Friday, May 13, 2011

Guest Blogger: Brian M. Sammons Toasts Friday The 13th Like Only He Can

Today being what it is and about what it's about, this week's guest blogger is none other than noted author, critic and reviewer of all things dark, violent and strange - Brian M. Sammons, who was kind enough to share with us his passion (okay, OBSESSION) with the blood-soaked cinematic genre of the Slasher Film.  In what other style of film can both the bully AND the slut get terrorized by a faceless killer before being impaled by a creative use of garden tools?  No other style, that's what.  Which is why we love the Slasher Film.  Well, that and because it's super fun to be scared shitless.  DON'T OPEN THAT DOOR, DUMMY!

Special thanks to Brian for taking time out of his busy scribbling schedule to send forth this tasty hunk of meat, on this meatiest of tasty days.  Absolutely ZERO thanks to Blogger for squarely kicking in the nuts my plan to post this at midnight last night (and for eating my post from Wednesday).  Stay golden, Google.

Now, I hand over the page to Brian, the master of the mask, sharpened metal, and chainsaw grease...

In honor of the upcoming Friday the 13th (or the just past Friday the 13th, depending upon when you read this) I thought I would discuss a topic near and dear to me; slasher films from the 1980s. But first, as this is my inaugural appearance on my buddy Ted’s way wicked website, here’s a brief into of just who I am.

Hello, my name is Brian Sammons, and I am a slasherholic. My addiction began at the tender (and appropriate) age of 13 with an old VHS copy of FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 4: THE FINAL CHAPTER. To say that movie changed my life would not just be empty hyperbole. Before seeing the big man in the hockey mask doing horrible things to young people for the first time, my idea of horror movies were old 50s sci-fi giant bug flicks or heavily edited Hammer films on the Saturday afternoon Creature Feature on TV.  Afterward, well that movie was a gateway drug to all things spooky in film, literature, and even music. Yep the first rock musician I really got into was Alice Cooper. Why? Because he was spooky.  So while I’m under no delusions that these movies are great cinema, I do love them so and they will always have a place in my cold, twisted heart.

And if any of the movies I’m about to discuss don’t sound familiar to you, good, that’s the point. Jason, Michael, Freddy, Leatherface, and even cute, cuddly Chucky have all had enough press and if you don’t already know all about them, I’ve just got to ask, were you living in a cave for the last thirty years? Anyway, in an effort to shine a sputtery flashlight on a few masked maniacs that might otherwise go unnoticed, I present to you three slasher flicks that deserve a little bit of love too.
Let’s kick things off with the only slasher film set and filmed in my home state of Michigan. Ok, SCREAM 4 was also shot in Michigan (yay, I guess) but 1989’s INTRUDER was the first. Coming in at the end of the golden age of slashers, this movie was directed by Scott Spiegel who was a longtime friend and associate of Sam Raimi and the trademark “Raimi style” is all over this movie. Thankfully it’s more EVIL DEAD and far less SPIDER-MAN. The unconventional camera angles and trick shots are all over this movie and make it really fun just to watch, regardless of what’s actually happening on the screen. Luckily for us there’s a lot of good stuff going on here.

As for the story, it’s pretty standard Slasher 101 fare. A bunch of people are working late in a grocery store (ok, I guess the location is pretty unique) when they are given the bad news that the store is being sold and they will all soon be out of work. To make matters worse, some unknown madman starts hacking everyone up in a variety of creative ways. And… well that’s about it. Yeah the story is not very deep, but there are many highlights to this slasher flick. The brothers Raimi (both Sam and Ted) ham it up as some of the assembled knife fodder, and you know that wherever Sam goes, Bruce Campbell isn’t far behind. But ah, don’t believe the hype on the DVD box that gives Bruce top billing as he only pops up in a cameo at the very end. However, hands down what sets this movie on the “Must Watch” list of any splatter fan are all the wonderful kills and gore gags. While this movie was for a long time only available in a heavily edited version, Wizard Entertainment brought out a DVD of INTRUDER a few years back with all the cool red stuff intact. So for gorgeous gore, the Raimi bros, a little slice of Campbell, a hint of Michigan (hey, that’s important too), and plenty of visual style to spare, INTRUDER is not a movie to be missed.
Next we have an international effort from 1982, the outlandishly weird PIECES with the great tagline of: “You Don't Have To Go To Texas For A Chainsaw Massacre!” Written by Americans, directed by Juan Piquer Simón from Spain, and staring a mix of Spanish and American actors, including Christopher George who was born in Michigan (sorry, can’t help myself), PIECES is a mix of styles and sensibilities and the end result is something truly crazy and memorable. 

