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Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Lucky 13: Week Thirteen: Slashers

And now, the end is near, and so I face the final curtain... Hmmm? Oh, hello there, dear reader, and welcome to the final installment of the horrific adventure in which Brutal as Hell and the good ol' Vault have been engaged over the course of the summer. That's right, the Lucky 13 has reached its final destination, so to speak. We've reminisced and pontificated over a series of beloved horror genres, and what better way to end it all on this ominous 13th week than with slasher cinema, that guilty pleasure that has terrified and titillated us for a good third of a century now?

Personal bias: Slashers have never been a favorite of mine. In this, I often feel in the minority. That said, even I freely admit to being impressed and surprised at the level of diversity within this sub-genre. Perhaps it's time I give it a reappraisal. Take a look at this final collection of favorites, and judge for yourself...

B-Sol on A Nightmare on Elm Street

One of my biggest issues with slashers is the relative lack of imagination I often find in them--the slavish loyalty to formula. Perhaps this has a lot to do with my preference for supernatural horror. Knowing that, it would come as no surprise that the slasher film which has always had the most appeal to me would be Wes Craven's jewel, A Nightmare on Elm Street--undoubtedly the most successful and popular horror film of the 1980s.

Craven takes the slasher motif so far into supernatural territory, in fact, that some may even question whether or not NOES is a slasher film at all. But it is. We have the single-minded murderer stalking morally ambiguous teens with sharp objects. The ineffectual parental and authority figures. The tenacious and virtuous final girl. The killer with an origin out of classic urban legend. It's all here, only wit far more imagination, and thus far of an opportunity to frighten and disturb.

Freddy Krueger is a classic movie monster right up there with the likes of Dracula, Mr. Hyde and the Wolf Man. He is timeless, particularly in this first installment, after which the purity of the terror would be increasingly watered down. Stalking us in our dreams, he is the embodiment of the intangible fear from which we can never truly escape. Craven had been growing steadily more potent as a horror film-maker, and this, I believe represents him at the apex of his powers. It's a powerful little gem which he has yet to equal.

Missy Yearian of Chickapin Parish on Black Christmas

It’s a fact among film writers that our favorite films are the most difficult to write about. And when I sat down to write exactly what it is about Black Christmas that makes it so damn special, well, I just had no idea what I’d say. I could go on about the eye behind the door, the Glass Menagerie murder (which is a highlight of the film), the inclusion of the always welcome and totally awesome John Saxon, or the presence of a drunken Margot Shitter—excuse me, Kidder. But all this would be a horror nerd’s reasons for loving the film, and that’s not all there is to love with Black Christmas. Simply put, Black Christmas is effing scary.

It’s Christmas holidays for the ladies of the Pi Kappa Sig house. The girls have been receiving obscene phone calls from an anonymous male who wants to… well, do dirty things to whichever girl answers the phone. As each of the girls embarks on their plans for the break, the house thins out, and the few girls left are forced to fight for their lives from a psycho who’s holed up in their attic.

The fact that Black Christmas is a slasher will bring up certain images and ideas, but it does something that most films of the sub-genre can’t seem to do. It follows the formula very well, and it does so four years before John Carpenter would wow us with Halloween and even longer before Wes Craven would revive the dying sub-genre with Scream. Black Christmas is a benchmark film. It’s a standard by which we can compare all other slasher films, but for some reason, most people outside the horror community don’t know about it. Perhaps it’s that My Bloody Valentine became known as the Canadian slasher. Perhaps it’s that it was released the same year as Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

Whatever the reason for mainstream ignorance of this film, it should be recognized as the genesis point of an entire sub-genre. It’s a slow-burner, and that makes for one of the most frightening experiences you’ll have as a viewer.

Hey, if you disagree, you can always reach me at “Fellatio 2-0-8-8-0.”

Brandon Sites of Big Daddy Horror Reviews on Night Warning

If I had to pick any one sub-genre as my favorite, it's the '80s slasher. It's what I grew up on. It's what formed my love of the horror genre. It's the one sub-genre I can revisit over and over without ever tiring of it. With this week's post I not only get to tell you about my favorite slasher, I get to tell you about my favorite '80s horror film, period.

