The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Escaped killer crashes sleepover.

Trish (Michelle Michaels) is a high school senior who decides to hold a slumber party at her place while her parents are away. She invites Kim (Debra Deliso), Jackie (Andree Honore), and Diane (Gina Mari). She tries to invite Valerie (Robin Stille), who lives right next door to her, but she declines after overhearing the other girls talk about her in a catty way while in the locker room. As the girls prepare for the party they get harassed by Neil (Joseph Alan Johnson) and Jeff (David Millbern) who try to scare them by fiddling with the fuse box and turning the power in the home off, but none of them are aware that a real killer named Russ Thorn (Michael Villella), who has escaped from prison, and his quietly stalking them while using an electrical drill as his weapon.

The script was written by feminist writer Rita Mae Brown, who intended for it to be a parody, but when producer Roger Corman read it he saw as a conventional slasher and hired Amy Holden Jones, who had worked for his company for many years as a film editor, to direct it. While some will complain that the parody concept should’ve been left in I actually think it works better and in some ways is even funnier to have genuine scares and gore mixed in with the laughs. Too many other horror comedies try too hard to be funny, like with Pandemonium, where so much effort gets put into the humor that there’s no scares to be had, which will alienate a true horror fan, but here audiences who like a little of both should enjoy it.

I’ll admit that the movie does start out rocky. While I liked the organ soundtrack everything else comes-off as painfully amateurish.  Having one of the students, played by Brinke Stevens, run back into the school that is closing to retrieve a book from her locker is dumb. For one thing the building was completely locked up, so how did the killer get inside? Chaining the doors shut from the inside such as here isn’t done and illegal as it’s considered fire hazard. The victim is also too passive as the killer drills a small hole through the door of the room that she’s hiding in, but he’d have to drill many, many more holes for him to break down the door, which should’ve given her, albeit injured, but still mobile, plenty of time to figure another way out like crashing through a window, but instead she screams and essentially gives up.

Some critics complained about the gratuitous nudity especially for a film directed by a woman though it does try to equalize this by also showing the naked backside of a man while two of the girls, Valerie and her kid sister Courtney, page through an old issue of Playgirl, which I found amusing. What bugged me though was that the women looked too old to be playing high school students and appear to be far like 25, or even older. They also have terrific figures, like models in a soft core porn flick, and for the sake of balance there should’ve been at least one that was heavy-set, perhaps Valerie, and this could’ve explained why she was rejected and not invited to the party because she wasn’t ‘pretty enough’ to be in their clique.

The second and third act I found, much to my surprise, to be highly entertaining and even clever particularly the scene where Valerie watches a scary movie on TV even as a real horror, unbeknownst to her, is occurring just outside her door. There’s also some really funny lines that were clearly leftover from Brown’s original script and completely hits the target. It also features a nifty emasculation moment, which has all helped to give this a huge and well-deserved cult following. Followed 5 years later by a sequel, which we’ll review tomorrow.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: March 12, 1982

Runtime: 1 Hour 17 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Amy Holden Jones

Studio: New World Pictures

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Plex, PlutoTV, Tubi, Shout Factory TV, Amazon Video

The Corruption of Chris Miller (1973)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Is he the killer?

Ruth (Jean Seberg) has been abandoned by her husband leaving her alone in his large isolated estate with only his daughter Chris (Marisol) to keep her company. Chris has issues of her own as she was raped years earlier as a teen while in the girl’s shower at her school by a weightlifter and whenever it rains the sound of  falling water brings back the horrible memories, which cause her to lash out with a sharp object, as if defending herself, to anyone who comes near. Ruth has learned how to talk her down from these episodes, but she’s getting tired of dealing with it as well as the hateful comments that Chris gives her as she blames Ruth for her father leaving them. Barney (Barry Stokes) is the drifter who comes into their lives. Initially it was just for the night, but as he gets to know the two and their inner-dynamics he becomes intrigued as well as sexually attracted to Chris. He and Chris begin a romance, much to the displeasure of Ruth, who wants Barney to herself. Meanwhile there’s a rash of killings that are going-on in the nearby town and Ruth and Chris begin to believe that Barney may be the culprit. 

