The 2018 Slasher Franchise Project – In The Beginning

I’ve officially kicked off this year’s attempt at tackling The Great Slasher Franchise Project. Feel free to read the whole post, but if you don’t here’s the gist. For the second year in a row, I’m watching a whole mess of slasher franchises in the order they were released. Since I watched most of the biggies last year, this one is filled with a wide range of films ranging in release from 1974 all the way up to last year. To see the full list, check out the Google Docs spreadsheet I made and click on the 2018 tab at the bottom.

I got the ball rolling and started with what will mostly likely remain the best film of the bunch, Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre, released in 1974. To my surprise, I’ve never written about this film specifically here on UM. That stems from the fact that I don’t actually watch it that often and also don’t know what I might add to the conversation when it comes to one of the most loved and effective horror films of all time.

Here are some quick thoughts about the film. Marilyn Burns put it all out on the field with this gut-wrenching performance. Franklin might be the most unlikable character in film history. I wonder if the film would hit for a younger audience with some of its more arch characters. I remembered the suffocating chainsaw sounds in the last third of the film, but was impressed with that additions when she met the old man. It’s interesting that there are no living females in this family. Jim Siedow’s turn as Old Man from kindly helper to bat-shit bonkers is chilling. With all due respect to Gunnar Hansen’s Leatherface, Edwin Neal’s Hitchhiker might be the scariest/craziest character in the film. Why doesn’t the truck driver haul ass out of there?

As it happens, I then jumped six years until 1980 where I encountered Paul Lynch’s Prom Night starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Leslie Nielsen a few years before he fully dove into the wonderful world of slapstick. This is another film that I’ve never written about her on the site before, but only because I saw it for the first time a few years before starting UM. I actually remember renting a really bad VHS copy with my buddy Rickey when we were roommates, but not much else about the film.

It turns out that, even when I’ve got a clean-looking version to watch on Amazon Video, it’s still a bit of a hard film to follow. This one’s about a group of kids playing a super creepy game where one of them’s a killer that tragically ends when a young girl falls out the window of an abandoned building. We then jump ahead to these kids in high school getting ready for the prom and falling prey to a masked killer. There are a few shots that clearly state which teen was which kid, but I was muddled on how JLC’s character fit in.

Having just watched TCM, I thought it was interesting that the kids’ “kill” chant takes on a similar feel as Leatherface’s chainsaw, wherein both felt anxious and suffocating. There’s also a motif of going out of windows that both films share, though with different results. Of course, the two films that Prom Night gets compared to the most are Carrie and Halloween. I feel like the former comparisons simply stem from the longstanding difficulties of being in high school, while the latter is actually used to throw people off the scent of what’s really going on as there’s an escaped killer on the loose who might be the one responsible for the current swath of killings even if that wouldn’t make much sense given the prank phone calls and year book pictures being cut out and taped up in lockers. 

While not my favorite slasher, I do consider this one to be a solid entry in the genre. The escaped killer stuff felt tacked-on, but then again, one of the few memories I had of the film actually revolved around the killer’s identity. I also think it did a nice job of understanding the tropes of the still relatively young genre and playing with them, while also delivering on what fans wanted. 

My travels then took me to 1982 where I became reacquainted with Amy Holden Jones’ Slumber Party Massacre. I actually wrote about this one a whopping 8 years ago when the DVD box set came out and had a lot of the same thoughts then as I did this time around (I guess I’m getting consistent in my old age).

The plot here’s pretty basic. A madman by the name of Russ Thorn just broke out and has decided to go on a rampage that coincides with a group of high school girls sleeping over at a friends’ house together. Calamity ensues.

A lot of the “problems” with this film — too many fake-outs in the the first third, the gonzo killer, the nods to other movies and the seemingly endless failed attempts to take out the killer — stem from the fact that it was actually written as a parody, but shot like a straight-ahead horror film. I had to remind myself of that when I would get a little bored here and there.

