Underrated 90’s Thriller: “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me” (1992)

This has been one of my fav movies since I first saw it after coming home from a night of partying late one night in March of 2004. I’m not going to lie, my partying days were excessive back then and I was trashed when I slapped it on for the first time. Little did I know how much of a great time I would have, and still have with it to this day.

Not sure how familiar people are with the Twin Peaks phenomena but I was only 5 when that hypnotic pilot episode aired and was 7 when this, the prequel, was released, with it’s head down in shame apparently. I was too young to understand it back then and I missed out on all craziness with the fans and the tv show. I didn’t even know that there was the a prequel until the late 90s. I did know that it was in pop culture references everywhere throughout the 90s[The Simpsons, SNL, etc hell even Bob Saget was making Twin Peaks jokes if my memory serves me right], so I do know that it was warmly embraced at the time which led to my dismay after watching the prequel and reading up on it that it gets nothing but hate, with the occasional love letter. So it’s very apparent that this movie is loathed by many, which is sad, but not surprising. Personally I think it’s a masterpiece.

The story is rather simple, The Last 7 Days Of The Life Of Laura Palmer. And a prelude of the murder of Teresa Banks. There’s an ongoing debate about this prequel that if you haven’t seen the tv show the movie will be incompreshinble and basically a pretentious waste of time. Now I had only seen the pilot episode by 2004, and didn’t know anything else about the show or it’s brilliant mythology, not even who killed her. Luckily the pilot was directed by David Lynch and so was this prequel and I think that made things familar enough. I did know that by the end of the movie Laura would be dead, and that’s that on that. The way the symbolism is done is that you don’t have to see the show to still understand what is being implied. I think people can’t handle that, if it’s not spelled out clearly it pisses people off and they will flat out refuse to watch, I’ve seen it happen a many times. I stand by this opinion, you don’t need to see the TV show first to understand this movie! I still was fully engrossed by the story, amused by the quirky writing and characters, and totally intoxicated with David Lynch’s visual flair, I had all ready seen EraserHead, Mulholland Drive, and Lost Highway by 2004 so his approach to storytelling by that point was fully embraced by me so I was not deterred by the abstract, LSD-dipped approach to the visuals and narrative, I’m a huge style whore at heart and this has to be the 2nd most visually appealing film I’ve ever seen!

Everything about this movie is so detailed, layered, inventive, scary, sad, beautfiful, and nightmarish. The lighting and sound design go hand and hand masterfully, I’ve never seen sound used so well! So many scenes in here are terrifying, like when Laura Palmer walks up to her room under the fan…WOW! The Pink Room party? Laura’s nightmare? Every set piece is so memorable. There’s a real sense of mystery and tragedy here. A heartbreaking stroy about a young girl sexually abused by her own father while trying to project a image of High School Homecoming Queen. I’m reminded of a glamour girl balancing 8 or 9 piles of 110 dishes while having to smile and look perfect but going crazy inside and all at once it’s an explosion of porcelain! This girl is busy! Cheerleading, heay cocaine abuse, homework, prostitution to pay for the coke, late night S & M partes, 3 or 5 boyfriends, crazy nightmares/hallucinations, sexual abuse, Meals on Wheels, meeting mom for breakfast!. It’s a huge work load and very taxing, done by a very brave actress.

The music is brilliant, a work of art. I love everything about this movie, the opening credits of blue haze followed by a TV getting smashed is a great way to start this movie I think, a in your face heads up that this isn’t restrained by tv, it’s TWIN PEAKS THE MOVIE, and anything can go!

I read an extensive book on David Lynch’s career a couple months ago and the chapter on this movie was amazing, and very telling. While David Lynch won the Palme d’or at Cannes for Wild at Heart to many cheers and praise and then put his heart and soul on the line two years later and got booed, having David Lynch resort to his hotel suite depressed and in need of sedatives. I would have been there cheering. It’s funny that Quentin Tarantino would trash talk David Lycnh for this movie stating “David Lynch’s head was so far up his ass with this movie that I will not watch another David Lynch movie until it’s something new, and I LOVED David Lynch”. I said the EXACT same thing with Death Proof!

