Tuesday, October 30

Some quick thoughts on Slaughter Tales (2012)

In this truly homemade shot-on-video feature in honor of truly homemade shot-on-video features, a teenager gets more than bargained for when he pops in a stolen tape of a crappy horror anthology into his VCR. Let's just say he should have heeded the words of the bathtub ghost...

In the realm of Horror Film theory (a field I just made up), there resides two extremes of the genre. On one frayed end rests enigmatic, yet exceptionally well-crafted "mindfucks" that might have an overall meaning totally outside of the cinematic category they're pegged into out of convenience. Then there's the opposite end that certainly belong to the genre, but are of such humble means that most casual fans and undoubtedly "outsiders" are guaranteed to quickly cast off as nearly unwatchable. Both are acquired tastes usually aided greatly by a deeper knowledge and understanding of horror films in order to dig out qualities to appreciate.

Johnny Dickie's debut feature, Slaughter Tales, certainly belongs in the latter. Despite being friends on Facebook with Dickie for some time now, when judged by most standards his horror anthology about a boy and his VCR is awful in almost every aspect. That's to say if someone blindly walked into this, it would be hard to imagine an experience without squirming with lingering disinterest while checking the time. It's as cheap and one-man-band as SOV horror flicks can possibly get.

But you know what? That's perfectly fine and it would be a shame for anyone to throw pure venom at what Dickie has achieved here. Slaughter Tales is the literal embodiment of what many a young horror fanatic daydreams while whittling away time in English class or doing homework. Although instead of confining their dreams to at best paper doodles or short stories they never share, the now fifteen-year-old Dickie shot for the moon by embarking on an real ninety minute feature in an effort to both pay tribute to and join the ranks of the craptastic shot-on-video horror indies he loves. That right there deserves huge fucking credit, totally irrespective of the quality of the movie.

As for Slaughter Tales itself, it's best viewed as a sandbox of ideas that tick off all the usual gory obsessions of a young fan. There's some Raimi-eqse shots, sly nods to slasher icons, and an armor-masked killer that invades reality resembling Karl the Butcher from Andreas Schnaas' Violent Shit series. All wrapped in DIY claymation and repeated runs to the grocery store for bottles of Karo syrup and food coloring. The most vital aspect this effort nails is narrative coherency. It seems almost a staple for shot-on-video horrors to have passages that make next to no sense at all, but the anthology structure is held up and, even with some dragging, at no time is there any muddling confusion. Dickie also injects a welcoming self-deprecating sense of humor in little reminders that he's aware how truly bad the movie is.

So while it might be more of an experiment than something to recommend, it's just hard to pan this one outright when there's so much obvious passion and creativity on display. Especially from a member of an age group you'd more expect to be wasting the hours in front of a game console than employing his love of horror to create his very own piece of it. For that, Johnny Dickie's Slaughter Tales deserves recognition simply for the mere fact of its existence when considering its maker and the resources behind it. The movie is available in both DVD and special DVD/VHS combo forms direct from Briarwood Entertainment right here.

Sunday, October 14

My Compelling Argument Against the Robocop Remake...

Hollywood: What are your Prime Directives? 
G.I. BatIronJoeCop-Man: Serve the mainstream cattle audience trust, disservice the original, uphold the box office.

Saturday, October 13

Some screenshots from the rare U.S. DVD of Home Sweet Home (1980)

Here's a budget DVD released back in 2006 by an outfit called "Hollywood Entertainment" that flew under the radar. Nettie Peña's 1980 slasher is really only known for two things. Before there was enough chatter after Eli Roth's Thanksgiving trailer in Grindhouse (2007) for the video market to crank out a couple junky holiday-themed horror flicks, Home Sweet Home (aka Slasher in the House) was only example in the genre that actually took place on the day gullets are stuffed with turkey and mashed potatoes.

Who began the mayhem in such of a time of excess and family tension around the dinner table? An escaped mental patient raging on PCP played by the musclebound Jake Steinfeld. The voice and physique behind Body by Jake weight loss programs and fitness equipment. Other than those aspects, this stuffy outing from the early '80s slasher boom isn't as bad as the IMDB 3.5/10 suggests, but its drift into obscurity is probably due to its extremely formulaic delivery. Still, I've watched it a few times over the years since finding the old VHS.

I found this out-of-print DVD at a yard sale this morning and almost didn't pick it up since the terrible cover looks nothing like the original Media Home Entertainment VHS box (seen here at VHSCollector.com). The presentation here is very similar to that old murky tape release, but doesn't have any of the usual VHS-related defects. This slightly better picture quality might indicate the actual film-to-video master tape Media used for their 1985 release being used for this disc. There's some interlacing, compression artifacts, and a few instances of the entire picture becoming "digitally corrupted" for a split-second. The stereo track is on par with the VHS and there's zero extras (not even chapter stops).

Sunday, October 7

Friday, October 5

Necropolis (Necropolis: City of the Dead) (1987) - 1987 Vestron Video International Japan VHS

It's a shame the various promotional posters and video covers are so much better than actually sitting through this meek programmer. A young witch (LeeAnn Baker) in the 17th century is condemned to death during a sacrificial ritual and screams she cannot die. We flash to present day witnessing her decked in leather and mascara killing mortals through mind persuasion to gather souls to resurrect her undead minions. About the coolest thing in this whole venture is how she grows a triple set of racks to provides her zombies slimy soul ectoplasm by nipple (she goes topless several times, but this feeding method is a large chest mold). Otherwise; the blood/gore quota is virtually non-existent, there's far too much time spent ambling through its simple set-up, and the concluding twist involving a young couple onto the witch's evil doings is one you've already seen over-and-over.

Wednesday, October 3

Follow-up: Reflecting Skin quietly appears on DVD

To be upfront, I didn't care much for this one. For a film that tells a story of intimate tragedy through the prism of a young boy's fanciful perception, in which a widowed English woman becomes a vampire who appears responsible for a series of murders in the child's mind, there's just too many whimsical touches in its depiction of the "real" world to convey the raw emotions its characters endure. The sell of the harsh reality of life is difficult to accept when reality distractingly looks like Andrew Wyeth's Christina's World. This aspect also dampens the impact of the boy's inevitably doomed fantasies which The Reflecting Skin hangs its rather trite climax on. David Lynch nailed a similar "seething perversion under an idyllic facade" aesthetic to much better effect several years prior with Blue Velvet.

Despite my feelings, this admittedly beautifully shot film desires way better than the terrible treatment given here by Echo Bridge. The source is obviously an old video master cropped to full screen with poor detail, print flecks, and constant sprocket flutter (incessant vertical "bouncing" to the picture). The presentation is hurt further by terrible compression, rampant interlace combing, and a strange anomaly that pops up randomly that turns segments of the picture in "blurred blobs" with surrounding areas unaffected. The color is often the best thing going, but the cumulative effect of the other problems drags down that benefit. The Dolby 2.0 audio is also problematic with dialogue often sounding too low and the score too high. Although this issue does eventually even out along the film's duration. Zero supplements with ten completely unlabeled and "unpictured" chapter stops. Here's a little DVD comparison between several other prior (and superior) releases from "Terror Obsura". (the screen caps at the link contain spoilers)

...do you dare tread upon the staircase?

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