The film was helmed by renown Spanish director Juan Antonio Bardem and while differing some from the giallos released in Italy this is still considered in high regard by fans of the genre. Bardem’s use of mood and atmosphere are the main selling points. The house, both the one that Ruth and Chris reside in as well as the stately country manor that gets featured during the opening murder, are given strong foreboding presences and the non-stop pounding rain adds an eerie element. 

The gore isn’t quite up to the level of Italian horrors. There’s lots of blood, but the onscreen violence is minimal. There’s also a lot of soft-focused shots of horses galloping and of the beautiful Marisol riding on one until it almost seems like a non-horror film, but there’s enough underlying intrigue to keep it interesting through the slow spots. The climactic stabbing more than makes up for it as it features shots of the blade going directly into the naked flesh of the victim versus done over clothing where the prop knife can more easily be concealed. It also gets done in slow-motion, which makes it look even more horrifying, but in a visually striking sort of way. 

The acting is excellent and includes Seeberg, who was once the darling of the French New Wave during the early 60’s, but by this time had gracefully grown into middle-aged roles, of which she does well though her facial expressions are a bit overdone. Marisol, whose career began as a child singer, is terrific too and in some ways she upstages her co-star with her distinct eyes, which have an hypnotic effect that focuses your attention on her in every scene that she’s in.

Spoiler Alert! 

The twist ending is original though questionable. The reveal of the killer, played by Rudy Gaebel, is a bit mechanical as no explanation is given for what lead police to him, we just see him carted away in hand-cuffs, where having a smoking-gun reason that the viewer could understand would’ve been more satisfying. Having the townspeople celebrate his arrest seemed a bit precipitous as sometimes murderers can still have mistrials, or be deemed not guilty by a jury, so just having some guy nabbed by the authorities doesn’t end things it’s just the beginning especially since police can be known to sometimes arrest the wrong person.

Having pea sprouts grow through the cracks in the tar of the roadway, which causes the road crew to dig up that portion of the highway where they then discover the dead body of Barney, which Ruth and Chris buried there, is a problematic too. First I’m not sure pea sprouts would be a strong enough plant to create such cracks and it would take many years for that to happen. The police wouldn’t necessarily know who buried him as Chris was only seen in public with Barney once by a family that eventually got murdered, so there’s otherwise no direct link between him and the women. Therefore the discovery of  the corpse would not immediately lead to the women’s arrest, as the movie seems to want to imply, if ever. 

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: May 17, 1973

Runtime: 1 Hour 52 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Juan Antonio Bardem

Studio: Ibercine S.A.

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Tubi 

The Manitou (1978)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 0 out of 10

4-Word Review: Tumor on her neck.

Karen (Susan Strasberg) is a middle-aged woman living in San Francisco who begins noticing a lump on the back of her neck that grows at an accelerated rate. She goes to the hospital to have it checked and the doctors there, after analyzing the X-rays, believe it to be a fetus growing within the tumor. Karen’s boyfriend Harry (Tony Curtis) does some research and discovers that the growth is an Indian shaman reincarnated from a past life who’s brought back to take revenge on the white man for driving his people off of their land. When the surgery to remove the tumor goes wrong, Harry summons the help of a modern-day shaman, John Singing Rock (Michael Ansara) to help him get the fetus removed. While John has a strong connection to the spirit world he realizes that the ones he can summon are weak compared to what the spirit who inhabits the growth on Karen’s neck can bring to life.

I’ll give writer-director William Girdler credit, during his brief life and career he directed a lot of movies, 9 of them while still in his 20’s, but the quality of the output was minimal. He did achieve a few cult hits like Sheba, Baby and Abby as well as a couple that did well at the box office, Grizzlybut this one, which came in with a high budget, could be considered his worst. The cast is interesting, though they’re well past their prime, but the plot, which is based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Graham Masterton, is too silly to be taken seriously.

