ORBzine - Euro-Slasher Flicks Movie Reviews

TITLE & REVIEW

Amer (2009)

Amer (2009) This is a European art-house horror film, favouring style over substance. A young girl grows up in a creepy house. Is it haunted, or is there just a deformed relative living in the spare room?

Years later, the woman returns to her childhood home. The place is stalked by an unseen figure, the classic Giallo villain with black leather gloves and a straight-razor.

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    Amsterdamned (1988)

    Amsterdamned (1988)

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    The Cardplayer (2004)

    The Cardplayer (2004) In Rome, where everyone speaks English all the time, a hi-tech psycho kidnaps women and plays online poker with the police. For every hand the cops lose, the victim also loses body parts ...

    The heroine is a lady detective. She is partnered with Liam Cunningham ( Game of Thrones ), a hard-drinking Irishman who is also a gun-toting Scotland Yard detective on assignment to the British Embassy.

    The problem is that the film concentrates on the cops rather than the killings, so it is a police procedural rather than a slasher film. The result is slow and predictable - but it comes to life when the killer targets a couple of characters who are involved in the investigation.

    It is only by looking at the credits that one can ascertain this was directed by Dario Argento , master of the Giallo genre. With the exception of one single camera-shot, this completely lacks Argento's impressive visual flair.

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    Cat O'Nine Tails

    Cat O'Nine Tails This is an early effort by Dario Argento that bears many of his hallmarks.

    The title refers to a whip used by a serial killer. Blind investigator Karl Malden ( ) teams up with journalist James Franciscus ( Beneath the Planet of the Apes ) to find the killer.

    The explanation for the killer's rampage is that he has a double-Y chromosome, which gives him a genetic pre-disposition to criminal behaviour. This film has that strange thing - a piece of movie science that actually rings true in real life!

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    Climax (2018)

    Climax (2018) This is a movie by Gaspar Noe , with dialogue in French but subtitles available in English. The cast has no stars, just talent, although Sophia Boutella has the lead role.

    A group of tweenage dancers meet up to practice in a disused warehouse. They spend the first half of the movie performing a series of dance routines - closer to break-dancing than ballet.

    Around the mid-point, the tweenagers realise that someone has spiked the bowl of sangria that they have all been pouring drinks from. First the recriminations start, then the violence.

    Finally in the third act the tweenagers start to mentally melt down. The camerawork becomes surreal, as does the lighting. Instead of characters and plot, there is nothing but spectacle.

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    Deep Red (1976) AKA Profundo Rosso

    Deep Red This is a Giallo (an Italian slasher movie) directed by Euro schlock-meister Dario Argento . An English pianist (David Hemmings - Barbarella ) witnesses a murder. Rather than leave it to the cops, he investigates the killing himself.

    The hallmarks are all there - the serial killer with black gloves who performs a series of stylish kills.

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    Demon (2015)

    Demon (2015) This is a Polish movie with English subtitles. The main character speaks English in one scene, but it was not necessarily made for an English-speaking audience.

    A young man from out of town is about to marry a local girl. The night before the wedding, while excavating the back yard, he discovers human remains. The next day, at the wedding reception, he starts to act unusually. At first he seems epileptic, but later on it seems as if he has become possessed.

    Eastern Europe has a terrible history of anti-semitism, especially during the 1940s. The locals today could be excused for thinking that some things are best left buried.

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    Demons (1985)

    Demons (1985) This is filmed in Italy, but seems to be set in the USA. The characters all speak American English - presumably it was intended for the international market. Do not be taken in by the name Dario Argento - he only produced it, he cannot be blamed for directing it.

    The story starts like a Giallo, full of suspense. However, the music is all wrong for it. Instead of the classic tunes of Goblin we get a series of 1980s soft rock tunes that keep the pace moving at too fast a speed.

    At night the characters go to an old cinema to the special screening of a movie-within-a-movie. A pity nobody in the production team remembered Cannibal Holocaust , an earlier Italian horror effort, because this was a prime opportunity to use the Found Footage genre.

    The movie-within-a-movie is about some tweenagers who go to a graveyard and inadvertently dig up the tomb of Nostradamus. Unfortunately they then become infected - what these days would be called a Fast Zombie. And predictably, the audience also become afflicted with the same infection.

    The third act is where it goes completely over the top. One of the infected managed to escape from the building. Within half an hour, this has caused a global zombie apocalypse. Luckily there are some survivalists around, with an American-style jeep (and an American-style collection of shotguns).

