Sleepaway Camp (1983) – Oh I’m a Happy Camper

The slasher boom of the 80s is one of the most fascinating moments in cinema. Starting a little before the decade began with Halloween and exploding with Friday the 13th, slasher films were this strange little thing that could be filmed on budgets that most studio pictures would spend on catering and were almost always critically maligned. Great shockers like Happy Birthday to Me, The Prowler, My Bloody Valentine, Terror Train and so many other fun little gore fests would be regularly destroyed by critics, but go on to be box office hits or have a cult following that continues to this day. They’ve always been the ugly stepchild of the horror genre, but I genuinely adore them in all their cheesiness and since it’s October, it only seems right that all the throwbacks be horror related. With that in mind, I had another look at an old film I enjoyed but never quite understood… I still don’t, but I get that’s part of the charm.

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Violence Voyager (2019) – Say, Its Only A Paper Movie

Released: 21st October (Advance Copy provided by Tricoast Worldwide)
Seen: 7th October

Every film, on some level, has a gimmick attached to it. Joker’s gimmick is that it’s a Scorsese film wearing a Supervillain costume, Searching’s gimmick was that it took place entirely on a computer screen and I Spit On Your Grave: Deja Vu’s gimmick is that it’s the first film actually made by a piece of shit. Hell, even sound and colour were originally considered merely gimmicks back when film was first beginning. Finding strange new ways to make a film can lead to some genuinely fascinating pieces of art that might not be mainstream but are certainly interesting experiences to go through. So, let’s talk about a horror film made entirely out of paper cut-outs because that’s a thing that actually exists in this reality and I kind of love it, despite its flaws.

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Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019) – The Library Is Open!

Released: 26th September
Seen: 5th October

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark was a series of books from 1981 to 1991 written by Alvin Schwartz. There were three books in total, each one filled with almost 30 short stories that terrified an entire generation, not only because the stories themselves were terrifying but the illustrations associated with each story were so infamously scary. They are not only legendary best-sellers but they’re also infamously some of the most banned books in school libraries because of the violence described and the macabre topics like cannibalism (which I just thought was a regular weekend activity, you learn a new thing every day). To shock no one, I didn’t read these books growing up. Firstly, they were big before I was old enough to even be able to say the word “Book” and secondly, I was more of a Goosebumps kid. I did try to hunt down a copy of the books before I went to see the movie but I guess my local library must’ve been one of the ones to ban them and the only copy is the brand new one that is a tie in for this movie and I’m not paying 50 bucks to read some short stories, thankyou very much. This does allow me to answer the question of whether this film works without knowing the source material. The short answer is… kinda?

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In the Tall Grass (2019) – Hey You Kids, Get Out Of My Lawn!

Released: 4th October
Seen: 5th October

Stephen King is a master of taking things that aren’t normally scary and making them terrifying. Puppies, classic cars, a cell phone, he’s taken them and twisted them into the stuff of nightmares. In 2012, Stephen collaborated with his son Joe Hill for a short story called In the Tall Grass, because now Stephen wants us to be scared of lawns. One of these days he’s going to make a film about a killer lamp and then someone will make a movie about it and I’ll end up enjoying that almost as much as I enjoyed this film.

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Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th (2013) – Ki-Ki-Ki Ma-Ma-Ma

When I was reviewing the Sydney Underground Film Festival films, I talked about one called Memory: The Origins of Alien. In that review, I talked about my love of the 6-hour superdoc Crystal Lake Memories. I figured since we’ve entered October, it seemed only right for me to talk about that documentary. If nothing else, I know the length is a barrier to entry so my hope is that I can encourage you to give it a go.

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The Lodge (2019) – Checking Out

Seen at the Sydney Underground Film Festival

Some horror films are fast-paced thrill rides that don’t go more than 10 minutes without doing something to make the audience jump in their seats. Some horror films are slower, building tension gradually for a few hours until it explodes with a dramatic climax that is made exponentially scarier thanks to the hour of buildup. Then there are horror films that try to be slow, occasionally throw in a scare to remind the audience that there’s a film going and builds to a climax that answers nothing, justifies no one and makes the people watching sit with their jaws hanging open whispering “What the hell did I just sit through?”. This is that third kind of film.

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Porno (2019) – (CENSORED)

Seen at the Sydney Underground Film Festival

Sometimes you hear a concept that just screams “This is going to be fun”. Concepts like “a killer tyre” or “a musical zombie movie” or “Ron Jeremy’s penis is sentient and wants to kill people” are pretty wild. As long as the people making the movie with those concept are willing to take it as far as they can then the movie’s going to be something fun. When I heard that the concept behind this movie was “Haunted porno film” I was on board right away because that sounds like it could be hilarious, a version of the film Demons but with a porno film? Sign me up, give me this insane silly horror comedy goodness… yeah, the key part of these films that works is when they actually take the concept to its logical extreme, sadly this one doesn’t do that.

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Tone-Deaf (2019) – Make Allegory Great Again

Seen at the Sydney Underground Film Festival

This year I had the distinct pleasure of going to the Sydney Underground Film Festival, not as press but purely for fun because I genuinely love a film festival that’s dedicated to the weirder side of cinema. This is the stuff that probably would never see a mainstream theatrical release unless we were having a particularly slow period of releases and cinemas got desperate. During this festival I saw 11 films over 3 days and so, between mainstream movie reviews, I’ll be dropping these for a while to share my views on films you might want to track down if you can find them… because dammit, I watched all of them, you’re damn right I’m getting the most that I possibly can out of the experience. Let’s start with the first film I saw at the festival, Tone-Deaf.

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The Banana Splits Movie (2019) – Five Nights At Fleegle’s

Released: 4th September
Seen: 6th September

One of the great things about the horror genre is its ability to take something innocent and, with minimal alterations, turn it into an icon of terror. Santa Claus was never a scary creation but put an axe in his hand and you have the poster for Silent Night, Deadly Night. No one used to associate hockey masks with horror until one unlucky day when a boy named Jason put one on before heading out to Camp Crystal Lake. That’s the power of horror; innocent images can be given malevolent meaning just by a change in context. So, if this idea works for well-known images like Santa or the hockey mask, the question is if it can work for a bunch of iconic animal costumes from a 60s variety show. The answer is yes, but only as a novelty.

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It: Chapter Two (2019) – Clowning Around

Released: 5th September
Seen: 4th September (Advance Screening)

In 2017, the film It came out in cinemas to wide praise. It was shocking, horrifying, a terrific adaptation of one of Stephen King’s most beloved novels. It was proof that this story could be done better than it had been with the 90s miniseries and it was one of the most terrifying films in recent memory. I loved that film so much that I put it at number five on my best-of list for 2017 and I sometimes wonder if maybe it should’ve been higher because it was just that great. The first film did one thing perfectly, it simply told the story of the main characters from when they were children and left the adult stuff for the sequel. It allowed the film to feel complete and gave it a fantastic tone, making it a story of childhood fears and the pain of adolescence. This movie had the impossible task of not only matching that terrifying tone but elevating it while also introducing the adult versions of the main cast. It had to carry on the story of the Losers’ Club and show us just how much more terrifying Pennywise the clown could be with the child safety taken off him… there’s a reason this sounds like an impossible task and it’s not one that this film managed to completely achieve, though it did do some pretty great things.

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