They/Them (2022)

Written And Directed By John Logan
Bh/Desert Wolf

You know, if you’re a horror movie kinda person, you might make some general allowances for films made in your preferred idiom. For example, imagine, oh, I don’t know … maybe a “slasher” flick that takes place at … oh, let’s say a “camp.” With such a familiar setup, you therefore might reasonably expect certain motifs, themes, tropes, what-have-you. And when all the stuff you more or less expect happens, it’s more or less what you’re willing to accept.

Except familiarity breeds contempt, and in this made-for-TV “Peacock original,” there are multiple problems. After the not-unforeseeable reveal is, well, revealed, it just doesn’t pass muster, a literally unbelievable gaffe that’s a disastrous last choice for Their underwhelming genre attempt.

I had higher hopes for this picture. I did appreciate the mild pronoun joke (poorly aped just above). And though I’ll grant that one must start somewhere in working out how to approach broadening the scope of flicks like these, this attempt mainly just shoehorns orientation/gender topics into an unimaginative template. I began this piece by pointing out my willingness to play along, but – ironically enough – this production mainly comes across like it’s not sure what it really wants to be.

Uninspired even by stock horror standards, it feels as though it was written around its cliché bonding moment – a musical number.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

In another review, I suggested a “slasher movie where the trans character breaks the usual archetype,” and imagined that potential addressed here.

Should You Watch This Movie?

Spoiler alert: It doesn’t come close, but one character (“Jordan”) takes a tentative step.


Highlight and Low Point

HEY DIDJA KNOW THE TITLE’S PRONOUNCED “THEY SLASH THEM”


That attempted witticism’s not even an accurate synopsis!

Rating From OUter SPace: D+

Matinee aka Midnight Matinee (1989)

Written and Directed by Richard Martin
“©1989 D Slayer Productions inc.”
Produced With the Participation of Téléfilm Canada
Produced in Association with B.C. Film

A Canadian made-for-TV picture about the aftermath of a mysterious murder at a horror-film festival and the threatening goings-on when a similar festival is attempted three years later, complete with a visit from a hotshot local-boy-done-good director and its impact on his estranged daughter and ex-wife, this is essentially an insanely melodramatic soap opera with some largely implied killings and an extremely low-key manner. For all that, it made for surprisingly compelling viewing, at least until it became obvious who the perpetrator must be and devolved into the requisite finale of stalking quarry through murk. Needed more montage scenes with anthemic accompaniment.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

It was in my “to watch” folder, and I didn’t have the foggiest notion what it was, although I knew it was a fairly recent addition. Once I started it, I just stuck with it.

Should You Watch This Movie?

Probably not? It’s more a somnolent (and lengthy) episode of any random crime drama than a proper motion picture, much less a scary one.


Highlight and Low Point

As is not uncommon with these sorts of affairs, the film festival(s) screen a number of faux flicks, of which we get to see glimpses. In this one, those titles are “Murder Camp,” “No Escape,” “The Sleepwalker,” “Bad Blood II” and “The Black Closet” … all of which would probably have been more entertaining than “Midnight Matinee.” William B. Davis plays director/guest/dad Heath Harris, and eventually I realized he was “Cancer Man” from The X Files. A pointless subplot about the intertwined pasts of “Detective Al Jason” and newspaper reporter “Geoff Oslam” is never explained or resolved.

Rating From Outer Space: C−

Scream (2022)

Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett
Spyglass Media Group/Project X/Radio Silence

Half tired and half inspired, this not-a-reboot (wink, wink) is not exactly too clever by half, but its orientation seems to want it to be. An amusing discussion of the good and bad of the modern horror film and the rules involved – you know, all that “Scream” stuff – works well enough, but the endless diatribes connected to the final reveal are tedious – and present one of the most egregious examples of the trope wherein the evildoer(s) just keep talking and talking about their brilliant plan and motives and so on and so on and so on. Scorecard: someone you won’t expect to die does, the identities of the killer aren’t a terribly big surprise (and the movie itself points out that you know there’s more than one), the convoluted ties established between the characters’ roots and pasts and their relationships to the “Stab” franchise probably push past acceptable levels, and yeah … it’s a Scream, what else would you expect.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I mean, I’ve seen the rest of ’em. And a shload of the raft of those that followed in the wake of the original to boot. (My “favorite” was The Faculty, should you be wondering.)