Girdler shows more interest in capturing the San Francisco skyline, of which he does well, and some of the city’s more exotic locales, then spotting continuity errors. One of the most glaring ones is when the surgeon, played by Jon Cedar, who co-wrote the script, severely cuts his hand during the surgery, but then later he’s in a scene where his hands look fine and there’s no bandages on them. There’s also several moments where I was literally laughing-out-loud, like when an old lady, played by Lurene Tuttle, becomes possessed by the Indian spirit and begins dancing around the room and speaking in a deep voice, which looks as silly as it sounds. The seance is laughable too and since these have been parodied so much it’s best not even putting them into any horror movie that hopes to take itself seriously as it’ll just have the viewers-rolling-their eyes from the very beginning.

The main characters are a mess mainly because they don’t have much to do. Curtis plays this phony psychic who does nothing but stand around and watch Ansara do all the work to the extent that Ansara should’ve been the star and Curtis, who’s looking haggard and washed-up here, could’ve been cut-out completely and not missed. Strasberg is boring as the victim. She has this giant growth on her neck that’s expanding rapidly and yet she takes it in a ho-hum, laid-back fashion when anyone else would be stressing-out and going crazy with anxiety. There also should’ve been a specific reason why she got targeted with the tumor instead of just writing it off as a ‘random occurrence’.

The third act picks-up slightly and the birth of the Indian spirit where you see him claw his way out of the womb while still on Strasberg’s neck, is visually impressive from a special effects perspective, but once outside he looks too much like a dwarf in an Indian get-up. Having the entire floor of the hospital turn into a frozen polar zone is cool until you start looking at the ice blocks too closely and realize they’re just styrofoam. The climactic sequence in which a now topless Strasberg battles the Indian spirit using telekinetic powers while seemingly floating in outer space is too stupid for words and cements this as a complete embarrassment for all those involved.

My Rating: 0 out of 10

Released: April 28, 1978

Runtime: 1 Hour 43 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: William Girdler

Studio: AVCO Embassy Pictures

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video, YouTube

Assault (1971)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Schoolgirls attacked by rapist.

One day after school Tessa (Lesley Ann-Down), a teen who attends a local British high school in rural England, decides to cut through the nearby woods as a shortcut on her way home. As she treks through the forest an unseen assailant attacks her, which leaves her in a catatonic state. A few days later, despite the warnings, another female student goes into the woods and is later found murdered. The police inspectors (Frank Finley, James Cosmo) have idea who it could be and are unable to come-up with any leads, which frustrates the local teacher Julie West (Suzy Kendall). She decides it’s up to her to nab the culprit, so she uses herself and some of her students as bait to lure the killer out. She drives into the woods in a station wagon, but then the car gets stuck. While she tries to back it out she gets a glimpse of the perpetrator’s face as he deposits another of his victims, but when she describes to everybody what he looks like, saying he has the face of the devil, everyone thinks she’s gone mad.

This is another one of those British thrillers where in an attempt to gain more interest in the film the studio would release it under different titles. In the US the film was known as ‘In the Devil’s Garden’ to take advantage of the possession craze that was occurring after the release of The Exorcist and then a few years later it got re-released under the title ‘Satan’s Playthings’ and billed as a provocative story with erotic overtones. In either case the plot, which is based on the novel ‘The Ravine’ by Kendal Young, comes-off more like a cop drama/mystery than a horror flick.

That’s not to say it’s bad as director Sidney Hayers throws in some good touches. The attack on the girl is well handled using a hand-held camera that makes it seem unrehearsed and sudden. For a British thriller it’s even kind of racy. Normally films from England are quite timid about showing nudity, blood, or violence, but this thing does push-the-envelope a bit, far more than I was expecting, while still remaining ‘tasteful’ enough not to come under the ire of the British censors. The pounding music score helps create an urgent mood and grabs your attention at the start though it gets overplayed by the end and resembles a score heard on a cop TV-show.

The acting is good, but seeing Down looking so young and appearing much different from what we’re used to seeing her now kinda threw me off as you’d almost think she’s a completely different person. Kendall, who became a British scream queen for all the horror movies and thrillers that she was in, is quite appealing and I loved seeing her in glasses, which gives her a certain sexy look. The male actors are okay, but there’s more of them than are necessary and I think this was only done to create more suspects to choose from though their 70’s haircuts complete with long sideburns gives the film a very dated quality.