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    The Distance (2014)

    The Distance (2014) A German Artist hires a trio of telekinetic Russian Dwarves to steal a McGuffin knows as The Distance. It is kept in the basement of a disused power plant in the Siberian mountains, guarded by the survivor of a Russian super-soldier experiment that went badly wrong.

    The characters use a wide variety of languages, but they are all telepathic and we are provided with subtitles so the dialogue is easy enough to follow.

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    Fever (2017) AKA Mountain Fever

    Fever (2017) France has been hit with a devastating form of influenza. The protagonist, a young Englishman, boards himself up in a house. A gun-toting woman tries to rob him. She is being hunted by other survivors.

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    Frontier (s)

    Frontier (s) A group of tweenagers escape from riot-torn Paris. They stop off in a small village, where they run into ... yes, yet another movie family of inbred weirdos who like torturing people and doing bad things to their bodies.

    This was shot in France, and is subtitled in English. It is gritty and realistic, up until the third act ...

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    Game of the Werewolves (AKA Lobos de Arga)

    Game of the Werewolves (AKA Lobos de Arga) This is a Spanish movie, with subtitles in English. Ignore the sensationalist retitling on the English Language release - this is a professionally-made film, not a cheap-and-nasty American effort.

    Argo, a remote town in northern Spain, falls victim to a gypsy curse. A hundred years later, in the modern day, a young writer returns home from the big city. Unfortunately the local yokels still believe in the curse ...

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    Harpoon: Reykjavik Whale-Watching Massacre (2009)

    Harpoon: Reykjavik Whale-Watching Massacre (2009) This is Icelandís answer to Texas Chainsaw Massacre , featuring Iceland-born horror star Gunnar Hansen (Leatherface in the original TCM series). A group of tourists go on a whale-watching tour. A series of violent mishaps result in them encountering the Fishbillies, the Icelandic equivalent of the Hillbillies in the TCM series. Carnage ensues Ö

    Sad to say, this was actually done better in the similar American effort, The Watermen . Seriously, the American version (despite being low-budget crap) still had certain advantages such as decent cinematography (including impressive helicopter shots) and a halfway decent script. This Icelandic effort lacks anything redeeming, including likeable characters.

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    Hatchet for the Honeymoon

    Hatchet for the Honeymoon This is a 1970s Giallo directed by genre founder Mario Bava . However, it is an unhappy mish-mash that lacks the polish of later Giallos. It focuses on a serial killer, rather than on the Columbo-like detective investigating him. Our killer wears the black jumpsuit of Danger: Diabolik! , but forgoes the black gloves that are an essential for the killers in Dario Argento Giallos. The title is misleading, because he uses a meat-cleaver instead of a hatchet. And somehow he never spills much blood, totally lacking in any form of medical realism.

    The killer targets brides on their wedding day. His motivation is Paranoia - yes, yet another medical term mis-represented by a slasher film. It would have been more straightforward to use his unhappy marriage as a motive. But despite the typical sloppiness, the film really takes off when the killer gets stalked by the ghost of his most recent victim. There are shades of Les Diaboliques as the killer's sanity takes a turn for the even worse.

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    The Hunt (2012)

    The Hunt (2012) A French journalist, desperate for a story, ends up undercover on a real-life Most Dangerous Game .

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    Inferno (1980)

    Inferno (1980) A young woman buys a old book called The Three Mothers. It is about three immortal witches called Suspiria , Lacrimose and Tenebrae . As she investigates, creepy things happen. The first witch is supposed to live in New York City, in the same building where the woman rents an apartment. By incredible coincidence, her brother is studying abroad in Rome - where the second witch has her lair!

    This was directed by Dario Argento , and bears the usual hallmarks of his work. Garish lighting and an operatic soundtrack are foremost among them. While it is not technically a Giallo film, since the villain is a supernatural entity and not a human slasher, the presence of a black-gloved killer makes it the next best thing.

    The problem is that the story seems to stagger from one set-piece to another. There is not really a central protagonist that we are meant to care about, merely a series of vulnerable persons (usually females) who are constantly put in jeopardy. And when some characters start to act in a suspicious manner, the unseen villains start to shorten the list of suspects by bumping off any rivals in villainy.

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    Island of Death (1976)

    Island of Death This is an infamous video nasty, made in 1976 - a decade before video nasties existed. It is in fact an exploitation film, made as a counterblast to Texas Chainsaw Massacre . It is perhaps unusual insofar as it is about a couple of tourists who murder the local yokels, as opposed to the other way around.

