Monday, September 30, 2013

DreadBox: Hellabama

Year: 2012
Director: Terron R. Parsons
Cast: Richard Tyson, Sherri Eakin, Jeremy Ivy
Run Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
MPAA Rating: N/A

Sergio and I have been frequenting this delicious pizza place close to campus called Pizzamania because pizza is the foundation of our relationship. Last time we went, we were planning on sneaking on campus to watch us some Game of Thrones and on a whim we grabbed some RedBox movies from the 7-Eleven next door.

I've always been morbidly curious about the dire looking Direct-To-DVD horror that RedBox always seems to have on hand in spades so in addition to The Bling Ring, I grabbed a promising looking slasher called Hayride and thus was born what is certainly going to be one of my favorite blog features. Be prepared for a tidal wave of even more lo-fi horror!

Why do I do this to myself?

Because, God knows, nobody else will.

Hayride tells the story of college student Steven (Jeremy Ivy of absolutely nothing else) who brings his girlfriend Amanda (Sherri Eakin) to his uncle's home in Alabama because 1) It's Halloween Break, which I guess could be a thing, and 2) He doesn't seem to actually have parents.

Every year, his Uncle Morgan (Richard Tyson) puts on a Halloween Hayride, a sort of haunted house event for the community. The main villain in this hayride is Pitchfork, a fictional killer based on a town myth about a farmer who went crazy when his daughter ran off with her boyfriend and started killing everybody. Amanda says that sounds like lazy writing and I'd have to agree. 

There is a weak sort of meta humor at work here, like the filmmakers were vaguely aware that Scream was a thing, but didn't quite piece together that it was necessary to actually be funny.

Or that direct quotations from other movies only work if you actually try to make them scary.

OK, maybe that's unfair.

Yes, to be a slasher movie in today's world means riffing on the already long-established rules of the genre and there's gonna be some references in there. And Hayride doesn't plagiarize as much as most, mainly because it's too busy expanding upon its tedious and convoluted mythology. In the middle of the film, in the guise of a campfire story we get a ten minute, dialogue-free flashback sequence that clarifies the Pitchfork legend about as much as if a child were fingerpainting it.

This point comes at about 45 minutes into the story and not a single member of the massive core cast has even come close to thinking about maybe dying at some point in the future. And there's considerably less hayride than I was expecting.

Although, with all the loving close-ups of Amanda's butt, who would even notice?

The ending does pick up as the hayride begins and employees and guests are picked off by the dozens. Oh, did I mention an escaped convict stole the Pitchfork costume? Yeah that happened. So finally Hayride provides at least a little of the low rent thrills I was expecting as Pitchfork mows down waves of hayriders like some demented MMORPG quest.

Unfortunately the whole thing suffers beyond repair because it positively reeks of prosumer equipment. I've seen student films with higher production values, and I go to a state school. The color balance is knocked out of whack with the yellow cranked up to eleven, presumably to emphasize the theme of... hay, I guess. At least one line in every scene has been altered in post-production dubbing and 100% does not synchronize with the lips of anybody onscreen.

And, like I said before, not too much is stolen directly from other films (although the film does read like a checklist of the slasher section of, but the main theft struck me straight to the bone. My absolute favorite shot of Cold Prey 2, a car door opening and closing as filmed through a side mirror, is lifted with fearless aplomb, presumably because they assumed nobody had ever seen it. Well, kudos for at least watching one of the best slasher sequels that exists. Clearly it didn't help though.

After the killing winds down and the quasi-Final Girl sequence has begun in earnest, the film degrades again with a twist ending that would maybe be effective if we knew anything about the killer.

I'mma spoil this because screw Hayride. The cops in charge of the investigation unmask the dead Pitchfork killer, revealing an old man who patently isn't the escaped convict we saw in the beginning of the film. Who he is, I couldn't say. But the sheriff goes "I know who that is" as the music swells and we get an unnecessary flashback of him killing the convict much earlier in the film as if we couldn't understand that if it's a different person under the mask, he's not the one who did it.

