6WH: Week 5 - Slashers

Coming down the homestretch already? The past 5 weeks have absolutely flown by... There's still a bunch of movies I want to watch and I'm not sure I'll even be able to get to them. In any case, this week, I got back to basics and went with a favorite sub-genre, the slashers! They've been a staple of previous years, but I specifically attempted to decrease my consumption this year because I like to mix things around a little. So far, I think I've done a pretty good job of that, but I couldn't stay away for too long - here's what I watched:
  • Thursday the 12th (Robot Chicken)
  • Grindhouse: Thanksgiving (fake trailer)
  • Scream (trailer)
  • Terror Train: So I know Jamie Lee Curtis got her start in the Halloween movies and earned the title "Scream Queen" but I never realized how many horror/slasher movies she was involved in in the early 80s slasher explosion. Indeed, this movie marks the second movie I've watched and been surprised to see her in (the other being the Ozploitation flick, Road Games). This film takes place on a scenic train that a bunch of college frat boys have rented out for the night. Of course, a freshman prank gone wrong a few years ago is ripe to be avenged, and you'll never guess who the killer is! Or something. It's a surprisingly tame entry in the slasher sub-genre. There's some brief nudity and some blood, but nothing gratuitous. The unique, cramped setting does make for some nice atmosphere, and the surprise of seeing Jamie Lee Curtis and even a young David Copperfield (an aside: magic shows can be very impressive in person, but they never make the transition to movies very well - we've all see hundreds of making-of documentaries showing how almost anything can be accomplished on screen with a little trickery, even before the era of CGI. As such, while Copperfield's magic is pretty awesome, it's also a bit suspicious.) was a welcome change of pace. It's ultimately not that scary, but there's a lot to like about it. **1/2
  • Wet Nightmares (short)
  • It's the Gifts That I Hate (Robot Chicken)
  • The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror VI: Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace (sorry no vid online)
  • Maniac: Meet Frank Zito. He misses his mommy! He's also a murderous maniac that likes to scalp his victims to create wigs for his collection of mannequins. This is a bit of an oddity when it comes to slasher films. For the most part, the film is told from the perspective of the killer, played by the decidedly odd (and perfect for this part) Joe Spinell (you may remember him as a wiseguy gangster in The Godfather, or as a wiseguy gangster in Rocky). Spinell is perfect in this roll, whether he's delivering manic monologues or just skulking around in his killin outfit, and to the extent that this movie works, it's mostly due to Spinell's performance. The rest is due to the makeup effects by Tom Savini, whose work is as gloriously gratuitous as ever (the standout sequence involves a shotgun shot to the head). Otherwise, the story is a bit of a mess. I guess this is to be expected considering that the story is told from the perspective of a nutjob, but that doesn't really make it an endearing movie. That's not really what it's going for anyway, but that still doesn't make it fun to watch. Then again, I have to admit that it was a bit more artistic than I expected and I did really enjoy the ending, where things just start going way over the top and falling apart. It's a must watch for students of the genre, though it's not one of my favorites. **1/2
  • Twilight at the Towers, by Clive Barker (Short Story from Cabal)
  • Slaughter High (trailer)
  • King in the Box (short)
  • Pieces: I think you could say the other two films in this post had some sort of relatively high aspirations. Neither were going for an Oscar nod or anything, but they didn't seem like they were just attempts to cash-in on the successful slasher sub-genre. Pieces, on the other hand, is a much more exploitative experience. The story is about a chainsaw-wielding maniac who is chopping off various victims' body parts, presumably to put all the pieces together into a Frankestein-like (perhaps Frankenhooker-like is more accurate) monster. Lots of fun horror tropes here. Axe-wielding kid, the crazy bearded groundskeeper, a kung-fu professor (!?) who claims he ate bad chop suey, a water bed murder, lots of chainsaws that can cut through the human body like butter and gratuitous gore in general. Though not aspiring to much, I think this might have been the most fun of all three of this week's movies. There's some great gore and lots of unintentionally hilarious moments. The highlight for me was when the undercover cop discovers that the killer managed to murder someone right under her nose, after which she exclaims something to the effect of "Bastard! You bastard! BASSSTAAAARD! BAAAAASSTAAAARD!" It goes on for about a minute (I know that doesn't sound much, but a minute of screen time is actually quite long for something like this).
    BAAASTAAAARD!
    BAAASTAAAARD!
    I don't know if the actress was intentionally hamming it up, or if she thought it was her prestige moment, but I prefer to think of it as the latter, as that makes me laugh even more. The other notable sequence is the very last scene. I don't want to ruin it because it is pretty surprising, but it's... eye opening, to say the least. **1/2
That's all for now. No idea what's next, but I think it's probably time for a no discernible theme week! Maybe I'll have some updates on Wednesday as well... Oh, and go Phillies!