Archive for the 'Slasher films' Category

Dec

Comments Off on Black Christmas (1974): Rest Stop Review Edition by Donna Bleed

A Norman Bates Family Christmas

A Norman Bates Family Christmas?

Making my holiday cookie deliveries around Lost Highway I ran into The Doktor, and we got to talking about our favorite holiday movies. Naturally, Black Christmas was at the top of both our lists, but there was a problem. He thinks the 2006 remake is the better film, while I stand steadfastly by the 1974 original. We decided to go head-to-head and run it by you fine folks. You decide which is better, judging by our 3-B breakdown and critique of each film.

Black Christmas (1974) opens at a sorority house all decked out for the holidays. There is a creepy POV of someone climbing into the attic. Downstairs, the girls are in the Christmas spirit, except Barb (Margot Kidder) whose mother decides to run off with some man rather than see her daughter on Christmas. She returns to the party, and the phone rings again. Apparently, the house has been plagued by an obscene caller, and boy is he a doozy. The call is frightening. I’m serious; if I got a phone call like these gals got, I would not only change my phone number, but I would smash the phone the call came through on into tiny pieces, then pour gasoline over the tiny pieces and set them on fire.

Anyway; after the first call, Claire goes upstairs to finish packing, but doesn’t quite make it, because some psycho wraps a dry cleaning bag around her head. Next thing we see of her, she’s dead in the attic in a rocking chair. The house mother Mrs. Mac comes home, and the girls give her an ugly housedress as a gift. They all scatter to the four winds while Mrs. Mac finds one of the eight thousand bottles of whiskey she has hidden around the house and starts a-guzzlin’. Claire’s dad shows up looking for her; Jess reveals she’s in a family way and wants an abortion and her boyfriend, Peter, doesn’t like that idea; the psycho goes to town. Phone calls, killing Mrs. Mac with a hook and pulley, stabbing Margot Kidder with a crystal unicorn, cop killing, implied murder of a little girl, killing Phyllis offscreen, rampaging through the house and scaring Jess half to death; making her so crazy she thinks it’s Peter and she beats him to death with a fireplace poker.

Why do I think it’s better than the remake? Simple-there is no reason for this dude to be torturing and killing these girls. NONE. We don’t know who he is, aside from thinking his name might be Billy (He screams this name repeatedly during the phone calls), and we don’t know what he wants or what set him off, or why he chose them and not the house down the street. We’re just as much in the dark as poor Jess is at the end, running around and trying to defend herself.

But, let’s get down to brass tacks:

Blood: I’d say about 2 quarts blood. There’s not a whole lot of onscreen violence, and we only see the aftermath of a couple of the killings.

Breasts: No breasts, which is surprising given when this movie was made. The girls are wholesome, aside from Jess, whom we know has been making the sign of the epileptic wombat with Peter, which has resulted in her being knocked up.

Beasts: 3 beasts: Margot Kidder- A drunken wreck until her untimely demise. Not pretty, and a sign of things to come. Mrs. Mac- This woman is so ugly, when she was born, the doctor slapped her momma. Last, but not least, Billy- Psycho extrodinare.

Roadside Attractions:
Dry-cleaner bag-fu, hook and pulley-fu, fireplace poker-fu, crystal unicorn-fu, obscene phone call-fu

3cheese

trailers

dripper
Oct

Comments Off on 10 Best Shriek-tracks for Halloween


There was a time not that long ago when soundtracks in horror movies actually played an important role and were treated like major characters. Each score had its own distinct personality and complemented all of the onscreen action. In slasher films usually, a series of well-placed sound cues from an orchestra or a pulsating synth rhythm would signal the killer is close by, or that the victim is about to triumph over his or her attacker. What you saw on screen and heard both worked together to create the desired thrills and chills. But sadly, not the same can be said about the majority of soulless “film scores” being churned out today. The current crop of horror composers aim for cheap scares by using loud, random noises to get a reaction out of the audience. There isn’t any kind of build-up to create tension or a feeling of dread in horror films of the new millennium, just musical punch lines that arrive way too soon and don’t end up paying off for the audience. Instead of having memorable themes like “The Shape Stalks” from “Halloween” or the “Main Title” from “Jaws” that made your heart race the first time you heard them, “music” in recent horror movies has been replaced by generic, headache-inducing distractions that totally take you out of the movie experience.

