Stab! Hack! Slash! Kill!!!

Gory greetings! This edition of BRAIN HAMMER’S PICKS FROM THE CRYPT features a terrible trio of often overlooked old school slasher flicks that sadly don’t get the attention or respect that they deserve. You’ll pray for day, and you’ll never eat shish kebab again!

 

LET THE BLOODSHED BEGIN!!!

 

TERROR TRAIN (1980)

Jamie Lee Curtis of “Halloween” & “Prom Night” fame stars as Alana Maxwell, a young college girl who gets mixed up in a mean spirited New Years Eve prank. A dorky pre-med pledge named Kenny is set up for a dream date with the cock teasing Alana and falls for the old bait and switch winding up in bed with a corpse instead. The shock of it all drives Kenny completely insane and he absentmindedly twirls around in his tighty whities, screaming like a fruit as a result.

We then flash forward three years and find the very same medical students who masterminded the prank throwing a big New Year’s bash in anticipation of their final semester before graduation. They plan the party of the year – a large costume party aboard a small excursion train complete with a horrible disco-rock band and a fruity magician (played by real life fruity magician David Copperfield) with a blonde bimbo assistant. Alana is now dating Mo, one of the leaders of the gang. Alana gets pissed when she finds out that the party was really the idea of Doc, Mo’s mean spirited and most likely homo best buddy. After arguing for a while the couple makes up, but Mo seems interested in fucking the other chicks on board or perhaps Doc.

As the party goers boogie down and enjoy the evening, a masked killer with a serious grudge crashes the party and proceeds to snuff anyone who crosses his path. This psycho understands the advantages of frequently switching his disguises and moves throughout the train undetected. One by one the idiot med students and their bimbo girlfriends have deadly encounters with the silent madman. Further ingenuity is displayed by the killer as he moves corpses to further confuse his potential victims. The conductor finds a bloody corpse in a bathroom, but later discovers it missing. After a few more corpses are discovered, including Mo’s, the train is brought to a screeching halt and the kids are all forced outside into the cold.

The train crew search for the killer and the kids remove their disguises for a roll call where Alana & Doc are revealed as missing. The now frantic Doc has Alana stashed inside one of the train’s compartments and they quickly decide that the killer must be Kenny. While leafing through their old yearbooks they discover that Kenny always wanted to be a magician. Kenny shows up to snuff Doc which gives Alana a chance to warn the conductor, telling him that the killer must be the fruity magician. The conductor gathers all of the kids into one section of the train as the crew searches for the magician and Alana is left by herself in a cabin. The killer quickly makes his presence known, sporting an especially creepy looking mask and carrying an axe. Alana is forced to run for her life, and when cornered has to resort to some serious shovel swinging to stay alive.

Canadians have a real knack for making extremely potent, claustrophobic, and violent slasher films and in this case director Roger Spottiswoode proves to be no exception. Expertly made on a low budget and shot completely on an actual train in just a little over three weeks, this flick packs plenty of thrills and some nice nail biting tension along the way. Having John Alcott of “A Clockwork Orange” & “The Shining” doing the cinematography was another big plus. This one is considerably more stylish and colorful than most of its contemporaries. The end sequence where the killer stalks final girl, Jamie Lee Curtis throughout the train is one of the best scenes like that you’ll ever see.

TERROR TRAIN proves that when done right, a clas-sick slasher flick could delivers just as many thrills and twists and turns as a more conventional horror flick. Why this flick isn’t more well known or frequently mentioned is beyond me. I would have to assume it’s a victim of numbers, coming out during the golden age of the slasher flicks when they were flooding the market. This one often gets overlooked or sometimes dismissed by horror fans for being rather tame in the gore department, but I consider it to be a superior slasher that deserves a much larger audience.

 

 

HELL NIGHT (1981)

A very cool opening shot of a chick screaming pulls back to reveal a wet t shirt contest and a rowdy looking fraternity party already in full swing. Welcome to hell night, an annual tradition where groups of pledges rush the college fraternities and sororities. Wacky pranks and wild stunts are always the order of the evening, and this year a fresh faced foursome, including Linda Blair (“The Exorcist”) and Peter Barton (“Friday The 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter”) find themselves facing the grueling gauntlet of Garth Manor. The manor was the site of a brutal massacre twelve years before when according to legend, Raymond Garth murdered his deformed wife and mongoloid children in an act of frustration over never being able to have a normal family and then killed himself.

The obnoxious head of the frat house thinks the isolated and long abandoned mansion would make the perfect location for a night of hell night hilarity and rigs up several elaborate pranks throughout the manor including hidden speakers, doors that can open and close themselves, and three dimensional ghosts. The incredibly small and inexplicably coed pledge group consisting of two young couples are then ushered into the house and locked in for the evening, trapped behind the manor’s large and razor sharp iron wrought gates. A trio of pranksters including the fraternity head sneak in via the mansion’s elaborate underground tunnels to ensure that the four pledges won’t get a moments rest.

