Slasher | Varied Celluloid

Murder Obsession

Posted by Josh Samford On March - 16 - 2012

Murder Obsession (1981)
Director: Riccardo Freda
Writers: Antonio Cesare Corti, Antonio Cesare Corti, Riccardo Freda, Simon Mizrahi and Fabio Piccioni
Starring: Stefano Patrizi, Martine Brochard, Laura Gemser and Henri Garcin

The Plot: Our film opens on the set of a movie where we watch as a lovely young woman (played by Laura Gemser) is nearly killed by her castmate Michael (Stefano Patrizi ). The scene was supposed to call for Michael to sneak up on her and pretend to strangle the young woman, but things go awry when Michael has to be pulled off by the crew in order to rescue the girl. Michael, the son of a now-deceased maestro, then decides to head off with his girlfriend Deborah so that the two can visit his still-living mother who resides in his family’s mansion. While visiting his mother, who may have an incestuous fascination with her son, Michael intends to have a good time with all of his cast and crew who are also supposed to come and visit for this weekend. However, once everyone arrives, we start to discover a bit more about Michael’s sordid past. Apparently his father was murdered and it seems Michael may have been the one responsible. Could these past sins from Michael’s childhood come back to haunt him in a typically violent fashion? Tune in to find out!

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Slumber Party Massacre II

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 30 - 2011

Slumber Party Massacre II (1987)
Director: Deborah Brock
Writers: Deborah Brock
Starring: Crystal Bernard, Jennifer Rhodes and Kimberly McArthur

The Plot: Courtney (Crystal Bernard) is the younger sister of Valery, our protagonist in the first Slumber Party Massacre film. In the proceeding years after the events of the first film, Valerie has been locked away in a mental institution and Courtney has finally shed her tomboy phase. Courtney has been the perfect daughter in recent years and consistently does what her mother tells her to, however, she looks to finally break away and do something rebellious when her crush finally shows some mutual attraction. Courtney agrees to meet the young man at a special slumber party that her friends are hosting at a out of town beach home. As it turns out, things won’t be that simple for young Courtney. She finds herself having nightmarish visions of her sister being executed by a strange rock & roll murderer. This man in “greaser” attire carries with him a guitar fashioned to look like an electric drill, and he continually threatens Courtney. Once the kids arrive at this beach home, Courtney’s nightmarish visions quickly escalate to the point where she can barely distinguish her reality. As she drives her friends crazy, Courtney begins to doubt her own sanity. However, as it turns out, she isn’t crazy and her dreams become a frightening reality.

The Review
The original Slumber Party Massacre film was both everything that I expected as a fan of slasher films, but also shockingly generic for a film written and directed by women. The series has become quite well known for this fact over the years, and it is well known that the first entry into the series was intended to play out as a black comedy of sorts. However, knowing Roger Corman’s general hatred of horror/comedies, it isn’t surprising that the film inevitably became a much more conventional slasher feature. Although the first sequel, Slumber Party Massacre II, may also seem like your run of the mill slasher flick upon first glance, it is hardly that. Potentially the strangest serial killer film the world has ever seen, Slumber Party Massacre II demonstrates a knack for the surreal that I have rarely seen in this genre. This does inevitably lead to a film that is horribly disjointed, but the head scratching logic of the film is also one of its greatest asset.

Immediately, there seems to be something different about Slumber Party Massacre II. It doesn’t rush directly into the nudity in the same way that the first film did. The movie doesn’t outright present itself as a piece of pure exploitation sleaze, either. It instead goes after the sentimental angle, where Crystal Bernard (best known for her role on the television series Wings) is presented as the ultimate quiet and sincere “final” girl. The introduction of our main group of girls as a band is also certainly befitting of a slightly more mature group than was shown in our previous film. The girls are all slightly less antagonistic with one another than in the previous movie, and you generally get the idea early on that these filmmakers weren’t entirely interested in revisiting everything that the first movie did. However, they did manage to sneak in some requisite sexploitation. There’s an otherworldly topless dance sequence that seems to be totally a service towards Roger Corman and the fanboys, but the scene somehow manages to come across more puzzling than erotic. If you’re looking to see Crystal Bernard go topless, however, you may leave disappointed. The closest you’ll get to seeing her do anything suggestive is a fairly strange scene featuring the girls all sitting around eating corndogs, and the imagery seems to border on obscene in how phallic theses breaded pieces of meat seem to be.

