Let’s be clear right off the bat – this new North American remake of the classic Shonen Jump manga story was never going to hold up to the brilliant artistry found in the 2006 to 2007 anime series. It was therefore important to recognize this; go in with an open mind about getting a new take on decade old material. The original live-action Death Note films stayed relatively true to their origin story (except for L: Save the World which was a prequel). After years of development hell and limbo, it took Netflix to finally come through granting the necessary green light (funding) to a project by horror genre veteran Adam Wingard (V/H/S, You’re Next).
With the immediate success of the ground-breaking 1984 horror film, A Nightmare on Elm Street, it was not long before parent company New Line Cinema immediately began plans for a sequel. While they may have been the parent company, the father of Freddy-fright himself, the late legendary writer/director Wes Craven, chose not to participate in the production after reading the script by David Chaskin. The directing reins fell to Jack Sholder (Alone in the Dark, Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies) who brought about an ambiguous approach to the narrative. Rushed into production and opening on November 1, 1985, on an estimated budget of only $3 million, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge was met with mixed to negative reviews despite the mass blitz of hype going into it, including the famous FANGORIA Magazine 50th Issue cover.
After a total of eight films built out of the godfather franchise that gave birth to the survival horror video game, was it possible that this ninth, but subsequently third of the animated series portion, hit the jackpot? Having a limited one night only theatrical engagement, the new Resident Evil: Vendetta ran in select theatres nationwide on Monday, June 19th 2017. It is safe to say that if you felt the concluding entry in the live-action portion of the Capcom franchise, last winter’s Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, was probably best left unwritten and unproduced, this new animated film was everything that a Resident Evil film should have been from the start and more.
It’s happening again
That gum we liked was going to come back in style. After three years of patience, television audiences and specifically, dedicated die-hard fans of Twin Peaks got their wish on the evening of Sunday, May 21, 2017. The series that last aired 27 years ago and was resurrected by original co-creators David Lynch (Mulholland Drive and Blue Velvet) and Mark Frost (Hill Street Blues) is back. Shrouded in secrecy, in a world full of advance spoilers, it already began to set a new benchmark that protecting your vision is still possible; thanks to a broadcast company like Showtime being amazingly supportive and keen with their marketing, and the loyal fans who wished nothing more than to discover the mystery on their own.
Spotlight on Chandler Riggs: Why this direct-to-DVD King Adaptation of MERCY is worth the watch
It’s hard being a child actor in the entertainment industry no doubt and surely harder to be a good one. With Nickelodeon and Disney Channel programming, many child actors get stereotyped into one clichéd image or another. Children characters are often all the more annoying and whether watching as a child, a teenager, or an adult, you can’t help but shake your head in frustration. You have your rare gems among the bunch and, with specific view on the horror genre, only one name stands out: Danielle Harris. She entered the scene with a top billed spot in Halloween 4 and 5; solidifying her status as a future scream queen and showing that not all children are depicted as bratty or cookie-cutter fodder.
While the horror genre has continued to wander in and out of our theaters, and Netflix streams, there have been very few lately that have the ability to leave any sort of mark for its fan base. Independent horror has seen a devoted increase over the last several years with many new filmmakers entering the scene if only for their film to be shown at one or two festivals. Zombie television is okay and possession scares on the big screen can grow old, but to take conventions from fifty years of horror thrillers that we love – I Saw What You Did And Know Who You Are, Black Christmas, When a Stranger Calls, Scream and Saw – and tie their principle elements (and best ones) into one recycled premise well then you have Don’t Hang Up.
Recycled as it may be, the film’s plot is actually refreshing; taking the simplicities of some of these earlier films, and working them into a pseudo-2017 era. With a limited theatrical run, but available on iTunes for rental or purchase, Don’t Hang Up has brought back something missing from genre fare. It has turned those horror clichés upside down and even succeeds in making the home phone, cell phone, computers, and our reliance on internet and Wi-Fi scary again! I can’t remember the last time a horror film was able to utilize all those things, even making a Smart TV scary when it turns on and off, while furthering the plot and enhancing the tension. In fact, the oldest trick, or should I say prank, in the book is turning the lights out. You think the dark can’t be scary anymore? It can always be scary especially in your own home. This film actually succeeded in drawing the viewer into it, laying the framework for your mind to start trying to figure out who the murderer is and how the characters actions influence their fates.
