College Slashers We Love: “Happy Birthday to Me” (1981)

“Happy Birthday to me” 1981. A college horror related film I love.
{A birthday cake that you’d kill to eat} !!!

The first thing that comes in my mind when I think of Happy Birthday to me, is the first scene where a girl is being killed on her way to a pub where her college friends waiting for her. I was a very young boy when I first saw this film and since then it’s on my top 10 list of horror films.

Virginia Wainwright is not a typical girl of her age. She lost her mother in an accident and lives in a very luxury house with her wealthy father since then. She and her friends do all the crazy stuff that college boys and girls do but what they don’t know is that there is a killer on the loose. As the plot of the film is in process we become aware of some details from Virginia’s past and the impact of her mother’s death on her. Meanwhile, one by one all of her friends start disappearing without leaving a trace. Virginia starts feeling that there is a connection between her and her friends disappearances because her mind plays mysterious and malice games. She and her psychiatrist try to find the missing parts of her past in order to understand not only what is going on with her but if there is any league to her friends deaths as well.

A strange and unusual 80’s flick that doesn’t use the typical recipe of a horror film. What we have here is a very strong script with very interesting twists. The acting is rather good even though Melissa sue Anderson (Virginia) overdone it sometimes. I won’t be a spoiler for those who haven’t seen it yet, but the ending is very interesting and different from what we’re used of. So, enjoy 1:45 minutes of absolute suspense.

–Panos Tsiros

Horror Movies So Bad They’re Great: “Splatter University” (1984)

Splatter University (1984) is a no budget 1980’s slasher schlock-fest with some of the most unforgivable acting and special effects that I’ve ever seen, and it’s one of my favorite so-bad-it’s-good horror flicks! A mental patient (we don’t see who it is) kills a staff member and escapes from the loony bin. Three years later a female professor is brutally killed at a Catholic University. The next semester yesterday (yes, that’s what the caption says), there’s a new professor on campus, Julie (Francine Forbes, known now as Forbes Riley), who the movie centers around. Also featured are Julie’s professor boyfriend, the dean of the university, and a pack of asshole students who all scream for a brick to be thrown at their faces.

This college-themed slasher never takes itself too seriously with a subtle sense of humor, but plays it straight with the slashing! Splatter U is filled with POV shots, red herrings, inventive deaths (watch for the bloodless knife-down-the-throat kill), sex-crazed college students, religious undertones, and some of the most outrageous 80’s fashions, all rounded out with an enjoyably cheesy keyboard synth score. 99% of the acting is god-awful, but credit should be given to Francine Forbes who, in my opinion, does a great job playing the protagonist. Her acting may be amateurish but her character is believable and very likeable. Forbes makes it a lot easier to enjoy this movie and her talent really holds the story together among a sea of lifeless, gag-inducing actors. The gore effects may be cheap looking, but the red stuff flows like rivers!

I’ve chatted with the Director Richard W. Haines (also directed Class of Nuke ‘Em High) here on Facebook quite a few times. He has recently deleted his account, but he told me in lengthy detail about the production of Splatter University. He said the original film was only about 60 minutes and mostly featured Francine Forbes, but the studio wanted the film to be longer. So after the initial filming was through, Haines went back and shot a lot more scenes which consisted of all the extremely cheesy scenes with the asshole students, extending the film to 78 minutes. Haines told me that he has intentions of releasing this slasher on blu-ray, and including the original 60 minute version as an extra feature. That version would probably end up being a lot less cheesy that the version we’ve all seen and grown to love.

Splatter U isn’t a good movie by any means, but it’s hokey, fun and hilarious! It has a surprisingly interesting story and an unexpected ending quite different from most slashers. And don’t forget class, at Splatter U the only requirement is SURVIVAL!

–Jeffrey Lee

College Slashers We LOVE: “Black Christmas” (1974)

Christmas has come to the small college town of Bedford, but instead of joy the season brings a horrific surprise, in the form of a warpped psychopath who’s murdered a teenage girl. The elusive lunatic is now squatting in the dusty attic of a local college sorority house, waiting to be set-off again. For the thinning group of sorority sisters left in the house, it will be a nightmare as they’re plagued by ominous phone calls and the disappearence of one of their own, all the while oblivious to the deadly threat that lurks within their home. A threat that is creeping closer with every passing minute.