I was able to guess who the culprit was with about 20-minutes to go. It’s not that hard to figure out and the film gives-off a few too many clues to the point that it would be hard for someone not to know who it is. The story itself is standard. Not much thrills or chills though the electrocution via a cable that the victim touches while climbing up an electrical tower is admirably realistic and probably the most impressive part of the movie.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: February 11, 1971

Runtime: 1 Hour 31 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Sidney Hayers

Studio: J. Arthur Rank Film Distributors

Available: DVD, Blu-ray

What Became of Jack and Jill? (1972)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Greedy couple learns lesson.

Johnnie (Paul Nicholas) lives with his elderly grandmother Alice (Mona Washbourne). He has no motivation to get a job and hopes that by staying in her good graces he can inherit her small fortune and house when she passes away. Johnnie’s girlfriend Jill (Vanessa Howard) becomes impatient waiting for the old lady to die and hopes to hasten it by hatching a plan with Johnnie where Alice will think that a youth movement has occurred where those under 30 rebel against the older generation, particularly those over 75, by taking them away to prison camps, or killing them outright. Johnnie manipulates Alice into believing that this movement has pegged her as their next victim and even stages a protest outside her home to convince her that they’re coming for her. Succumbed with fear Alice drops over with a heart attack, and the couple believe they now can get their hands on her money, but at the reading of her will they find that Alice has placed a stipulation that they weren’t expecting.

The filmed was produced by Amicus Productions, which was a British film studio that specialized in horror movies, mainly those of the Gothic variety. To keep up with changing tastes they decided to dabble in the grindhouse genre and picked this story, which was based on a novel called ‘The Ruthless Ones’ by Laurence Moody, as their first venture. They were so impressed with Vanessa Howard’s creepy performance in Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny and Girly that they signed her on as the star hoping to make her their next ‘scream queen’. Howard, who was upset at how the previous film she was in fell into obscurity, that she was happy to take on a new project that would be financed by a well know studio, which she felt would guarantee that the picture would receive strong box office appeal. Unfortunately, once the project was finished Amicus studio heads were aghast at the dark subject matter and decided not to release it causing this movie to become as obscure as Howard’s other one, which in-turn disillusioned her wit the business and causing her to retire.

The story does have its share of faults. There’s no explanation for what happened to Johnnie’s parents, or what their take is on his living situation. His ability to fool the grandmother into believing such an outrageous conspiracy theory happens too easily and is hard to believe, but the dark story elements, despite the slow pace, still holds adequate intrigue. A lot of credit goes to the performances. Howard is quite nasty, but in a different way than she was in her other movie where she behaved like she was in a trance, but here is knowingly devious while also shockingly callous. Washbourne is also terrific causing you to gain sympathy for her character and what she goes through.

The twist is good, but not a complete surprise and it takes too long to get there. My biggest gripe is that once the story shifts it doesn’t explore enough of the wrinkles that it creates. There’s a whole array of different plot threads it could’ve taken, but instead settles for the most obvious one culminating in a climax that peters itself out instead of inviting in even more twists and characters to it.

Spoiler Alert!

The stabbing scene is problematic in that the victim clothes get stained with blood, but there’s no rip in the clothing to represent where the knife was able to get through. A person can’t bleed unless a sharp object touches their skin and for that to happen it needs to be able to cut through the fabric on top of it, so to have a shot where the victim is ‘bleeding’ into their clothing, but clothing itself  isn’t ripped is illogical. Also, having the police continue to stand outside the home and politely knock on the door to be let in, after they become aware of what Johnnie has done, while he remains inside refusing to open it, got overdone. At some point the police are going to have to break down the door if the suspect refuses to come out and this should’ve been shown.

End of Spoiler Alert!

Overall I still enjoyed it especially the music played over the opening and closing credits and during the club scenes. I don’t know what the name of the band was, but it has a great punk band-like sound that’s distinct and hard edged. If the movie itself won’t get the proper Blu-ray release that it deserves then the soundtrack at least should.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: June 16, 1972

Runtime: 1 Hour 33 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Bill Bain

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: None

Pandemonium (1982)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Who killed the cheerleaders?