    The blond-haired American protagonists, boyfriend and girlfriend, are seeing the sights on a remote Greek island. But he is a religious zealot and she is a sadistic nympho. They start killing off anyone who is sexually open-minded. The result is a lot of soft-core porn scenes.

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    Livid (2011)

    Livid (2011) This is a French movie with shades of Les Yeux Sans Visage , the classic French black & white film best known in the English-speaking world as Eyes Without A Face.

    A young woman is apprenticed to help a middle-aged nurse look after an elderly catatonic woman. The heroine and her idiot friends decide to break into the old woman's home and go looking for the treasure. After all, this plan worked so well in The People Under The Stairs , didn't it?

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    Opera (1987)

    Opera (1987) This is a typical Giallo slasher movie by Dario Argento . Given his apparent tendency to shoot movies out of sequence, the finale set in the Alps leads into the movie Phenomena (1985) which he released two years earlier.

    A serial killer starts to stalk the lead singer in an Opera company, and murders anyone who gets too close to her. The movie makes a few allusions to Phantom of the Opera . However, it adds a few original touches. For example, there is an amazing scene with a flock of trained ravens.

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    Paintball (2009)

    Paintball (2009) A group of English-speaking people go on a paintball game somewhere in continental Europe. After a brief bit of banter, which is meant to introduce us to the characters. Then the action starts - the paintball game is lacklustre, but there is a sniper firing live ammo who starts shooting the players for real!

    The players are typical movie victims, shouting loudly at each other when they know that they are being stalked by a heavily-armed murderer. Only one player takes it seriously - and he is portrayed negatively, because he is ready and willing to be the last one standing in order to survive.

    This was shot in handheld, a cross between the shakey-cam of the Jason Bourne Series and the Found Footage of Blair Witch Project . However, it is neither of these things - the camerawork is simply amateurish.

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    Penumbra

    Penumbra This is set in Buenos Aires, Argentina. A beautiful yuppie woman from Spain visits an apartment her family owns in Argentina.

    A group of strangers meets up at the apartment. There is a conspiracy regarding a solar eclipse.

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    Phenomena (1985)

    Phenomena (1985) Pre-teen American girl Jennifer Connolly is sent to a Boarding School in Switzerland. Unfortunately, a Giallo killer is prowling the forests.

    Our little heroine meets Scottish (!) scientist Donald Pleasance ( Halloween ), who by incredible coincidence is an advisor to the Police investigator. In another unlikely coincidence, he is an expert in insects ... And the girl has a superpower - she can talk to the insects!

    This is one of Dario Argento 's biggest films, in terms of scope anyway. It is nearly forgotten, which is almost a pity - the supernatural aspect is ridiculous, but the film certainly has its moments.

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    Pieces

    Pieces In 1942 a young boy is caught by his mother while looking at a nudie picture jigsaw. The bitch goes crazy, and mayhem ensues. Four decades later, a college campus is stalked by a black-gloved Giallo killer who uses a chainsaw to dismember the sexiest girls he can find. He can only add new pieces to the jigsaw when he comits a new murder.

    The Police are baffled, so they stage a media cover-up. Unfortunately, a lady reporter starts nosing about. The only plan the cops have is to send Lynda Day George in undercover as a sexy Tennis Coach. At least this is realistic, because she is technically too old to pass for a co-ed.

    The poor lighting, cheap SPFX and especially the blatant over-dubbing all mark this as a Euro-trash effort. Exteriors were shot in Boston, but the main work seems to have been done in Madrid. There are some inventive scenes, but this is overblown and unrealistic. The worst example is the final sequence, a reference to Carrie but taken to the extremes of Grand Guignol.

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    Rabies (2010)

    Rabies (2010) This is an Israeli film, shot in Hebrew and subtitled in English. In a forest in Israel, a slasher is playing The Most Dangerous Game. A few diverse groups of strangers wander into the forest for various reasons. For example, a short feisty brunette is teamed with a tall slender blonde in an apparent casting reference to Two Broke Girls.

    This is not a slasher thriller, it is more of a survival drama. The civilians turn on each other, becoming far more dangerous than the slasher. And in an impressive twist on the usual trope, when the cops turn up they make things worse instead of better!

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    Raw (2016)

    Raw (2016) This is a French film about a teenage girl's coming of age. She is a vegetarian, but she enrolls to veterinarian college. However, this is not a Hollywood comedy with a lot of crazy college parties. The lack of adult supervision means that there is an unbelievable amount of hazing.

    She has to deal with sibling rivalry, an overbearing mother, and an uncontrollable hunger for raw meat. Worse, her taste for meat is specifically for human flesh. This leads on to some grotesque gore scenes.