So the sheriff knows but he doesn't deign to tell us.

Maybe he saw him on WWE or something.

I don't know about you, but I don't feel too swell when a movie holds me, the audience, in active contempt.

Crap movie. Seacrest out.

Killer: Pitchfork (Bennett Wayne Dean Sr.)
Final Girl: Amanda (Sherri Eakin)
Best Kill: A sheriff is, with great deliberation, stabbed in the neck with the "sharp" end of an open pair of handcuffs.
Sign of the Times: Basically, the fact that this exists at all and is being distributed.
Scariest Moment: Hayride passengers run away through the forest, but are caught in bear traps. They are completely forgotten about for the rest of the movie, and presumably left to die of starvation and exposure or be forced to 127 Hours their way outta there. (Isn't it sad that the most horror-y scenario isn't even in the script?)
Weirdest Moment: For fun, Steven's family used to quiz each other on microwave instructions.
Champion Dialogue: "Let's rock these people's lives and give them the show of their lives!"
Body Count: 21 (including the killer), but it absolutely does not earn such a hilariously inflated number.

TL;DR: Hayride is a prosumer slasher attempt that manages the rare feat of having me long for the relative thematic coherence of the execrable Memorial Day.
Rating: 2/10
Should I Spend $1.20 On This? Don't do that to yourself. I do this so you don't have to.
Word Count: 1068

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Living In A Material World

Year: 2013
Director: Sofia Coppola
Cast: Katie Chang, Israel Broussard, Emma Watson
Run Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

According to the publicity surrounding the film, The Bling Ring is about Hermione Granger wearing clothes, but don't be deceived. It's actually the mostly true story of a group of Calabasas teens who, in 2008 and 2009, robbed a multitude of celebrity homes by using the internet to see when they'd be out of town. Their targets were mostly their personal fashion icons - Paris Hilton, Audrina Patridge, Rachel Bilson, Orlando Bloom, Megan Fox, and Lindsay Lohan.

The film's (more-or-less) protagonist is Marc (Israel Broussard), a newcomer to Indian Hills High School who is taken in by resident Queen Bee Rebecca (Katie Chang). She quickly enlists him and her friends in a series of petty thefts at parties that quickly escalates into breaking into the homes of classmates who are out of town and then to celebrity residences. The rest is mostly montages of him and the girls dressing up in designer outfits, taking selfies, selling stolen Rolexes on the black market, going shopping, and getting wasted in clubs.

Sofia Coppola has built a career on depicting the travails of the idle rich and The Bling Ring is perhaps her best foray into a world of pure material. Her depictions of the shallow fascinations and obsessions of these well-to-do teen delinquents remains sympathetic to her characters while simultaneously cutting them to the bone.

Paris Hilton's home cameos as itself and no film in history has ever seen such a relentlessly gaudy setpiece. The consumerism porn and glittery excesses of the rest of the film can barely hold a candle to this true life representation of the superfluously wealthy.

You just know she's absolutely not in on the joke.

It's sickening, to say the least, and the characters' utter joy at being able to touch and own such fabulous  garments is comedy and tragedy rolled into one enormous ball of superficiality. Theirs is a world of no consequences, and the fact that the movie lets them off a little too easy only drives the point home even more, because that's exactly how the world treated them.

Full of cutaways to TMZ, paparazzi shots, and self-indulgent Facebook posts about partying and Berkin bags, The Bling Ring shows a snapshot of the scary depths to which the Me Generation can sink. These poor shallow souls see themselves as blameless (frequently shifting the blame to one another, social psychology, and even The Secret), and the absolutely dreadful truth is that they are. These thefts are perpetrated by people who don't need the money on people who don't need it either.

This is a world where a plot point like getting into a car accident is given less screentime than Marc dropping it low in his bedroom. This is a world where robbing multiple homes earns you a fan page on Facebook. It's just one subset of the world at large, but the big problem is that this is the world we live in.

This outfit would make even Carrie Bradshaw cringe.

