This week I watched the Dean Crow's Indianian import Backwoods (aka Geek) from 1987.
A couple biking across America run afoul of a family living deep in the woods.
I feel like this film has been slightly misrepresented by both its coverbox and Imdb. The cover above says “direct from theatrical release”, but I wager that is inaccurate. Sure, it may have played a few fests, but the number of slow zooms in this movie screamed direct-to-video. Also, Imdb makes it sound like a carbon copy of American Gothic (the movie I watched last week) but that isn't the case either.
Imdb states that the family patriarch was in on it, but that's not the case. He's not homicidal, he's just cantankerous. And when he gets into the moonshine, he warms right up imparting such pearls of wisdom like “the woman warms the bed in these parts!”
Brad Armacost (left) Dick Kruesser & Christine Noonan in Backwoods.
Backwoods took a while to get going, like people biking across the Mid West? Who does that? If I got roped into that bullshit activity, I would bitch about it as much as Jamie (Brad Armacost) does in this movie. So when old man Eben (Dick Kruesser) showed up and invited the couple to dinner, I actually started to find his performance endearing. Like Jamie, Eben & Karen (Christine Noonan) might all end up being pals. Then Willie the Geek (Jack O'Hara) showed up and ruined everything.
Like American Gothic, the dangerous offspring didn't show up until over a half-hour in. I do have to commend O'Hara because he's all in on this role. Considering the lack of a “no animals were harmed” banner in the end credits, I wouldn't be surprised if he was pulling the heads off real chickens.
Jack O' Hara geekin' it up.
It was right about here that the protagonists' motivations became idiotic. Like, who would leave their significant other alone with someone who is clearly unstable. Get the fuck out of there, guys! Oh, things went awry! Who would've thought? This whole section was real clumsy to the point that I had to guess what happened to one of the characters.
Backwoods brought me back in when the heroine had to bust out some Just Before Dawn-esque resourcefulness that resulted in some glorious overkill. Then it kind of killed that buzz with an ending that made no sense whatsoever. This movie just wasn't that well shot and the set pieces are haphazardly edited together. I also think that a better score could have done wonders, as this one, supplied by Skeet Bushor, was as cheesy and repetitive as they come.
Apart from some flavour added by Kruesser & O'Hara and a decent climax, there really isn't much to write home about here. This alternate UK poster is pretty bad-ass though.
I was lucky enough to have The Monitor play there in 2015, but this time I'm going to fly out there to be part of the festivities. I'll get to partake in another one of Kier-La Janisse's Saturday Morning Cartoon Cereal parties, as well as some other great programming, including a probable re-watch of one of my 2017 faves Tigers Are Not Afraid.
I'll also get to sample Alberta beef right from the source! Excited!!!
This week is Dianne Bellino's terrific 2016 stop-motion animated short film The Itching. While not horror persay, I think it is one of the best visual representations of social anxiety I've ever seen put to screen. Have a watch and see.
Here's another Kickstarter worth taking a gander at if you're into either black humour and/or weird indie cinema. Last year you may recall an Australian film called Cat Sick Blues getting under my skin. Well, director Dave Jackson (who is now calling Japan his home) is campaigning funds for his new short, Gacha Gacha. Check out the pitch video below.
As troubling as Cat Sick Blues was I can't help but support fresh new voices in genre cinema, now matter how perverse they may be. Click here for more info.
This week’s VHS is the instantly recognizable 1987 John Hough joint, American Gothic.
A group of vacationers end up stranded on an island inhabited by a family of psychos.
I have no real excuse as to why I hadn’t watched American Gothic until now. I guess I just got distracted by flashier stuff I suppose. The movie isn’t anything special, but the fact it was directed by John Hough is significant. His earlier works for Disney, The Watcher in the Woods and both Witch Mountain flicks, were some of my first encounters with the fantastical as a kid. I owe him a debt for his contribution to my love of genre film for sure.
This one, however was a bit problematic mainly due to all the protagonists, save the lead played by Sarah Torgov (she’s got her own problems) were complete fucking assholes. I think that only one character was supposed to be the stereotypical jerk, but they were all fairly unlikable. I mean who walks into someone’s house and starts messing with their shit, even putting on clothes! Considering how homicidal Ma & Pa were, I think they handled that first interaction quite well.
Hicks vs Dicks.
Even the husband (Mark Erickson) – who dragged his wife out into the wilderness right after she was discharged from the loony bin – made some deplorable comment to the effect of, oh yeah my wife, the wet blanket. You brought her here, dude!
The movie was a fairly pedestrian affair until the three “children” showed up (one of whom was consummate character actor Michael J. Pollard) and the killing started. While even that wasn’t particularly bloody, at least it was fulfilling to see all these idiots being punished for their sins. If you’ll indulge me in a completely random observation, two deaths in this movie are almost exactly the same as those in the 2017 video game What Remains of Edith Finch. Totally unrelated of course, it’s just one of those completely inexplicable parallels.
