When I was a teenager I was into horror films big time. My opinion was usually the gorier the better, so naturally I drifted towards the not-scary-but-really-messy side of the genre. Top of the list were films like Braindead or anything made by Troma Studios (The Toxic Avenger, Tromeo and Juliet etc). Then, at some point during university I lost interest in the genre and started obsessing about “normal” low-budget indie films instead. Thinking about it, I hadn’t really gotten any sort of kicks out of a horror film for many years. Modern horror flicks just don’t do it for me. I really have zero interest in watching the Saw or Hostel films. Then, just the other week, I picked up a book in Waterstones entitled Nightmare USA: The untold story of the Exploitation Independents and that’s been my bed-side reading for the past week or so. As a result of reading this awesome book (just the size and weight of the thing is seriously impressive) I’ve been watching nothing but low-budget horror/exploitation movies from the 70’s and 80’s all week….and I’ve been loving it. Here’s a bit of a round-up.
Savage Streets / USA, 1984 / Directed by Danny Steinmann
I had never heard of Savage Streets until I came across the DVD in a shop in Sweden the other week. I’m really glad I did, cause it’s a surprisingly well-made and thoroughly entertaining little film. As usual with these types of films there’s not much plot to talk about, but the dialogue, camera work, even the acting is well above what you’d expect from an 80’s indie rape/revenge thriller. It’s even paced pretty well. Sure, it’s sleazy and a bit rough around the edges, but that’s to be expected and it would be disappointing if it was to slick. Linda Blair (of Exorcist fame) plays Brenda, one of the tough girls in school. When she and her girlfriends mess with the local drugdealers, they fail to see the funny side. They respond by raping Brenda’s younger, deaf sister and also kill Brenda’s best friend, just as she’s getting ready for her wedding. So, yes, it’s fair to say that Brenda gets a bit pissed off. Revenge time! It turns out Brenda is seriously good at kicking ass and is also an expert in the art of handling a crossbow. How she picked up this skill we’ll never know, but I guess you shouldn’t really question these things. Things don’t always have to make sense.
I know it’s a while to go and normally I wouldn’t start watching Christmas films in August, but I spotted this in a Copenhagen video shop and just couldn’t resist.
Silent Night, Deadly Night / USA, 1984 / Directed by Charles E Sellier Jr
It’s hard to beat the cheap thrills of a well-made slasher film. SNDN is just that, but with a bit of a difference. Here, the killer isn’t some super-natural monster or an escaped mental patient wearing a mask made out of human skin. No, no, no…here’s we get the symbol of goodness himself, everyone’s favorite person, Santa Clause. Well, almost anyway. The plot is fairly standard. When Billy, aged 8, sees an escaped lunatic dressed as Santa killing his parents on Christmas Eve, he grows up with some serious yuletide-related issues. He fails to see the jolly side of Christmas, if you like. Fast forward ten Christmases of misery in an orphanage under the watchful eye of Mother Superior. Billy has just turned 18 and gets a job working in the store room of a local toy store. Everything is going pretty well until, well you know, Christmas time. The shop owner asks Billy to fill in for the in-store Santa and the shit really hits the fan. Billy makes it through the day, but as the store staff Christmas party kicks off, so does Billy. You really don’t want to mess with Billy as Santa, cause armed with an axe he will probably put a ho-ho-hole in your face. There’s some really grisly killings in this one, including one death by reindeer antler. You just have to see it. The nice nun who helped Billy get the job realises that something’s wrong, but will she able to get help in time? Will she? Billy’s eyes are set on the orphanage and his old “friend” Mother Superior. Great holiday slasher and well worth hunting down.
Don’t Go In The Woods / USA, 1981 / Directed by James Bryan
This film is mostly known for being one of the infamous video nasties and was banned in the UK under the 1984 Video Recordings Act. Having watched it, I can’t really find any explanation or justification for the ban. Yes, it’s violent and yes it’s gory, but far “worse” films managed to escape the censors. There’s absolutely zero nudity, which makes the ban even more surprising. Anyway, a ban is usually a good thing for horror films, provided that it gets lifted at some point. Thanks to being labelled a video nasty by the UK government, the film now enjoys cult status and will have reached a far bigger audience than the filmmakers could ever have dreamed of. As a fan of the slasher movie, I guess this is entertaining on a a very basic level, but it is far from a good film. It’s never boring though. A crazy wild-man living in the forest is killing hikers. That’s about it. We’re not given any reasons for anything. He looks like a crazy wild-man and he is a crazy wild-man. He kills alot of people and eventually he is killed himself. Sorry to ruin the ending, but that’s all there is to it. There’s also some seriously shambolic acting, which in the end only makes the film more entertaining.
Don’t Look In The Basement / USA, 1973 / Directed by S.F. Brownrigg
This was a surprisingly creepy little film, with some plot twists that really caught me by surprise. A young nurse comes to work at a psychiatric hospital in the middle of nowhere. Unfortunately, the doctor in charge has just been killed by one of the patients, so things are a bit chaotic when she arrives. Another doctor helps her get settled and she soon gets into her daily routine, building up relationships with the various patients etc. But, let’s just say that things are not as they seem at the hospital. Someone is stealing drugs out of the doctor’s room and one of the patients have their tongue cut off in their sleep. And that’s just the start! The DVD I watched was a terrible transfer, but the film provides some very uncomfortable viewing. Great acting from all the patients and the mega-saturated colours gives the film a very distinctive look. Recommended.