Should You Watch This Movie?

You’ve certainly got your choice of “legacy” titles these days, don’t you.

 
Highlight and Low Point

I don’t wanna spoil nothin’ for ya, but not for the first time in the franchise is it off-putting that “Ghostface” is always the same size no matter who winds up having been portraying “him.” (It especially beggars belief during the hospital confrontation.) Whether the guilty characters actually could have been responsible is another question, but I don’t care enough to investigate.

Rating From Outer Space: C−

Stage Fright (2014)

Written and Directed by Jerome Sable
Music & Lyrics by Jerome Sable and Eli Batalion
Serendipity Point Films

A slasher horror comedy, which also happens to be a musical, this ridiculously over-the-top production doesn’t seem to have rated very highly in the world of apparently overserious movie-raters. And hey, I’m guilty as anyone of frequently missing the point, or not “getting it” – whatever the “it” in question may be for a given flick – but this is a very amusing picture chock-full of however many touchstones you’d care to notice. And have I mentioned it’s a musical? A meta musical at that, set at a theater camp for theater kids, with heavy family drama at its center. (Or is it … TRAGEDY?) It’s got obnoxious characters, classic tropes, red herrings, a tongue in its cheek and a song in its heart, and scads of gore. The show must go on! Will the playhouse be saved? Someone check on the cast.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I selected this title because I thought I’d previously considered watching it, but once it began, I wasn’t so sure that had been the case.

Should You Watch This Movie?

You know, it has come to my attention that some folks don’t particularly LIKE horror comedies. And I know musicals aren’t necessarily a preference for many viewers besides. So if it helps at all, the storyline here doesn’t make a whole lotta
                                                                             sense, either.

Highlight and Low Point

The songs are frequently hilarious, provocatively stereotyping theater nerds and the like. The late Meat Loaf has one of the major roles, and I found it at least a little surprising that his singing comes across weakly, given how he found fame and all. Most of what’s clever here lies in
the picayune.

Rating From Outer Space: B+

Night Ripper! (1986)

Written and Directed by Jeff Hathcock
A Video Features/Jeff Hathcock Production

I would be sorely tempted to break from my established format to give this gem the classic Devil’s DVD Bin treatment, as it has all the requisite ingredients: it’s (poorly) shot on video, the script and dialogue are lousy, the acting’s worse, characters show up and do stuff for little apparent reason and sometimes you’re not even sure who they are or who they’re supposed to be. and so forth. Unfortunately, I’m not capable of being that entertaining, so you’re stuck with my usual humdrum rundown. Someone’s killing “models” – that’s the plot. You’re supposed to suspect the “photographer” – there’s the intrigue. Everyone calls the killer “The Ripper,” which is enjoyable. The final (extremely slow-paced) stalking scene takes place in a room full of mannequins, because of course it does. Then it ends. Abruptly.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

It somehow warranted a review in the “Mammoth Book of Slasher Movies”!

Should You Watch This Movie?

So, the SPACE RATS “rating system.” This release gets a very bad letter grade, but that shouldn’t imply I didn’t highly enjoy watching it. The thing is, it’s technically terrible in almost every possible way, which more or less dictates the judgment. But other quirks are involved as well … “B movies,”
naturally, get rated along the “B” continuum, and general-release or “Hollywood” films most often are assessed by “C” criteria. (“C” classically denoting an “average”
mark.) Ideally, very few features will receive A or F designations.

Highlight and Low Point

There’s no “ripping”! Just stabbing, actually depicted reasonably well given the limitations. (And the “quality” of … everything else.)

There’s also this:

Viewers get to “enjoy” that contemporary delight during an interminable sequence of a car driving across town.