But don’t worry, Ghouls and Ghoulettes. We have put together a list of classic horror soundtracks from different eras (when movie music still mattered) that are guaranteed to make your Halloween party festive and extra creepy this year.


1. Trick ‘r Treat

Douglas Pipes (“Monster House“) delivers a surprisingly creepy film score that, along with the film, perfectly captures the spirit of Halloween. At times his composing style will remind you of the late composers, Jerry Goldsmith and Bernard Herrmann. The whole soundtrack is overflowing with eerie goodness, but standout tracks are “Main Titles”, “To The Quarry”, and “Pumpkin Shooter/Meet Sam.”





2. Damien: Omen II

This soundtrack can easily be considered one of composer Jerry Goldsmith’s masterpieces. With each track you can hear the forthcoming sense of doom that is simmering just beneath the surface. His mixture of dark mass chants and startling electronic sound effects would make even Jason Voorhees cry for his mommy.





3. Creepshow

As far as horror movie anthologies are concerned, “Creepshow” is one on the best. And John Harrison’s spooky film score has one of the best opening tracks that I’ve ever heard on a horror soundtrack. Listening to each track will make you feel like you are watching the movie all over again. The CD features previously unreleased music from “Mansions of the Moon“, “Shoobie Doobie Moon“, as well as some music from the “Tales from the Darkside” TV show.





4. Psycho (1960)

Another personal favorite soundtrack of mine. Bernard Herrmann composed this iconic score which has sent a collective shiver down the spines of fans spanning many generations. The stabbing string section on the track “Prelude” still cuts just as deep today, even though the music is almost 50 years old. Now let me go, because I think I hear “Mother” calling me.





5. Hellraiser

Christopher Young’s spine-tingling masterwork is the perfect compliment to Clive Barker’s nightmarish directorial debut. Young has created a score that features some of the most hauntingly beautiful music that I’ve ever heard in a horror movie. I couldn’t imagine watching “Hellraiser” without hearing his music.





6. Tenebre

You can’t have a top ten horror soundtrack list without including Italian Prog Rock band, Goblin, which has consistently composed some of the most unique sounding and memorable music for horror movies. At the request of director Dario Argento, three of the four original members from Goblin reunited to create a hypnotic and energetic score filled with enough up-tempo tracks that will surely have any wallflowers at your party cutting a rug.





7. Phantasm

This is another movie that just wouldn’t have the same impact if it had different music. Composing duo Fred Myrow and Malcom Seagrave collaborated to create my all-time favorite movie soundtrack that perfectly frames Reggie’s and Mike’s life-or-death struggle against the evil Tall Man.





8. Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Goblin creates another wildly inventive score using a variety of instruments and sound effects for Romero’s fan favorite zombie film. When you hear the tortured moans of the undead on track 2, “Zombi”, you’ll want to quickly lock all of your doors and board up every window to protect yourself from the coming zombie invasion.





9. The Amityville Horror (1979)

Nominated for an Academy Award, master composer Lao Shiffrin’s soundtrack is the scariest part of the movie. Without his pulse-pounding music, “Amityville Horror” would’ve been even more of a snoozer.




10. The Thing

If after listening to this score you mistakenly thought John Carpenter did the music, don’t beat yourself up too much. Because just like how the parasitic alien in the movie was able to imitate other life forms, composer Enio Morricone masterfully emulated Carpenter’s distinct style when he created this bleak, minimalist soundtrack that will chill you to the bone.