Over the top is the best way to describe Slumber Party Massacre II. In every aspect, this is a movie that takes things to their utmost extreme. The gore is ramped up from the original, the overacting is almost on pace with a Troma production, and the driller killer in our movie is… well, how does one even describe him? Looking like a combination between Andrew Dice Clay and the lead guitarist for nearly any glam-rock band of the 1980s, the killer inevitably makes this movie the far fetched and utterly insane piece of cinema that it is. When he seems to escape the dream reality that he has apparently lived within during the first three quarters of the movie, he manages to spit out line after line of cheesy dialogue while killing off our teen stars. This third act plays out a lot better than the introductory sequences where we have to deal with Courtney having her delusional fantasies. The film essentially runs these bits into the ground in a PAINFULLY cliche manner. It really is the Michigan J. Frog effect to its most painfully obvious extent. While I respect that the filmmakers were trying to establish a “boy who cried wolf” atmosphere around the Courtney character, this doubt ultimately doesn’t have much of a payoff (other than causing the police to doubt Courtney). Instead, we find ourselves continually infuriated by the cliches that the film tries to bolster. Finally, when our Diceman look-a-like escapes into reality we are alleviated of the previous stupidity by watching the majority of these teens killed off.

The prospect of a dream becoming real is tackled by the film very late in the overall runtime, to be honest. It is such a bizarre and ridiculous concept for a series whose introductory title was so obviously based within reality. This isn’t the Nightmare on Elm Street series where the supernatural was a part of the norm, and it isn’t even a series with the longevity of Friday the 13th. If you remember, the Friday series didn’t really venture into the supernatural until the sixth film, and that was the only supernatural sequel that ever truly appeased the fans (Friday 7, 8, 9 and 10 were all duds). Still, Slumber Party Massacre isn’t dumb about how it plays with the surreal. The filmmakers establish some very nifty twists and turns that come about during the final ten minutes, and despite it seeming slightly tacked on, it still works to great effect. Like I always like to point out, if the filmmakers are deviating from genre conventions even by a little bit, they are doing a good job.

The Conclusion
The movie is absolutely bonkers, there’s no denying this fact. While I won’t argue that it is a better made movie than the original The Slumber Party Massacre, I don’t think there is any argument that this is the more entertaining movie. Although it is more fun, I still give it roughly the same score. A three out of five. I figure if you order the full Slumber Party Massacre collection from Shout! Factory, for these two movies alone you are getting your money’s worth. Definitely check it out.

Slumber Party Massacre, The

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 21 - 2011

The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)
Director: Amy Jones
Writers: Rita Mae Brown
Starring: Michelle Michaels, Robin Stille, Michael Villella, and Debra Deliso.

The Plot: Taking place in a small American suburb, our story partially focuses on Trish (Michelle Michaels), a young teenager whose parents are leaving for the weekend, and she plans for a wild weekend party. Valerie (Robin Stille) is the new girl in town, who lives right across the street from Trish, and desperately wants to fit in. Unfortunately for her, Trish and her inner circle do not care much for the girl. So, when Trish is establishing her list of friends invited to her weekend slumber party, Valerie is left out in the cold. This works out fairly well for Valerie, however, because it turns out that a certain uninvited guest plans on ruining Trish’s slumber party. Russ Thorn (Michael Villella) is a lunatic psychopath who originally massacred a group of young people nearly twenty years before, and unknown to this group of young girls, Thorn is heading right in their direction. As Thorn picks off Trish’s neighbors, one by one, it is only a matter of time before he crashes the party for good. Will this group of young women survive his onslaught and will Valerie, the neighbor, make it to the party or survive by being the nerdy girl that no one likes?

The Review
The Slumber Party Massacre is the introductory film in the famed slasher series of the same name, which was notable for being directed and created entirely by women. Originally written as a form of feminist satire on a genre that can easily be seen as one of the most misogynist sections of the horror universe, the film itself actually plays out a bit more straight forward than one might expect. A prime example of the Roger Corman school of filmmaking, Slumber Party Massacre delivers all of the cheap thrills that one might expect from the slasher film genre but never gets tied down much in terms of depth or content. Although, this does not necessarily make it a bad film. Occasionally, cinema needs a film that is wholly dedicated to its genre and delivers with a steadfast and unwavering hand. That is precisely what Amy Jones’ film does, it delivers everything that made this genre as popular as it was during the eighties. There is a promise from this movie, right from the start, and it is made directly to any potential viewer. It is the same promise made with any slasher movie. You are guaranteed blood, profanity, and nudity. This turns out to be a promise that Slumber Party Massacre holds up to without fail.

