Nicholas Ferwerda’s “Family Game Night” is a short that I could actually see becoming a feature film somewhere down the road. The potential for a dark comedy horror film is right there. As a short though, it’s a very good and very darkly eccentric horror film with a fun twist on the conventional nuclear family concept that entertains successfully.
As a slasher buff, I’m saddened that we’re in a current horror climate where other less deserving slasher films have gotten full fledged franchises while “Behind the Mask” is still just a one time gem. “The Rise of Leslie Vernon” is one of the best slasher films of the aughts that was perfecting the indie slasher sub-genre well before “Hatchet” came along. No slight to Adam Green, but I’d much rather have had three “Behind the Mask” films over four “Hatchet” films any day of the week. “Behind the Mask” is brilliant in not only creating a great slasher villain, but telling a sharp meta-story that dissects the sub-genre as a whole.
All I know is that it is something of a cult film and simultaneous antidotal piece of good old fashioned schlock in a decade that took movies very seriously. Even horror was somewhat stern for a long time until Wes Craven injected some humor in to it. “Freaked” feels like something out of 1987 that crept in to 1993 and it still rings as truly one of the more fascinating cult films I’ve ever seen. My memory with “Freaked” goes back to 1994 when my dad rented a copy for me. Little did he know what the hell we were in for, as “Freaked” teeters between completely surreal black comedy and an acid dream splashed on to film.
You could almost attribute the invention of the sub-genre involving travelers trapped in a house with a bunch of demented folks to James Whale. While there are no chainsaws or torture devices anywhere, you could see where the seeds were sewn for films like “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “The Haunting.” Whale’s film “The Old Dark House” presents glimmers of dark comedy and some pretty funny one-liners but through and through it’s an atmospheric and very creepy tale about a travelers trapped in a house with a psychotic brood. During a horrific rain storm, a group of travelers in the country side of Wales find themselves soaking wet and seeking shelter from the cold water barreling down on them.
When a disease sweeps the area, all parents become crazed killers going after their offspring. In one house, a teenage girl and her little brother try to survive while their parents do all in their powers to kill them.
One of the last relics of the video store, I vividly recall coming across the cover to “Ice Cream Man” at least a dozen times and wondered what horror Clint Howard would dole up from the back of a truck. Years later, “Ice Cream Man” has caught on as a surreal and self-aware horror thriller that packs in a lot of gore, grue, and goofy black comedy that makes it a collector’s item. From Jan Michael Vincent shooting a bunch of mental patients, to the Ice Cream Man using Ice Cream as a symbol of his sexual repression and rage, to really bad padding to make one of the child actors look heavy, “Ice Cream Man” has earned its status as a cult classic since video stores shut down permanently.
Brian Taylor’s “Mom and Dad” has a really good idea on its hands and sometimes he doesn’t really know what to do with it. “Mom and Dad” best sums up the whole of its premise in the opening where Taylor stages the film like the opening to Zack Snyder’s “Dawn of the Dead.” A mom looks back at her toddler sitting in its seat, gets out of the car and walks away calmly as a train barrels down on it. We then flicker to a small suburb from top view where carnage is about to ensue. Granted, “Mom and Dad” begins very tensely and starts off with a lot of mounting suspense that kept me glued to the screen.
I think one of the many reasons why “Silent Night, Deadly Night” has remained a cult classic is because it’s anything but a simple slasher film. While many movies in the eighties were content with maybe just a movie about a hacking and slashing Santa, “Silent Night, Deadly Night” is memorable for being so insane. It’s a wacky, weird, mean spirited and demented horror movie with hints of dark comedy sprinkled in. The tonal inconsistencies and almost rapid fire highs and lows of the narrative make it such a horror oddity that you can’t help but love it. There are just about five movies in one, and all of them are pretty entertaining in their own right.
Hell, Linnea Quigley even appears for a moment because—the eighties…?!