42nd Street Cinema

A Decade of Dash & Slash Part II

Continuing where the last one left off, apologies for such a long wait.

Drive-In Massacre (1976)
Director: Stu Segall
The plot concerns a killer on the loose, lopping off heads at a California drive-in theatre with a sword. 2 Detectives are put on the case and begin investing the drive-in's owner along with his assistant and a local peeping Tom before going undercover to catch the killer themselves. One short scene I really liked was during the climax of the film, which involves a killing in the projection room and resulting with the silhouettes of both killer and victim being displayed on the big screen. A generic slasher with sluggish dialogue but some cool kills displayed in between. Worth checking out if you have an hour and 14 minutes to 'kill'.

Just Before Dawn (1981)
Director: Jeff Lieberman
A backwoods slasher drawing influence from Deliverance (1972), opting more for an isolated and creepy atmosphere as opposed to over the top gratuitous violence. 5 Teens go on a camping trip deep in the Oregon woods, soon the troupe fall victim to something menacing stirring in the forest surrounding them. With above average acting, lush locations and twin overweight hillbilly maniacs prowling the woodland make for a tense slasher.

Madman (1981)
Director: Joe Giannone
Another Camp slasher cash in, starring Gaylen Ross (though credited as 'Alexis Dubin' of Dawn of the Dead (1978) fame. When the name of serial killer "Madman Marz" is uttered he is somehow brought back to existence and duty calls. So it's not long until counselors are being taken apart...quite literally. Sweet poster art for this little picture too and it really reflects the film well; dark, atmospheric and a great-looking killer who has an axe, well c'mon what backwoodsman hasn't got one?

Happy Birthday to Me (1981)
Director: J. Lee Thompson
A real neglected 80s gem, though it does indeed have something of a cult status, in my opinion it isn't quite what it deserves. The story is about Virginia "Ginny" Wainwright (Melissa Sue Anderson), a pretty, popular, soon to be 18 and a member of the school's 'elite'. Just before her birthday a string of brutal murders begin cropping up and her friends are on the receiving end. Could it be sweet Ginny as she suffers from blackouts? Soon enough we learn the bizarre truth. Happy Birthday to Me has one of the most 'out of nowhere' twist endings that upon first reflection might not make a lot of sense but upon the final reveal everything comes together solidly.The film's gore isn't over the top as one might imagine but retains a certain realism without bordering in to the completely grotesque.

Visiting Hours (1982)
Director: Jean-Claude Lord
Having both William Shatner and Michael Ironside as cast members you would expect this to be one hell of a good flick. Well you'd half right, while Ironside gives an intense performance as stalker/killer/nut Colt Hawker the film falls short on awkward pacing and pointless characters. Plot basics revolve around Deborah Ballin (Lee Grant) who is brutally attacked by female hating Hawker who fails to kill her, she is admitted to hospital he goes to finish what he started. I'm really on the fence about this film and I'd like to hear views from people who've seen this to help sway me.

Pieces (1982)
Director: Juan Piquer Simón
Beginning with a teenager killing his mother and severing her body parts with an axe. Jump forward to the present day, a serial killer is offing young girls and stealing various body parts at a Boston university campus. Detectives are dispatched in an attempt to stop the killings and solve the case. A Spanish-American production which quickly became a drive-in favourite. Not surprisingly so with the outrageously gory deaths and well hammed acting, a true classic of 'what it was all about'.

The House on Sorority Row (1983)
Director: Mark Rosman
Age old plot of a prank going wrong, this time the location is set in and around a girls sorority house. A group of girls clash with their house mother, they play a prank on her which ends terribly resulting in her death. Panicking, the girls dispose of the body, unknown to them someone witnessed the accident and starts stalk and murder them one by one. An impressive slasher with an iffy cast, some suspenseful sequences and a creepy killer in a jester costume.

A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
Director: Wes Craven
The first introduction of the 4th antihero of horror. Freddy Krueger. Craven's entry in to slasher is an interesting one. The plot at its core is about an 'undead' serial child killer who terrorizes the children of the lynch mob that killed him. I love the premise of a killer who is able to terrorize and kill his victims while they are asleep. As sleep is a necessity it is inescapable and the thought of having to stay awake otherwise you could potentially be killed is pretty horrific. The characters being teenagers too only adds to this as teenagers enjoy their sleep. Krueger's image is instantly recognizable by the green and red striped sweater, brown fedora hat and of course the clawed glove. Similar to both Jason, Michael and Leatherface in the respect that they have their 'weapon of choice' and 'costume', all 4 in an ironic twist have become pop culture icons and celebrated antiheroes.


Morgan said...

When I look at the list, it just shows me how much I love the slasher genre the most out of all horror genres! The House On Sorority Row is so good!

James said...

Absolutely! There's so much variety, I think i've fully reacquainted my love for the slasher sub-genre.

Sarah said...

I think I wrote about Visiting Hours a few years ago, although I honestly don't remember what I wrote about it. It was pretty good, but not the best of Canadian slashers, if it even qualifies as one. I was always of the mind that if the film focuses on adults (and in Visiting Hours' case, middle-aged adults), then it's perhaps more of a thriller rather than a slasher film. I mean, Star Trek nerds aren't going to like it because Shatner is barely in it and is playing the supportive boyfriend-type. But Michael Ironside was effective.

I thought Happy Birthday to Me was a poor American attempt at giallo. I really didn't like it that much.

Pieces is awesome, and I really liked The House on Sorority Row. I never made it through Madman, so kudos.

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