A very underrated horror movie!

– Vince Fontaine

Underrated Horror Sequel: “Psycho 3” (1986)

Another very underrated sequel. I see so many praising part 2 and trash talking 3. I don’t get it, I think it’s a great companion piece and has a faster pace than part 2. It’s all in the details folks, and part 3 is all about fine details. I love the creativity in this one. It follows part 2 closely and ties up all the loose ends making the Psycho trilogy come full circle. I love the continuity from part 2. Anyone else catch the odes to part 2 with the finger smears on window and the book Meg Tilly was reading laying in the dirt? I actually really like those shots, they inspire melancholy feelings in me of time passing…sigh…ahhh.

The kills are bloody and well staged, loved the build ups and shocks that came with the kills. I found the mood and characters very lurid with splashes of black humour through out. We also get a scene stealing Juliette Cummings [from Friday the 13th 5 a New Beginning and Slumber Party Massacre 2]as “Red” steaming up the house, her scenes with Duke are hilarious and she gets a kick ass death scene in one memorable phone booth scene, channelling the original Psycho and even The Birds!. The Duke played by Jeff Fahey is rock solid inspired casting and acting! “Mother” is much more vocal this time around, no one can deliver “She’s a slut” like mother can.

The directing is stylish and very Argento and yes, Hitchcock. Perkins knew what he was doing and took chances. Did you not foam at the mouth over that amazing door crack to knife blade transition? Wow. Or how Norman moves the lamp and suddenly the film noir parlour is Argento and Suspiria green-lit! . Neat little details make all the difference in the world. Or how about the epic scene where Norman thinks “mother” left him a note that she is in cabin 12 so he walks from the house to the motel looking for her? Chilling and beautiful, so bleak

The soundtrack is far superior to Jerry Goldsmiths from part 2, Carter Burwell makes something special here, I loved it. I found so many absurd moments as well, many times I just had to laugh, but that’s not to say it doesn’t have it’s sadder or scarier moments, it does.

A awesome sequel that doesn’t deserve the hate!

—Vince Fontaine

Underrated 90’s Slashers: “Popcorn” (1991)

Popcorn-1991

Popcorn is one of the last movies of the slasher era and to me, one of the most under rated and unknown too. This movie starts out with Maggie (Jill Schoelen) having a nightmare of a man trying to kill her, but before any damage could happen, she wakes up. Her mother receives prank calls, having someone call but no one on the other end type of deal. Maggie proceeds to go to her class, Cinema to be exact, where they decide to have a fund raiser at the old, and local rundown movie theater. They then go to the theater where they get it ready for the B-rated 50’s horror movies they’re going to feature in 3 weeks.

They find a film in a case that is extremely bizarre and continually says “I am the possessor”. Maggie passes out at a scene in the film that she has saw in her dream. She then finds out the history of the movie, the man who made it, killed his family and himself on stage as it played in the background. Her mother gets another phone call, this time saying “I am the possessor, I want her! I want her!, knowing where the voice is from, she goes to the movie theater to investigate, where she ends up being murdered. Not knowing of what the previous night entailed, Maggie gets ready for the big night at the theater. A strange man who recites the possessor movie buys a ticket off of Maggie, she tells Toby (a boy from her cinema class she likes), he tells her that she should call the police. Making fun of him, saying that they wouldn’t believe her about a man who was supposedly dead. One by one, each member of her class is killed off, but not knowing who the killer is because whoever it is, is replacing the dead bodies with themselves and making it seem like they’re alive. The power ends up going out because one of the deaths involved electricity.

Maggie is behind the stage, in the dark when a man grabs her and is taken to the basement, then the power comes back on and the movies continue to play. Being tied up to some sort of device that holds her head in place, she discovers the killer is Toby, stealing people’s faces and making Maggie believe he is everyone. She finds out the reason for his killer is when the possessor was first shown in the theater that Toby was in the first row and has been burned because Maggie’s aunt set the theater on fire, leaving him not only burned but also extremely disfigured too. She then finds out that the man who made the possessor was actually her father. Her aunt is actually still alive and Toby has her right behind the screen, to get ready to finish what Maggie’s father was unable to do. He sedates Maggie and puts her in a cast with a dress over it, getting ready for their final scene. Now on stage, everyone believes it to be a joke laughing at Maggie because they think it’s all an act. The only person to discover the truth, Mark, then crashes onto the stage using the fly prop from one of the films they were showing. Mark knowing who Toby is, then frees Maggie and kills Toby with the fly. The police and ambulance end up showing up and BAM! Movie is over!

