I’m a goddamn sucker for single room movies. I know some people hate them, and I completely understand why, but for me I buy in every time. The suspense is built without even really having to doing anything; just knowing you will be experiencing an entire ninety minute movie while the characters are confined to one single space gives me a semi-chub.
Cube is a mind-fuck of a movie
Now like I said, there are a lot of haters out there who hate this form of movie. So I’m going to split the difference with you today. CUBE isn’t exactly a single room film. Hell, I don’t even know if it’s quite a horror film. What it is, is a sick and tormenting, mind-fuck of a movie that is just as complex as it is simple. Seven strangers from all walks of life, wake up in a giant size, pseudo-Rubik’s Cube in which every identical room inside said CUBE wants to kill you.
The characters go through a Lord of the Flies-type experience. First learning about each other, then doing their best to govern themselves, until chaos ensues. The limited knowledge given for each person is just enough to keep them interesting yet never revealing more than we really need to know.
This movie actually doesn’t spell much out for you at all. You’re left to your own conclusions basically from the get-go. Which makes following along easy for an idiot like me! It keeps that eerie feeling of wondering who, what, when, where and why is this all happening — without ever really figuring it out.
For whatever reason, this movie isn’t nearly as popular as it should be. Its twenty years old but there is nothing in it which dates it or cheapens it at all. Which is even more surprising seeing as this is a Canadian made film. And being a Canuck myself I can tell you, and this may be a controversial opinion, but a lot of small budget, Canadian made film or TV projects are simply terrible.
I understand all the reasoning why we, north of the border, may not have the production quality of those in the USA but that may also be what gives this kind of Canadian movie its true “charm.” My two favorite shows in the world are Canadian made, super low budget, yet ultra-funny and creative (Kenny vs. Spenny and The Trailer Park Boys).
Much like those two shows, CUBE embraces its flaws while highlighting its strengths. So that might be why I have such a fascination with this badboy and choose to disregard some of the horrendous acting. It’s more or less a single room thriller, made on a super tight budget with tons of creativity, fun kills, great visuals and an even better mystery. It stands out because there isn’t a lot like it floating around.
So do yourself a favor: if you’re sick of reboots, super hero movies or cheeseball comedies then give CUBE a watch. It’s not full of gore or jump scares so your girlfriend will give it a chance too.
If you made it this far in my article then you obviously have a gift for making it through cheap Canadian content. But this movie is a perfect example that low-budget does not always have to mean low-quality.
Fear, paranoia, suspicion, desperation are all found within the six sides of this CUBE.
If you pay attention to what’s going on in horror through social media, chances are you’ve bumped into Serial Killer Shop, a fashion and lifestyle brand that sells T-shirts, hats, magnets and more. In fact, like 40oz. Of Horror, you might be one of their 27,000 Instagram followers.
I finally got around to adding a couple Serial Killer Shop T-shirts to my collection, and I’m glad I did. I say “collection” because I don’t just have T-shirts for wearing — I do, in fact, collect them. Luckily for me, my job is casual, and I sport a printed tee, primarily band-, alcohol- or horror-related, nearly every day.
I opted for the Freddy Krueger “Don’t Fall Asleep” and Patrick Bateman “Hey Paul” T-shirts. The first thing I noticed is the high-quality print job. The crisp graphics and the vibrant colors definitely meet and exceed my standards as a connoisseur of the pop culture T-shirt. In my experience, fit and comfort are generally something that only comes with the softening of a vintage tee — the kind you’d get from your dad as a hand-me-down. But right off the rack, Serial Killer Shop T-shirts have a great fit and feel.
Bottom line: These tees are 40oz. Of Horror approved. I know what I’m wearing to the next horror convention.
Scroll through the 40oz. Of Horror gallery on Instagram to see more pics.
A regular go-to, show-any-friend-who-hasn’t-seen-much-horror, watches-a-couple-times-a-year movie that I constantly find myself going back too, is arguably one of the most realistic non-fiction movies in the genre. It is a movie that gets under your skin on such a humanely realistic level that no one, anywhere, can say they haven’t thought of the situation happening to them. I’m not talking about the monster under your bed, but more that strange sound you hear in your closet. That fear of looking out your bedroom window and seeing someone looking back. This movie reflects that all too real vibe of being watched but too scared to look and actually see but what happens when you do.
This all goes back to why your Mom told you to never talk to THE STRANGERS.
Keep reading after the trailer
From the opening prologue that teaches you about the “real life” couple that was subjected to this madness thus inspiring the film, I’m always hooked. With only a little backstory, this movie wastes little time in its quest to unnerve you. The rare art of having little to no background music forces you to sit and marinate in all the dialogue, noises and dread shared between the characters. A tactic often used poorly, but when correct, brings a sense of urgency and suspense to a scene.
I’m going to do my best to not spoil anything, although this movie is not one to overthink. It has an incredibly basic plot of having your home (that personal feeling of your safe place) invaded by people that you have no connection with. This invasion is random – an act with no rhyme or reason other than to hurt and scare.