Keep reading after the trailer
Everybody has done pranks, phone calls, or other nasty jokes that ultimately ends up getting them in trouble one way or another. Enter our two main characters: Sam Fuller (Gregg Sulkin, Anti-Social) and Brady Mannion (Garrett Clayton, King Cobra, Hairspray Live – talk about diversity of roles! A future Zac Efron perhaps?); these two college frat pranksters are having the time of their lives along with their other two buddies in causing fear among many an unsuspecting victim. Running a successful feed of YouTube videos, these boys are drawing viewers in by the masses by preying on the fear they temporarily instill upon both guys and girls. While the film runs the risk of alienating the characters and making them unsympathetic, especially Clayton’s Brady, it takes enough time to show that Sam actually has feelings and dealing with relationship troubles with his girlfriend Peyton (Bella Dayne, The Goldbergs, Person of Interest) and even the absence of his parents. But it is the biggest dick of them all, Brady, who has the most baggage that is likely causing his behavior, when we learn of his lack of parental attention, failing grades, and wanting to escape it all by proving he can be something more to his parents by joining the Army. No sooner are they back in the prank calling action while chugging beer and munching down pizza when it is Sam’s phone that rings with an ominous male voice that has decided he’s going to turn the tides on them. If you think it is Scream all over again, you’re wrong, this guy literally toys with these guys – with that toying turning to torture once he reveals just how close he is to them, friends, and family. The fact that this film right away tosses the virginal-girl-in-trouble protagonist out the window and gives us two guys that are suddenly stripped of their egotistical masculinity, and made vulnerable, is grounds for immediate applause to Screenwriter Joe Johnson and the Directorial Duo of Damien Macé and Alexis Wajsbrot.
After the opening credits, one still has to wonder what they can expect from the acting especially when you have the fratboy, college nuances blatantly overacted at almost every turn. Turn it does though by fifteen minutes into the film, with Sulkin giving his most over to the part and finding that internal innocence that has now being violated. Despite the asshole that you do love to hate in Brady, Clayton’s teary puppy dog eyes when the character is at his most emotionally unstable, can’t NOT garner a bit of sympathy that yearns to help him and his friend out of this dire situation. That is yet another great thing about the film that it can warrant that type of response from the viewer where even though you know the guys deserve a good kick-in-the-ass and scare, the extremes they are put in now bring the fundamentals of their very humanity to the surface.
The cinematography is phenomenal, especially given the limited resume of the Directors, and the shots used immediately set the tone, environment, and pace; bringing us up close and personal in times of trauma for our characters, and far away for shots that make even the bravest viewer squirm not knowing where the killer is lurking. Sometimes with an independent production, certain values are compromised whether it is picture or sound but both are clean and crisp; the contrasts appropriate for the murky atmosphere that envelopes over the course of the film and the sounds from creaking floors and moving doors provide enough additional tension to keep an eye over your own shoulder.
Just when I thought that I knew what was going to happen, the film took a turn and gave me something more than I bargained for. Without spoiling it, I will say that even the experienced horror fan that could likely put the pieces together, won’t totally be sure until the final reveal and even small things, nothing original by any means, are placed just right where you are still clinging to the seat with your eyes locked onto the screen.
It is too bad that the film was not able to get a wide release, because it is exactly what the horror genre needs more of. It brings back the heyday of horror happenings. The tension is there. The horror is there. The blood is even most certainly there. There is no skimping on the carnage suffered by the victims or even the protagonists for that matter.
Lastly, it was a bonus to see Sienna Guillory (Resident Evil: Retribution) in the cast, with her part having an extremely vital role in establishing the storyline and more specifically, what the viewer and our characters are about to endure. It is with great pleasure that I say don’t skip it because when a genre entry like this comes calling, you don’t hang up!
February 2001 marked the start into a new venture of horror for me.
The Scream franchise had concluded, Hall8ween: Homecoming (now Resurrection) was in development, Jason X was in limbo and no Elm Street entry anywhere in sight despite the Freddy vs. Jason rumors. But it was the likes of movies such as Cherry Falls which brought my young horror mind to the deeply vast multitude of slashers that were out there. I loved slashers and was familiar with the 80s boom but DVD was still new at the time and VHS were beginning to be sold off the rental shelves. This was where the magic happened as Jumbo Video (Dundurn) in Hamilton, Ontario began selling off previously viewed VHS. I must have spent almost an hour rooting through and there it was, calling out to me, Slumber Party Massacre 3. The rich red font with the picture of a drill coming down over three scantily-clad girls, and this yellow ribbon stating “UNRATED” felt like I was holding a piece of forgotten horror history. If that wasn’t enough, the VHS cover art quoted Joe Bob Briggs with such lines as “Nine breasts. Ten dead bodies.” That right there is an absolute classic! Modern horror just wasn’t cutting it when gratuitous gore-fests (relatively speaking) like this exist. It’s this reason alone that Slumber Party Massacre 3 will stand above all other 80s/90s B-Horror (even Popcorn) and the other two entries in the franchise.
The first driller killer kill of my life
The film starts with Jackie (Keely Christian), Diane (Brandi Burkett) and their friends playing volleyball on the California beach. When was the murder going to begin? Was there going to be a plot and if so, did it tie into the two that I had not seen? All this didn’t matter because then this random guy (Yan Birch), with a mysterious expression, walks up to them and this weird, off-kilter beat on the soundtrack plays. Weird! (Probably hence his “Weirdo” screen credit). They finish their game and set up plans for the rest of the day. One girl walks alone, gets into her car and there it is….the first driller killer kill of my life! Right through the car seat, grinding and thrusting – ah yes, the drill thrusting; clueing into the fact the drill was meant as a visual metaphor. I didn’t openly think this though or really care too much, but many critics of this franchise have. It’s a film for God’s sake, get over it.