In 1963 the town of It Had To Be, Indiana wins the state football championship, but then after the game the cheerleaders turn up dead having been killed by a javelin that manages to slice through all five of them at the same time. This causes the summer cheerleading camp to be closed down, but then 19 years later, it gets reopened. The camp is run by Bambi (Candice Azzara) who had been the only cheerleader not killed during the infamous incident. Now everyone is telling her not to reopen insisting that the place is cursed, but she does so anyway and then the killings start back-up.

This was yet another attempt at parody of the modern-day horror/slasher film, but done in the style of Airplane, which has a gag occurring almost every second. I’m not opposed to horror comedies, and even hardcore horror fans can sometimes enjoy them, as long as they’re structured inside a conventional horror plot like with Scream that mixed the laughs with genuine scares. This film though hired Richard Whitley, who appears briefly along with co-writer Jaime Barton Klein as customers during a restaurant scene, who is best known for penning Rock ‘N’ Roll High School and he approaches the material the same way as that one by throwing in any lame bit of humor that he can whether it works with the story, or connects with a horror element, or not, The result is hit-or-miss with the majority of it being quite stupid and only a few of the jokes managing to land.

The funniest bits are the deaths themselves. The 5 cheerleaders that get turned into a massive shesh-ka-bob and having to be carted away together on this long stretcher is actually kind of cool. The drowning of one victim in a bathtub filled with milk and cookies as well as the killing of another who was obsessed with brushing her teeth, so when the killer stabs her instead of blood coming out it’s toothpaste are good too. Judge Reinhold, who sports a blonde wig here, has an amusing death where a bomb explodes causing him to fly so high into the air that he manages to bump into a Japanese jet and then begs through the airplane window to be let in. The only problem is that due to the high altitude the temperatures would’ve been freezing and therefore Reinhold’s face should’ve been covered with frost.

There are a high number of familiar faces in small roles, so there’s some enjoyment in that especially since the actors give good performances despite the subpar material. The casting of the teenagers though is problematic in that the actors who played them were well past adolescence. This includes Candice Azzara, who has a funny bit where she makes fun of her Brooklyn accent, who was already 37 at the time and Tab Hunter playing the hunky star quarterback even though he was literally 50 though to his credit he still looked young enough to almost pull it off.

Though not listed as the star Carol Kane pretty much becomes the main character having just gotten done starring in a legitimate horror film, When a Stranger Calls, two years before. I found her character’s ability to attain psychic powers after she starts taking birth control pills to be amusing though she does speak with a weird accent here. Tom Smothers is the one who gets top billing despite being the most boring person in it. Having him dressed as a Canadian Mountie is over-the-top and reminiscent of the cartoon character Dudly-Do-Right. He fails to have anything funny to say or do and gets routinely upstaged by side-kick Paul Reubens, who was pre-Pee-Wee Herman at this time, but still quite amusing.

The title of the film was initially going to be ‘Thursday the 12th’, but when production wrapped it was found that another horror parody was being made called Saturday the 14th, so the title was changed to this one, though I would’ve stuck with the original as this movie, as lame as it is, is still to superior to the other one, which was rock bottom. 6 years later another movie from Australia came out called Pandemonium that was a fantasy/horror and received pretty much the same type of negative reviews as this one.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: April 2, 1982

Runtime: 1 Hour 17 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Alfred Sole

Studio: United Artists

Available: Blu-ray

Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny & Girly (1970)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Family plays weird games.

Sonny (Howard Trevor) and Girly (Vanessa Howard) are brother and sister who live with their mother (Ursala Howells) and nanny (Pat Heywood) in a large stately mansion in rural England. Despite both being adolescents they still sleep in cribs and behave as if they’re only 5. They enjoy playing what they call ‘The Game’, which is bringing home strangers, usually homeless men that they’ve met at a park, and forcing them to dress in a schoolboy’s outfit and compelled to behave like a child. If they refuse they are then ‘sent to the angels’.