Janet Wright as Fanny in American Gothic.
American Gothic was fairly standard in execution, but did score points for straying into the bizarre. It might not be as entertainingly bonkers as Freddie Francis’ similarly themed 1970 film Girly, but – what is? – its last fifteen minutes did veer in an unexpected direction that elevated it somewhat.
The Kickstarter campaign for Scott Schirmer's latest opus, The Bad Man launched today. As you can see from the trailer below, it has just the level of depravity you would expect from the director of Found and Harvest Lake. Maybe more!
The Bad Man was a project that had long been in the pipe so it's great to see it finally coming to fruition. As with previous campaigns, The Bad Man is already almost finished and these pre-orders will facilitate the rest of the production.
A short I caught at Fantasia last year has recently found its way online. Without further ado, here is Jessica Curtright & Santiago C. Tapia's short film It Began Without Warning.
IT BEGAN WITHOUT WARNING - Vimeo
There's some definite Who Can Kill A Child? vibes here, but I love the weird turn it takes about halfway through. When you watch as many shorts I as do, you find that more often than not they overstay their welcome. It Began however, is one of those rare instances where I was left wanting more. It was subtitled Phase 1 so who knows? Maybe there is more to come.
The next VHS off the pile was William Fruet's 1986 effort Killer Party.
A sorority pledge party in an condemned frat house turns bloody when an uninvited guest arrives.
This was another title that I knew nothing of past its familiar coverbox so I had no idea what to expect. I naturally imagined it would be some sort of slasher, but was immediately thrown off by the first few scenes. As those who have watched this movie will know, Killer Party begins rather unconventionally. Then once you think it started, it becomes a music video with a level of eighties I haven't seen since the opening of Night Train To Terror.
Okay so when that is done, we finally get into the real movie. I didn't even know this was Canadian movie until Soldier's Tower appeared in the background just before “Directed by William Fruet” flashed on the screen. While all this was happening, a song called “Best Times” played and it was all good. This thing is as cheesy as it is catchy.
Killer Party Soundtrack - Best Times - YouTube
Man, I'd love to hear Freezepop cover that song. It was shortly after this that the movie became the sorority slasher that the back of the box promised. Or did it?
I have to say that Killer Party was fairly schizophrenic in that it's a slasher, haunted house flick and possession joint all at once. I can understand that traditional slashers would've been old hat by eighty-six, but this film's all over the place. Having said that, I thought that the only glaringly dated aspect were the fraternity pranks inflicted on the neighbouring sorority. That stuff isn't as amusing now in light of the whole “no means yes, yes means anal” movement.
Aside from that though, the heart of the movie was the relationship between the three pledges (or “goats”) Phoebe, Vivia & Jennifer (Elaine Wilkes, Sherry Willis-Burch & Joanna Johnson respectively) and that felt pretty sincere. I was especially impressed with Johnson because her performance in the last fifteen minutes was miles from anything that came before it. Who knew she had it in her?
Joanna Johnson, Elaine Wilkes & Sherry Willis-Burch in Killer Party
Perhaps the biggest detriment to the movie was how badly it was hacked to pieces by the MPAA. While watching it, I was quick to notice that pretty much every death blow cut right at the point of impact. A section of the movie even had four of said scenes all lined up in a row. I found out later that it was deliberately edited like that because of how much had to be trimmed. That's a real Goddamn shame. Given all the cuts, I wonder if those first two unrelated scenes were filmed later just to make up the running time.
As gory as it gets, folks!
I marvel at why the killer's costume in this movie – like the bear suit in Girls Nite Out – does not get talked about more by fans. It's a fucking old-timey diver's suit, for Christ's sake! Like if that's not the most cumbersome kill outfit I've ever seen, I don't know what is. It's preposterous, especially considering how random its appearance seemed.
Even at a masquerade party, this seems out of place.
Killer Party was kind of a mish-mash, but even though it lacked cohesion, it was rarely boring and that's mainly due to its eclectic cast – which also included cult hero Paul Bartel. I'd have likely have preferred something more traditional like The Initiation, but I've got to admire Fruet's intent.
After falling down a YouTube rabbit hole some weeks ago, I discovered this farm safety short film from the UK called Apaches. As was the case with most European public service scare films of the era, this one is as dark, dry and grim as it gets.
Apaches (1977) – [FULL VERSION] - YouTube
After attending Kier-La Janisse's School of Shock lecture some years ago, I thought I'd seen everything, but this one is up there for sure. It kind of makes me wonder how I survived my childhood to be honest.
Read Full Article
Read for later
Articles marked as Favorite are saved for later viewing.
Scroll to Top
Separate tags by commas
To access this feature, please upgrade your account.