Bob Clark’s Black Christmas is a tour de force of a horror film! It’s a film that has rode low under the radar since its release in 1974, but in previous years has been re-discovered by the horror community and finally hailed and praised for the brilliant masterpiece that it is. For me, words never quite do justice to this film. Black Christmas strikes such a deep chord that it almost must be viewed to understand its unsettling impact. It is the perfect film to terrify one’s self with in the late night, with the phone unplugged of course! On every level Black Christmas is a finely-crafted film. Story-wise it is an engrossing ride through extreme emotion. Clark weaves into this plot such moments of profound eeriness, moments of sharp comic relief, and ultimately a climax that so utterly intense you may find yourself sweating. This is all capped off with a conclusion that is the perfect final note to this disturbing tale. Clark’s direction is top-notch, as we are given fantastic cinematography, particularly in lurking point-of-view shots from our murderous villain. The cast is excellent, featuring such notable stars as Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, John Saxon, and Margot Kidder, all of whom deliever fine performances. Even the supporting cast, which sports such memorable Canadian actors as Art Hindle, Mariam Waldman, Andrea Martin, and Douglas MacGrath, are good here. One element that truly brings out the haunting, dark atmosphere of this film is the music score by Carl Zittrer. Zittrer’s music here is best described as simply “deranged” as the composer perfectly captures the menace and chill of this tale. All of these factors combine to make a film that is simply one of the genre’s best. Its influence can be felt in such slasher classics as Carpenter’s Halloween (1978), Walton’s When a Stranger Calls (1979), and Cunningham’s Friday the 13th (1980). So, needless to say, Black Christmas is one of the true milestones of the slasher subgenre.

Enough with analysis, Black Christmas is a MUST for horror fans. See it, in the dark. And remember “if this picture doesn’t make your skin crawl… it’s on TOO TIGHT!”

–Alex Dillard

Underrated College Slashers: “The Initiation” (1984) Review

Larry Stewart directs one of my personally favorite 80’s “college” slashers, The Initiation, which was came out in 1984, and 1984 was considered the last year of the “Golden Age” of the slasher genre.

Kelly Fairchild (Daphne Zuniga) is just wanting to get into a pledge,but with bizarre and terrifying nightmares it’s hard to focus on anything else for Ms. Fairchild. Also, the fact that her family holds a dark secret that Kelly just can’t remember. On the night of Kelly and her sorority sister’s last pledge, the girls must stay the night and finish a prank in a department store that is owned by Kelly’s stepfather. But the girl’s aren’t alone because someone is watching, stalking, and killing the pledges one by one. Could this killer be a stranger or could it be someone that has emerged from Kelly’s dark family secret.

When I hear most slasher/horror fans mention slasher films, I rarely hear people talk about The Initiation except for a rare few horror fans, and if people have heard about it then they just have never seen it. In my opinion, this film is very underrated and was the last of the slasher films of 1984 that just seemed to drift away under many other slasher films. I found this to be one of the best slashers films, and one of the best “college” slasher films. The first half of the film has some slow moments,but it really starts picking up when the pledges enter the department store and the killings start really happening. Watching the film again last night, I found some of the acting to be cheesy especially coming from some of the side pledges who have some of the funnest screams I have ever seen in a horror film.

But with those moments and some other cheesy bizarre moments, I find this film to be a fun ride and I just love it!! It’s great to see Vera Miles (Psycho) and Clu Gulager (The Return of the Living Dead) make an appearance in this low budget slasher film, and the beautiful Daphne Zuniga, who also appeared in the 1980’s slasher film, The Dorm That Dripped Blood. Some slasher fans might not all love this film like I do,but if anything I think every slasher fan will have a fun time watching it. So grab some popcorn, a good drink, and some skittles while watching this early 80’s slasher gem.

