Slashers in the modern era and mainly in the mainstream are very far and few in between compared to their heyday in the early to mid-1980’s. Now granted we do have some mainly from the indie market such as “Terrifier”, “The Barn” and others to satisfy our urge for the classic slashers we grew to love. However the more mainstream market besides the major hit with “Halloween” last year has not had a huge market for these films. But luckily we did get a major released slasher in the form of “The Strangers-Prey at Night” last year which is a sequel to the 2007 film “The Strangers”. Now I am a huge fan of the first film and how it managed to use a good deal of suspense and had a likable cast as well as killers that I always wanted to see more of. Well after a long, long time we finally get a sequel!
I will say right away I love this film. I was unfortunate to miss it in theaters but when I picked it up on blu ray, I was told to take it with a heavy grain of salt. I was essentially told over and over that the serious tone of the first film was pretty much butchered for a cut and paste type movie. However, I went into it with an open mind and just by going through the opening credits blasting “Kids In America”, I could already feel this was going to be a bit more of a tongue in cheek kind of movie….and I couldn’t be any more right. Where the first film was more of a 70’s-esque home invasion film, the sequel goes straight for the 80’s slasher formula which makes for a fun time. The characters while not as memorable do their parts very well and final girl Bailee Madison who plays “Kinsey” at first I was not fond of her character, it felt very forced. But after multiple watches she definitely fits the part and has some badass scenes towards the end. Her brother played by Lewis Pullman I really enjoyed and had probably the best scene in the film where he gets to fight back against two of the masked assailants gaining the upper hand on one only to be outed by the Man in the mask. It is a great scene filled with 80’s pop music blaring which almost adds the unsettling feeling to the whole situation. Now story wise it is pretty standard but it works. It follows a slightly dysfunctional family visiting an aunt and uncle at a trailer park during the off season which means no one’s there. Its spooky and creepy and essentially it’s a perfect place for our three slashers to be staking out and the family must fight for their survival cut print and on we go etc.. While the plot is bare bones, it is how the film is handled that works. With some great tense moments especially toward the end and the 80’s pop soundtrack it all works well to create a fun throwback film. There are also a lot of homages it seems to films like “Christine”, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and every time I watch, it is more enjoyable to notice them more and more.
Overall, I feel this film is much more enjoyable than the first in sense of just being a fun slasher that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It feels slightly like Chainsaw part 2 in the sense of not trying to outdo the grittiness of the original but the take that world and make it a lot more fun which horror to me has always been about: a fun, blood splattered time. Highly Recommended!
The 1980’s spawned literally hundreds and hundreds of Horror films. Year by year companies spat them out and with the advent and convenience of VHS, these films flooded the market. While I have tons to choose from and many I will be getting to from time to time, one I really want to talk about today is the direct to video supernatural slasher from 1988 known simply as “Scarecrows”.
Released in 1988 by Manson International Pictures and directed by William Wesley, “Scarecrows” follows five mercenaries who robbed Camp Pendleton and hijacked a plane with the pilot and his daughter in tow. As they head for the border, one of them decides to double cross the team by parachuting to an abandoned farm with all the cash. As the team lands the plane in the isolated area, the farm becomes alive and the surrounding Scarecrows begin to cause havoc to the trespassers. I have to say that this film while having a lot of similar tropes to supernatural haunted house films of the time still has a unique plot to it. The atmosphere presented is very well done as well with a lot of shadow play throughout to add to the isolated feeling. The best thing I can say about this film also is the Scarecrow effects are very well done mainly due to Norman Cabrera known for working on Gremlins 2, From Dusk Til Dawn and others later on. However, in terms of character development, there isn’t a ton save for the team becoming more paranoid as we see them picked off one by one. The plot for the first half hour seems to drag on with the team slowly discovering that the house may have been a ground for satanic worship however it is never fully explained and is always kept mostly vague. The film really picks up toward the end with the scarecrows being fully realized as nearly indestructible killers and they even bring back those they kill as straw filled zombies which is a nice touch.
Save for a few recycled shots of scarecrows, the film does its best with its low budget in making an effective and fun horror film. The characters are really nothing to write home about with not really any big names but they aren’t portrayed terribly. This is definitely a good flick to add to an October playlist for the atmosphere alone. A fun little horror flick that didn’t create a whole new subgenre but gained a cult following for its simplicity and well done practical effects. Recommended!
Post-apocalyptic films are personally one of my favorite genres of film that has ever hit the silver screen all the way to vhs tapes to blu ray and beyond. Australia in particular, seem to have a cornered market on these types of films with creating perhaps the most iconic and my favorite action franchise of all time, “Mad Max”. However there are some interesting less talked about Ozploitation action films that came from this time such as “Road Games” and the subject of today’s review, the neon splattered new wave drenched “Dead End Drive-In”.
Released in 1986 by New World Pictures and directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith, “Dead End Drive-In” is definitely one of the most unique post-apocalyptic films I have seen. Set in the “not so distant future” like many of these kinds of movies, we see that society is breaking down (of course) and has adopted mainly a free for all kind of lifestyle. Cars have become a hot ticket as anyone is looking for car wrecks that happen on the roads so they are able to claim the wrecked parts for salvaging. Right away this film feels very colorful with the world we have been put into. With the gangs that ride the highways to the locations and colors used in the film, it definitely bleeds that 80’s style. Our main character Jimmy “Crabs” played by a very charismatic Ned Manning is looking to take his girlfriend Carmen played by Natalie McCurry(R.I.P) to the local Star drive in for your run of the mill teenage date night. While getting hot in Crabs’ brothers 57 Chevy (which doesn’t get nearly enough screen time), the tires are stolen and as Crabs goes to the office to file a report, he finds out the real truth behind the drive in: there is no leaving. Essentially drive ins have been converted into concentration style camps for the undesirables of society and Crabs inadvertently got caught in the trap. The rest of the running time shows Crabs will to survive and escape as everyone else pretty much sees it as an easy way of life for them. Even his girlfriend has adapted to the life and is even brainwashed to feel as though the Asian immigrants that have also been transported here are the cause of the world’s problems. When this element was introduced in the plot, I realized how much social commentary was really laid on in this film and done with a lot of thought in mind. The racist gangs present and the theme of bigotry throughout the camp slowly comes out toward the last half hour or so in the film and is when Crabs realizes he cannot be blinded by everyone here. What results is a fantastic action sequence with some tense moments and one bombastic ending that had me grinning like an idiot. The action sequences in this film are fantastically done with some good explosions and one hell of a jump at the end. Another thing to note is the exceptional acting by just about everyone in the film. While Crabs seems the most level headed, everyone else plays very outlandish and cartoony distorted wackos that fit perfectly in this film but never come off as cheesy and annoying.
Overall, with some very exceptional and charismatic acting, style and charm that can be rarely matched by even the time period it was conceived in and the interesting take it has on the Post-Apocalyptic sub-genre, “Dead End Drive In” definitely is a gem that needs to be rediscovered and the newer Arrow Video blu ray is definitely the way to go with a bunch of loaded extras and a very sharp picture and exceptional sound quality. Very highly recommended.