Night Warning (aka Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker) was one of those unfortunate films that fell by the wayside, because it's distributor had no idea how to market it. Campaigns suggested it was a teen slasher, and while it is indeed a slasher mixed with elements of mystery, there's much more to it than that. Susan Tyrell turns in the performance of a lifetime as the over-protective Aunt Cheryl. See, she's got the community in a bit of a tizzy after murdering the local TV repair man claiming he was trying to rape her. However, Lieutenant Carlson (Bo Svenson) doesn't buy her story and thinks that the orphaned teenage nephew (Jimmy McNichol) that she raised is the guilty party. As Carlson digs around, he doesn't realize he's about to set off a chain of murders, and he just may end up as the next victim.

Night Warning was one of those films that was ahead of its time as it mixed story threads involving racism, the nearly incestuous relationship between an aunt and her nephew, and the bigotry of a small town towards the homosexual population. With a lesser director, these story elements would have probably come across as ridiculous, but William Asher shows assurance and conviction with the material. All the more surprising, considering the bulk of his career was making beach blanket films and TV directing gigs during the '60s.

As for the performances- when you think of a lineup that includes McNichol (Kristy's brother), Svenson (Walking Tall), Julia Duffy (TV's Newhart), and Broadway actress Marcia Lewis, you really wouldn't expect much, but they're all terrific. It's as though everyone involved had to prove their worth as either director or actor, because they've never been better then they were here. Night Warning is one of those films that as I watch it over and over, I always pick up a new little detail or nuance. It's also one of the rare times when the movie is actually better then the book.

Code Red, a company facing tough times right now, has been promising a release of this film for the longest time. They have even put together special features for it, and conducted interviews with several of the people involved. Here's to hoping that the winner of the Best Horror Film of 1982 from The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films gets it's proper due one of these days, and gets a chance at a wider audience with a proper DVD release.

Fascination with Fear's C.L. Hadden on Halloween

The premise, simple. A crazed killer stalks a babysitter on Halloween night. Seems rather elementary, right? But Halloween is easily one of the most, if not the most influential movie in the history of slasher films. So what makes it so special?

Originally using the working title 'The Babysitter Murders', John Carpenter and Debra Hill co-wrote a screenplay that allowed the most basic elements of fear and anticipation to wreak havoc on the viewer's nerves. The point-of-view technique used to let us watch young six-year-old Michael murder his older sister in cold blood without a scratch of remorse catches our attention in the first five minutes, immediately dragging us into the psyche of a madman. The scenes of a desperate Dr. Loomis at the institution and the outrage and anxiety he projects at the Michael's escape only worsen with every moment he tracks him closer to Haddonfield.

Michael Myers is the most fundamental of slashers, wielding a kitchen butcher knife while sporting his Shatner mask and lumbering along like a zombie at best. And yet he is at his most menacing when we see him in subtle and sometimes quick shots: behind the laundry clothesline, outside Laurie's school, stepping out from behind the sidewalk hedge. Moments of unexpected lurking and outright stalking that take the viewer by surprise.

Halloween also is home to one of the genre's most beloved final girls, Laurie Strode. Selfless, virginal Laurie, always one to take in an extra ward on a babysitting job so her horny friends can get laid. A girl who has no idea (yet) why this escaped lunatic is dead-set on killing her, and yet fights back with all the gumption and determination of an alley cat in heat.

A moment to also thank the incredibly multi-talented director for his score contribution. In the same way John Williams is to Jaws, Carpenter is to Halloween. A distinctive, simple few notes that resonate throughout the film and create an atmosphere of terror and creeping doom. Without that recognizable score, the film would not succeed on the same level.

Taking more than just a few cues from the undisputed godfather of all slashers, Psycho, all in all Halloween is the perfect slasher film: Low on gore, high on suspense, setting the standard and watching (nearly) all replicas go down in embarrassing flames.

