31 Days of Horror 17: Snowtown (2011) by Jamie

Unless movies have lied to me, Australia is a terrifying hellscape filled with murderers, Lord Humungus and uncanny knife discernment. This of course goes without mentioning all the terrifying poisonous animals, Steve Irwin-killing stingrays and koala bears. As a younger man I wondered why we Brits sent our criminals away from the dreary weather to what seemed like a tropical paradise. Now I realise the true horror that is Australia.

And so I return to this continent forsaken by every God of mankind’s many myths for true life horror story of Snowtown. The movie is based on the Snowtown Murders of the 1990s and it’s kinda one of the oddest films based on a true story I’ve ever seen. It follows the story of 16 year old James “Jamie” Vlassakis and how he comes to be drawn into the murderous rampage of John Bunting and his band of thugs. The reason that this is an odd film is that the murders kind of take a back seat to the other events taking place around them. You still get to see a few scenes of murder and torture but this isn’t so much a film about the murders or even the psychology of the killer, as these true life serial killer films so often are. Rather it is, as I said, about how someone can find this self in this situation and eventually come to be a complicit, even willing partner in these acts.

And the movie achieves this in a brilliant way. The way it’s shot, the way music is used, it all makes the story play out like some kind of a dream with Jamie, and by extension the viewer, drifting along with the story almost as though he is helpless to fight back against the current that is dragging him a long this dark path. And by dream I mean nightmare. This is a dark, chillingly atmospheric film that could be used to teach people about how effective music, and even the sudden absence of music, in particular can be in conveying tension in even the most seemingly pedestrian scenes, scenes that you feel should give you a break from the way things a spiralling out of control but they don’t.

So yes, this is a breathtakingly beautiful expression of absolute terror and the way the human mind can be coerced into going along with that terror be it out of fear or misplaced friendship or, most likely, a mixture of both. Five pints out of five.


Documental: Cropsey by Jamie

It seems that every town has an urban legend involving some kind of scary maniac, weirdo or boogeyman who lives away from the rest of society doing untoward things like kidnapping or murder. The one we had growing up was Bill, a homeless man who lived down by the river. Admittedly ours was an actual person though the legend that grew up around him was probably somewhat exaggerated. There were those who said he was an eccentric billionaire who actually owned a rather nice house but decided to live down by the river instead because he was mental. I don’t really remember any tales of murder but I do remember that our parents would warn us of him when ever we were going down that way.

I remember one day when a few of us were walking across the Cow Pipe (a pipe elevated of the ground that ran from one part of the river to a cow field next to it) and Bill came round the corner. My friend fell and I grabbed him. Unfortuantely he took me with him and I landed in a big pile of stinging nettles. Bill sat there on the pipe laughing at us for a few minute before wandering off. It was one of the times that I remember being really and truly afraid.

The urban legend that circled amongst the kids on Staten Island was of Cropsey and that’s kind of what the film of the same name deals with. The interesting thing about this case is that something happened after the establisment of the legend that gave the story further credence.

On Staten Island there used to be a mental institution called Willowbrook. It was originally designed for 4,000 residents but by 1965 it had over 6,000 and was the biggest state-run institution for the mentally handicapped. In 1972 the institution was visited by the admirably mustachioed Geraldo Rivera in a report he called ‘Willowbrook: The Last Disgrace”. His footage, some of which is shown in ‘Cropsey’ showed scenes of overcrowding, children screeching naked and covered in filth. The report caused a public outcry but Willowbrook would remain open until 1987.

After it’s closure a few of the former residents and even staff members returned, living for periods in the woods around the institution of in the labyrinthine tunnels beneath the old building. One of these people was a former employee, Andre Rand.

Whilst all this was going on, children were going missing on Staten Island and this just helped to feed the Cropsey legend further. In 1987 a young girl with Down’s Syndrome called Jennifer Schwiezer went missing. Searches were carried out around the island and eventually her body was found close to Willowbrook. Attention turned towards Rand especially when witnesses came forward claiming that Jennifer had last been seen with a man fitting his description. He was brought in for questioning, charged and convicted receiving twenty -five years to life.

The film itself investigates all aspects of the legends and facts around Staten Island and Willowbrook. First it traces the legened of Cropsey before getting more and more involved in the case of Rand, going so far as to contact him and ask for interviews as a new trial is about to begin involving the disappearance of another little girl from 1981.