This film is considered to be the predecessor to the Scream franchise, which is clearly seen, is parts of the film. It’s one of the most underrated films I can think of, but it’s one of my favorites. There’s something fun about it and it didn’t lose the seriousness either, keeping true to what they wanted to execute. With next to no gore and no skin showing, There’s just nothing to hate about this film, period.

—-Riley Lender

This review is courtesy of the Slasher Studios Horror Film Club.

Underrated Horror Movies: “Bad Dreams” & “The Midnight Hour”

This week in Slasher Studios Horror Film Club we are taking a stab at the underrated horror movies that are either attacked by horror fans or just plain forgotten. Movies that deserve another chance to shine and prove that every film deserves at least a little bit of lovin.

RJ Sanchez
‎”It is the mid-1970s. A sinister hippy cult called Unity Fields commits mass suicide in a horrific manner – by fire – at the behest of its psychopathic leader, Franklin Harris (Richard Lynch). Only one young woman named Cynthia (Jennifer Rubin) survives to tell the tale. Now, 13 years later, Cynthia is having grim reminders of the mass suicide, as people around her begin to die one at a time. Cynthia finds out quickly that the ghost of Harris is back to claim his ‘love child’.”

Very underrated gem from the late 80’s. Gets labeled an Elm Street knockoff, there may be similarities, (From Dream Warriors especially.) but it is by no means a rip off. Jennifer Rubin, (Taryn, from Dream Warriors) stars alongside Richard Lynch, Bruce Abbott, (Re-Animator!) and the voice of Tommy Pickles: E.G Daily! Not only does Bad Dreams have an amazing cast, it has an incredible 80’s soundtrack, lots of blood, and a twist you’ll never see coming! It may have been a “cash-in” but it’s an incredible, underrated movie that’s dare I say, better than most of the Elm Street sequels.

Panos Tsiros
Well, not a Slasher related but I really want to write something down for this movie. “The Midnight Hour” 1985. It’s a Vampire/Halloween/Zombie related movie mostly.

A group of friends wants to organize a halloween party. So, they break into a halloween costume store and “borrow” some costumes appropriate for the occasion. In addition to that they discover a crate with a hand written script. Then, they go to the graveyard where they start fooling around, so, Melissa (the main character) starts reading the words from the script just for kicks. When they leave the graveyard, all the dead come to life. As it’s halloween nobody can figure out who wears mask and who’s the real zombie. The Dead accompany the Living to the party. What happens next you can only see it in the movie. Not a spoiler here.

This movie never came to theatres but directly on VHS. I don’t know why I like it so much even though I know it’s terrible. If you haven’t seen it yet you can try it out, but afterwards don’t say I didn’t warn you :)))

Underrated Slasher of the Week: “Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever”

“Cabin Fever 2” begins with a very disfigured Paul (Rider Strong) escaping from the creek and wanders through the woods, leaving pieces of his own flesh in the way. When he finally makes it to the highway, his body explodes when he is hit by a school bus. The creek Paul was lying in was connected to a bottled-water company and the infected water was distributed to the local high school.

John (a sweet Noah Segan), a senior at the high school, is deciding whether to go to prom with his long-time crush Cassie (Alexi Wasser) or stay home. His friend Alex (Rusty Kelley) is against going until he hooks up with a girl named Liz (Regan Deal). She then says if she can get off work that night, she’ll meet him there. John asks Cassie to go to prom but she refuses. Meanwhile, Winston (the dumbass deputy from the original) is at a restaurant where a worker from the bottled-water company dies from the infection. He then realizes the creek got heavily contaminated and goes to the water plant to tell the officials that the water is contaminated. The worker he informs is quickly killed by a group of CCD (Contamination Control Division) soldiers in NBC suits. Winston leaves before they can get to him.