Oh, the Horror's Brett Gallman on The Burning

When most people think of camp-based slashers, their minds will turn to Camp Crystal Lake and the hockey masked momma’s boy who lives (and kills) there. Somehow, Friday the 13th has become known as the definitive camp splatter movie, which is hard to believe considering the series has only ever featured one fully-functional camp (Camp Forest Green in Jason Lives). Myself, I’d much rather be enrolled at The Burning’s Camp Stonewater any day of the week. Sure, dealing with Cropsey and the sight of George Costanza in short shorts would be terrifying, but it’d be a lot of fun otherwise. It’s got everything you would want from summer camp: pranks, campfire tales, and a group of fun people to hang around with. Just about the only thing missing from these hijinks is Bill Murray rallying the troops against a rival camp.

Of course, it also has everything you would expect from a slasher: gratuitous sex, drugs and death. Whenever Tom Savini’s effects are handling the latter part there, you’re usually in good hands, and The Burning is no exception. The Sultan of Splatter carves the cast up in a variety of ways as they fall victim to Cropsey and his garden shears. The now infamous raft massacre scene is one of the best in any slasher, and is one of the few that manages to be effective despite being set in broad daylight. Body parts get hacked off, throats are slit, and kids are stabbed in a splattery mess that cuts right to the heart of what slashers are all about.

The best slashers often make use of an urban or town legend, no doubt because everyone can relate to the primal nature of such tales. Whether you ever attended camp or not, you surely heard whispers of some sort of local legend that was designed to send shivers up the spines of kids everywhere. Cropsey himself is the ultimate campfire tale brought to life, as stories of a maniacal “Cropsey” have been told around northeast campfires for decades. This particular version is actually the brainchild of the Weinstein brothers and Brad Grey (quite an impressive pedigree), and he’s a gruesome character with a monstrously deformed and melted face.

He’s always been a sort of bridesmaid and never the blood-spattered bride, overshadowed by the likes of Mrs. Voorhees’s baby boy, but I’ll give Cropsey his due. The Burning is not only one of the best camp slashers, but one of the best body count movies the '80s had to offer, period. It’s basically a bowl full of Meatballs with a side of Friday the 13th, and the only thing missing is an endless line of sequels. That’s a shame because it would have been fun to see Cropsey make the shores of other camps run red with the blood of more victims. Of course, if we’re to believe the campfire tale, he’s still out there somewhere--just “don’t look--he’ll see you. Don’t move--he’ll hear you. Don’t breathe--you’re dead!”

From Beyond Depraved's Joe Monster on Deep Red

The giallo is the Italian cousin to the all-American slasher film. Whereas the slasher has become synonymous with images of masked psychos lurking amongst a group of horny teenagers, the giallo is a bit more stylized in its (ahem) execution. One of the masters of this form was director Dario Argento. Having helmed the three films in the so-named “Animal Trilogy” (The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Cat O’Nine Tails, and Four Flies on Grey Velvet), Argento’s next outing was something that broke the conventions of the standard giallo mystery and thus all of his previous efforts in the genre. With the arrival of Deep Red, Argento delved into a fantastic night world where death was the norm and any hope for good was all but diminished.

Deep Red, along with 1977’s Suspiria, is perhaps the prime example from Argento’s resume that fully displays his artist’s eye for colorful cinematography and composition. The hues and shades in this film are a visual feast for the eyes, their vibrancy and starkness almost too much for our vision to process at times. Nightmarish images crowd the proceedings, from the murderer’s strange den filled with child paraphernalia to the haunting and brooding house, occupied only by a corpse frozen in a silent scream, that lies at the center of the film’s mystery. And as the title most rightfully suggests, Deep Red bubbles to the brim with scarlet colors. It assaults our eyes as it springs forth in a cascade of glowing blood against the charcoal-black of the surrounding environment. It serves as a constant reminder that Death presides over all.