Aug

posted by admin | August 15, 2010 | B-movies, Bad movie, Cult Film, Horror movies, Slasher, Slasher films, Uncategorized

Comments Off on Return to Sleepaway Camp

Comebacks usually aren’t a good thing. Just ask boxer, Sugar Ray Leonard, who stepped into the boxing ring after being retired for several years and got knocked out by Hector Macho Camacho before the first round ended. Well, for “legendary” director Robert Hiltz (How’d he get that title, anyway?) his return to the camera after being away for nearly 20 years is just as disastrous. Now, I’m not saying that the first three “Sleepaway Camp” films will ever earn a spot on the AFI (American Film Institute) 100 Best Movies of All Time, but the earlier movies, unlike this latest installment, were at least filled with funny dialogue, dark humor, cool death scenes, and plenty of hot chicks who never had a problem showing their goods.


“Return to Sleepaway Camp” (RTSC) is a direct sequel to the first “Sleepaway Camp” that ignores the two “Sleepaway Camp” installments in between (“SC 2: Unhappy Campers” and “SC 3: Teenage Wasteland”) much the same way that “Jason Goes to Hell” pretended that “Jason Takes Manhattan” didn’t exist. You know it always pisses me off when writers, directors, and movie studios pull this kind of crap with movie franchises. Just keep the series somewhat consistent and make a sequel that picks up where the last one left off. But believe it or not, this is the least of the movie’s problems. Anyway, let me get back to my review. So the “plot” for RTSC involves a “mysterious killer” who is offing campers and counselors in a variety of boring and uninspiring ways at yet another summer camp. Hiltzik tries to keep anyone left watching the movie guessing by having Angela, I mean the “mysterious killer”, wear a ridiculous disguise and use a voice decoder that sounds like a Speak ‘n’ Spell with dying batteries to conceal their real identity. But trust me, this isn’t “Clue’ Goes to Sleepaway Camp.” Felissa Rose, who played Angela in the original “Sleepaway Camp”, stars in this installment, so anyone with the intelligence level of an amoeba (sorry if I offended any amoebas out there) should know who’s doing the killing this time around. And while I’m on the subject of killing, “Sleepaway” films usually have memorable kills, right? Well not in this sequel. Thanks to some very bad directing and editing, everybody takes so freakin’ long to die. Any kind of suspense or “wow” factor from a death scene is ruined because the camera cuts back and forth to whatever object is getting ready to kill its next victim several times before a death actually occurs. It’s as if Hiltzik wanted to make sure he didn’t loose the audience. Wishful thinking on his part because hopefully anyone who made the mistake of renting this cinematic turd either turned it off before they wasted too much time, or got hammered after the film’s first death scene and passed out.

A few of the original cast members who survived the first “Sleepaway Camp” return for this sequel, but even they can’t salvage this horrible movie because it’s twenty years later, and they still can’t act. Felissa Rose, Jonathan Tiersten, and Paul DeAngelo really should have taken at least a couple of warm-up acting gigs like commercials before signing on to do this movie. Their performances are so bad it makes the acting in “Troll 2” seem Shakespearean in comparison. If any of them want to show up for the next sequel they should avoid further embarrassment and just make cameos as newspaper clippings or framed photographs, like Sean Connery did in “Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls.” The movie still had one last chance to redeem itself with a cool finale, but unfortunately what we get is a predictably lame “reveal” ending that is another huge disappointment in a movie full of disappointments, especially when compared to the gender-bender-ender of the original “Sleepaway Camp.”

For a film that was delayed more times than a Britney Spears comeback, this film sure did feel rushed and thrown-together. I read a whole laundry list of “reasons” why the film’s release date kept getting pushed back. First it was Hiltzik wanted to get the effects just right. Then re-shoots were needed. Next it was that there were problems with the CGI again, etc. Well I’ve seen the movie, and the visual effects really don’t look that bad. Movies of the Week shown on the Sy-Fy Channel have worst CGI in them. After watching the movie for about 2 mins. I found out the real reason for all of the delays, and it’s that the movie sucks, plain and simple. There’s just no other way to put it. Instead of worrying about the quality of the visual effects and whatever else, Hiltzik’s priority should’ve been to make a movie that was actually watchable.

