Kevin & Steve’s Slasher Movies: “Fatal Games” (1984)

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Kevin: “Fatal Games” has quite possibly the most accurately hilarious description on IMDB that I have ever seen. “A mad javelin thrower kills teenagers in the school. All promising athletes are executed in the most brutal way. Especially naked girls in dressing-rooms or saunas.” In three sentences you immediately know if this is the kind of slasher for you. Luckily enough for me, it was.

Steve: Most of us who love the thrill of 80’s slashers, will also love the agony of defeat these poor olympic hopefuls face. Chalk full of sex crazed guys and nude girls, Fatal Games delivers some fun deaths, a couple chase scenes and even likable characters. The olympic aspect helps set it apart from other films in its genre. A nice change of pace as the young characters find themselves together at the training facility, rather than a cabin.

Kevin: With one of the strangest and actually quite creepy endings of a slasher that I have seen in a while, “Fatal Games” adds a twist that is so implausible that it really must be seen to be believed. Tonally, the film is all over the place. The opening theme song of “Take it to the Limit” feels right out of a “Rocky” sequel, then the film turns to some hi-jinks with the Olympic hopeful “teenagers” who are at least a decade too old to be playing seniors. Starting with the second act, the murders take form and the killer wannabe Olympian is out for revenge. It’s a very, very strange movie. Not exactly good but compulsively watchable.

Steve: Yes, very watchable for a number of reasons. The “national lampoon-like” comedy at the beginning gives us some cheesy laughs, but that does not last long as the film takes an abrupt turn in the tone and feel. The motivation for the killings is a big surprise at the end and definitely pieces a few odd parts together from earlier in the film. With a great score found throughout and classic 80’s cheese from beginning to end, Fatal Games is a fun little film. Just make sure you are ready to have the opening song stuck in your head for days to come.

Slasher Studios Presents: Top 10 Favorite Slasher Films

We’ve been up and running here at Slasher Studios for over two years and in that time I’ve realized we’ve never shared our favorite slashers. Below are our top 10 favorite slashers. These aren’t the best slashers out there, that can be debated until the end of time. Nonetheless, these are our favorites. Feel free to chime in with your favorite slashers. Now in alphabetical order, the bloodbath begins.

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Black Christmas (1974)
“Black Christmas” is that rare horror movie that gets everything right. This is a movie that just oozes atmosphere. Every frame is dripping with dread and setting the film on the Christmas just adds to the excitement of it all. Not only this but the film is also scary as hell with some excellent performances and an ending that is sure to give every horror fan chills. What is the most incredible aspect of this groundbreaking slasher film? Throughout the entire film, we see various sorority girls getting hacked to death and receiving strange telephone calls. What we don’t see is our psycho, Billy. No motive, no reason, no face, no man..Billy could be anyone of us. If that doesn’t make a true psycho, I really don’t know what does.

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The Burning (1981)
This 1981 work of near perfection really does fire on all cylinders and keeps the audience enthralled throughout the duration of the 91 minute runtime. The kills are spectacular, the locations are to die for, the cast has the perfect 80 vibe. The blood and gore within The Burning is top notch as Tom Savini works his magic and gives us some of the most memorable deaths ever to grace the silver screen. The raft scene is produced with out a flaw and everything from the blood, to the shot selection, to the editing pace was well meshed to create something very special. Location, location, location. We have all heard this phrase before and so did the locations scouts for The Burning. We are set in a summer camp near and lake and forest. Very classic 80′s. I have always loved the camp feel for a slasher/horror location and is one doesn’t disappoint.the water adds such a boost the the production value and gives great backdrops for the beautiful cinematography.

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Curtains (1983)
“Curtains” is a whopper of a slasher film that does nearly everything right. Creepy costume? Check. Intriguing backstory? Check. Likable, if slightly over-the-top, characters? Check. Great death scenes? Double check. I know this movie went though hell in post production. Rumor has it that the film was shelved for a year, during which there were re-writes, re-shoots, and one major re-casting done. Eventually numerous crew members had to be re-hired to shoot the footage to complete the film.