The eerie musical score by rock group Goblin is the perfect compliment to Argento’s mind-bending images. It pulses and pounds in the darkness, matching every thud of your heart against your chest. It’s music that gets you anxious and makes you anticipate the worst… and in the case of this film, that’s usually what you get. The killings sprinkled throughout are sudden, brutal, and leave lingering pictures in your mind for some time. I mean, what is more terrifying than the thought of going to answer your front door and suddenly being at the other end of a meat cleaver? Or groping through the shadows of your own home while a maniac intently watches you? And there is probably no scene more horrifying to those who despise dolls than the one in which a giggling dummy comes dancing across the room straight at the camera! That’s nightmare fuel on the rocks.

Deep Red is not only my favorite film in the slasher/giallo genre, it would most likely get a place in my hypothetical Top 10 of horror films. It evokes such a beautiful sense of strangeness and terror that you forget at times that you’re watching a movie about a psycho in leather gloves slinking around and chopping people up into finger food. Argento’s mastery of film-making elevates it to a level of true art, and it’s one of the more mentally engrossing gialli you will have the pleasure to witness. It’s one of the greatest things to meet a knife’s bloody edge.

The Horror Effect's B-Movie Becky on Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

Somewhere between the post-modern fallout of Scream and the remake-centric splurge of horror films came one of the most original slashers constructed upon unoriginal concepts. After a brief theatrical stint, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon flew onto the shelves of Best Buy, Fry’s, and Wal-Mart with barely a flutter in 2006. Half mockumentary, half serious, and all campy, what surprises could this movie bring to the jaded horror fan? Plenty.

I walked past this movie about a dozen times before finally deciding to Netflix it. The cover, sporting a creepy, sunken-eyed face, had always intrigued me. However, I’ve seen a few direct-to-DVD duds boasting a Robert Englund appearance and a psychopath in overalls. Still, I couldn’t resist the plot: a documentary crew follows the moves of a notorious serial killer in-the-making, as he selects his victims and prepares his locations for the ultimate slasher finale. Much to my surprise, the two things that make this quirky plot come together are the actors and the self-referential humor.

Under the direction of Scott Glosserman, the cast is almost too believable. Nathan Baesel as the documentary subject, Leslie Vernon, manages to be simultaneously charming and disturbing. Looking up to the Freddys and Jasons of the world, I found myself cheering Leslie on just as I would the other icons of horror. This happened without decade(s) of sequels and excessive merchandising. He became one of the boys in a completely different way. Supporting Leslie’s hilarious and strangely compelling performance are Angela Goethals as the reluctant filmmaker, Robert Englund as the Sam-Loomis-inspired Doc Halloran, and Scott Wilson as the veteran slasher. Glosserman’s actors effortlessly transition between low-key, docu-style acting and more cinematic representations of themselves at all the right moments.

One of the most challenging aspects of creating a post-modern horror film is capitalizing on the referential humor without stepping all over the genre. Behind the Mask brings homages, cameos, name drops, and plenty of genre sarcasm to the table, but always manages to stand on its feet as its own unique film. The spirit of the movie is captured in its tagline: “Jason, Freddy, Myers. We all need someone to look up to.” Reverence for the slasher is weaved into the very structure of the movie. It is a world where these icons exist in reality, not fiction. Vernon emulates their work, while having a sense of humor about it—the same way a slasher fan does. From the brief view of Kane Hodder on 1428 Elm Street to the scene of Vernon scoring tree branches to break when his victims inevitably attempt to escape from the second story, Behind the Mask lives, breathes, and bleeds slasher.

2006 may not be the year of the slasher. And it may not be the year the slasher was reinvigorated. But sometimes you have to sort through a lot of things in the ol’ junk drawer before you find what you’re looking for. It’s not a rehash of familiar slasher territory. It’s not a subversive look at the rules of the masked stalker. It’s not a modernized gored-out splatterpiece. Behind the Mask is simply an innovative slasher produced in a time when the trite outweighed the true.