The slumber party gets underway, with Jackie running into the neighbor, Morgan (M.K. Harris) who portrays one of the most interesting characters in the film and another red herring as a possible suspect. All the girls come over and do their girl things — and honestly, as a teenager, I didn’t know any different — maybe girls didn’t go to the bra and panties extent in real life sleepovers — with guys dropping by to be goofs and hook up. The weirdo even sneaks around, and we are never told why this guy wants to lurk; he was surely up to no good. You could assume he just had a paraphilia touch for voyeurism and was hoping to see action.
Keep reading after the trailer
If you need a spoiler alert for a movie released in 1990, here it is: SPOILER ALERT
As they get picked off, one by one, I was trying to figure out who the killer was. I love any slasher that has you guessing. After repeated viewings, I definitely picked up on the clues including the photograph shown during the opening credits. Proverbial horror-film handsome hunk, Ken (Brittain Frye), is revealed as the murderer as the climax ensues.
This is where the standard B-Horror movie fare really takes a turn to the dark side, and while a casual viewing will have the fan laughing and enjoying, a deeply thorough look shows the true darkness behind Ken’s killing spree: his retired Uncle from the Police Force is killed and this sets Ken off on a killing spree to honor his Uncle. Sound lame? Not exactly. When Ken was just a little boy, he had too much of a bond with his Uncle — not by his own choice — the film shows his memory as P.O.V. flashbacks to his Uncle getting awfully close. So I think you get the idea of the type of abuse that was going on here. Further evidence of the abuse and lingering shame felt by Ken is shown when he hooks up with a girl, and later in the most controversial and borderline rape/kill scene, with Maria (Maria Ford). As soon as physical touch is made, Ken withdraws in shame. Any stalker/slasher usually is thrown into a psycho-sexual troubled category but to go this route I thought was awfully daring.
The violence amps up with the girls getting beaten around, and drilled excessively — with the weapon I mean — and it falls to Jackie, Diane and Susie (Maria Claire) to take down their attacker. These girls aren’t stupid either despite the occasional opportunity to run out the door (before Ken locks it), and actually use the volleyball net and house accessories to trap Ken. The volleyball net and therefore, the scene itself, actually foreshadowed to what would help the girls! Brilliant. Ken gets one more kill before Jackie goes to town prior to the cops showing up (thanks to Morgan); clearly psychologically scarred, Jackie drills the ever loving shit out of Ken where there is no coming back for a fourth entry in the series. These closing moments, and the sheer blood splatter alone, left me in awe and loving every second of it.
A financial success
Shot on a low budget of $350,000 from New Horizons/New Concorde, produced by the legendary Roger Corman, directed by Sally Mattison and written by Catherine Cyran, Slumber Party Massacre 3 wasn’t even meant to be a part three but just another film hence why the original storyline following sisters Valerie and Courtney was discarded. The film had a theatrical release in 1990 earning back four times its budget! Not too bad if I do say. The VHS was released in both Rated R and Unrated versions (I scored the latter), and then later as the Massacre Collection, released on DVD. Interestingly, fans rejoiced because seven additional minutes over and above the previous unrated edition were added — making it a true-to-form ultimate cut which adds further character development and humanizes the girls even more so that the viewer cares for them. Outlets like Media Play or Suncoast were the only places to find these DVDs and thank God for that. Now with the help of Shout! Factory and most recently, their sub-labelled Scream Factory, all three Slumber Party Massacre films are available in HD and in all theatrical, unrated, and unrated/extended forms.
The horror franchise fanbase also continues to grow and I am proudly one of them; websites such as www.hockstatter.com led by Tony Brown, pays homage to the series and their sister series Sorority House Massacre. In 2003, I was even on the hunt to find Slumber Party IV, and I eventually did, as it was known then as Cheerleader Massacre. Didn’t have any real resemblance to the rest of the series but with the inclusion of original SPM star, Brinke Stevens, I keep this fondly in my VHS collection. Speaking of Sorority House Massacre, SPM3 was shot just after SHM2 including the use of the same house set and later, the use of screenshots from SHM2 used on the back of the SPM3 VHS and DVD cover art. Imagine that!? Certainly threw me even back when I first got that VHS wondering what these images were actually from. Mystery revealed the more I educated myself and SHM2 kept eluding me until a few years later when I got a copy and voila, there were the scenes. Those errors aside, I say that Slumber Party Massacre 3 remains the best in the series, of all the Slumber Party and Sorority House Massacres out there, with its portrayal of strong female characters, better-than-average dialogue, obligatory red herrings and low budget gore (better than CGI any day).
I will never get rid of my VHS, DVD or Blu-Rays, and I encourage any horror fan that has not seen the series, let alone this entry, to go find the Driller Killer before the Driller Killers finds you.