This movie should be a mess. The fact that it isn’t is a miracle in and of itself but the fact that the movie is a damn near masterpiece? Well, let’s just say that the slasher gods must have been looking down on this movie because it is simply incredible. Love the twist at the end, love the figure skater who gets killed by the masked man in the old hag mask, and love the final chase. Sure it isn’t entirely believable and there is a bit of logic that must be stretched thin but that doesn’t stop this movie from being one of the best of its kind. Definitely worth checking out for slasher fans everywhere.

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Friday the 13th (1980)
There are some critics that attack these films don’t seem to see the power these films contain. Here, in Friday the 13th, is a young woman who must put all the pieces of the mystery everything together and save her friends in order to survive the night. And survive she does, something that not a single other male does in the course of the film. In fact, looking at the series as a whole, it takes the franchise until Part 4 before it even allows a male to survive in the end. It should come as no surprise that this male is survived with a female who, once again, was forced to save the day on her own. Whereas in other film genres, such as romantic comedies and dramas, where females are pushed aside to “girlfriend support” roles, Friday the 13th tries to do something different with gender roles by making the males the “supportive partner” and forcing the young female teenager to go take charge and same the day. In essence, the female in this film, as in many other horror films, is the hero.

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Halloween (1978)
Halloween is a style-driven movie. It has about enough plot to fill a thimble, but it doesn’t need any more than it has. Director John Carpenter and cinematographer Dean Cundey compensate for this with a very polished, but moody, style. Long, wide tracking shots and eerie blue lighting fill the film. The score is as simple as the script, but simplicity seems to be this film’s strong suit, and the score is no exception. It’s minimal and repetitive, but is amazingly effective. What’s interesting with Halloween is that, for the most part, it is rooted in reality. This is a story of real girls being stalked by a real killer. Only in the film’s final moments does it suggest the possibility of the supernatural. Everything happens as it would in a real-life scenario. The killer does not know his victims, and they do not know him. He happens to fixate on the first girl he sees, the unfortunate Laurie, who inadvertently introduces him to more prey. It’s obvious, though, that Laurie is the one he wants. Despite some extensive toying with Annie, and a fair bit with Lynda, the cat-and-mouse game between Laurie and Michael is apparent from the first act of the film. He fixates on her from the very beginning, and saves his most horrifying tricks for her.

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Happy Birthday to Me (1981)
“Happy Birthday to Me” is preposterous, over-the-top, and silly. A blend of all of the 80′s excesses rolled into one far too long film (outside of the Scream franchise NO horror movie should run upwards of two hours). Nonetheless, “Birthday” works. Maybe it is the silly deaths (gotta love the shish-ka-bob to the mouth or the weights to the crotch) or maybe its the outlandish ending that doesn’t even try to make any sense whatsoever. Whatever it is, this movie put a blood red smile across my face for the majority of its running time. Great atmosphere, steady cinematography, and a capable cast also help matters considerably. I can’t say this is a great movie by any stretch of the imagination but if you are looking for a fine, fun 80′s slasher, this is definitely one of the better ones.

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Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
A Nightmare on Elm Street is an unbelievably original, terrifingly realistic, and overall terrifying that, despite a weak ending, is one of the best horror flicks of the quarter of a century. The film deals with a deceased child molester who now lives only through the dreams of the children of those who burned him alive. Robert Englund is truly frightening as Freddy Krueger. Wes Craven delivers a surprising amount of tension that still holds up today. The film goes for suspense, drama, and gore and delivers for the most part. Heather Langenkamp gives a very solid performance as Nancy Thompson, the young woman is the “leader” among her friends and the only one who may get out alive. Langenkamp is the real deal and she kicks ass. A great horror film that still delivers today. Look for a young Johnny Depp who, arguably, has the best death scene in the flick.

