technology that the psychiatrists use to hunt the psychopath interestingly speculative and futuristic and yet so deeply of their time.

It’s easy to see why this film impacts even those deeply steeped in the genre as something unusual and evocative.

Killer Workout (1987)

Killer Workout (1987) movie poster

director  David A. Prior
viewed: 08/11/2018

Not like I didn’t live through this period of world history and pop culture, but God those outfits God those hairstyles!

For starters David A. Prior’s Killer Workout a.k.a. Aerobicide turns a tanning bed into a toaster oven, while the main course features a killer with big safety pin.

Watching Killer Workout back-to-back with Death Spa makes me wonder about a history of popular exercise regimens. Like, could this be made today with Zumba or CrossFit? Probably not the latter due to all their fanatical licensing.

Other stray observations: sexual harassment, a lot of sexy gyration, leering, who were the few random guys working out with all the chicks? Pretty stylin’ cars.

Aerobicide is clearly the better title.

The Prowler (1981)

The Prowler (1981) movie poster

director  Joseph Zito
viewed: 07/26/2018

The more I delve into classic slashers, the more I realize that most of my previous “back in the day” experience was tied to the  bigger franchises, rather than the one-offs and unique individual films. It’s another argument against corporate franchises, in my book. No matter the individual qualities, these one-off slashers have something unique about them.

Absolutely, The Prowler (1981) shines brightest around the FX work of Tom Savini. Seriously vivid viscera and evisceration.

But there is definitely more than gore to The Prowler. Director Joseph Zito and cinematographer João Fernandes effect some amazing sequences. That swimming pool death scene might well be the most aesthetically beautiful death in the genre.

I also liked the some of the little bits and pieces, like the hilarious scene with the fat hick cop pretending to check on the sheriff, while really just goofing off.

Nice stuff.

Graduation Day (1981)

Graduation Day (1981) movie poster

director  Herb Freed
viewed: 07/07/2018

Stylish editing and sound design highlight Graduation Day, an above-average classic era slasher. Yeah, and groovy disco intro.

As the title indicates, it’s the end of the school year for these Midvale High seniors. Seniors, who despite living out the  last couple days of high school,  are practicing off-season sports and getting killed accordingly by a mystery revenge-seeker in gray sweats and a fencing mask.

Richard Balin as Mr. Roberts the music teacher is fab, a little bit lounge singer, a little bit Paul Lynde. And Patch Mackenzie really reminded me of Jennifer Lynch.

Despite one of the worst fake-outs on who’s the killer, it’s an entertaining ride, if vaguely overlong.

The killer’s telltale bedroom is also kind of funny.  “Jeez, so-and-so, you really like weaponry, don’t you?”

Blood Harvest (1987)

Blood Harvest (1987) UK VHS cover

director  Bill Rebane
viewed: 07/03/2018

Tiny Tim Wayne Gacy.

A certain type of person, ie me, has a film like Blood Harvest on a bucket list.

A killer and sexual sadist using fast-acting chloroform is troubling a small Wisconsin town. A town, already troubled by the repossession of many family farms by a local capitalist. But more than anything he’s troubling Jill (Itonia Salchek) who has returned home to find her parents missing and an old flame brooding. (The old flame (Dean West) vaguely looks like Jeffrey Combs when he’s pouting.)

And middle-aged Tiny Tim, prancing about in clown make-up, apparently gone dotty over the slaughtering of family pets.  He’s genuinely disturbing, or maybe just annoying.

The film, though turns out to be essentially one about a demented stalker, an obsessed young man tormenting his fixation (Jill) and all of those around her. Their relationship is actually creepy in a real way.

As a slasher, it’s pure oddity, from the mind of Bill Rebane and the farmlands of the Badger State.

Cheerleader Camp (1988)

Cheerleader Camp (1988) movie poster

director  John Quinn
viewed: 07/02/2018

Welcome to Camp Hurrah. Firecracker! Firecracker! Sis Boom Bah!

1988’s Cheerleader Camp could well utilize an alternate definition of camp. It’s equal parts pervy camp comedy and slasher, the former annoying the latter genre fans.

“Lighten up! We’re looking at naked women here!”

So, yeah, nekkid ladies.

Vickie Benson as Miss Tipton is the tops, while the hijinks of Leif Garrett and his Rubenesque comic foil, most painfully in a rap sequence, leave much to be desired.

The movie’s qualities recede as fast as Leif Garrett’s hairline.

The band playing (Sounds of Suksexx) is so incongruous with the environment.

But yeah, that poster is something special.

The House on Sorority Row (1983)

The House on Sorority Row (1983) movie poster

director  Mark Rosman
viewed: 06/30/2018

The House on Sorority Row is a significantly superior slasher, featuring more realized characters and a set up and scenario that works well.

The primary characters are all female, more developed and not standard and stereotypical. While not exactly feminist nor fully fleshed-out, the characterization still starkly contrasts with much of the genre.

Graduating sorority girls run afoul of their house mother by overstaying their welcome and throwing a graduation party. Things go south when a mean prank goes wrong, and an algae soup swimming pool plays a key to the works.

The twist ending deflates it a bit.

Madhouse (1981)

Madhouse (1981) movie poster

director Ovidio G. Assonitis
viewed: 06/15/2018

I’m forever telling people that in any pair of twins, there is always one that is good and always another that is evil. That’s just science.

Madhouse is an Italian-American production directed by an Egyptian-born Greco-Italian and filmed in Savannah, GA. It’s another sort of slasher-giallo hybrid, with some nice cinematography and production values (except for the dog puppet, let’s say).

Savannah could be an interesting location but the film stays indoors a lot, shot at the historic Kehoe House, which seemed to be under some restoration at the time. The house is pretty cool and makes for some of the interesting shots and atmosphere.

But yeah, evil twins, a blood-thirsty Rottweiler, and a kooky priest who digs on children’s rhymes.

It’s not half bad. But then there’s the other half. Or slightly more than half.