Vault dweller Angela Howeth on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

I love slasher films; they make up a vast majority of the movies that came out during my childhood. I remember the first time I laid eyes on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre; I was about ten years old. My cousins where babysitting my brother and I, and had brought the movie over. From that moment on, I will never forget Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) opening that large metal sliding door and pulling his prey into the depths of hell. You know that anyone who walks through that old screen door is doomed to be chopped, sliced and diced by Leatherface. He is not your typical slasher, he does not lurk in the shadows, wielding a knife. Instead, he is like an inbred linebacker armed with a chainsaw, seeing his victims as a large chunk of meat. The fact that his character was based on true life slasher Ed Gein is enough to send an eerie chill down anyone’s’ spine. The scene in which he takes Pam (actress Teri McMinn) and places her on a meat hook, then proceeds to cut up and dismember her friend right in front of her is pure terror. Leatherface simply goes about his duty to get the meat ready for BBQ.

Leatherface is a monster; he hides behind his mask made of human skin and a slaughter house apron. He is a slasher that holds many weapons: carving knives, meat hooks, cleavers and his favorite, the chainsaw. Although many slashers in other movies are portrayed in an undead demonic sense, Leatherface is alive, a kind of twisted Frankenstein that was created by his family. All of the bloodshed and screams of terror make up his meal ticket; he is a relentless killing machine. To him there is no humanity, only the thrill of the kill. This is what makes him one of the most memorable slashers to this day; in fact, Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of my favorite movies. To this day, I get creeped out about stopping at gas stations in the middle of nowhere out here, whether it’s Iowa or Nebraska. After all, you never know who is watching you! But that’s a whole different story!

Without Obsession There Is Nothing's Emily Church on Slaughter High

Slaughter High, where do I begin? I've loved you since I was young enough to fall in love with movies; I can remember the first time I saw you vividly. I was fifteen, and my dad had got me my first-ever TV set to have in my room. My teenaged self was so excited, I could hardly wait. Through having that TV set I learned that all the best movies are on after midnight, and Slaughter High was no exception to this. As soon as I heard the heavy metal theme tune (that I swear can be heard at least 10 times throughout the movie's duration), aptly named 'April Fools Day', I fell head over heels into obsession with Marty and his murderous ways.

So let's cover the basics, shall we? Because I know you're probably thinking, if you haven't already seen it, wow this Slaughter High sounds interesting, I wish I could find out more about it! Our murderer in this movie is Marty Rantzen, your Grade-A typical nerd. He's sweet and lovable, but weak, so he's the victim of severe bullying from his peers. In the first scene, this real bitchy girl called Carol pretends to be into Marty--she's all like "Oh Marty, will you have sex with me?" Marty, being a little desperate, agrees, even though I'm pretty sure he knows in real life Carol will never sleep with him. Anyway, they trick him, do all sorts of mean, cowardly things that only bullies do and they all get punished, but it doesn't stop there--it gets worse. These sick kids give Marty a joint to smoke, but it's poisonous, and they also rig up a chemistry set to explode in his face, and as his face is burning, Marty walks into a brilliantly placed shelf that has a jar of acid perched on it. I mean literally this shelf could only exist in the movies.

Then in true slasher movie fashion, Marty comes back. He's got 3rd degree burns and he's pissed--really, really pissed. So pissed, in fact, that Marty invites everyone back to the now-desolate and abandoned school where they tortured him so he can have a little bit of fun himself. I won't spoil the movie for you, but it's a slasher, so people die in some really incredibly funny ways. OK, I said I wouldn't ruin it for you, but I have to talk about this one guys death. He drinks a can of beer which has clearly been tampered with, and his stomach literally explodes. I'm talking a shed-load of intestines and obviously fake blood, complete with girly high-pitched screams and panic.

Slasher movies don't get any better than Slaughter High. The theme song is brilliant, the acting is mediocre and the deaths are ambitious and hilarious. To put it simply, I'm still in love with this movie and I think I probably will be for eternity. Marty lives on inside of me, his half-burnt face etched into my memory forever.