I was really hoping that poor DVD sales for RTSC would close this camp for good. But I’ve recently read that Hiltzik unfortunately has another 3-D “Sleepaway” sequel in production, which is a real shame because it probably means that Michael Simpson who did “SC: 2” and “SC: 3” won’t get the opportunity to do his supernatural sequel called “Sleepaway Camp: Berserk” any time soon, or possibly ever. His idea sounds like it would be a fun movie to me. Click here for the movie’s brief plot synopsis.

If you want to visit a camp this summer, don’t return to Sleepaway Camp and go to Crystal Lake instead.

roadside attractions

  • Gratuitous use of the line “Your a$$ stinks.”
  • Fart-lighting 101
  • Killer wears a ridiculous disguise in between murders
  • Death by bed of nails
  • Wooden stake to the eye
  • Issac Hayes as Charlie The Chef
  • 1 Human Roman Candle
  • 1 Super-lame ending
totals

1

blood
BLOOD

About a gallon of the red stuff

2

beast
BEASTS

A gender-confused killer and a bully.

0

blood
BREASTS

None but there were plenty of nicely wrapped melons

1.25 OVERALL
dripper

Check out the trailer for “Return to Sleepaway Camp”

trailers



dripper
May

Comments Off on Video Store Memories: Video Unlimited

Almost every B-movie and horror movie fan out there has a story of how they were introduced to movies–like a cool uncle who let them watch “Porky’s” where they saw their very first set of boobies. For me, I became hooked on B-movies and horror movies after my first visit to Video Unlimited, a video store near where I lived. As a young boy many a weekend and summer were spent watching videos that I rented from both stores; they had two locations. I was very fortunate to have a really cool Mom who would let me watch any kind of movie, regardless of the genre (except porn). Hey, even the coolest Moms have to draw the line somewhere. My Mom became even cooler when I found out she was a big horror movie buff. On her days off from managing the drive-in (Rosen’s), she would usually be watching horror movies with me. Now how many kids can honestly say their Mom likes horror movies?

So, let me get back to my Video Unlimited memories. The one thing that always amazed me about both stores was that even though they weren’t very big, the staff magically found a way to somehow store and showcase thousands of titles. I always wondered if they had access to some kind of interdimensional portal with a limitless supply of videos. Video Unlimited’s selection was a lot like Video Vault in that whatever movie you were looking for, they usually had it or something similar to it.

Videos

And while I’m on the subject of selection, I have to mention the size of the movie rental catalog that was sitting on the front counter of the Laplata location. This thing was HUGE. Think a of a triple-decker club sandwich that is made of phone books, without the ham, lettuce, tomato, bacon, and mayonnaise. To me this catalog was my B-movie bible. I’m pretty sure that whenever I went near it the book was enshrined in a golden light and I heard celestial music coming from up above. Seriously, this catalog contained so many movies from every possible genre and sub-genre that if I live several lifetimes like the Highlander, Duncan MacLeod, I still wouldn’t see all of the movies listed in it. And when I had watched all of the current releases, or I just wanted to focus on a particular genre, this became my go-to book. The selection of the so-called “big boys” of movie rental back then and today–Blockbuster and Hollywood Video–could never compare to the impressive selection of the small Mom-and-Pop video stores. Try calling Blockbuster to find out if they carry “Wood Chipper Massacre”, and the people working there won’t have a clue as to what you’re talking about.

