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:
Yeah, I know it’s been a few days since Labor Day, but I’m still recovering. After a weekend filled with playing LEGO Indiana Jones with Em, going to craft fairs (yech), going to a rad Octoberfest and having an impromptu get together at our place (oh, and a lot of beer), I needed to relax. So, while Emily, her friend Vicki and Rickey’s girlfriend Sam went to the Ren Fair, Rickey and I watched roughly 8 hours of horror movies (4.25 in all).
So, without getting into too too much detail, here’s what we watched and my thoughts on each:
MY BLOODY VALENTINE (1981)
I gotta say, we picked a good one to start with. Neither of us had seen this one before and I think we were both impressed. The basic story is that there’s this mining town called Valentine Bluffs in Nova Scotia where they used to have this annual Valentine’s Day dance. Twenty years ago, a bunch of miners were really anxious to get to the party so they did something wrong and the mine blew up. Now there’s a tall tale that says Harry Warden threatened to kill anyone who went to the Valentine’s Day dance, so they canceled it…until NOW! So, of course, someone dressed up in a pretty rad mining/dominatrix combo outfit starts killing people, cutting out their hears and putting them in heart shaped boxes. The dance gets canceled, so the genius miners decide to have their party at the mine. Craziness and death ensues.
Wow, that was a lot more in depth than I intended to go, but it’s probably because I really dug this movie. One thing that Rickey and I started wondering towards the end of the movie was whether we were supposed to assume the killer really was escaped mental patient Harry Warden or someone else. Think about it, this flick came out in ’81, the slasher film hadn’t been around for too long, so anything was possible. I neglected to mention that there is a main character named TJ (hells yeah!) who moved away from Valentine Bluffs and came back. His girlfriend is dating a guy so they become the main two characters (and thus suspects). Spoiler, it is one of them, but you’re really not sure which as they switch off in the final scene which actually takes place down in the mine.
The killings themselves aren’t all that spectacular and mostly off camera, but the killer does stuff an old lady into a drier in a laundromat, which the cop finds the next day. Also, I’m not sure if Canadian laundromats work differently than the ones here, but one drier kept drying all night long and never shut off. Come on Canada, how dry do you need your clothes? Another interesting note about Canadians? They drive like maniacs, whether it’s the miners leaving the movie in the beginning of the movie (each driving a car from a different decade, seriously, check it out) or, uh, driving away from the mine later after the killer strikes in the craziest swervy driving I’ve ever seen. I get being scared, but keep your sh!t together miners.
Okay, so that stuff was a little ridiculous, but like I said, I really liked this movie. You got the mystery of who the killer is, pretty great character development without getting too much into unnecessary back story. The killer looks awesome. The climax in the actual mine (the part is in the facility on the surface until some geniuses head down before realizing there’s a killer on the loose) is pretty creepy, mixing fears of claustrophobia and getting a pick axe in the head, especially in the scene where the killer smashes a series of lightbulbs hanging on a string, darkening the shaft with each pop of shattered glass. Really good stuff. If you haven’t seen it and your a slasher/horror fan definitely check it out.
APRIL FOOL’s DAY (1986)
Without much effort (we flipped the double disc over) and watched this flick. I had pretty high hopes because of how surprised and impressed I was by My Bloody Valentine. I wasn’t all that surprised or impressed with April Fool’s Day, mostly because of the ending which I will spoil shortly. The story’s somewhat poorly construed to the audience (neither Rickey nor myself really knew why these kids were meeting on a fairy boat or whether they all knew each other), but the basic premise is that a bunch of kids including Biff from Back to the Future and the main girl from Friday the 13th Part 2 (Amy Steel), are going to stay with their friend Muffy in her big old house on an island. It seems that Muffy likes to pull pranks and has the whole house rigged up. There’s also a few weird things in the rooms like bondage gear, a heroin kit and a tape of a baby crying. Then, as you would expect, the kids start disappearing one by ones, presumably getting killed. The couple that ends up being the last man and woman standing discover that Muffy’s gone crazy and then later that it’s her twin Buffy and then they find out in the end that…it was all a set up. It seems that Muffy was trying out a plan for turning the big old house into a murder mystery getaway.