Cinema Suicide's Bryan White on Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter

It didn't take long for Friday the 13th to descend into sequel hell, did it? Part 2, though not what the producers imagined it would be, turned out to be a strong sequel; a movie that I happen to think is better than the first. Part 3 loses its footing, however, poorly utilizing 3-D, and if it weren't for the first appearance of the hockey mask, it would be a forgettable sequel, entirely. But you can't argue with numbers, and the box office dictated that the fans wanted more. This is pretty much how Friday the 13th dominated the first half of the '80s. There's a simple formula in Hollywood that determines if a movie gets sequelized: How much did it cost vs. how much did it gross. If the box office gross exceeds its budget while in general release, it's a strong indicator that there will be more of the same. Friday the 13th flicks cost nothing to produce and pulled in tremendous box office. It was this series that crafted the endless sequel horror paradigm.

The Friday movies were rushed into production time and time again, year after year, each featuring a similar plot to the prior, and producer Frank Mancuso, Jr. was ready to move on to other projects. To put the Friday movies to rest, he crafted a script with an ending that he felt Jason Voorhees couldn't return from, and planted it right at the end of your average slasher flick. It's the usual story: Randy teens party in the woods near Camp Crystal Lake, completely unaware that they're doomed, much to our delight. But where the previous Fridays were happy to leave it at that, The Final Chapter adds a remarkable dynamic to the bodycount. By Friday standards, the script for The Final Chapter is one of the most sophisticated in the Friday canon. Jason becomes less a shadowy figure in the woods who steps out at the right moment and becomes a hulking terrorist that makes a lot of noise and advertises the fact they you're all going to die; and if the previous victims are any measure, your death is assuredly going to be gory.

This is a flick that starts so slow, though, and that's the downside; but while Jason is making his way back to the lake, we're entertained by Crispin Glover's dancing, a true sight to behold. There's also the matter of endless slow-mo out-the-window stunt shots. Whether you're being thrown through the window by Jason or the dog is abandoning his master and beating a hasty retreat through a closed window, the slow-mo window gag never loses its appeal. It's hilarious every single time. Honestly, Peckinpah and John Woo combined never used this much slow-mo. Also, I always felt that Part 2's final girl, Ginny, was the gold standard for the survivor girl. The Final Chapter's Trish, however, takes on Jason in the final showdown with the unprecendented use of her bare hands! Friday 4 seems to be the most colorful of the early series and for that, it wins out in my contest of preference. I love this movie more than any in the series and more than any other slasher flick. The only thing I want to know is where did Jason get a speargun and who the hell needs a spear gun on the edge of Crystal Lake?

From Midnight With Love's The Mike on April Fool's Day

When the topic of slasher films came up, I had a small argument with myself. This wasn't the normal argument that occurs when someone asks me to pick a favorite in some genre/subgenre; this was an argument that went something like “If Halloween's already been picked, there's not really anything I feel is worthy of a list like this”. The slasher genre and I have had many disagreements over the years, despite my stubborn refusal to leave them for dead (I wish I knew how to quit them, maybe?), and it's gotten to the point where I often argue that Halloween doesn't even belong under the “slasher film” label. (This argument often is vocalized by me pointing out that film's lack of blood and supernatural/philosophical message, though inside I'm usually just thinking that Halloween is far too good to be downgraded into the slasher genre.)

As a point of protest against a majority of the entertaining but mind-numbing films that make up the slasher canon, I decided that I'd talk about another film that exists on the fringe of that universe; the 1986 anomaly April Fool's Day. I've never quite been sure what to make of the film, which could be read as a loving spoof of or as a giant middle finger toward the slasher craze, which had been eating up cinema screens for half a decade in the wake of the first Friday the 13th film. What I do know is that it's a complete blast, regardless of its intentions.

In retrospect, it's relatively safe to say that the plot of April Fool's Day--which I won't divulge on behalf of the unfortunates who've not experienced it yet--is among the most ridiculous things ever filmed. And, unlike most slasher films of that era, the film is relatively tame, playing like an R-rated Scooby Doo at times.

But there's an incredible amount of charm in the film thanks to the cast (the lovely Deborah Foreman, the strong Amy Steel, and the dependable Clayton Rohner all shine) and the execution of the film's plot, which never takes itself seriously. The result, in my eyes, is the perfect slasher experience for someone who loves the silliness of the slasher and wants a film that embraces the movement's flaws. In a sub-genre that has become a parody of itself, April Fool's Day is a breath of fresh air. (Even if it is air from a Whoopee cushion.)