The Bling Ring presents this world to us in uncompromising detail and without a doubt it works. Unfortunately the insightful commentary on society is resting atop what amounts to a 90 minute Nordstrom catalogue. By the time the gang robs their fifth house or so, the narrative has completely run out of steam and spending time with these vapid, unchanging Barbie dolls becomes a less and less rewarding experience.

Saying that a movie of such a compact stature is 10 to 20 minutes too long is probably a bit fussy, but The Bling Ring would perhaps be an easier pill to swallow if it was a bit more like the lifestyle of its characters - pretty, fast, and simple.

Kind of like this review. Don't say I don't take my own advice.

TL;DR: The Bling Ring is a probing character study of the idle rich that suffers a bit from the same superficiality it seeks to detract.
Rating: 7/10
Word Count: 678

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Hollywood Bowl - It's This Cool Little Venue in LA

Sergio and I are going to a concert tonight. It's this cool little indie band I discovered called Vampire Weekend.

OK, maybe they're pretty big now. Maybe they've "sold out" (which as far as I can tell means "started to make money" so I don't see why it's all that big a deal). But once upon a time they were a dinky little nearly unknown band from Columbia University.

And some may call it a stretch but to that I say "screw you, get your own blog" as I present

Brennan's Top 10 Bands You've Probably Never Heard Of

Years Active. How I discovered them. Choice Track.

10. Tally Hall

Years Active: 2002 - Present

Self-described as "wonky rock," Tally Hall is a band from Ann Arbor, Michigan that has a lot of fun making music, and it's really easy to tell just by listening to their songs. They play around with exotic instruments and weird vocal settings and create a soundscape that's unlike just about anything else.

How I Discovered Them: When I joined drama in my sophomore year of high school, I was friends with a group of seniors who loved them.
Choice Track: "Taken For A Ride"

Also Check Out: "Good Day," "The Whole World and You," "Ruler of Everything"

9. Blümchen

Years Active: 1995 - 2001

God help me, but I do love Eurodance music. Blümchen (in English, "Small Flower") is a German dance pop artist who definitely isn't for everybody but her bright voice, peppy beats, and general German-ness win me over every time. She is still around today, but now she goes by the name Jasmin Wagner and has moved on from her old image.

How I Discovered Her: I was browsing the German Pop section in iTunes (I know, right?) and discovered one of her English tracks, "Little Satellite." I loved it and bought it, but when I discovered all of her songs had German counterparts, I left that song by the wayside and dove into her German discography.
Choice Track: "Odysee in 3D"

Also Check Out: "Kleiner Satellit," "Verrückte Jungs," "Boomerang"

8. Amber Pacific

Years Active: 2004 - 2011

Amber Pacific is just another Warped Tour alt rock band but they ruled my world for a good year in middle school with their tight harmonies and angsty teen music. I ate that sh*t up. I still hold a great fondness for them now that I'm older, and I'll defend them to death. Although once their lead singer left, they crashed and burned.

How I Discovered Them: I actually found them on a Punk Goes 80's album, where they performed a cover of "Video Killed the Radio Star."
Choice Track: "Fall Back Into My Life"

Also Check Out: "Summer (In B)," "Temporary," "Video Killed the Radio Star"

7. Fanny Lú

Years Active: 2005 - Present

If I've ever driven you anywhere in my car, you've heard Fanny Lú. Just like most of my favorite people, she started off as a Spanish language news presenter (the other person I have in mind is Manuela Velasco, the star of the [REC] series). However she successfully transitioned to the music industry and is a fairly successful pop star. She's now a judge on La Voz Colombia, the Spanish language version of the reality show The Voice in her home country. Her best tracks are cheerful songs about heartbreak and she's one of the foreign artists that it breaks my heart they haven't successfully made it big in the States.

Also, during my research I discovered that in the Spanish dub of the movie Tangled, she performed a cover of Grace Potter's "Something That I Want" and I cried tears of joy.

I love Fanny Lú. Look at her hair. Look at her face.