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Night School (1981)
This is the kind of movie where half of the fun is trying to figure out where the detectives are going to find the missing heads. The twist ending is pretty predictable and the acting is a bit wooden (Rachel Ward, in her film debut, is all sorts of terrible here) but the film is never boring and has been directed with style. Boston looks positively wretched on film here and it gives the slasher a bit of a grungy “Departed” vibe, I mean that in the best way possible. Overall, it’s definitely worth checking out, just keep your head at the door.

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Scream (1996)
Scream made horror movies scary again with a brilliantly constructed plot. One year after the death of Sidney Prescott’s (Neve Campbell) mother, two students turn up gutted. When a serial killer appears, Sidney begins to suspect whether her mother’s death and the two new deaths are related. No one is safe, as the killer begins to pick everyone off one by one. Finally, something the horror genre was missing: a good old fashioned murder mystery. The performances all around are first rate from Neve Campbell as the vulnerable to Courteney Cox as the bitchy journalist willing to do whatever it takes to get a story Gale Weathers to David Arquette as the sweet, slightly dimwitted Deputy Dewey to Drew Barrymore’s doomed Casey Becker.

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Terror Train (1980)
This is a personal favorite slasher film of mine, and one of the best college slasher films. There are many things I love about this film. One, Jamie Lee Curtis who started her career in the horror genre and this genre is some of her best work in my opinion. I don’t think anyone will forget her in John Carpenter’s Halloween either. Second, I love the creepy atmosphere and the killer. What I think makes this killer so creepy is that he or she always dresses in many costumes through out the film and some of those costumes are pretty creepy. I love that the killer uses their eyes to show some type of personalty which is very creepy. Also, I love that you try to guess who the killer might be and when you find out who the killer is at the end it is pretty shocking the first time you see the movie. Third, I love that they put these college students on a train and when in danger it’s hard to runaway from the killer. The kills aren’t too special in this film,but their many other things that make up for this film that I mentioned. If you haven’t seen this 80′s gem then I highly recommend it especially since it is getting a new DVD/Blu-ray release coming soon from Shout Factory. Perfect film to watch around the Halloween season. So get some popcorn with a good drink, and watch this fun slasher film.

Big thank you to Joshua Dean and Justin Rhine whose original reviews of Halloween and Terror Train were used in the write ups included here. Thanks guys!

Awesomely 80’s Movies: “My Stepmother is an Alien” (1988) Review

Anyone who knows me at all knows that I adore the 80’s. From the music to the movies to the fashion, everything about the 80’s screamed excess. In the 80’s, if you were over-the-top, you probably weren’t over-the-top enough. Does that make any sense whatsoever? If you grew up in the 80’s, you know exactly what I am talking about. Getting a new Elm Street or Friday movie EVERY YEAR was something that many in the 80’s took for granted. Today the teens get a new Paranormal movie every year and I would say that isn’t a fair trade off. Wouldn’t you heartily agree? What does all of this have to do with today’s review? Nothing and everything. Today’s movie review is for a movie that screams 80’s but is neither a slasher or even a horror movie. I know, I know…this is Slasher Studios! I promised you at the very beginning when I created this site that I would stick to slashers and I am breaking that rule right now with today’s entry: the wonderfully awesome and oh so 80’s “My Stepmother is an Alien.”

Let me first tell you a story behind my love for this film. When I was seven years old, I was forced to have my tonsils out. They said it would be good for me and I would no longer keep getting strep throat. I called their bluff but I was also seven years old so my opinion didn’t really count in any matter. I spent 5 days home sick from school after the operation. During this time my awesome mother rented me “My Stepmother is an Alien.” I cried out in protest! “This isn’t a horror movie! i don’t like alien movies! I want Jason or Freddy or both!” Damn, I was a bratty little kid. Reluctantly, I sat down to watch “My Stepmother is an Alien” and I instantly fell in love. It’s just one of “those” movies. Once again anyone who loves anything from the 80’s knows exactly what I am talking about.