Overall it’s a pretty fascinating documentary and one which honestly gets more than a little creepy at times, particularly when the film makers are going through the ruins of Willowbrook at night, discovering all the old sleeping places of people who used to live there. It also handles the question of whether or not Rand is guilty quite well early on although as the film progresses I certainly found myself thinking he was probably guilty not so much because of any slant in the film but because of the actions of Rand himself which also ties into things. Is Rand being declared guilty because of any concrete evidence or because he seems like the kind of person who might do horrible things and therefore makes a convenient boogeyman for the community of Staten Island?

In closing the only real problem I had was that the film seemed a little all over the place at times but I’ll put this down to the nature of the story rather than any real fault of the film itself. Four pints out of five. Laterz.

Review: The Loved Ones by Jamie

It takes a lot for a film to disturb or scare me. One that did both those things in recent times was a little Australian horror film called ‘Wolf Creek’, released in 2005. It’s basically the story of what happens when a group of backpackers come across a really fucked up version of the villain character from ‘Rescuers Down Under’. I mean really fucked up. Like torture and kill people fucked up.

Yeah, that film certainly left an impression on me. It somehow managed to include scenes of people being tortured but I didn’t get that general feeling of pointlessness that I normally get when watching films which have been dubbed, for better or worse, as ‘Torture Porn’. There was just something going on beneath the terror that made me actually care and get scared. It was a genuinely good film.

So we come today to another little Australian horror film which I would certainly put in the exact same genre as ‘Wolf Creek’. I dunno what that genre would be called… ‘Good Torture Porn’ maybe? No, that has completely the wrong connotation. ‘More-ture Porn’ because there is more going on than in the typical torture porn film? No, that doesn’t seem right either. It doesn’t matter. The film for today is ‘The Loved Ones’.

Brent is an Australian high school student who killed his father in a car crash whilst trying to avoid a bloody figure in the road. He has a hard time dealing with the events of that day, understandable really, especially since his mother seems to blame him for her husband’ death, even if se doesn’t say it directly. Still he does find some comfort in his girlfriend Holly. Sexual comfort, that is. Plus she loves him or something. There’s also his somewhat comical sidekick Jamie who has a crush on Mia, goth daughter of a local policeman who’s dealing with some pretty deep issues of her own.

Then there’s Lola. L-O-L-A, Lola. Lo, Lo, Lo, Lo, LoLola… Sorry. That had to be done. Anyway, Lola seems to be a bit of a quiet girl, doesn’t have too many friends, that kind of girl. She approaches Brent by his locker and asks him to the school dance but he turns her down, saying he’s already going with Holly This is a decision he’ll probably end up regretting.

While Brent is what I’ll assume is the Outback, because it’s outside and in Australia, Brent is chloroformed and kidnapped. When he comes round, he’s tied up to chair inside Lola’s house, with decorations hung all over the place as though it were some kind of homemade school dance. Lola is present as is her father and a woman, who doesn’t seem particularly cognisant of what is going on, whom they call ‘Bright Eyes’. From here the torture begins.

Whilst all this is going on there’s a subplot running concurrent involving Jamie and Mia and their adventures at the high school dance which provides a little bit of humour to the otherwise very dark proceedings whilst also adding another layer to the main story through the problems Mia is dealing with.

And that’s pretty much all the plot I’m going to give away. Anything beyond this would probably be considered a spoiler. I’ll just say that FUCK! The torture in this film is brutal and when you come to realise just what it is they plan to do with Brent it just becomes more and more disturbing. The film also manages to just draw you in, the tension in one particular scene (all I’ll say is it involves a drill and a kettle) becoming so heightened that I kept on standing up and walking around the room, occasionally taking my eyes of the screen as it just kept building and building to almost unbearable levels. It was fucking awesome.

Despite this rampant torture, there is, like I said earlier, so much that sets this apart from your ‘Saw’ films or your ‘Hostel’ films. I couldn’t give a fuck about any of the characters in any of those films (except for Danny Glover in the first Saw because every time he plays a policeman, I like to think he’s still Murtaugh after something terrible has happened to Riggs) but in this film, and indeed in Wolf Creek, I do. I care about the people being tortured which just makes everything so much more visceral, tense and generally uncomfortable.