When I moved out of the area I began going exclusively to Video Unlimited’s Waldorf location, their second store. After about a year of renting several movies on a weekly basis and talking about movies with the staff, I was asked for my imput on what B-movies and horror movies the should carry at the store. So I began making movie recommendations based on previews I had seen, articles that I read in ‘Fangoria’ (when ‘Fangoria’ was still a horror magazine), and movie screeners that I had viewed. Yes, I was given movie screeners to watch, which was one of the coolest things to me. In case you don’t know, a movie screener is an advance copy of a movie that is shown to critics and distributors. I saw a lot of screeners, but the one that comes to mind was for the movie “Seed People.” It’s basically Full Moon Entertainment’s version of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” I remember it being an enjoyable little movie, when Full Moon actually made movies worth watching, unlike the Z-grade trash that Charles Band pimps today for a quick buck. Now if helping to select movies and viewing advance copies wasn’t awesome enough, another perk of being a loyal customer was that I had my pick of all the cool posters they had from movies, like “Silent Night, Deadly Night”, “The Fly” (Cronenberg’s version), and “Friday the 13th Part 7: The New Blood.” In addition, I also got nifty movie promos like trading cards from another Full Moon release, “Subspecies”, which I still have packed in a box somewhere today. This was way before eBay. Back then nobody really thought of this stuff as being collectible or having any real value. To the owners all it was doing at the time was taking up valuable space that could be used to store copies of movies. Now I’m sure that they probably wished they had kept a lot of these posters after seeing how popular and valuable they’ve become over the years.

Soon I got a job at Rosen’s Drive-in, and I didn’t just didn’t have as much time as I used to to watch movies, but I would still visit Video Unlimited at least once a week to say “hi” and to see if there were any new releases that caught my eye. Sure, I saw plenty of movies while working the projection booth at Rosen’s, but I could never get my fill of movies. Similar to Kirstie Alley’s relationship with food. Have you seen her lately? Yikes! She looks like she swallowed a water buffalo.

Movies

Anyway, when I started a professional haunted house attraction a short time later, I found myself with even less time. Things were so crazy that everything quickly became a blur. And before I knew it, one week, two weeks had passed by in a flash, so I decided to stop by my favorite video store to see how things were going. Well, as soon as I walked across the parking lot towards the front door I had a sinking feeling–something wasn’t right. And my feeling was confirmed when I stepped inside and saw the shelves with only a few movies scattered on each of them. All around me there was a feeding frenzy similar to Piranhas attacking a helpless swimmer at a lake resort. People were quickly grabbing and buying VHS cassettes and everything else in the store, except for the floor tiles. I didn’t ask many questions even though I was shocked and upset, because whatever I was feeling was probably nothing compared to what everybody who worked there was going through. This was their business, their livelihood. From what I was told later on the video store had been struggling for a few months. And things only got worse when their rent was raised and Blockbuster (the Walmart of video stores, which isn’t a compliment) moved into town about 300 or so feet away. The competition was simply too strong and they just couldn’t survive any longer.

To this day I don’t understand why someone didn’t tell me what was happening sooner. Maybe I could have done something to help. Though in all honesty, it probably wouldn’t have made much of a difference anyway, because the profit-driven, soulless, corporate video rental chains like Blockbuster and Hollywood Video were gaining momentum in the video rental market, and it was only a matter of time before the small Mom-and-Pop video stores like Video Unlimited would soon disappear. However, the Laplata store was able to say in business for several more years until sadly, in 2002, it was destroyed by a devastating tornado that hit the strip mall where it was located. Last I had heard the owner decided not to rebuild the business.

I hadn’t been to the Laplata location in many years, but hearing the bad news was still a real bummer. It was like loosing contact with a close friend, and then years later finding out that they had passed away. For most of my childhood these two stores had been a very important part of my life. I know it’s just a couple of video stores to most people, but the movies that I was exposed to made me, Drive-in Dan, the B-movie fan that I am today. The movies that I rented from these stores led to other interests that have carried over into adulthood, like my passion for special effects makeup after seeing Tom Savini’s masterful work in films such as “Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter”, “Dawn of the Dead”, and “The Burning.” Watching films such as “Halloween” and Dario Argento’s “Phenomena”exposed me to the unique musical styles of John Carpenter and the Italian Prog Rock band, Goblin, which I still enjoy to this day. After seeing “The Road Warrior” I was inspired to make vehicles and various contraptions using parts from miscellaneous model kits, and today I continue to create things from found objects.