Actually, the more I think about it, the fact that Thorn — a guy who dresses not unlike Michael Myers and uses a power tool like Leatherface, but doesn’t bother with a mask — is just going nuts on whoever he can find is pretty enjoyable. When you think about it, he could have been caught at any moment. Unlike Myers, he’s not calculating. He’s not wearing a mask on Halloween, he’s just running around a school knocking off whoever he can get his hands on. He also shares Myers’ flair for the dramatic at times and you even get to watch him set up for a surprise kill which is something I can’t remember seeing in another slasher flick. Upon further reflection, his chaotic nature makes him even scarier, but I had to think on it a bit.

That brings us to the our November 1983 release, and one of my all-time favorite bug-nutty movies: Sleepaway Camp. Yes, I’ve waxed rhapsodic on this one already, but did have a few more thoughts on this Robert Hiltzik-helmed project.

If you’re not familiar, Sleepaway Camp revolves around a young girl named Angela who lived through the death of her father and sibling during a childhood boating accident. She moved in with her aunt and cousin and now, years later, the awkward young woman accompanies her cuz to a summer camp chockablock full of absolute scumbags who start getting killed in horrible, but still deserving ways.

What really struck me this time around is just how terrible the women in this film are treated, for the most part, both by lecherous or greedy men as well as other females. I’m sure I noticed those bits and pieces before, but this time they turned into a tapestry exemplifying all of the crap women have to deal with in the world and it bummed me out. I’d imagine this one’s trigger warning central and should probably be avoided. Still, I find it so odd and boasting a surprisingly deep context thanks to a few scenes here and there, that I like coming back to every few years or so.

Finally I moved to November of 1984 Silent Night, Deadly Night, which I wrote about here. Fun fact: I wound up taking possession of the Wizard library copy of the first two films in this series. Well, maybe that’s only fun for me.

Anyway, this time around, I found this one difficult to watch. Billy goes through so much terrible shit that you want to be on his side, but once he snaps, there’s very little defending him as he starts killing indiscriminately. At that point, I realized that, instead of trying to present a sympathetic character, this film and director Charles E Sellier, Jr. seem more interested in presenting a holiday-themed blueprint for creating a madman. That’s not generally the kind of film I’m interested in watching, but I will probably keep coming back to this film for the toy store scenes along. Where else can you see Mickey Mouse, the Smurfs, Star Wars characters and two wildly out of place and super creepy inflatable purple Easter bunnies all in one film?

With the first five films of the project in the bag, I’m not sure I’ve found any mind-blowing coincidences or connections. All of these films are about mentally unbalanced people preying on young people or said young people developing their own murderous tendencies. They all seem to lack parental oversight, forcing the young people to fend for themselves. All five also kicked off franchises that had healthy enough lives throughout the decade to keep them going and even lead to remakes in three out of five cases. We’re still fairly early on in the genre and will jump ahead to the latter half of the decade with the next batch which kicks off with our first sequel Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Now I just need to get my hands on a copy! And it’ll only get more wild from there.

Halloween Scene: The Great Chronological Franchise Project

It’s that time again. Some horror fans celebrate October by watching a movie or two a day. Others do deep dives into all their favorite franchises. I’m mixing the two up and putting a slightly different spin on it all with The Great Chronological Franchise Project! Because I”m some kind of glutton for punishment, I decided to put all of the original (non remake) films in the Psycho, Romero Zombie, Halloween, Friday the 13th, Scanners, Phantasm, Return of the Living Dead and even Final Destination series’ in release order and watch them. Here’s the list I’m working off of:

Continue reading Halloween Scene: The Great Chronological Franchise Project

The Funko Planet Of The Apes Dorbz Look Awesome!

As a longtime Planet Of The Apes fan, I’m super excited to see that Funko’s got a new set of Dorbz based on the first film. The first batch consists of George Taylor in his space suit as well as his loincloth plus Zira and Cornelius. According to the site, Zira’s limited to 5000 pieces and the space suit Taylor is a 1-in-6 chase, so get your nets out for some Apes-style hunting. They’ll be out this spring.

A Few Thoughts On A LOT Of Newer Horror Movies

Last fall, I watched a ton of horror movies for various work projects. I also did a deep dive on newer entries on Netflix, Amazon Prime and other sources and had a lot of good luck with new films. I covered some of these in a post about new slashers, but wanted to get some of the thoughts down before they totally left my mind so here we go! Continue reading A Few Thoughts On A LOT Of Newer Horror Movies

Halloween Scene: New Slasher Round-Up!