How I Discovered Her: A common project in my high school Spanish classes was memorizing the lyrics to a Spanish song. She was never featured in any of my classes, but my friend Laura gave me a playlist of her class and Fanny Lú was featured prominently. I bought all her albums and never looked back.
Choice Track: "Tú No Eres Para Mi"

Also Check Out: "Fanfarrón," "Corazón Perdido," "Y Si Te Digo"

6. Army of Freshmen

Years Active: 1997 - Present

Army of Freshmen is another alt rock band with an airtight collection of albums. Their LP Under the Radar is one of those albums where every single track is strong enough to be a single, a rare achievement in the world of music. They frequently tour along with Bowling For Soup, another band I love that you've certainly heard of, even if it's just for 1985."

How I Discovered Them: In freshman year of high school, I was writing a musical based on Romeo and Juliet for an English project and I searched "Juliet" on iTunes to see what came up. They did and my life changed forever.
Choice Track: "Down at the Shore"

Also Check Out: "Maybe in the Midwest," "Juliet," "Wrinkle in Time"

5. The Sounds

Years Active: 1998 - Present

How could I not love them? They're from Sweden! I have not encountered a single thing from Sweden in my entire life that I have not loved with an all-consuming passion. The Sounds were the soundtrack to my first semester in college with their creative instrumentations and rocker chick vibe.

How I Discovered Them: Their song "Something to Die For" was used prominently in Scream 4. When I bought the soundtrack, that song dominated, and I eventually researched the band's other tracks.
Choice Track: "Dance With the Devil"

Also Check Out: "Something to Die For," "Painted by Numbers," "Better Off Dead"

4. Joshua Radin

Years Active: 2004 - Present

Of all the artists on this list, Joshua Radin is simply the most pleasant to listen to. His acoustic guitar songs and soft voice are featured prominently on my sister's "Go To Sleep" CD and I listen to him the most when I want to relax. 

How I Discovered Him: The first drama production I ever worked on (David and Lisa) closed with his song "Winter." Dave, the drama director is a huge fan of his and it bled over to me.
Choice Track: "I'd Rather Be With You"

Also Check Out: "Vegetable Car," "Winter," "You Got Growing Up to Do"

3. Ludo

Years Active: 2003 - Present

Ludo is one of them "funny" rock bands. Their first biggish single ("Good Will Hunting By Myself") features a minute long breakup rant that contains the phrase "Oompa Loompa monkey problem." I actually used it as a comedic monologue for an audition once. But their magnum opus album, You're Awful, I Love You is a masterpiece of baroque alt rock that is absolutely captivating.

How I Discovered Them: My friend Laura loves these guys and she shared them with me.
Choice Track: "Such As It Ends"

Also Check Out: "Good Will Hunting By Myself," "Lake Ponchartrain" "Mutiny Below"

2.The Pipettes

Years Active: 2003 - Present

This British girl band has seen some massive lineup changes since their debut album We Are the Pipettes, but that album blows Britpop out of the water with track after track of solid, danceable, 60's-inspired pop confections. Gwenno, Rosay, and RiotBecki are alternately sweet and somber and lovably British through and through.

How I Discovered Them: My dad was raving about them, and I can't help but agree.
Choice Track: "Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me"

Also Check Out: "It Hurts To See You Dance So Well," "ABC," "Dance and Boogie"

1. Jay Brannan

Years Active: 2006 - Present

After failing to make a splash as an actor (but having an... interesting role as one third of a threesome in John Cameron Mitchell's Shortbus), Jay Brannan set out to be a musician despite not actually knowing the names of the guitar chords. To this day he can't even give tabs for his songs because he just makes it up as he goes along, but it works. Trust me. A gay indie guitarist, Brannan's songs are filled with heartbreak and explorations of how to deal with a world that doesn't want you to exist.

Asialani and I got to see him in concert for my birthday last year and it was one of my best live experiences.