The film was a product of famed British cinematographer Freddie Francis who wanted to make a movie inside the Oakley Court, which is a castle built in 1859 that overlooks the River Thames. He commissioned his friend Brian Comport to write the screenplay with the only condition being that the action had to take place on the Oakley Court property. Comport decided to revolve the plot around a play called ‘Happy Family’ written by Maisie Mosco, which dealt with a family that got involved with role playing games. Both Francis and Comport disliked the play, but were intrigued with the concept and decided to turn it into the genesis for a horror movie.

The film can best be described as experimental and has an intriguing quality to it, which holds your interest for the first 30-minutes, or so. One of the best elements is the alluring performance of Vanessa Howard, who’s able to mix her beauty with that of an evil mischievous nature. In fact the entire cast does an exceptionally fine job despite the material not offering much in the way of characterizations. The cast gives off an energetic zeal that keeps you compelled even as very little else happens. I kept thinking how sad it was that these actors put so much effort into a movie that fell into obscurity almost right away and this it turns out was the very reason why Howard left the profession just a few years later.

Outside of the acting there’s little else to recommend as the flimsy plot gets stretched far more than it should. There’s also no normal character that the viewer can relate to. Initially I thought it would be Michael Bryant, who plays a middle-aged male prostitute that they bring back to their place as one of their ‘new friends’, but he ends up behaving almost as weirdly as the rest. There should’ve been some outside force that intervened like a police inspector that would come to the castle to investigate the disappearance of one of the prostitute’s female clients, played by Imogen Hassall, that he and the two teens kill when they push her off a slide, which could’ve added tension and nuance that is otherwise lacking.

The film is also too skittish with the shocks. It’s supposed to be a horror movie, but there’s barely anything in it that’s all that disturbing. Sure, it does imply some dark things, but it doesn’t show any of it. The victims die too easily to the point that the death scenes aren’t any fun to watch. The part where a woman falls from a children’s slide at a playground and dies instantly is ridiculous as it wasn’t a high enough for the fall to have been fatal.  Another scene is the discovery of a severed head inside a boiling pot of water, but it never  gets shown, which comes-off as a total cop-out. I realize this was made in the 60’s in England where the culture was quite prudish to gore and violence, hence the creation of the infamous ‘video nasties’, which was a list of banned horror movies that came out about a decade later, but if you’re going to create a story that is dark and edgy, such as this one, then you should have the balls to push-the-envelope in order to give it a payoff, which this thing is ultimately devoid of.

Alternate Title: Girly

Released: February 12, 1970

Runtime: 1 Hour 47 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Freddie Francis

Studio: Cinerama Releasing Corporations

Available: DVD, Amazon Video

The Toolbox Murders (1978)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Handyman targets female tenants.

A man, haunted by memories of the death of his young daughter in a car accident years earlier, begins systematically killing-off women residing in an apartment complex who he believes are living sinful lifestyles. Laurie (Pamelyn Ferdin) is a teen who lives in the same complex just a few doors down from where the murders occurred. One evening while alone the killer sneaks into her place and kidnaps her. Since she resembles his deceased daughter he does not kill her, but instead ties her up to a bed where he talks to her as if she’s his daughter come back to life. As she remains imprisoned her brother Joey (Nicolas Beauvy), unhappy with the sloppy job done by the police, decides to do the investigating of his own with the help of Kent (Wesley Eure) who’s he nephew of Vance (Cameron Mitchell) who owns the building where the murders have been happening. Joey unearths clues, which leads him to believe he knows who’s responsible, but finds opposition in Kent, who wants to block him from finding out who the culprit is.

This film was just about the final word in graphic exploitation fare that permeated the era where every horror film competes to see how they could be gorier and more explicit than the others. This one is unusual in that it starts out right away with the killings, but then during the second and third act it slows way down and becomes a talk-feast with very little gore at all. I did though find it interesting where instead of intense, creepy music that usually gets played when a killer stalks his victim we instead hear laid-back country songs, which would’ve been even more inspired had they not all been by the same artist.

The identity of the killer is given away early, which is also different from other slashers that try to keep it a secret until the end. In a lot ways this makes it less intriguing though Mitchell’s performance still keeps it interesting. What I didn’t like was the stupid police inspector, which is poorly played by Tim Donnelly who was the brother of the film’s director, and his inept ability to figure out who the killer might be even though the viewer and other characters catch-on very quickly. I know some policemen aren’t always the smartest, but even the dumbest would’ve been able to pick up on the obvious clues that this one unbelievably overlooks.