Despite a feminist genesis, Slumber Party Massacre does not shy away from the use of rituals that we expect of any 1980s slasher film. There will be boobs, there will be blood, and the final girl concept will be firmly left in place. However, right from the start, it is the quirkiness of the entire project that inevitably gives it its own unique voice amidst a sea of very similar slashers. Slumber Party Massacre is a film that is filled to the brim with exploitative imagery, but at the same time it does manage to speak to women and make light of some genre stereotypes. The movie seems to poke fun at the irrational competition between women and the general games that are played during youth. Men, thankfully, are not all shown to be evil as one might expect from a “feminist” horror film, but the movie doesn’t pull any punches either. Men are shown thinking with their libido in moments where women are actually dying just feet behind them. Yet, it’s a naive sort of ignorance and is quite correctly asserted to be the ignorance of youth, which is a ignorance that seemingly all the characters in this film suffer from.

Director Amy Jones establishes herself here in making a genuinely effective slasher film. Although it often falls directly into genre pastiche, there are moments throughout where the filmmaker shows off her talent in crafting a taut horror film. Throughout the movie, the use of shadow and darkness plays a large role in establishing the scares that the movie delivers. Although there is very little in the movie that comes across as “otherworldly” in terms of atmosphere, this manipulation of darkness makes up for a lot of that. Throughout the movie there are multiple sequences that take place in the garage, just outside of the home that our story plays out in, and more often than not there’s usually only a few rays of light bleeding into this room. Some of the creepiest moments in the film usually happen on this location and the audience can really feel that impending darkness as it completely surrounds these characters. Aside from this, the entire film really looks tremendous to have been such a low budget affair.

The violence, one of the main draws for any slasher film during the 1980s, is most certainly a factor within Slumber Party Massacre. Although the movie never reaches the levels of gore that one might expect from a movie featuring a “driller killer,” it does manage to produce a great deal of gory fun. The body count is an integral part of any slasher from this era, and Slumber Party Massacre generally does not disappoint. With decapitations and drill-induced murders aplenty, the movie establishes itself as a genuine slasher by stacking up at least twelve bodies. While the violence is certainly an aspect that should draw in most viewers, the subtle, yet sharply sarcastic, humor that surrounds the movie is perhaps its most endearing legacy. The comedy is toned down from what the script apparently contained, but there’s still a taste of biting satire that runs througout the movie. Before the self-awareness of Scream, there were films such as Slumber Party Massacre that pointed out the inherit silliness of the genre without going over the top and deviating from the scares.

The Conclusion
Although I feel that I may not have the love for the film that many fans do, I certainly had a good time with it. The scares are effective, the gore is welcome, and the satirical look at the slasher genre is very welcome indeed. However, this is a relatively routine piece of slasher cinema. It is commendable that the film may be the first movie to make light of the fact that the knife (or in this case, drill) of our killer is something that can be taken as a phallic symbol, but generally speaking you’ve seen this film many times before. Still, it is a strong enough production to warrant a high three out of five rating. It is definitely a film worth checking out, especially if you’re looking for a slightly different look as the slasher genre.


Posted by Josh Samford On October - 8 - 2011

Eyeball (1975)
Director: Umberto Lenzi
Writers: Umberto Lenzi and FĂ©lix Tusell
Starring: Martine Brochard, John Richardson and Ines Pellegrini.

The Plot: While on a trip to Spain, a bus full of tourists stop off to have a quick look-see around the city. However, when one of these tourists turns up stabbed multiple times and with one eyeball missing, the entire group is forced to hang around while the mystery is sorted out. As members of the group start to die one by one, the tourists become distrustful of one another and they begin to search for the killer. Could it be the priest who suspiciously went to the hospital in order to visit one of the victims? Maybe its the woman with mud on her shoes who was caught washing them off after a murder took place in a similar mudpit? Could it be Mark’s ex-wife, who is supposed to be back at home due to a violent mental breakdown? Only time will tell. As the violence escalates, our killer, who dons a red raincoat that covers his/her body, remains on the prowl for fresh new eyeballs.

The Review
Director Umberto Lenzi is a filmmaker whose work I have been relatively hesitant to dig through in the past. My original viewing of Cannibal Ferox, roughly ten years ago, turned me off on his abilities as a director. If you’ve never seen the film, it is an unfortunately weak attempt to duplicate the cannibal genre and all of its greatest hits. Although Lenzi had helped in creating the genre himself, his largest attempt would turn out as one of the most over the top bits of hypocritical finger-waving that the genre ever produced. Eventually, I heard about how great his crime films and thrillers were and although I still haven’t splurged through his entire catalog, I have slowly been making some headroom in this area. Eyeball is one of Lenzi’s few giallo titles and although it isn’t one of the all-time-classics from the genre, it certainly finds ways for it to stand out. Between the excessive violence and the tight use of tension, Lenzi takes a rather ordinary giallo and makes as unique of an experience as possible.

