Happy Death Day 2U (2019)

I was thoroughly surprised with 2017’s “Happy Death Day.” The more I’ve thought about it and re-watched it, I’ve come to like it more and more as a horror reworking of “Groundhog’s Day.” It’s a fun and creepy character piece about a despicable young woman who realizes that maybe the way to keep herself from dying and end the cycle of re-living the same day over and over, is to think about other people in her life. “Happy Death Day 2U” is that same concept, but a wholly different movie. It’s a sequel that brings us a new angle of the narrative, expands on the concept of the original film, while also continuing to explore the character of Tree Gelbman.

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Drive-In Massacre (1976) [Blu-Ray]

Stu Segall’s attempt at a horror movie is only seventy minute in length but feels like it goes on for an eternity. Resembling a really cheap and gory cop drama, “Drive In Massacre” is painfully paced and poorly plotted with a tone that is literally all over the place. Sometimes it’s a slasher, sometimes a murder mystery, sometime it tries to be a true crime drama, and other times, it opts for comedy. How are we supposed to take our heroes at all seriously when, in an effort to infiltrate the murderer targeting drive in couples, one of the officers decides to dress up as a woman? What is the intent behind “Drive-In Massacre”? Are we supposed to consider it a satire that was way ahead of its time? Was the director aiming for something in the vein of “The Town that Dreaded Sundown,” except it’s all confined to a local drive in?

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Psychotic! (2016) [Brooklyn Horror Film Festival 2016]

psychoticThis film follows a group of friends attempting to enjoy the party scene in Bushwick (Brooklyn) when a party killer starts eliminating party goers here and there.  Not know who the killer is or when they will strike again.  The friends are navigating life, dating, expensive apartments, and their passions. Credits for the film are not yet on IMDB, so the festival’s site is the only source of information for now.  The film is directed and written by Maxwell Frey and Derek Gibbons who start the film off with a clear homage to stalker films of the early 80s with a scene that follows a person stalking a girl.

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Dead Body (2015) [Philadelphia Unnamed Film Festival 2016]

dead-body-posterPost-graduation, a group of high school friends meet up at one of the guys’ father’s cabin in the woods.  There they hang out, drink, argue, and play a game called Dead Body.  As they start dying off one by one, they must figure out who is the real killer and try to survive. Directed by Bobbin Ramsey and written by Ian Bell and Ramon Isao, the film boasts nine teenage characters that are all fairly generic stereotypes of teenagers and how they should act.  What makes the film interesting is not as much who they are or how they act but the whodunit angle to the story.  Of course red herrings and false red herrings are thrown left and right from the beginning.

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Slasher: Season One [Blu-Ray]

slashers1When last we saw Katie McGrath, she was suffering a cruel and unnecessary death in “Jurassic World,” and has now entered the sub-genre of the slasher film. A skosh more entertaining and engrossing than “Scream,” Chiller TV’s “Slasher” is a very entertaining, and tense slasher film that mixes in elements of a murder mystery in the process. I had no expectations for “Slasher,” and surely enough it won me over after two episodes, working within the confines of the slasher sub-genre, while also side stepping some of the more common clichés here and there. Much like “Scream,” main character Sarah comes from a small town where everyone has skeletons in their closets.

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Cutting Class (1989)

cuttingclass-2Director Rospo Pallenberg’s “Cutting Class” is a slasher film I’ve grown to enjoy over the years, and maybe that’s because there’s rarely a slasher that doesn’t win my heart. I first caught it during a late night screening on cable, and since then it’s grown on me immensely. It’s a late eighties last gasp at the slasher sub-genre that relies on the comedic styling of Martin Mull who attempts to survive an arrow attack in a conspicuously detached sub-plot from the central premise of a slasher stalking a high school.

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You Have to See This! April Fool’s Day (1986)

It’s a horror comedy! It’s a drama! It’s a murder mystery! It’s definitely not a slasher movie. Sure, the movie poster for it is legendary, but “April Fool’s Day” despite always being plugged in to the slasher sub-genre is not at all a slasher movie. What it is, is a murder mystery with a great sense of humor. If you go in to “April Fool’s Day” with a good nature, you just might enjoy how it twists horror conventions and tells a ripping good mystery. It’s “April Fool’s Day,” one of the many holiday oriented horror movies that dared to stray from the trend of slasher films when everyone else was featuring a masked maniac walking around hacking teenagers to pieces. Thanks to it doing poorly at the box office, it’s often blamed for the death of the slasher movie in the eighties. I think the blame falls squarely on the laps of Paramount who probably didn’t know how to advertise this movie, and wanted badly to create another holiday themed slasher film.