I will always have fond memories of the two Video Unlimited stores. I’m glad that I grew up in the 80’s and was able to be a part of something truly awesome. Hopefully, other B-movie fans out there had their own Video Unlimited while growing up.

Mar

Comments Off on The Last Rewind: A Tribute to Video Vault



It seems like every day I hear or read about a company either filing for bankruptcy or closing its doors for good. And to be honest, most of the time I really don’t care, as many of the businesses are just “mass appeal” stores that have been run into the ground by greedy corporations who have long since lost touch with their target market. Well, yesterday I learned about one business closing, a cult video store named “Video Vault” that really hit close to home for all of us here at Lost Highway. Unfortunately, a lot of factors such as limited parking, high rent, moving to a new location, a crappy economy, and the digital download age are to blame for its demise. It really makes me wish that Video Vault could come back from the dead like Jason Voorhees does in those “Friday the 13th” movies, and slaughter the competition. But unfortunately that won’t happen. In our world, this kind of loss is the equivalent of finding out that one of our favorite actors and/or directors has just passed way.

So let me tell you a little bit about Video Vault. This little gem of an independent video store was started by movie aficionado John McCabe in the mid 80’s, when video stores were about as popular as drive-in movie theaters were back in the day. Seeing an independent niche market video store like Video Vault today (2010) in a major metropolitan area would be about as rare as seeing actual music videos playing on MTV. Anyway, it didn’t take long for Mr. McCabe to make a name for himself by specializing in rare, hard-to-find films that he proudly claimed were the worst in town. Now you’re probably scratching your head at the part about having the worst movies in town. But trust me, that claim is very accurate considering he carried bottom of the barrel films like “Plan 9 From Outer Space.” If I had to describe Video Vault to someone who had never heard about the store, I would say that they are the cinematic version of The Museum Of Bad Art (MOBA), and I mean that as the highest compliment. Bad movies were their area of expertise, their little niche in the cutthroat movie rental business. The films that many forgot, or couldn’t care less about, John McCabe cheered and celebrated, along with the legions of loyal patrons. For 25 years Video Vault continued to stay in business against all odds, even though video formats changed from VHS to DVD, the independent video retail market began to go the way of the dinosaurs, and the once eclectic tastes of movie renters unfortunately became more and more mainstream–in other words, watered down–and mind-numbingly generic. And even though I haven’t been to Video Vault for several years now (because I moved out of the area), I still remember my first visit there.

I recall being very impressed, yet at the same time a bit overwhelmed by their large selection of VHS videos that covered a variety of different genres and sub-genres. Their previous location (the one that I’m familiar with) had several rooms filled from wall to wall with thousands upon thousands of videos. It was like I had just gained full access to someone’s prized and personal movie collection. You could’ve easily spent the whole day there going through all of the b-movie gems that they had to offer. And did I mention that the staff was always friendly, very knowledgeable, and ready to offer up their movie recommendations if you were having trouble choosing a movie to rent? The whole atmosphere was just so refreshing and pleasant. Whenever a customer walked through the door they were greeted like an old friend, whether it was their first time stopping by, or if they were one of the “regulars.” To me that personal touch really made an impression, and that’s probably one of the many reasons why they were in business for so many years. And if you couldn’t find a particular film in the mountain of movie titles, chances are owner John McCabe would have been able to track it down for you. Try getting that level of customer dedication and service at Blockbuster, or any other generic corporate movie rental chain.

It’s a real shame that this b-movie Mecca has to close. I just really hope that Video Vault will live on in some form after April 2010, so that the current and new generation of cult film buffs will still be able to meet, talk alternative cinema, and help each other find the next “it’s so bad, it’s good” movie experience. Please be sure to express your support to the wonderful folks over at Video Vault by clicking here and saying hi, or wishing them well in their future endeavors.

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