–Justin Rhine

College Horror We Love: “The Unnamable” (1988) Review

I’m not too big a fan of College Themed slashers or horrors. The setting just isn’t exciting for me. I was going to the let week slip by until I remembered my love for this only-on-VHS gem from the 80s that takes place at a college and the majority of the victims are college students, so I guess this fits the bill?

Now due to Stuart Gordon’s exceedingly brilliant based on a H.P. Lovecraft short story”Re-animator” raking in the cash greedy producers do what they do best and combed through the material finding ways to exploit it’s success and suck up more money and the late 80s-early 90s had a hand full of flicks based off of Lovecraft short stories. “The Curse” with Will Wheaton was sort of a good one and this one, The Unamable is probably my fav after Re Animator.

The movie opens with some old Vincent Price wannabe tending to a Screaming, foul, unseen creature in a decrepit mansion while his candle flame flutters in the wind. Not sure what he was expecting trying to calm a demonic she beast locked in attic but he gets a clawed hand punched through his chest and his heart pulled out for his stupidity. Cut to 30 years later and the mansion is now condemned and isolated, but is neighbors to a California university. The students are aptly aware of the “legend” that a creature roams it’s halls looking for victims.

Now this is the 1980s, do I even have to tell you that the rest of the movie consists of a group of students, every single one of them a blatant stereo type, not believing the legend and they decide they must set things right by spending the night in the hovel? And that violence ensues, brain dead characters get fate handed to them on, the ultra slut bitch meets the she bitch face to face, and the nerd and good girl escape while wannabe sorcerer spews an enchantment that can cause trees to uproot and sooth the savage beast?

This movie isn’t very original I’m sure you can tell, and not very faithful to the short story but it’s all in the execution and the directors approach gets the job done and is so 80s. This movie reminded me of Night of the Demons with it’s set-up and tone. The mansion that homes the demon from hell is very similar to Hull House. The lighting and shadows are superb, very creepy.

The movie suffers from slow pace at the start and the acting is very bad, sort of typical of genre at this point in time so it’s not that grating. The music is all right, kind of generic. The token slut was cringe worthy.

The movie’s main plus is the creature and it’s design. Wow talk about effective. I remember being terrified of this creature as a kid. There’s one scene where one characters tells his girlfriend that she’s stupid and there’ isn’t a face in the window and looks and indeed, does see the horrifying face hissing. Very effective and creepy. It made me hesitant of looking out murky windows at night. There’s something very unsettling about the look of this monster, the naked pale ass, the hooves, the horns, the breasts, the fur…it’s all very Lovecraftian and I adore it. This movie works best when it switches into slasher mold of the she-beast stalking it’s prey in the halls of the creepy mansion. That’s all you need in certain flicks.

Followed by a sequel that picks off seconds after this one with the same director, producers, actors, and a bigger budget but is somehow less satisfying and loses that great 80s feel. Sadly, it’s the only one on DVD and I had to cough up a lot of dough to get a worn VHS of this, so worth it though. Only seek out the unrated version!

—Vince Fontaine

Terrible College Slashers: “American Psycho 2” (2002) Review

How do you fuck with the minds of those who enjoyed the film American Psycho? How else can William Shatner embarrass himself? Well if those questions ever entered your mind, than here is your answer.

This sequel to the hit film starring Christian Bale(pre-Batman)is more of a loose sequel, only referring to Patrick Batemen in the beginning(and having a guy masked up to play him). While the film ends with us questioning the sanity of the man we have been watching for over two hours, this throws that all away by just claiming he actually did kill people and that it left its mark on a little girl to grow up to be Mila Kunis(post That 70’s Show) and than to top it off she becomes fascinated with her college professor, while studying to be an FBI agent.

William Shatner doesn’t have a lot to do in this film, as he merely is the motivation for why the character begins knocking off a few of the other students, using her knowledge of the way the FBI does things to cover it up(which could have been an interesting concept if it wasn’t thrown out so quickly).