While the movie overcompensates for its rather bland script with scene after scene of plot-complications, the violence is what immediately grabs the audience. While Lenzi is well known for making one of the most violent films of all time (Cannibal Ferox), the majority of his work has been far less graphic. Eyeball may not come close enough to the castration-madness presented in Ferox, but it does show Lenzi crafting a story around some rather disgusting ocular damage. The opening piece of violence within the film proves to be everything you could possibly hope for from Lenzi. The sequence features the first of several brutal stabbings that punctuate the film and provide all of the onscreen carnage. This first stabbing shown is probably the most ferocious of the whole bunch though. Similar to the cruelty shown in Lamberto Bava’s infamous “bathroom-stabbing” from A Blade in the Dark, the indifference shown by the killer is what makes the sequence so shocking. Lenzi shows us a killer who repeatedly stabs some poor woman and the camera never cuts away. Even when the killer plucks out the first eyeball, this is shown as if it were a vital part of the story for whatever reason. It is through this rather macabre fascination with eyeball-carnage that the movie inevitably crafts its own vision. Pardon the pun.

The film most assuredly does not stand out in terms of its plot, which is far from the most original of stories. While the killer’s obsession with eyeballs is certainly different and presents a unique twist on the generic masked killer motif, it still doesn’t remain all that original. We’ve seen killers take trophies before and the general plot for the movie has been done to death. This sort of production was so common at the time that the only thing that would usually set these movies apart were their locales. This time around we have the same Agatha Christie (Ten Little Indians) inspired storyline that features rich socialites being picked off one by one, only instead of being set within Italy or England, the film is set in Spain. The beats remain the same, however, and one by one we will see eyeballs plucked out by a deranged killer of the bourgeois. If you have seen more than a few giallo titles, you know that at some point one of our rich protagonists will fill in for the role of a amateur detective and help solve the mystery just as everything starts to tie together. The conventions are rife within this picture and although it tries to differentiate itself from similar films, there’s only so much that it can really do.

Although this one doesn’t feature the star power of the many other giallo titles reviewed here on Varied Celluloid, the majority of the cast fit into their roles well. Each cast member seems to play a “type” rather than a fully fleshed out three dimensional character, but these “types” can certainly be fun. The token “lesbian couple”, also seen in The Killer Reserved Nine Seats and Slaughter Motel, make a return in the film. Although it is highly probable that one or both characters could survive the duration of the film, it is very unlikely. Considering the red herrings that are thrown out during the movie, either one of the women could just as easily be the killer as well. However, if you’re familiar with the giallo format you know that red herrings or even “clues” usually mean nothing. Within this genre, there’s really no way to discern just who the killer may turn out to be. Although I did make an informed guess about who the killer would turn out to be, and I was correct in my assumption, these movies never play by the rules. Logical thought usually means nothing with these movies and the big twist finale with Eyeball is no exception.

The Conclusion
Eyeball is not a fantastic giallo, but neither is it the worst. The main problem viewers will have with it is how reminiscent it is to nearly every other film within the genre. The violence and the few standout pieces that make up this puzzle are what will draw you in and attract most viewers. I give it a solid three out of five. It’s worth a rental for any giallo film fanboy, that goes without question.

The Killer is Still Among Us Review

Posted by Josh Samford On September - 15 - 2010
Back again! How does another obscure Giallo sound? Sounds like a good time to me! So here we have The Killer is Still Among Us which is best known as a pretty disturbing little flick featuring some nasty mutilations! So yeah, jump on board and find out how good it really is!

The Plot: The Killer is Still Among Us details the path of a real life serial killer who stalked the streets of Florence and was appropriately known as The Monster of Florence. Our story focuses on a criminology student named Cristina who is often given very specific details on crimes that are committed locally. She decides to take this case head on for her thesis and soon finds herself wrapped up in a world of voyeurism, pimps and prostitutes. At night the city streets become a dark place where voyeurs spy on young couples while they think they are privately parking out in secluded areas. Our killer takes advantage of these naive youths and shoots them dead and then follows up his murders with the desecration of their bodies. Cristina, while trying to track down the killer, meets a local doctor who is given the job of looking over a couple of the bodies and he tells her what he has discovered during the autopsies. Cristina and this doctor soon begin to date and as the film progresses, we discover that the killer could literally be ANYONE around her and she may very well be the killer’s next target!






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