The fact that none of the women scream, at least not during the first act, was rather bizarre especially when one of them (Evelyn Guerrero) walks into the crime scene sees her friend (Marciee Drake) lies in a bloody mess, but she doesn’t respond in a shocked way and just stares as if gazing at a picture on the wall. Having the police interview the neighbors directly over the nude, dead bodies of the victims, was a bit ridiculous too as the victims in most any other crime scene would’ve been covered in a blanket and taken away to a coroner and the scene secured before anyone else could be let in that could potentially tamper with the evidence.

The biggest thing that bugged me was that it’s never shown how the killer is able to so easily get into the apartments. I realize it’s because he has a master key, but that actually needs to be shown with a shot of a key going into the lock. The film though never does this, so instead we just see the door knob turning like these people have been dumb enough to leave their doors unlocked even as a killer lurks about.

The performances are the one thing that holds it together. I especially liked Ferdin and the genuine look of fright in her eyes and tears rolling down her face as she’s been held hostage. Her sincere expression of terror connects with the viewer and makes them even more concerned for her welfare. I’m also friends with her on Facebook and she’s posted about the final scene where she’s wandering around a parking lot barefoot and in her nighty, which was apparently shot in cold temperatures, so having her dressed like that in such freezing conditions and remain professional is commendable too. It’s also entertaining seeing Wesley Eure, best known for his work in the TV-show ‘Land of the Lost’, playing a psycho, of which he’s surprisingly effective.

While the denouncement states that this was based on actual events it really wasn’t. It was loosely inspired by some cases of serial killers using tools to kill their victims, but the characters and overall scenario was largely made-up. The story was remade in 2004, but much of the violence and explicitness of this one was taken-out and toned down while also making major changes to the plot.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: March 3, 1978

Runtime: 1 Hour 34 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Dennis Donnelly

Studio: Cal-Am Productions

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video, Tubi, YouTube

Victims (1982)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Reviews: Haunted by childhood memories.

Paul (Tony Vorno) is plagued by inner-demons including voices and repressed childhood memories that cause him to go through life having violent outbursts, which he mainly takes out on various women both prostitutes and those he meets at random. He goes to Dr. Russo (Jerome Guardino) who specializes in hyno therapy in hopes that if put under hypnosis his rages can be controlled. As the Dr. analyzes Paul’s case, both he and his assistant Marian (Lenore Stevens), find that Paul’s difficult childhood where he was raised by a prostitute mother (Lois Adams) and witnessed the abuse she took from her violent pimp may be what’s causing Paul’s psychological torment now.

This film, which was written and directed by the lead actor who made a career of either directing, producing, or acting in exploitative films all through the 60’s and 70’s, was made in 1976, but languished in obscurity for years only to finally be given a video release 6 years later. Recently the film has acquired a cult following mainly because of the similarities with that of Maniacwhich starred Joe Spinell. That movie was structured as a conventional slasher/horror while this one is more of a drama where the rapist is portrayed as someone to sympathize with due his psychological scars that he can’t seem to overcome.

The movie though lacks the violence and gore one has come to expect with these types of films. The sexual assaults happen too quickly, many times last only a few seconds, or sometimes are created to be false flags that done’t lead anywhere including the time Paul stalks a young child, which you think is because he wants to attack her, but instead it’s to save her from a speeding car. While the film turns out to be much less exploitative then it originally sounds, it’s also frustrating as very little happens and the set-ups don’t manifest into any type of shocks, or scares. You start to wonder if there is going to be any pay-off to it especially with the grainy looking production that is quite cheap and amateurish otherwise.

The scenes dealing with Paul’s childhood memories don’t work because we never see the child, only his point-of-view, and includes Vorno speaking in a child’s voice off-camera, which isn’t convincing and kind of pathetic. To get the full intended impact  a child’s innocent face gazing at the horrors around him needed to be seen. Even if it meant splicing in shots of  a child’s face later, so the young performer wouldn’t have to have been on the set to witness the adult dialogue and action, would’ve worked, but either way the visual is the thing that propels movies and needs to be implemented and not compromised as much as possible.