How I Discovered Him: Asia and I were working tech for the yearly dance show in our sophomore year and one of the performances was to his brilliant cover of Ani DiFranco's "Both Hands." It blew our minds and now we're longtime fans.
Choice Track: "Beautifully"

Also Check Out: "Both Hands," "Can't Have It All," "Housewife"

Bonus Artist Who You've Definitely Heard of But Probably Never Knew Made Anything of Merit: Paris Hilton

Years Active: 2006

Boy I wish I was kidding. But honestly, I kind of love Paris' self-titled album. It's not even good, but it's so much better than I ever expected. Produced before the advent of "Anybody Can Make Music Because Autotune is God," Paris' vocals lack the robotic thrum of today's reality star hitmakers. Oh sure, her vocals are heavily altered but her music sounds like actual songs, not a sequence of words run through a vocoder.

How I Discovered Her: Come on.
Choice Track: "Nothing In This World"

Also Check Out: "Stars Are Blind," "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy," "Jealousy"

So what do you think? Am I a secret hipster? Heard of all these bands? Think I'm a poser? Hate Paris Hilton? Anyone can comment, so please let me know.

Word Count: 1592

Friday, September 27, 2013

Because of the Terrible Things He Does

Year: 1970
Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Cast: Ray Sager, Judy Cler, Wayne Ratay
Run Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
MPAA Rating: NR

If you're anything like me or Shannon, you know the scene. Juno. Jason Bateman and Ellen Page sitting together on a couch, discussing the auters of the 70's gore scene. While Bateman prefers the red-blooded American splatter filmmaker Herschell Gordon Lewis, Page posits that Italian giallo maestro Dario Argento is the ultimate master of horror.

They sit down to watch HGL's Wizard of Gore (which Bateman states is "better than Suspiria") and resume their creepy age-inappropriate flirting.

Insert Arrested Development joke here.

First things first. The Wizard of Gore is in no way better than Suspiria, an out and out masterpiece of gore cinema. Score one for Juno. We can say this with some authority, seeing as I've forced Shannon to watch both of them. However, WoG is a delightfully straightforward splatter picture that benefits greatly from sitting back and letting the audience bask in the atmosphere of the 70's without having to worry about any cumbersome distractions like plot or momentum.

The film centers around the magic act of one Montag the Magnificent (Ray Sager, who not only was a victim in Prom Night IV: Deliver Us From Evil but produced Prom Nights II, III, and IV! I love this guy.), who hams it up, delivering a scenery-chewing monologue about the nature of Reality and Dreams (WHAT. IS. REAL? he screams) before he performs such standard and hackneyed tricks as the Vanishing Water and Sawing the Lady In Half.


An onstage explosion of gore, followed by the whole and healthy volunteer rising from the table to take her bow shocks and delights audiences, including young Sherry Carson (Judy Cler), an anchor for her college news station. She gives the show a rave review and drags her boyfriend Jack (Wayne Ratay, who gets to take his shirt off in quite a few scenes, so you'd better relish that - this is his only film role) back the next night to try to score an interview with Montag himself.

He refuses to give interviews but he does agree to go on her show to perform one of his Illusions (and now we understand why Bateman loves this film - it reminds him of his brother Gob) at the end of the week. Unfortunately, the volunteer from last night has just turned up dead - cut in half by some psychopath by the looks of it.

When that night's volunteer (who gets a railroad spike poked through her skull) is also killed in a manner mirroring the performance, Jack starts to get suspicious. The movie that follows is essentially four cycles of Montag Performs Gory Magic Trick - Woman Ends Up Dead - Jack Gets Increasingly Grumpy About This.

Simplicity itself.

Gordon Lewis is nothing short of genius in his approach to the material. Because the gore is what matters, isn't it? This simple and clean storytelling structure allows it to remain front and center for as long as possible, augmented by scores and scores of repeat shots from different angles that do double duty, emphasizing the dreamlike qualities of the illusions (it is heavily implied that Montag hypnotizes both the audience and his victims) and allowing us to see as many shots of Montag pawing through human viscera for as long as possible.

He's like a sixth grader dissecting his first frog.