I caught this on late night cable and was sickened that this film was even tried, they didn’t even have the common respect and courtesy to involve the original films author at least write the script(or maybe they did and he refused). Its really just a bad way to capitalize on the success of the previous film and to add the sex appeal Mila Kunis adds. William Shatner is just the big name they managed to get in hopes of having history repeat itself(by this time Bale had become something).

I would suggest if you wanna own it by it as part of collection of films, this way you get your money’s worth.

–Eric Curto

Surprisingly Decent College Slasher: “Cut” (2000) Review

I went into this film thinking this would just be another run of the mill direct to video horror with a big name actor headlining (most likely dying quickly). When I was done watching this film, I was very surprised at how well it was made. The start of the film is slow moving, but once everyone gets to the “murder” house, things really begin to pick up.

Molly Ringwald is the “big name” actor I was talking about, but let me make it clear she is a big name to anyone who grew up in the 80’s, from The Facts of Life to the John Hughes films, this actress will always be in peoples heads, so to see her in a film that many feel is beneath them, once they reach success in any form, its great. She isn’t too bad, after her initial opening scene(which made me laugh at how cheesy the acting was), the actress begins to give layers to her character, making it more than it appears at first.

That’s the element of the film that surprised me, we actually have a set of characters that are given depth, its not long range depth, but it shows the writer didn’t just want to have characters to hack away at. The deaths are pretty good, especially one involving a vice, it combines old school horror ways with today’s “torture porn” ways.

The main heroine Raffy(Jessica Napier) is well played and, while she is somewhat in the background a lot, her character does shine, especially after the reveal of her connection to the opening films murders.

Now my opinion on the killer, let it be known that I have watched these types of films since I was around 4, the first films I remember seeing are F13TH6, ANOES 4 and Sleepaway Camp, so not much shocks me, I’m pretty numb to this stuff, but the way the killer proceeds in this film is quite chilling, the lighting helps it a lot as he is kept in the dark and the mask is very new and fresh and cool.

Watching this film I couldn’t help but want Joe Bob Briggs doing his “Drive-In” totals and giving some funny commentary. This film is not a masterpiece, but its a joy to watch and its on Netflix. Depending on what features are available this will be in my DVD collection soon.

–Eric Curto

Disappointing College Slashers: “Urban Legends: Final Cut” (2000) Review

Monday night I decided to watch Urban Legend and Urban Legends: The Final Cut, and while I always love the first film because it is entertaining, kinda creepy, and so much fun. The second film loses a lot of what the first film I had.
To make the plot simple without spoiling anything, Urban Legends: The Final Cut surrounds a group of college filmmakers set out to make a horror film for a college project led by lead actress (Jennifer Morrison). But once the camera starts rolling the crew of students start getting killed, and Morrison’s character tries to stay alive before the final cut! Who will survive to see the movie in the end?

After watching Urban Legend, I thought I would give Part 2 a watch to see if I liked it still. But after watching how fun the first film is, the second film is a letdown and misses a lot of what the first film has. While the first film is entertaining and a fun ride, this film is just weak and boring after the first 30 minutes. The movie starts off good,but slowly turns for the worse because the pace is slow, most of characters are weak besides a few, the kills are nothing special, and even though the killers reveal is pretty shocking the first time you see the film it still doesn’t shock you as much as when the killer is revealed in the first film. The only goods things that make this film worthy to watch are some of the characters, one kill involving a bathtub and ice, the killer’s outfit, the first 30 minutes, and the last scene involving a familiar face from the first film.

Urban Legends: The Final Cut is one of the weakest “college” slashers next to Sorority House Massacre 2, and Blood Sisters. Urban Legends: The Final Cut is not the worst film,but not the best either. It’s one you can watch once in a while or possibly after watching Part 1 as a double feature. Part 2 however is better than Urban Legend: Blood Mary, which has no reason to be apart of this series.

–Justin Rhine

College Slashers We Love: “Urban Legend” (1998) Review

Let me start off by stating this fact; love or hate this film you have to admit it provided something a bit different in terms of content and you were wanting to see this when that first trailer first aired.