The wealthy Muffy St. John is hosing a party at her island mansion with a group of her close college friends on the weekend leading in to the ever infamous April Fool’s Day. Muffy is a lover of pranks and gags, implementing them on her guests, and encouraging them to have a good time. Suddenly party guests begin to disappear and guest Nan realizes the games aren’t so funny anymore, discovering the bodies and limbs of her friends. The guests soon realize they’re incapable of leaving the island until the end of the weekend and must figure out a way to survive until then. Especially now that they’ve learned their friend Muffy has been replaced by her criminally insane and psychotic twin sister Buffy.

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I’ll repeat: This has all the set up of a slasher film, but it’s not at all a slasher film. It sure is clever and quite funny, though. I must have gazed at the poster for “April Fool’s Day” a thousand times when I was a small kid, mainly because it was prominently hanged in the video store my aunt worked in, and whenever she babysat for us I’d pass it every minute when playing with my cousin. Horror movies of the eighties were known for creating some of the most interesting and memorable movie posters in cinema history, mainly because the poster had to encapsulate everything about the film in one poster. It also had to slightly mislead you, which movie fans often forgave.

“April Fool’s Day” has a bang up movie poster with a young woman standing in front a party cheering a glass of champagne, her pony tail tied in a noose, while she brandishes a butcher knife behind her back. While there is no slashing to be had, the presence of nooses and ropes are quite prominent in “April Fool’s Day” and it serves as a consistent gag. The poster is a prime example on how to market a horror movie that is essentially a whodunit mystery film with slight tinges of murder here and there. The movie holds true to its title, offering so many plot twists and fake outs in the first twenty minutes, you’re left watching the rest of the film never really sure if you’re being tricked in to something, if a maniac is on the loose murdering guests at young Muffy’s party, or if Muffy’s intention for a nice party has ended in blood soaked terror.

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Director Fred Walton is very good about pacing his movie, offering a nice build up to the horror by featuring a lot of exposition and neat gags here and there. With Muffy inviting her friends over a weekend getaway, the party quickly spirals in to a series of hilarious April fool’s pranks. There’s the old dribble cup gag, the break away chair that character Arch (Thomas F. Wilson fresh off of “Back to the Future”) falls for twice. The funniest physical prat fall involves him in his room preparing to look at a skin mag and tumbling backward. There’s also a hilarious gag involving trick lamps that prompts character Nikki to respond with uncontrollable laughter. What becomes the general premise of “Apri Fool’s Day” is how much are we seeing it made up, and how much is complete truth?

Some audiences may find the ultimate resolution completely ridiculous and a big waste of time, while others might enjoy that the movie not only completely avoids being a typical horror movie, but also side steps a typical finale involving the murderer and a fight for survival. Director Walton likened “April Fool’s Day” to an Agatha Christie mystery, and for the most part, the movie unfolds exactly as such. What begins as a nice light hearted romp of friends involving pranks turns in to terror as each party guest are systematically knocked off. They’re also knocked off off-screen by an unseen assailant leaving us to try to figure out who among these people are knocking off the guests. Walton directs the sequences well, including one moment involving a snake, and another centered on floating severed heads.

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“April Fool’s Day” garnered a significant cult following later in its shelf life, thanks to the fact its low blood and boob count allowed it to be aired on late night television numerous times. It’s sad that “April Fool’s Day” earned an audience with that kind of circumstance since the movie is so clever and witty most times. It even garners a nice cast of eighties character actors like Amy Steel, and the lovely Deborah Foreman who is absolutely gorgeous as central antagonist Muffy. “April Fool’s Day” ends up being one big labyrinth of back story and exposition intended to keep the audience on a hook and waiting for the big delivery much like Muffy’s party guests, and it works if you can appreciate what director Walton was going for.

Like most murder mysteries, there’s the big explanation to resolve all of the lingering plot points, and for the most part it works, and works very well. You might have to suspend some disbelief in the reasoning for what occurs, but it goes down well thanks to the above average performances, and light hearted sense of lunacy that ensues. Director Walton’s film is one big parlor trick with a great twist ending, and he embraces it with a fun final frame set to the hilariously weird “Too Bad You’re Crazy” by Jerry Whitman.

When I first saw “April Fool’s Day,” I was a preteen who loved everything involving slasher movies and was utterly sore after finishing it realizing it’s not a slasher movie at all. Years later, I appreciate it so much more as a sly twist on the murder mystery, brandishing a slick sense of humor, a stern tongue in cheek, and a ton of great moments of misdirection that make it a nice horror gem worth experimenting with. In a decade filled with slasher movies, “April Fool’s Day” dares to be different, and passes the test.

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The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014)

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You could pretty much rebrand the 2014 “The Town That Dreaded Sundown” as “Scream 5” and not many people would know the difference. Except that no film in the “Scream” series has ever been this bold or subversive before. “The Town…” 2014 is a film about the influence of films that disturbs, polarizes, and effects greatly. There’s rarely any satire and zero tongue in cheek, just a mad man viciously murdering people to the tune of a very effective crime thriller/slasher film from 1976. I’d be hard pressed to call this a remake or a reboot, as it’s more a sequel than anything.

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