At the high school the infection begins to spread slowly. Alex is disappointed that Liz didn’t come, while John gets into a fight with Cassie’s boyfriend Marc (Marc Senter). Principal Sinclair (Michael Bowen) then kicks John out. Cassie follows him and John confesses his love to her. Will the duo be able to make it out of this “sticky” situation alive?

“Cabin Fever 2” is a messy, gory, bloody cherry on top of a demented sundae. From the opening (poor Rider Strong) to the blood bath of an ending, nearly everything about this sequel works. This is one of those slasher movies where I just don’t understand the hate. Had this movie been made in the 1980’s and directed by Sam Raimi, horror fans would be praising this as the next second coming of horror. The gore is demented, the kills are extremely disgusting, and the central love story is actually quite sweet. I was actually touched at the sacrifice that one friend gave so another could live. So the epilogue doesn’t really work (poor Ti West got his movie taken away from him and had his ending completely butchered just to go in some producer cameos) but this is splatstick at its very best. If John Waters directed a horror film in the 1980’s, it would look something like this. Bloody recommended!

Underrated Slasher of the Week: “Video Violence”

In the early 80’s, the drive in experience was the best way to see a brand new slasher. Invite a couple of friends (or a hot date) and cruise down to the local drive in to watch a B-movie splatter experience. However, with the onset of the invention of the VCR in the early 80’s, the horror market began to change dramatically. Anyone, and I do mean anyone, could make a cheap, shot on video slasher film. All you needed was a couple of friends, a camcorder, and a couple of gallons of fake blood. The majority of these were awful but there was a certain native charm to them. These were movies made by filmmakers who loved movies. Nobody expected to make a profit, they just wanted to make a fun, slasher flick.

Case in point, 1987’s shot on video cheapie “Video Violence”. “Video Violence” begins with an ingenious, and far ahead of its time, plot that screams for a remake. Unsuspecting couple Steve and Rachel become completely immersed in a town of blood-drunk crazies. Led by sickos Howard and Eli, these backwater psychopaths produce and watch their own snuff movies in which the victims are outsiders or citizens trying to leave the close-knit community of killers. One day an unmarked tape shows up in the return bin of Steve’s just-opened video store, and it’s the town postmaster being savagely mutilated. “Can it be real, or just a gag?” wonders Steve. He’ll soon discover the horrifying answer…

“Video Violence” is fun, light years ahead of the torture porn of the last decade. The effects are laughable and the acting is as wooden as a board but everyone just seems to be trying their very hardest to make a good horror movie. Writer/director Gary Cohen came up with the idea for the film while working as a video store clerk. A fan of the golden age of cinema, he was disheartened by the fact that horror films- particularly slashers- were the most popular films among his clientele. The genesis of the movie came one afternoon when a young mother with her children asked if the film “I Dismember Mama” contained any sex; Cohen informed her that he was unsure about the film’s sexual content but that he knew it contained graphic violence. The woman decided to rent the film, telling Cohen that as long as the film were devoid of sex, she considered it appropriate viewing for her children. The same exchange occurs in Video Violence, albeit under slightly different circumstances. The social satire is brilliant here and I would love to see what a strong filmmaker could do with a remake in the internet age. Not everything here works. It is 100 minutes long and at least 15 minutes could have been cut to make a stronger, more cohesive whole. Nonetheless, for those of you who don’t mind your slashers a little grainy and a little rough around the edges, you could do far, far worse.

Underrated Slasher of the Week: “My Soul to Take”

There is something sadistic about many horror fans. I don’t mean the type of entertainment enjoyed but rather the love of the horror community to see a promising director/writer/actor fail. As much as the horror genre seems to respect the classics, many fans seems to get an unearthly kick by seeing one of their favorites come crashing down. Case in point: Wes Craven. After the success of “Scream” in the late 90’s, many horror fans had given up on the director. Who cares that “Scream” was actually a DAMN GOOD movie, it was just too mainstream for “serious” horror fans. When it was announced in 2009 that Wes Craven would be directing and writing a new horror movie (the first time he had done that in 15 years), the horror community seemed to be a buzz of internet fueled fire. When the movie was released in October 2010, the claws came out and the horror community ripped “My Soul to Take” to shreds. It was one of the worst reviewed movies of last year and barely made back its budget. Many called it a “Nightmare on Elm Street” rip off and many others called it the last nail in the coffin for Craven. But is it really THAT bad?