The story begins with a little boy assembling a nudie jigsaw puzzle. His mom objects and smacks him one. The boy objects and smacks mommy with an axe a couple of times. Years later and the boy is all grown up and he still wants to assemble a naked lady out of bits and pieces. So he does the only logical thing: he grabs a chainsaw and starts cutting up college coeds while dressed as The Shadow from the 1930s. Yep, makes perfect sense to me.

Now I know what you’re thinking, “sure that sounds strange, but I’ve seen weirder.” Well add to that general outline a girl roller skating through a mirror for some unknown reason, the killer sneaking onto an elevator with a victim (again, dressed like a 30s pulp hero, but she doesn’t seem to notice) with his chainsaw held behind his back, and Lynda Day George’s awesome reading of the line, “That bastard…bastard…BASTARD!”. Then there is the piece de resistance of the odd where a Bruce Lee impersonator jumps out of the bushes at the lead actress, does two minutes of a karate routine in front of her by punching and kicking at the air, then says, “oh, excuse me” and just walks away, leaving the woman, and we the audience, asking WTF? So if you’re looking for a slasher flick with plenty of “boy, I’ve never seen that before” moments, then PIECES is that flick. Oh and if you factor in that Grindhouse Releasing has a pretty cool double DVD set of this movie with a bunch of extras and all the previously cut gore poured back into the film, and you have another must for slasher fanatics.
Well I’m not going to be able to out crazy PIECES, so I’m not going to even try. Instead I figure I’ll tell you about the most recent old school slasher to come out on disc. The movie is another form 1982 called THE DORM THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, also known as PRANKS, also known as DEATH DORM. So between those three titles, you might have seen this film, but even if you have, I bet you never saw it uncut or in High-Def. Well now thanks to Synapse Films and their brand new Blu-ray release of this movie, uncensored for the first time ever, you can. But would you want to? Well I think so, but keep reading and let’s see if I can convince you.

In DORM a group of college kids volunteer to help close up an old dorm building before it’s scheduled to be demolished but unfortunately for them a mysterious psycho is bumping them off one by one. And well, that’s it for the story. Ok, there’s a little bit more, but not all that much. There’s a decent group of kids for the slaughter playing up the usual slasher stereotypes of good girl, wise-cracking clown, tough guy, etc. What sets this movie apart, just like any good slasher flick, is the kills, how creative and gory they are. Luckily DORM delivers the goods now that the blood and guts has been restored. The infamous power drill scene is a clear standout but a baseball bat with nails pounded through it and a very large pressure cooker are all used to good effect.

Then there’s Daphne Zuniga playing one of the coeds. If you had a thing for her during the 80s like I did, then you’ll enjoy her here, slumming it in a horror movie to pay her dues. Yeah she’s not in the movie for long (oops I guess I should have given a spoiler warning or something, but just watching the movie you can figure that out pretty quickly) but what little she does, she does well.
And hell, I’ve had so much fun tripping down memory lane that here’s an extra honorable mention for free: GIRLS NITE OUT from 1984. Yeah it’s not all that original, bloody, scary, or even good, but it does have a killer in a bear suite. No really, the movie is set at a college during an all-night scavenger hunt and instead of wearing a hockey, gas, dead skin, or white Shatner mask, the murderer bumps off the school’s mascot, takes his goofy bear costume, makes himself a steak-knife-bear-claw a la Freddy Kruger, and starts slashing the titular girls because they are all “dirty sluts”. It’s not as crazy as PIECES, as gory as INTRUDER, or old school fun as DORM THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, but it does have a few moments going for it. The appropriately named Guilty Pleasures released this movie on DVD a few years back and if you want to see a teddy bear clad killer you can find copies of it cheap on eBay. I got my copy there for two bucks.    


  1. I loved reading this, Brian. But... Daphne Zuniga????

  2. What can I say, I saw THE SURE THING at an impressionable age. :)

  3. Outstanding job with the post!! Keep up the good work!