The film’s final few minutes are disturbing and almost makes sitting through the rest of it worth it, but this could still be tough going for viewers expecting a conventional horror flick, which this isn’t. The flashbacks seen at the beginning, which gives away what happens at the end, weren’t needed and hurts the climactic effect though it still remains a dark and ugly journey nonetheless.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: July, 1982 (Video Release Only)

Runtime: 1 Hour 22 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Tony Vorno

Studio: Paulie Productions

Available: None

Deadly Games (1982)

deadly games2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Who killed her sister?

Clarissa (Jo Ann Harris) travels to where her younger sister Linda (Alexandra Lawrence) lived before she was inexplicably murdered inside her home by a masked intruder. Clarissa hopes to help with the investigation, but finds herself initially at odds with the lead investigator Roger (Sam Groom) though the two eventually become romantic partners. Clarissa begins to suspect that Billy (Steve Railsback), an eccentric loner who manages the nearby theater, may be the culprit. Billy and Roger are longtime friends from their Vietnam days and regularly hang-out in the basement of the theater to play a board game. Clarissa tries to devise a way find out if Billy really is the killer, or if it might actually be Roger.

The most shocking thing about this would-be slasher obscurity is just how lame and uneventful it really is. The film starts out right away with a killing, which is poorly lit and the viewer can’t really see what’s going-on, and then proceeds for the next hour and a half to have a bunch of lightly dramatic moments that aren’t scary, or intense at all. Clarissa seems to be not upset about her sister’s passing and spends most of the time worrying more about getting together with old friends, or her dating life. She lives in her sister’s old house while openly stating that she’s not afraid to be there, which lessens the tension. If the protagonist has no concerns about if there’s a bad guy lurking about then why should the viewer?

There’s way too many scenes, like watching the group of friends take part in a backyard football game, or having Clarissa, Roger, and Billy watching an old movie together, that doesn’t propel the plot along in any way nor have much to do with the main story. There’s even a sappy song that gets played during the middle part that has absolutely no place in a horror movie, or any other film for that matter.

I also didn’t get where all of the ‘in-jokes’ were, which Leonard Maltin states in his review comes at you ‘fast and furious’. I came away feeling that this was yet another example where he, or whoever wrote the review for him, was seeing a completely different film altogether. In fact the only thing that is truly deadly here isn’t the ‘games’, but just the movie itself.

Spoiler Alert!

The twist ending is a big letdown as the killer turns out to be Roger, but since he acts so strangely all the way through even entering young women’s apartments and homes unannounced that makes him seem like a genuine creeper, this revelation comes as no ultimate surprise.

Maltin states that the final plot explanation is ‘really stupid’ and reviewers at IMDb say essentially the same thing. It ends with Clarissa killing Roger, who she thinks is Billy until she takes the mask off of him. She then goes back into the theater where Billy shouts our from somewhere that Roger was his best friend and he was now going to avenge his death. He then seems to fly out of nowhere towards Clarissa. I took it that he was hanging onto some sort of prop rope, which they do have in theaters, but it also looked like he was intended to be some sort of ghost that was literally floating towards her and this is what viewers felt was stupid. I don’t know as it’s not clear either way. What I did find frustrating is that the film freezes with Billy coming towards Clarissa and then cuts to the credits, so we never see what happens. Did he kill Clarissa, or did she fight him off? Either way this is the type of thing that needs to be shown, so for it to cut away when it finally gets exciting is ridiculous and if this is what they meant as being ‘stupid’ then I wholeheartedly agree.

End of Spoiler Alert!

The movie really deserves 0 points, but the one thing I did like was the music score. So many other slasher films from that era tried to replicate the score in Halloweenor Friday the 13thbut this one doesn’t sound like either of those. It’s has an acoustic quality that is quiet and subtle yet still effectively creepy. It’s the coolest thing about the movie especially as it gets played over the closing credits, but this production is otherwise so inept that you justifiably might not make it that far.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: March 5, 1982

Runtime: 1 Hour 28 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Scott Mansfield

Studio: Great Plains Films

Available: VHS