The sheer amount of times the same action is repeated in a multitude of slightly different ways says a lot about the filmmakers and the genre. They spent all their money on this big gore setpiece so they're sure as hell gonna make sure you appreciate it in all its glory. Honestly, the gore effects themselves aren't good at all, but the wicked glee with which Herschell and Montag display it makes all the difference. The hyper low budget prevents it from getting too realistic and the sleazeball lust for blood is charming in its very specific way.

And there's just something about 70's blood that you couldn't got from any other era. It's so thick and creamy, a look totally divorced from reality that instead of taking you out of the movie, draws you implacably further under its spell.

The Wizard of Gore doesn't have more to offer than this, so if you're not the type of person who can stomach the sight of a woman's torso being mashed with a punch press, maybe you should stay at home and watch Mary Tyler Moore instead.

Although I don't see how this is all that different.

Despite its flimsy plot, The Wizard of Gore magically remains as far from boring as a movie so repetitive and structured could possibly be with its Grand Guignol approach to human butchery, the Vincent Pricey hamming of Sager, who mugs to the camera like there's no tomorrow, and Gordon Lewis' obvious passion for his lowbrow and sleazy subject matter.

Endlessly diverting, even considering the toll time has taken on the effects, The Wizard of Gore is a pure representation of what the splatter genre was, a textbook example of how 70's horror films appeased the brutal animal instincts of an increasingly nihilistic young audience.

Cinematic violence could never hold a candle to what was going on in the world. These films allowed viewers some measure of control over their base urges, and that catharsis carried over into their daily lives. When Montag sifts through another victim's innards, it's not an expression of cruelty but an extension of the innate stirrings of a society unimpressed with the world around them.

They went to the movies for destruction because that's the only thing that they believed in. It's no coincidence that the most successful movies of the decade were mirthless violent spectacles like Alien, Bonnie and Clyde, The Godfather, The Exorcist, A Clockwork OrangeThe Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and so many more that it would take a whole separate article just to list them.

The dreamlike state Montag's audience enters is not far from the reaction of the home audience who lusted for blood because what else was left? The cinema took care of them, allowing them temporary autonomy over their actions and their lives.

What is real?

TL;DR: The Wizard of Gore is a tawdry and cheesy but immensely engaging gore picture.
Rating: 6/10
Word Count: 1066
Reviews In This Series
The Wizard of Gore (Gordon Lewis, 1970)
The Wizard of Gore (Kasten, 2007)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Census Bloodbath: Fear Itself

If you're new to Census Bloodbath, click here.

Year: 1980
Director: John Huston
Cast: Paul Michael Glaser, Susan Hogan, John Colicos
Run Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

Yes, that John Huston. Director of The Maltese Falcon. Progenitor of this magnificent bird creature.

Rumor has it that when the Earth finally crumbles into dust, all that will remain is a puff of feathers and a receding shadow as a lonely hawk flies away, searching for a new world on which she can reign supreme for the next millennium.

Who knew that trudging through the sodden mush that is the slasher genre would yield such unexpected treasures? First we get Klaus Kinski in Schizoid and now Mr. Huston himself. What could possibly be next?

For the second film in a row we get a slasher that aims much higher. Again based on a therapy group, Phobia focuses on Dr. Peter Ross (Paul Michael Glaser - That's right, Starsky is in a slasher movie) and his five patients. He's experimenting with a new phobia treatment (namely, exposing patients to what they're afraid of in the hopes that they will... stop, I guess.) and all five of them are ex-inmates who have agreed to participate in exchange for parole. 

The patients are Henry (David Bolt of Prom Night), who has acrophobia - fear of heights; Barbara (Alexandra Stewart), a sweet young woman with agoraphobia - fear of crowds and open spaces; Johnny (David Eisner, who would later play a minor character in Happy Birthday to Me), and it's never really clarified but we can assume he has claustrophobia; Bubba (Robert O'Ree), who has ophidiophobia - fear of snakes; and Laura (Lisa Langlois, also of Happy Birthday to Me), who as far as I can tell is afraid of being raped. Rapeophobia? Since when is that a bad thing?

One by one the patients begin to die according to their phobias and if that sounds pretty interesting, I regret to inform you that it's not very well executed. In fact, until about three deaths in it's not even clear that there's a killer at all and most of them seem to be incidental unless the killer had a Joker-sized level of premeditation.