Rating From Outer Space: D

to all a GOODNIGHT (1980)

Directed by David Hess
Intercontinental Worldwide Distributing Corporation/Four Features Partners

Utterly disjointed, this train wreck of a prototype slasher flick is somehow largely enjoyable, albeit mainly on dubious grounds. A gaggle of coeds and their imported beaux are being slaughtered for Some Reason by an Unknown Assailant – who the viewer knows is dressed as Santa Claus. The initial reveal is no surprise, but the SHOCKING twist that immediately follows is … actually fairly unexpected. Most of the killings are absurdly unconvincing, the gore as well, and trying to keep abreast of the film’s botched continuity is an ongoing challenge. (The distinct majority of the acting, meanwhile, is on par with the gore and the killings.) The “action” drags significantly as the conclusion nears, to boot. Still and all, fans of dreck should be delighted.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Well, it was Christmas week. (I’m a little behind.) I was pointed in this direction by The Mammoth Book of Slasher Movies by Peter Normanton, but this is as good a place as any to point out that director Hess (of The Last House on the Left repute) also co-wrote and recorded a song called
“Speedy Gonzalez” (among other lesser creations).


Should You Watch This Movie?

Not if you persist in considering a lack of redeeming qualities a detriment.


Highlight and Low Point

The story holds that the original version of this picture available on VHS featured that time-honored pitfall of low-budget terror, scenes that are too dark to be able to discern what may or may not be occurring (such as in, say, Island of Blood, for just one pertinent example). That is not a problem in the Blu-ray release, which brandishes an unfettered “day for night” technique that doesn’t even bother with the pretense.

Rating From Outer Space: D+

Don’t Open Till Christmas (1984)

Directed by Edmund Purdom
Additional scenes written and directed by Al McGoohan
Spectacular International Films

Wow, here’s a distressed downer of a flick for ya. I know, I know, a Christmas-themed slasher that’s a downer? What a sorry state of affairs. Not unlike Christmas Evil in its backstory – and to be honest, not unlike dozens of other horror films in that backstory, either, except for the “Santa Claus” angle – this London-based film gives you a lot of disheveled or otherwise distasteful Santas, some cheesy killings, a little T ‘n’ A, and few survivors. Plus some 1984 British Punks stealing a drunken Santa’s bicycle. The filmmakers (at least three directors at various times!) don’t seem to invest a whole lot in any of the red herrings, and overall there’s kind of a lack of urgency about the whole affair. It’s not half bad, though, even if it does meander a bit too much.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

It was the yuletide, so I was duty-bound … although I see I apparently never posted a review of the exemplary Black Christmas, so I’ll have to rectify that eventually.

Should You Watch This Movie?

This flick’s credits include ‘Experience’ Santa Claus, Theatre Santa Claus, Dungeon Santa Claus, Store Santa Claus, Market Santa Claus, Drunken Santa Claus, Circus Santa Claus, Circus Santa Claus (yes, two), and “Santa Claus in car.” They all seem kinda grubby, as does everything else in the picture.

Highlight and Low Point

I appreciated the scene that takes place within the London Dungeon tourist trap, serving as it does as a kind of signifier of the genre’s lingua franca. (Hey, one can semioticize anything, should one wish to do so.) A scene wherein a lonely middle-aged Herbert visits a peep show confers an incongruous subtlety.

Rating From Outer Space: C+

Halloween Kills (2021)

Directed by David Gordon Green
BLUMHOUSE PRODUCTIONS/MIRAMAX/TRANCAS INTERNATIONAL FILMS/ROUGH HOUSE PICTURES/Home Again Productions

I don’t really have anything positive to say about this picture, so let’s go ahead and make that one fact nice and sparkling clear. What I have, instead, is what may pass for a philosophical question, especially within the realm of a blog dedicated to horror flicks. See, as you may remember, the most recent reboot of this hoary franchise reestablished what constitutes “canon” from amongst the many, many different films that have borne the titular holiday’s name. Thus, in essence, THIS chapter is now part 3, supplanting “Season of the Witch” – which, of course, never fit the storyline as imagined beginning with the first “Halloween II,” a storyline which continued in Halloweens 4 and 5, and on into installments 6 (“The Curse of Michael Myers”), 7 (“H20”) and 8 (“Resurrection”). Now, none of those movies are supposed to count any longer, and yet, in the eternal name of fan service, this flick is littered with flashbacks and referents to … most of them, apparently. You figure out what that’s supposed to “mean,” especially in the context of yet another unimaginative rendition of a generic slasher, one whose most notable accomplishment is transmogrifying “Michael Myers” almost completely into “Jason Voorhees.” Almost makes one want to reconsider Rob Zombie’s take on the reboot-sequel thing. (Almost.)


Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Desperation to procrastinate.



Should You Watch This MOvie?

Don’t be foolish.


Highlight and Low Point

That “philosophical question” I alluded to earlier is, basically, how can one invoke that which has been officially erased? Shouldn’t that negate the existence of this very production? (Judging by the results, it does!) Another variant: why bother rebooting something if you’re just going to make it worse, and stupider besides? What’s to gain?

Rating From Outer Space: D−

M.D.C – Maschera di cera aka La Máscara de Cera aka The Wax Mask (1997)

directed by sergio stivaletti
Cine 2000/mediaset/france film international

Dedicated to Lucio Fulci by its production team, due to some convoluted backstory (“Dario Argento Presenta”), this very mannered extravaganza boasts a visual sheen not quite in keeping with its turn-of-the-20th-century period setting, and spins a tale that, while engaging enough as it unspools, is somewhat undermined by a gaggle of absurdities at its center. The enigma that compels it doesn’t stay very mysterious for very long, despite the labored attempts by virtually everyone in the cast to vamp it up as much as possible, and the sumptuous costuming is somewhat hilariously at odds with what one must term the futurism at its core. (Were one inclined to be unkind, it could be called anachronistic, but as it’s a horror fable, what would even be the point.) At heart, it’s just kind of silly, another victim of the genre’s inability to stop rewriting stories that weren’t that interesting the first time around. See, it takes place in a WAX MUSEUM, would you believe. And what’s more!

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I’d have to guess at this point, but it’s most likely the release date, and maybe the intrigue underlying its production. (Argento wanted to help Fulci make a film, but Fulci died before filming began.)


Should You Watch This Movie?

It’s nearly interesting at times.


Highlight and Low Point

Despite its efforts, this production doesn’t do a very effective job of making it appear to be 1900 – it is too obvious that you are looking at sets and costumes. (The steampunk Re-Animator setup doesn’t much help in that regard, either.) The gore and pseudogore FX are pretty good, befitting the nominal director’s usual professional pursuits. The absurdly blatant ripoff of The Terminator, on the other hand …

Rating From Outer Space: C−

The Retreat (2021)

directed by pat mills
Alyson Richards Productions/Clique Pictures

I don’t wanna sound like a straight normal hetero guy, but if this picture didn’t concern a lesbian couple trying to avoid being killed by gay-hating militaristic dark-web content providers, it wouldn’t warrant much mention as anything other than just another genre exercise. As it is, however, it kinda reminded me of The Hills Run Red, at least for the filmed killings. Anyway, I guess you can’t dismiss the zeitgeist, so despite its fairly hackneyed presentation, it is going to attract some attention for what could be read as its sociopolitical statements. Which may be fair enough, but doesn’t ever go far enough, either. For the record, the most hateful character is a rural married woman.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Media commentary about it made the usual claims about it being some kinda subversion of the paradigm, or a similar combo of buzzwords.

Should You Watch This Movie?

Maybe you’d like to contemplate how tepidly this supposedly brash experiment approaches its homosexual themes. You can start with the fact that it focuses on a lesbian couple, of course, instead of two guys, and move right on into observing how remarkably dispassionate their relationship is. (The PR claims that relationship is “rocky,” but c’mon.)

Highlight and Low Point

Okay, seriously, there’s a scene in this flick – and this would constitute a SPOILER ALERT, were it not for what I’m about to “reveal” – where our intrepid heroine has to escape her dastardly bonds and does so by … can you guess? Huh? Can ya? DING DING DING! Yes! She breaks her own thumb so she can slide her hand free! WOW! Who could possibly have seen that coming!

Attn. directors: Please stop putting this scene in your movies.

Rating From Outer Space: C