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    Romasanta: Werewolf Hunt (2004)

    Romasanta: Werewolf Hunt (2004) In 1851 a village in Spain has people disappear, apparently victims of wolf attacks. It sounds a bit like Brotherhood of the Wolf , but in fact it feels a lot closer to Perfume: the Story of a Murderer .

    Elsa Pataky reports her sister and nephew missing after they went off with Romasanta (Julian Sands - Warlock ). He always plays villains. Is this any exception? ).

    The local Magistrate hires a Professor who has the basic fundamentals necessary for CSI work, but seems obsessed with now-discredited theories.

    This was shot in Spain with a bilingual Spanish-speaking cast - but the film itself is in English! Werewolf transformations usually have a man change into a wolf - in a spectacular scene here it is the other way around!

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    Stendahl Syndrome (1996)

    Stendahl Syndrome A lady cop in Rome's Anti-Rape Department (like Law and Order: SVU) is targeting a serial killer (Thomas Kretschmann - King Kong 2005 ). Unfortunately, he is hunting her too.

    This is a pretty weak effort, compared to the Director's other work. The mediocre dubbing into English is the least of its problems. It is based on a book, and that may be part of the problem. Like The Cardplayer it is a Police Procedural, concentrating on the cops instead of the killer. The star ( Asia Argento ) is too young, and her father ( Dario Argento ) directed it around her.

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    Tailgate (2019) AKA Bumperkleef

    Tailgate (2019) AKA Bumperkleef This is a slasher-type movie set in the Netherlands. The protagonist is a middle-class man who spends his weekend driving his wife and pre-teen daughters to see their grandparents. Unfortunately, this incredibly average setup leads into a set of major horror-movie tropes.

    Firstly, the protagonist must transgress. In this case it happens when he is a thoughtless driver and tailgates another vehicle. It turns out that his victim is a professional exterminator with a van full of lethal equipment, who seemingly spends his time cruising around looking for provocation. Needless to say, the protagonist provides the killer with an excuse.

    The second trope is the reactive protagonist. Even in something like Predator (1987) , the killer must have the upper hand at all times. Since the protagonist here is an average white-collar guy with no practical skills, and he is on the defensive because he has to protect his wife and kids, he is certainly not in a position to take active steps.

    The next trope is isolation. Just like the hero of Duel (1972) , the characters spend most of their time in the car. The difference is that instead of being alone, this time the hero and his family get to bicker like the students in The Blair Witch Project (1999) .

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    Tenebrae (1982)

    Tenebrae Novelist Anthony Francisca ( Beneath the Planet of the Apes ) and his publisher (John Saxon - Nightmare on Elm Street ) fly into Rome as part of a book tour.

    Unfortunately, a black-gloved Giallo killer is killing attractive women in a fashion reminiscent of the protagonist's new novel, Tenebrae. The killer is obsessed with the novelist's work, and the police investigation centres around him.

    This is one of Dario Argento 's early forays into International film-making, evidently aimed specifically at the American market. The climax has a few surprises, but all in all it is not nearly as good as his earlier efforts such as Deep Red .

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    Venus in Furs

    Venus in Furs James Darren ( Star Trek: DS9 ) is at a party when he witnesses the murder of a young woman. Over the next few days, the victim reappears and bumps off her assailants - including Klaus Kinski ( Nosferatu (1979) ).

    This movie has a weird supernatural vibe, possibly because it was shot by a European director ( Jess Franco ) and contains a lot of soft-core nudity. The soundtrack makes it seem incredibly dated. It also stands out because it was shot in the exotic city of Istanbul.

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    Windmill Massacre, The (2011)

    Windmill Massacre, The (2011) A group of strangers board a tour bus in Holland, the country famous for its canals and windmills. Ironically, the bus ends up in a canal so the strangers seek shelter in a nearby windmill. Then they get bumped off, one by one, by a man who wears a human face as a mask. All quite predictable, really.

    It turns out that the passengers are all sinners, responsible for someone's death, and the reaper will take them to hell. Unfortunately this just means that they are even more unsympathetic. The only recognisable face among them is the Doctor (Noah Taylor - Powers ), who specialises in the unlikeable.

    The token Japanese character manages to work out what is going on. Unfortunately he only speaks Japanese, so his ability to help the others is somewhat limited. However, this is a perfect example of the Magic Negro trope. He is the only ethnic minority character, and yet his spiritualism is the only effective tool against the monster.

    The Final Girl is unrepentant about her crime. Will she show some actual character development?

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    Soon

    Soon

  • 2000
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