Good golly, I watched a lot of horror movies this season. I actually kicked things off pretty early, sometime in September and pretty much watched only scare fare since then with the exception of many, many episodes of Daniel Tiger, the shows my wife and I watch and a few kids movies sprinkled in.

I found myself missing Topless Robot quite a bit this fall as that site offered the best place for me to knock out crazy lists about some of the longest running horror franchises around. I wound up not writing anything about new horror for pay, so I’m going to go through as many of the newer films as I can in this series of posts. Let’s start off with one of my favorite subgenres, the slasher movie! I watched four that I thought each did something fun an interesting. Continue reading Halloween Scene: New Slasher Round-Up!

Books Of Oa: Green Lantern Sector 2814 Volume 1

Green_Lantern_Sector_2814_vol_01 Green Lantern: Sector 2814 Vol. 1 (DC)
Written by Len Wein, drawn by Dave Gibbons
Collects Green Lantern #172-176, 178-181

As regular UM readers will know, I’m kind of in love with the idea of space cops patrolling the galaxy and keeping people safe. I’ve mostly written about Geof Johns’ run here on the site, but I actually got my start back when Hal Jordan went nuts and the young gun known as Kyle Rayner took over for him. As such, my experience with Hal Jordan before the mid 90s was slim. I resented that all the old comic readers wanted to seem him return and thought he was boring (because, like them, he was old).

But, this is a pretty interesting character, if you’re into dudes who struggle with balancing duty with their own impetuous nature. Those are the traits on display in Len Wein and Dave Gibbons’ first combined arc which started by asking whether Hal would be able to return to earth. Apparently, before this book, he was told to stay away for a full year and finally got the go-ahead to head back to see his gal Carol Ferris and, well, that’s about it. He only really seems to care about his work friends and her in this particular arc.

In addition to rekindling things with his special lady, Hal found himself tangling with the likes of future Suicide Squad member Javelin, The Shark, Demolition Team, Predator (who would later show up in my beloved Extreme Justice) and even the Guardians! What’s that you say? Yup, Ha gets bent out of shape when he’s called to go save an entire planet while Ferris Air is under attack. Apparently that’s a bad thing in his mind, but to the casual, non-10-year-old observer, it just makes perfect sense. At the end of the day, he winds up quitting the GL Corps. WHAT?! Yup, to be continued in Sector 2814 Volume 2 (which I don’t have, so we’ll see how long it takes for a review of that one).

While I don’t know if I’ll ever feel super in line with Hal Jordan’s way of thinking, I still really enjoyed this book. It felt like a solid return to some of the goofy Silver Age stuff I’ve read but never really written about because I think it’s pretty silly. Wein and Gibbons take that and put it all through a more modern prism which feels real, honest and adult. I especially found myself marveling over Gibbons’ work. He’s an artist who everyone knows from Watchmen, but I have very little experience with aside from that. Here he gets to play superhero and it looks great. It also looks super bright thanks to colors by Anthony Tollin. This might be one of the brightest, most enjoyable reading experiences of my comic book reading career. All of that earns this book a place on my shelf and an eye towards future volumes.

Toy Commercial Tuesday: X-Men Classics Battle Blasters

Sorry about the lack of posts lately. Things have been bonkers around here lately (I feel like I write that every two months or so, but it’s always true). Anyway, I might not have been writing about much here, but I’ve still been reading and watching quite a bit. As I mentioned in one of my few March posts, I’ve been on a big X-kick lately.

This particular toy commercial doesn’t have much to do with what I’ve been reading, but it’s a pretty fun one! First off, how can you not love the image of a kid dressed up as Marvel’s number one mass murdering hero? Plus, the figures seen in this spot are all based on one of the House of Ideas’ best alternate realities, Age of Apocalypse.

x-men classics battle blasters

It took a little more looking around than I thought, but I got the skinny about this line on MarvelToys.net. It’s basically a repaint and redecco line. I thought that Wolverine looked familiar and it’s because it’s actually a Sabertooth figure I have in my collection! Also he has both hands, so he’s not REALLY AoA Wolvy, but it’s still a fun figure.