I love this film. Sure it has its cliches, but it turns the tables and continues the “whodunit” element seen in the Scream films with a nice little twist. Of course it doesn’t hurt that this was littered with many of the “hot” stars of the time (Robert Englund in a nice red herring capacity, Brad Dourif, Natasha Gregson Wagner, daughter of Natalie Wood, in a nice little cameo, Joshua Jackson, Rebecca Gayheart, and my favorite Danielle Harris, in a hot ass goth look “SHUT THE FUCKIN DOOR”). The film also adds the element of a killer having an MO. Llet’s face it as we enjoy saying Jason wields a machete, he rarely kills anyone with it. The way Urban Legend uses the legends leaves it open to a long list of ways of different murders.

The college setting here isn’t a huge thing, but it does give us a way for our heroine to figure out what may be the killers next move and a way to lead her to a dead end. I love the way the deaths are executed, while the sequels tried to keep up the films use of Urban Legend deaths they strayed away, this film doesn’t do that. I also love the reveal of the killer and how nuts they transform in a quickness. The motive is a bit disappointing as its just another “I lost someone I cared about” motive, but I guess it had to come from somewhere.

A few notable appearances are that of Tara Reid (American Pie films) and Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville, DCAU), the reason I point them out is because their characters are basically throw-away, but they made their presence known. How long has it been since we see a character weep about not wanting to die? Rosenbaum is remembered by me because he was just so out there. When you watch the gag reel feature on the Smallville DVDs, you can see this character come out. Besides he sees his dog cooked in the microwave..how messed up is that? The roles are for some forgettable, but for me I remember it well.

Alicia Witt, plays out heroine and although she will never be a scream queen, I still enjoyed her performance, she plays the heroine that survives because she is proactive and doesn’t just survive cause she can ware down the killer. I will admit the film isn’t the best example of a really good “college” surrounded slasher, but I really liked it.

—Eric Curto

College Slashers We Love: “Scream 2” (1997) Review

Following the events from the first film, we find Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) now attending Windsor College. At this point she receives prank call from people pretending to be Ghostface, unfortunately for them caller id is invented. Also attending Windsor with Sidney is our other survivor Randy (Jamie Kennedy). Sidney thinks the past events in Woodsboro is behind her, but when two of her fellow college students are murdered during a midnight screening of the film Stab (based on the book The Woodsboro Murders), Sidney realizes it’s far from over. This time it appears someone is trying to make a real life sequel. Our other survivors Dewey (David Arquette) and Gale (Courteney Cox) appear at Windsor in hopes catching our newest killer(s). Many suspects come about including Sid’s new boyfriend Derek (Jerry O’Connell), her best friend Hallie (Elise Neal), the newest fellow movie geek Mickey (Timothy Olyphant), and even the man from Sidney’s past Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber). Can our four heroes unmask this vicious killer before the loose ends are tied?

Scream 2 for me is the best college horror film because it takes place all over the campus. We have a fun sequel discussion in one of the film classes, chit-chat and Ghostface calls on the grounds, chase scenes in the Halls, and an amazing suspense-filled scene that takes place in one of the sorority houses. Any film can take place at a college, but when the film actually uses the campus for some of the major settings, that’s when it’s really well-done. In Scream 2’s case, the campus almost becomes one of the characters in itself. All of the campus settings are so well-done and provide great suspense with the events that take place. One can only imagine how creeped out they would be if they would be in CiCi’s (Sarah Michelle Gellar) shoes if they were in a sorority house alone receiving menacing phone calls. Or even being in Gale’s situation by being chased and ultimately trapped by a killer in a sound room in one of class buildings. One scene I have to say is really artistically well-done is Sidney on the theater stage rehearsing with her cast members in the play, who are dressed like a Greek chorus and she thinks she sees Ghostface amongst the masked crew as different stage effects occur throughout it.

There is so much more that can be said about this film that I could praise it for, but I chose to stick to the college theme for this review, why I chose it as my favorite, and why it uses the college campus setting so perfectly.

—Cody Landman