“My Soul to Take” begins in the sleepy town of Riverton. Legend tells of a serial killer who swore he would return to murder the seven children born the night he died. Now, 16 years later, people are disappearing again. Has the psychopath been reincarnated as one of the seven teens, or did he survive the night he was left for dead? Only one of the kids knows the answer. Adam “Bug” Heller (Max Thieriot) was supposed to die on the last night the Riverton Ripper wrecked havoc on that terrifying night. Unaware of terrifying crimes being committed to the seven children, he has been plagued by nightmares of their murders while not aware if they hold true or if he is simply imagining the images that haunt him. But if Bug hopes to save his friends from the monster that’s returned, he must face an evil that won’t rest…until it finishes the job it began the day he was born.

Well dear reader, I have to admit one thing: I enjoyed the hell out of “My Soul to Take”. The story is overly complicated and doesn’t always seem to know where it is headed but there is a sense of dread in this film that has been missing from most of horror today. The cinematography is lush (nobody can make a run through the woods as scary as Craven) and the performances are all quite solid. I also quite enjoyed the high school dynamics that are played out throughout the film. There is an ever running thread throughout the movie that if you grin and take it, it will make you a stronger person. It is a lesson that Bug learns throughout the course of the film and, in the end, he is finally willing to stand up for himself. The end may be a bit over-the-top for many hardcore horror fans, but this movie has a big heart hidden behind the bloody exterior. I can’t say that this is a perfect film but it is an entertaining one that tries to bring back the slasher genre. Give it a chance and go in with an open mind and you may find yourself giving your soul up to this film as well.

To order through Amazon: My Soul to Take

Underrated Slasher of the Week: Deadly Friend

In the mid 80’s Wes Craven was on top of the world. After just completing the groundbreaking “A Nightmare on Elm Street”, the horror director pretty much had his pick of horror projects to choose from. The project that he would choose next would be in some ways a drastic departure from his usual slasher self. The movie would feature a talking robot, a girl suffering from abuse from a father, and a bright young boy years ahead of his time. The project was called “Deadly Friend” and it would be soon come to be known as one of the worst movies in Craven’s career. But, is the film really THAT bad? Does it deserve a larger audience than it would ultimately receive?

The plot is relatively complex for what seems like, at least on the outside, an ordinary run-of-the-mill slasher. A 15 year old scientific whiz kid named Paul Conway, just moved to a new town with his mother. He also has a yellow robot named Beebee which is his friend and protector. Paul befriends the girl next door named Samantha, and she lives with her abusive father who knocks her down some stairs one night and severely injures her. She was on life support in the local hospital, but after a certain amount of time, they pulled the plug on her and she was dead. Paul disguises himself as a hospital worker and takes Samantha’s body from the hospital over to the local university. As an attempt to save her life, he implants Beebee’s robot microchips into her brain, but discovers not too long after that she is out of control.

“Deadly Friend” certainly has its share of problems but it is just so sweet and kind in its heart. Paul is a good kid that tries to do a good deed when everything else has failed. He is the only one to actually take action in this story to try to make something positive happen. The film’s moral seems to be that evil will not disappear just because we turn our head from it. It is a sad story with many touching moments. As a seasoned slasher fan, I will even admit that the ending has been known to shed a tear or two from me. It’s funny that coming from Craven, that the horror is the only thing that really doesn’t work in the movie. Stories from behind the scenes say that there was a lot of studio interference in this film and it is not hard to tell where it lies. The gore scenes just don’t work, they seemed borrowed from another film entirely. Nonetheless, the performances are strong and this is a story worth telling. It’s no masterpiece but I think those who hated on this film when it first came out should give it another look. Samantha, as well as the film, deserves it.