Also on hand are his ex-girlfriend Alice (Patricia Collins) and his new girlfriend Jenny (Susan Hogan) and there's some tension between them but not enough to spark any sort of functional subplot.

I'm trying! Can't you see that I'm trying to be a better plot device?

There's a lot of business where the police try to figure out who's perpetrating the killings and Inspector Barnes (John Colicos) is a huge dick to everybody he meets. When he suspects one of the members of the therapy group he straight up Jack Bauers him in an interrogation room, shoving him to the ground every chance he gets with childish glee like a playground bully. It's not necessarily obvious who the killer is but it's also definitely not the grand glorious Twist they were playing it off to be, which renders the investigation scenes even more unnecessary and a even little hateful.

The movie has scattered moments of real tension (especially in the scenes that have to do with one patient's specific phobia) but for the most part it is a toothless American cousin to the Italian giallo films. For some reason (Artistry, I guess. Ugh.), the filmmakers decided to keep the crime procedural aspect of the genre and ignore the hyperactive fantasy gore sequences.

All smoky glowing lights and twisting staircases and sinuous shadows, this flick would win best art direction of Census Bloodbath 1980 (so far) in a heartbeat, but it doesn't have a lot going for it beyond that. It's diverting for an hour and a half but I honestly can't think of a single situation where I would ever be compelled to watch it again.

I really can't wait until slasher movies start to get their act together and figure out the big man + sharp things = good times equation. I know it's tacky to fervently wish any of these films would adhere to formula, but it's gotta be established before it can be reasonably broken by the likes of A Nightmare on Elm Street or April Fool's Day

And I'd much rather watch Kevin Bacon's arrow-through-the-neck scene from Friday the 13th for an hour and a half than this rickety and lackluster affair.

The snake scenes were cool though.

But it is what it is and I committed myself to sitting through the whole thing so I could be the most knowledgeable slasher scholar on the planet and by George I'm gonna share it with you so you don't have to do the same.

Phobia is of interest as a time capsule for the state of 1980's pop psychology at the time, full of misinterpretations of Freud and the effects of trauma that would bring a smile to the face of anybody who got a 3 or higher on their AP Psych test. And let's face it, everybody got a 3 or higher on the AP Psych test.

And despite not quite being a legitimate slasher itself, one of my favorite slasher elements can be seen sprouting tiny little roots. Themed killings never really became mainstream but gosh I do love it when the death scenes are tailor-made for each character. Happy Birthday to Me is full of these, with the kills reflecting the central characteristic of each victim (the biker gets his face shredded with a tire, the jock is squashed by dumbbells and so on). This kind of thing shows that more thought went into making the film than just "What part of this dude should the killer put his machete into?"

(Also themed deaths imply that there's actual characters instead of one-dimensional cartoons. Burn!)

So all in all, Phobia wasn't a massive waste of time. I'm not about to bust out the ticker tape for that though.

Killer: Dr. Peter Ross (Paul Michael Glaser)
Final Girl: Jenny St. Clair (Susan Hogan), although she's not a Final Girl in the traditional sense.
Best Kill: I'm a big fan of the file cabinet that explodes.
Sign of the Times: Dr. Ross has a Converse poster in his office.

Scariest Moment: Barbara has a meltdown on a subway.
Weirdest Moment: There's a downright hilarious amount of scenes of Dr. Ross playing hockey.
Champion Dialogue: "Damn! I've got to get to the car phone!"
Body Count: 6; including the killer
  1. Barbara is exploded by a booby trapped filing cabinet.
  2. Henry falls off of some tall scaffolding.
  3. Laura is drowned in a bathtub.
  4. Henry is crushed by an elevator.
  5. Bubba is killed offscreen, presumably by snakes.
  6. Dr. Ross shoots himself in the head. 
TL;DR: Phobia is admittedly suspenseful but it's easy to see why it got lost in time.
Rating: 5/10
Word Count: 1138