Day of the Woman's BJ-C on I Know What You Did Last Summer

While I pride myself on being a horror fangirl chock full of movie preferences far beyond my years, I have no problem admitting that I was born in 1990. In my short 20 years on this planet, I've discovered the wonderful films of yesteryear, and fully understand the lack of staying power the majority of horror films that have come out in the past 20 years possess. The slasher genre is by far one of the most prevalent in horror films, and the '90s were all about trying to spark the fire of slasher films that had previously taken over the horror genre. My personal favorite, was I Know What You Did Last Summer.

IKWYDLS is in no way/shape/form a quality horror film. However, the film followed the outline for a slasher film to a T, and had a power packed cast that drew me in instantly. The typical "teens in trouble make their lives even more complicated" scenario follows a group of friends that hit someone with a car and presumably, kill him. Instead of notifying the authorities, they throw the body into the water and vow to never speak of it again. A year later, the friends find themselves stalked and attacked by an unknown assailant with a fish hook.

The film is ridiculously silly and borderline laughable, but for some reason, I can't look away. Maybe it's the grace of Jennifer Love Hewitt in a babydoll T or Ryan Phillipe's character having the last name of "Cox", but I can't stop watching it. The kills aren't that gory nor original, but like every slasher film...there's plenty of them. Much like most slasher films, there are scenes running through closed quarters, steamy showers with words written in the fogged mirrors, and the main characters turning on each other. I Know What You Did Last Summer was easily the first slasher film I saw on my own, without the guidance of my horror obsessed parents. And for that reason, I'll always cherish it.

The Blood Sprayer's Kristy Jett on Pieces

I didn’t even finish Pieces the first time I saw it. I remember turning it off about 15 minutes in, just thinking it was one of the most ridiculous things I had ever seen. It was, and it still is, but now in hindsight I wonder if I would’ve liked it more if I would’ve just waited through? Maybe it did take seeing it in a theater full of people to fully appreciate it. Let me explain.

I had the great opportunity to see Pieces in its 35mm glory this past May at the Hudson Horror Fest in Poughkeepsie. From the first few minutes I could tell that this was going to be a different experience than the one I had watching it alone. There were muffled giggles from the first swing of the ax, maybe even before.

For those unfamiliar, Pieces is a unique slasher in the sense that the slashing comes by way of a chainsaw. There are a series of murders on a college campus that show that only certain pieces (ha! Get it?!) of the female co-ed’s bodies are missing from the crime scenes. From the beginning we can see this is a slasher based on a psychological premise. The film starts with a young boy being caught with a pornographic puzzle, and once his mother lashes out at him, he hacks her in the skull with an axe. Then the film swiftly cuts to 40 years later as we see an almost giallo-like touch, as gloved hands paw a bloodied shoe and the puzzle, which is also bloodied. From here on out, there is so much unintended hilarity it’s almost too much to handle, and this is why Pieces can hold my heart the way it does.

From the awkwardness of the suspect professor, to the macho man suspect gardener Willard, to the “ladies man” Kendall driving a girl to beg him to gag her so she’ll be quieter while he ravages her, there are so many gems. That doesn’t even start to scratch the surface of the premise, in which a famous tennis player is also a cop who goes “undercover” at the university. The scene in which she meets Kendall’s kung fu professor is worth the price of admission alone. To be fair, the gore in this film is great. And the ending will leave you in stitches…literally. I have grown addicted to this film. I seriously find myself watching it at least once a week since I bought it a few months back. I try to show it to any new friends I am meeting to gauge their sense of humor and see how compatible we are as compadres. So far they have all passed with flying colors.

Pieces is most definitely an acquired taste, and perhaps you’ll be like me and find it unwatchable at first. If you let it play on, you too could find the subtle…I mean, blatant charm of J.P. Simon’s Pieces.