As the film begins, we meet the beautiful Celeste (a charmingly goofy Kim Basinger). Celeste isn’t just an average girl..she is an alien sent on a secret mission to Earth. You see, Steven Mills (Dan Aykroyd) is a widowed scientist who is working on experimental ways to send radio waves into deep space. An accident causes a loss of gravity on Celeste’s home world. She is sent to investigate who could affect gravity and how it was done under the belief it was an attack. She’s aided by an alien being resembling either a penis or a snake with a huge eyeball…it is your choice how you want to look at it. Either way, it is creepy as hell, very weird, and oh so 80’s. The snake/very large penis hides in a designer purse to aid Celeste with her encounters on Earth. The Bag is able to create diamonds and designer dresses almost instantaneously.

Celeste’s inexperience leads to her almost exposing herself as alien, like trying to kiss for the first time or cooking. Jessie Mills (a very young and sweetly innocent Alyson Hannigan), Steven’s daughter, notices Celeste’s strange habits, like eating cigarette butts and flashlight batteries or pulling hard boiled eggs out of boiling hot water with her bare hands. However, she can’t convince her smitten father that there is something unusual about Celeste. Celeste encounters a lot of new experiences such as sneezing, sexual intercourse and love. Eventually, Celeste falls in love with Steven and his daughter. She is forced to convince her home world that the attack was actually an accident and that Earth shouldn’t be destroyed.

“My Stepmother is an Alien” isn’t the kind of film that is made to win awards. It is the kind of film that is made to put a smile on your face. It wouldn’t work for everyone and those born in the 90’s might find this film to be hokey and overdone. Nonetheless, there is a lack of cynicism throughout this film that had me rooting for Celeste until the very end. Make a date with “My Stepmother is an Alien” and you might be surprised by how much you love it. Ohh…one more thing…did I mention how awesomely 80’s it is?

–Kevin Sommerfield

Picking Favorites: Ranking the “Nightmare on Elm Street” Films

My love for the “Nightmare on Elm Street” series holds no bounds. It is a series that I grew up on and that I regularly watch. I can’t remember the last month that went by without me popping in a movie from the series as comfort food. Well, today I have decided to “rank” my favorite slasher series. Starting with the best and ending with the worst, the following are my selections. Please note that I will NOT be including either the remake or “Freddy Vs. Jason” into this list. Let’s say hello to Freddy! Pleasant dreams…

1) Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)
Convoluted? Pretentious? Overly meta? Shockingly, no. “New Nightmare” is that rare horror film in which everything works. The performances are pitch perfect, lead by a tour-de-force performance by the amazing Langenkamp. The script is full of twists and turns and the movie is quite possibly the best looking of the entire series. What starts out as a maze of mirrors becomes something much more than your typical nightmare. The film examines the role film plays on those who watch it. Something that Wes Craven’s “Scream” would play out to great effect two years later. I really can’t say enough about this film and homages to the original are expertly placed. It is my favorite horror film of all time and a modern classic.

2) Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Wes Craven’s definitive classic. Bet you can’t guess what it is. A Nightmare on Elm Street is an unbelievably original, terrifingly realistic, and overall terrifying that, despite a weak ending, is one of the best horror flicks of the quarter of a century. The film deals with a deceased child molester who now lives only through the dreams of the children of those who burned him alive. Robert Englund is truly frightening as Freddy Krueger. Wes Craven delivers a surprising amount of tension that still holds up today.

3) A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)
If ever there was a horror sequel that screamed the 1980’s, it would be “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors”. Crazy punk chick? Check. Wheelchair Dungeons and Dragons obsessed geek? Check. Zsa Zsa Gabor? Check. Dokken theme song? You better believe it, check! Dream Warriors is both a faithful to sequel to original masterpiece as well the rare sequel that actually advances the story without just being a carbon copy reboot of everything that made the first film great.