In the middle of all this hilarity we discover that Raymond Garth is still very much alive and very pissed off! Ray doesn’t appreciate snot nosed punks breaking into his home and viciously stalks and slashes his way through the pledges and frat brothers with swift decapitations, neck snappings and impalements. Vincent Van Patten (“How’s Your News?”) plays one of the smarter pledges who knows enough to try to escape and manages to scale the deadly fence to go for help. Thinking it’s just another hell night prank the cops don’t believe him, so in desperation he steals a shotgun and goes back to the manor to save the day.

Vince manages to take care of Mr. Garth, but is then killed in retribution by the youngest surviving Garth family member – Andrew. Andrew then sets his sights on Linda & Peter and a lengthy game of cat & mouse begins as the kids make their way through the cobweb and corpse filled basement, run through the massive hedge maze, hole up inside a bedroom for a while, and finally try to climb out of a window. Pretty boy Peter is then thrown to his death by the monster and Linda is left to fend for herself. Can she survive hell night? Only if she prays for day.

“Hell Night” was produced by Irwin Yablans, who had previously struck slasher gold with “Halloween” and was directed by Tom DeSimone, who had previously worked on gay porno flicks and went on to helm the Sybil Danning/Wendy O Williams clas-sick “Reform School Girls!” It was written by Randy Feldman, who labored for another eight years on his next writing effort – the legendary masterpiece “Tango & Cash.” All three of these creative geniuses collaborated on “Hell Night,” and the end result is a rather restrained, yet beautifully shot and composed slasher film that successfully incorporates classic gothic horror and schlocky “old dark house” elements.

Unlike a lot of horror flicks of the same era, this one focuses more on atmosphere and scares than blood and guts. The murder scenes are all convincingly brutal, yet quickly edited for maximum impact with minimum gore. You don’t see a lot, but you see enough. The on-screen violence is relatively brief and there is also a disappointing lack of gratuitous nudity, but this one still satisfies in a big way. Anchor Bay released a very nice looking dvd of HELL NIGHT that includes goodies like the original trailer and a commentary track with the director, producers, and Linda Blair. A must have for slasher fans.

 

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME (1981)

Virgina is a promising student at an exclusive private school. Despite a troubled background, she even belongs to an obnoxious clique of snobby kids that consider themselves to be the cream of the school’s crop. Shortly before her 18th birthday her friends start turning up dead. To make things even more confusing (and trust me, things get very confusing!) Virgina still suffers from blackouts after a car accident she survived a year prior that took her mother’s life.

The bizarre blackouts seem to coincide with the violent murders, and Virgina begins to fear that she might be the killer. John will never eat shish kebab again. Steven will never ride a motorcycle again. Greg will never lift weights again. At the rate they are going there will be no left for Virgina’s party…alive. The pieces of the puzzle come together at Virgina’s birthday bash, which very quickly becomes the bloodiest party of the year!

“Happy Birthday To Me” is an exceptionally well done Canadian horror flick made by director J. Lee Thompson (“10 To Midnight”) and John Saxton right at the fevered peak of the slasher genre. This flick’s memorable ad campaign promised slasher fans “six of the most of the most bizarre murders you will ever see” and unlike a lot of other exploitation flicks of the era, this one makes good on its promise. The death scenes are all very inventive (and brutal!) and tightly edited for maximum impact. The “shish kebab” and “motorcycle” death scenes in particular are the stuff of legend for slasher enthusiasts. There are some DEADLY car stunts on display too. The sequences where the rich kids fuck around jumping their cars over a large drawbridge are really impressive, especially considering a stuntman broke his leg in the process!

This flick also delivers an above average amount of character development, as well as numerous plot twists that will keep you guessing throughout. “Happy Birthday To Me” is somewhat infamous amongst horror fans for it’s unpredictable twist ending, which comes almost entirely out of left field and makes little sense. It’s actually a dreaded triple twist, and say what you want about that being far fetched, it certainly is neither boring or predictable.

All fans of the slasher genre should consider HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME mandatory viewing. It’s a bit overlong, and can be a bit confusing in places, but it’s a very fun and original horror flick for sure. It also stands up very well to repeat viewings! It’s currently available on dvd from Anchor Bay Entertainment.

 

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

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2 Responses to “Stab! Hack! Slash! Kill!!!”

  1. anale dildo…

    […]Stab! Hack! Slash! Kill!!! « Brain Hammer's Picks From The Crypt[…]…

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