* * * * * * * * * *

A deeply heart-felt thank you goes out to all those writers who contributed pieces to the Lucky 13 over the course of the past 13 weeks. It's been one hell of a ride, both here and over at Brutal as Hell, where another group of exceptional scribes has been hard at work chronicling their favorite horror flicks, as well. This whole thing sprang from a very simple notion hashed out on Twitter, and I'm certainly glad it did. I hope you've all enjoyed reading it as much as I've enjoyed putting it together.

And so, adieu to the Lucky 13. Although, perhaps not. For, just as the slashers discussed this week, I have a distinct feeling it may come lurking back one day in the not-too-distant future, stronger than ever and out for more blood...

Week 1: Grindhouse & Exploitation
Week 2: Creature Features & Monster Movies
Week 3: Demons, Witches & The Devil
Week 4: Gore!
Week 5: Horror Comedies
Week 6: Vampires
Week 7: Psychological Horror
Week 8: Werewolves
Week 9: Serial Killers
Week 10: Ghosts, Haunted Houses and Psychic Phenomena
Week 11: Zombies!
Week 12: Sci-Fi Horror


Angela Howeth said...

I love April Fools Day, and isn't this the 2nd time Deep Red has come up in the list? Ahhh such good memories :)

Unknown said...

So many gems on this list-and Kristy you're right on. The only way to experience Pieces is in a crowded theater-it's unwatchable at home-but with a room full of cinephiles it's sheer brilliance.

This was an awesome concept and kudos to you and the Brutal crew for a summer's worth of great posts. I can't wait to see what you cook up next year.

James R said...

I don't dig slashers either, and it pains me somewhat to see the way that for an apparently large number of folk out there they are what horror is *all about*. There is an argument, I know, that the serial killer is a gothic figure and so can obviously be accommodated within the horror genre, but I'm not hugely convinced by it.

Fred [The Wolf] said...

Damn, if I had known about this week, I would have loved to have contributed to it. I'm a HUGE slasher fan and all of these are quality slashers. I'm surprised to see SCREAM left out here. SLEEPAWAY CAMP as well. Can also add PROM NIGHT and TERROR TRAIN too. There are so many to put on this list. Maybe if you ever decide to do this again, I'll add one of these to the pile. But great job guys. 13 weeks...that's a lot of lists. Kudos.

Missy Y. said...

It's interesting to me how many of us chose films that are sort of silly. It's no secret that I love this subgenre, and it almost makes me sad that we all came out to joke about it. I recognize that the worst horror films are slashers (probably F13 sequels, in fact), but it is possible to make a truly terrifying slasher film. And I am surprised that there aren't more of those on the list. Where is He Knows You're Alone (yes, I realize I originally said I would write about this)?

I guess it goes to show that we all go to these subgenres for different reasons. For me, slashers represent a very real fear. I believe this could exist. And that is what it takes to prime me for a real and fearful reaction. Now, if you eff it up, you'll lose me, but if you go the route of Black Christmas or Halloween or He Knows You're Alone, then you're going to scare the pee out of me, and I am ever so grateful for it.

B-Sol said...

Angela, I don't think Deep Red has popped up before--I know Suspiria has.

Mike, thank you! We hope to do more with the Lucky 13 concept down the road.

Fred, check out Brutal as Hell--Britt Hayes picked Sleepaway Camp as her selection.

Missy, I see what you're saying. I guess I'm the last person to be the defender of slashers, though. Maybe it's just an easy sub-genre to satirize for some reason? But agreed, there are a handful that are utterly chilling.

Grey @ thedarkhours said...

If I can contribute anything to the slasher conversation here it is that my favorite slasher I discovered this year has got to be Aerobicide aka: Killer Workout. Here are the reasons why -

1. Murder Weapon is a Giant Safety Pin
2. Murderer is someone who was burned very badly in a tanning booth, NAKED!
3. This MUST be the unofficial sequel to Pieces, except maybe a little less zany
4. William Shatner's brother must have played the cop in the movie
5. Remember that video the guy in the morgue is watching in Friday part 4 with all the aerobics girls? This is a whole movie of that. MUST WATCH.

Aerobicide isn't available on DVD, but you can get DVD rips of it out there and it is totally worth it!

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