Now, I’m not a big fan of stories in which the end of the movie completely wipes out the emotions you just felt. Also, I’d be pretty pissed if someone put me through all this crap just to test something out on me. What a jerk! But the movie’s not all bad, and to be honest, I knew something was coming up because I’m a doofus and started reading the IMDB trivia in the beginning which said the body count is 0. So, with that in mind I noticed that none of the killings were on screen and was just waiting for the explanation at the end. I really did like the cast, you might not have known why they all got together in the beginning, but you get the feeling as it goes on that these kids are pretty good friends. Even the goofy pranks display character traits instead of just being annoying.
One thing that really didn’t sit well with me though involved one of those weirder pranks I mentioned above. Throughout the movie the kids aren’t in on the gag until after they “die.” Remember that part where I mentioned a tape of a baby crying? Well it turns out that Muffy used personal information to really mess with her friends’ heads and that girl with the crying baby tape in her room actually had an abortion. It’s mentioned later by one of the other characters and then that girl “dies” and we don’t see her again until the big reveal seen at the end where she’s sitting there pretty unimpressed with the whole thing. What a d!ck move, am I right? But everything’s cool until she sneaks into Muffy’s bedroom and fake slits her throat. I’ll be honest, I kind of wanted Muffy to bite it in the end (which was apparently how an alternate version of the movie was supposed to end) because she really is the villain of the piece and she makes out like a bandit. Where’s the justice?!
Quick side, note, I love this movie poster. I remember seeing it at the video store when I was kid and being scared and later really intrigued.
Scarecrows was the last movie that Rickey brought up with him to watch. Before jumping in we went up to Arby’s and grabbed some grub. We sat back down and watched while we ate and soon realized that this movie kinda sucks and turned it off. It’s about these robbers, one of which pulls a DB Cooper and jumps out of the plane with the loot. He lands in farmland and goes on the run as his cohorts chase him down. Oh yeah, and the scarecrows in the field come to life and kill him. I’m probably gonna finish watching this sometime this week or next, so keep your eyes peeled for another review.
So, with the disillusionment that was Scarecrows we went up to Blockbuster and got Scanners, which I had seen, but Rickey hadn’t. I’ve enjoyed all of David Cronenberg’s horror/sci-fi movies that I’ve seen (especially the super-weird Shivers), plus the head explosion scene and final battle between Vale and Revok kicks ass. I had completely forgotten how long and intricate the plot is though. You see, Scanners are basically psychics and telekinetics who are cropping up in the world. Vale’s the good guy, employed by a doctor who turns out to be his dad to infiltrate Revok’s crew, the bad guy who turns out to be his brother. Rickey and I both fell asleep intermittently throughout the movie, but the slow, deliberate pacing actually made it easy to keep up with the story.
I’m definitely not going to really get into the plot here because it’s very intricate, though I basically spoiled the ending above. Heh, woops. But it’s definitely a cerebral journey that shows just how good Cronenberg used to be at bringing out the weirder aspects of humanity in these crazy surreal situations. Highly recommended, along with Shivers, eXistenZ, The Fly, though I can’t pass that same recommendation along for Eastern Promises which just seemed very “been there, done that.”
THE BURNING (1981)
So, after getting rested up we were ready to close things out with a good old fashioned camp slasher movie. Five years ago a camp prank went wrong and the creepy groundskeeper Cropsy gets burned close to death, but not all the way (“The skin grafts didn’t take” an orderly tells him as they roll him out of the hospital.). Now, someone’s killing kids at a different camp. That’s about it as far as the plot goes.
The big draw for me for this flick was the cast, specifically young Jason Alexander and Fisher Stevens who I didn’t really recognize until he spoke in that ribbity voice he has. Jason Alexander looks and sounds pretty much the same as you think he would, just less portly and more ripped. He plays a nice guy jock. There’s also a creepy kid played by Brian Backer (Mark ‘Rat’ Ratner of Fast Times fame) who spies on girls in the shower and just kind of stares creepily at people.
Like I said, the plot isn’t all that intricate. Some campers get killed at the main camp and then a group of them goes on a trip up stream. That’s where the killer really gets to let loose, killing an entire log raft of kids at one point in a pretty cool scene. There’s even a chase between the main killer, the weird kid and the main guy who turns out to be one of the kids who played a prank on Cropsy five years ago in some kind of huge ruined structure in the middle of the woods. I have no idea what the structure was, but it looked pretty rad.
I can recommend this one again for slasher fans as Cropsy runs around with some huge shears cutting off fingers and stabbing throats. It’s also great for camp movie fans like Rickey.
After this we were pretty horror movied out, so we watched an episode of Clean House, a show I find myself strangely drawn to. Good times!