These strangers aren’t just out for blood. They seem to want to scare you much deeper than any wound can. It is much like how my love for Freddy Krueger began. He wasn’t only on the hunt for victims but rather he took great enjoyment in the traumatization before their demise. Ultimately the sadism of the predator’s actions is what satisfies them. These three masked intruders seem to share the same love for that kind of macabre arousal.
The setting is the real star of the movie for me: a beautiful, somewhat outdated, home sitting on a large chunk of land. A long gravel driveway leads up to it. Far enough on the outskirts of town to feel isolated. Funny enough, it almost perfectly mirrors my first girlfriend’s house, allowing me to really picture myself there and in the couple’s shoes. The vastness of the property actually serves as the main limitation too because you are looking for any option to escape and end this nightmare.
The utter madness displayed by the three strangers really is the terrifying part. Worse than The Devil’s Rejects because those people are whacko and make no qualms to hide it. You could say that these strangers are all mentally ill but you can also imagine them just being terribly bored with life. That’s what is really off-putting about it all. There is a real sense that they are all simply making this up as they go along. It is like they jumped into this scenario without any plan, yet seem to have no emotion or worry about it going forward. That’s what is terrifying! They could just be anyone; acting upon one bad thought.
I’ve seen a lot of horror movies in my life both fiction and non-fiction (true crime); documentaries with real footage that have audio so you hear serial killers give detailed descriptions of their murders. But there are a few scenes in this movie which will forever haunt me. The shots where you see these faceless entities hiding in the shadows with only enough light to show their masks remain a particular highlight. They watch you from near and far. This psychological torment is something I still think about any time I hear a bump in the night.
Even after all that horror is completed, the sun rises and a new day starts, the absolute creepiest, weirdest, skin crawling, spine tingling, nightmare inducing line is said (in my opinion). The female lead Kristen (Liv Tyler) simply asks “Why are you doing this to us?” and the female stranger responds….”Because you were home.”
Sweet dreams thinking on that one guys. And whether or not we will ever get to have the long rumoured and production stalled ‘The Strangers 2’, there is no denying exactly what this 2008, 10 million dollar budgeted, horror movie gave us that nine years later I am still scared to think about who could be outside my window or at the front door.
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.
Which Slumber Party Massacre is your favorite in the series?
Reflecting on the possession story that breathed life into the sub-genre
In the horror genre, especially in the era of remakes and sequels, creativity sometimes wears thin. About 44 years ago, a movie came onto the scene which is still talked about as being one of the, if not greatest, scary movies of all time. The Exorcist launched one of the most overused, sometimes abused, tired and played out subject matter that is still going today.
Finding a movie about possession is about as easy as looking for something with ghosts in it. But when I stumbled upon The Last Exorcism a couple of years ago, I fell in love. Now granted, I haven’t seen every movie about satanic possession, but I have seen a big handful which is why I liked this one so much!
Keep reading after the trailer
Being a professional wrestler, you become a skeptic of everything. Ever. You learn that just about everything in life has some amount of “fake” poured into it. So you take everything with a grain of salt. That exact skepticism is what made me love this particular movie.
Basically, the Cliff’s Notes are as follows: Reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian), who was raised in the church since childhood, learns the ways of performing an exorcism and proceeds to help people for years with the spiritual guidance of God. Until one day, his own little boy is born with complications and is saved only by the doctors. The Reverend then realizes his belief in God had no part in saving his son — it was all science. From that point onwards, his belief is gone yet he continues to help people who are possessed via placebo type methods; inviting a documentary crew to film his process.
The routine works rather well until he visits the Sweetzer family.
Now let’s be honest, as different as this one is, it does have a few classic possession style movie tropes in it. But it sprinkles its own unique style of salt and pepper to keep a little variety on that sub-genre plate. The obligatory sweet, innocent girl in need of the exorcism (Ashley Bell) tows the line between cute and creepy. The family is as sketchy as possible; constantly making you rethink everything you’ve just seen. Even the Reverend fighting his own battle of beliefs the entire time adds to the delicacies of the story playing out as the movie progresses.
My personal favorite scene is at the beginning of the movie when the Reverend is showing the film crew all his tricks of the exorcism trade. This is where the viewer gets to see all the tools, “gimmicks,” in which he uses to convince the families that his exorcism is working though in reality, it being all smoke and mirrors.
It’s a neat mix of found footage, satanic possession, mystery, horror and even comedy; not taking itself too seriously early on to not knowing where it will end later. A small cast of very interesting characters added a compelling mix for the viewer. Each character was given some depth to them as a ploy to keep you thinking. I honestly love this movie and every twist and turn it takes.
The Devil Commands
Originally released in 2010, this one kind of flew under the radar. While making a good amount of money, there are many fans out there who don’t remember it. I will sum this up to the fact that one or two of these kinds of movies were released around that same time. Or perhaps it seems that the formula is used in at least one movie a year? Eventually they all blur together from an advertising perspective. Who really knows? The Last Exorcism is definitely worth seeking out to watch. Then watch The Last Exorcism: Part II for good measure. Don’t take my word for it. I only ask….The Devil commands.