4) A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)
Truth be told, “Dream Master” is probably the most fun a viewer can have with the series. The deaths are completely imaginative, the special effects top notch, and the acting is solid on all accounts. It is also probably the most quotable entry of the series. It is entertaining as hell. Nonetheless, part of me wants Freddy scary again. As cool as the deaths are (Debbie’s cockroach death being the highlight death of the entire series for me), something here is missing that made the third installment so special.

5) A Nightmare on Elm Street Part II: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)
For those of you who haven’t seen this film, I don’t really know what to say besides the fact that it is very, very homoerotic. From the gym coach that Jesse finds at a gay bar (???) while sleepwalking to the gym coaches’ bondage death to the love scene between Jesse and Lisa in which Jesse can’t “perform”. Everything about this movie screams gay…and I haven’t seen talked about the dancing bedroom cleaning scene. It’s all funny, campy, over-the-top and “oh so 80’s.” haha

But the problem with Nightmare 2 isn’t the film’s gay themes, it’s the fact that it breaks too many of the rules laid out by the original. Why would Freddy want to be in the real world when the real world is the only thing that can kill him? How does Freddy make the parakeet explode if no one is dreaming? It doesn’t make scene. I will give this film some credit. The imagery is imaginative, the acting solid, and Freddy is pretty damn scary. It just doesn’t feel like a Nightmare movie. This is both it’s greatest weakness and it’s greatest fault.

6) A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989)
The biggest problem with “Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child” is the same problem that exists in “Freddy’s Revenge”: it breaks the rules of the series. Why would Freddy want to live on in the real world when the real world is the only thing that can kill him? Add in some hokey mother moments and an “in the womb” Krueger and you get a pretty dreadful sequel. The cinematography is top notch and the actors do what they can but, by this point in the series, who really cares? This isn’t a terrible entry but just a middle-of-the-road one. By this point the series was starting to show its age.

7) “Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare” (1991)
If “New Nightmare” was the rare horror sequel in which everything worked than “Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare” is that rare horror movie in which nothing works. It sure as hell isn’t scary and the cameos by Johnny Depp and Roseanne come across as more desperate than funny. The deaths are awful as well. Killed by a robot hearing aid, killed by Freddy’s “power glove”, fallen from a parachute onto spikes placed by Freddy? Is this a Nightmare movie or a Looney Toons cartoon. Not only this, but Freddy himself doesn’t even get a cool or original death. They take the ending of the original and cheapen it and we are all worse for it. This film is a grim insult to Freddy fans everywhere.

To buy the box set from Amazon for under $30: Nightmare on Elm Street Collection

The Best 80’s Horror Movie Made In 2009: “House of the Devil” Review

On first viewing The House of the Devil, I thought it was wonderfully retro and one of the best of the recent horror films. After multiple viewings, I’ve decided that this is one of the best horror movies ever made. It just has everything that makes the horror genre wonderful. House of the Devil is not just a nostalgia piece for director Ti West, one of the best horror directors working today, this is how horror movies SHOULD be made.

The film deterioration and cinematography take this already great premise to a whole new level. Extra long takes are intercut so perfectly that you literally lose yourself in the picture. The acting also ties in very well to the very realistic yet surreal backdrop. These college girls actually talk and feel like college girls. They don’t have monologues prepared and “witty” banter that can last for twenty minutes straight. The whole creepy factor lies in the family, who are just way to volatile and bizarre. However, the chill factor lives in the real world, making it even more effective.

I think this brings up a very good point about babysitters that was never really touched on in the 80s or even today. Sure, Halloween made people realize that suburbia isn’t as safe as it pretends to be, but this makes it scary to trust anyone. I just can’t give Ti West more praise for doing what he’s done here. Clearly he knows the genre inside and out. Every aspect of film making is flawless. I can’t wait to see what Ti West comes up with next.