The performances are all solid particularly those of Lola (Robin McLeavy) and her Daddy (John Brumpton) who play of each other as a psychopathic, serial-killing and possibly incestuous duo with seemingly twisted glee. Brent ( Xavier Samuel) is also pretty great especially conveying his thoughts and feelings the way that he is forced to because, well, let’s just say that after a certain point he doesn’t have much to say.

Overall if you like sick, twisted horror but can’t stand bullshit like the ‘Saw’ series then ‘The Loved Ones’ is probably the film for you. If I have one criticism I have, it’s the ending which just kinda happens whilst leaving a few storylines a little too unresolved for my liking. Still, four pints out of five. Laterz.

What follows is a trailer which to my mind is actually quite spoilerey. Watch if you want!

Review: Spirit Camp by Jamie

When it comes to getting rid of an infestation of annoying teens at your summer camp, there’s really only one person you need to call. That person is of course Jason Voorhees (and I suppose his mother has been most helpful in the family business as well). Whether a living, breathing, psychopathic man-child or a Zombie serial-killer from beyond the grave, Jason has been cleaning up the scum from Crystal Lake for 30 years now. He’s truly a credit to his craft.

Still there are those who try and follow in the big guys footsteps, maybe hoping to catch him unaware and snatch the hockey mask from right off his face. And of all the horror movies set at a summer camp, ‘Spirit Camp’ maybe the worst I’ve seen yet. I would rather watch ‘Jason Takes Manhattan’ for the rest of eternity then attempt to watch this shit again.

The first warning sign is that ’Spirit Camp’ describes itself as a horror comedy, a mix which can be difficult to achieve. There are many horror films which have comedic elements to them such as ‘Scream’ but in terms of successful horror comedies your first ports of call should be ‘Shaun of the Dead’, ‘Hot Fuzz’ (which contains action elements but seems to have far more in common with things like ‘Wicker Man’ and slasher films than it does ‘Point Break’) and something like ‘Gremlins’ and it’s sequel. These films seem to get the balance right. Fuck the balance up and you get ‘Spirit Camp’ which seems to be more like a shitty straight-to-DVD American Pie film which happens to have a serial killer for some reason (Seriously, no reason is ever given for the killers killer-ousness…).

This one time at Spirit Camp…

Let me give you an example of some of the humour. There is a sign at the camp which reads CAMP LUMIS: Pop. 69. Hahahah! That is funny because 69 is a sexual position as well as being a number! Hahahah! What great times we are having, you and I. Also if you’re going to reference a character from Halloween, maybe you should spell the name fucking correctly. It’s Loomis you fucktards, not Lumis. Fuck.

Yes that’s the level we’re dealing with here people. I’m not gonna lie to you. It hurts. Hurts deep. Hurts like a big hurty thing covered in spike being repeatedly shoved into your face before you suffer the final indignity of having it shoved somewhere you’d really rather prefer spikey, hurty things were not shoved.

As for the horror aspect, well there is shit that just doesn’t make sense here. I know, I know. There’s always shit that doesn’t make sense in a horror film. Things like characters running blindly into the woods in order to escape or people going upstairs in order to look for their friend in a wheelchair that they had left by themselves (See Friday the 13th: Part 2 for more details) but the shit that happens in this film just stretches the bounds of believability to breaking point.

For example, there are approximately six girls attending the camp, although one never makes it there, which leads me to ask the question just how the fuck does this summer camp for cheerleading actually stay open? I’m sure running a camp is probably quite costly so I’m sure they’d need to open their doors to a few more people. Anyway, that’s besides the point. My point is that one girl goes missing fairly early on and no one seems to remember her until far, far later on. I could understand her disappearance going unnoticed in a large group but in a group as small as the one in the movie, it should be noticed earlier. None of the camp counsellors notice either. In fact the woman who owns the camp leaves in order to by ammunition and is never heard from again.

The film also features what may be the most incompetent cop I have ever seen in a any film., despite his insistence that he’s hella experienced because of his 30 years on the force. A psychopathic killer has escaped from the local jail and he’s going to warn the woman who owns the camp. On his way he discovers a bag lying in the road. He pulls out a pair of panties, sniffs them and puts them in his pocket. Then he takes the bag and puts it in his car. Of course if he investigated the scene like a fucking cop probably should under these specific circumstances, then he would have found the body of a dead cheerleader mere feet away behind a tree. Then the camp would have been evacuated, a few more lives would have been saved and this movie wouldn’t of had to have happened. Fuck you cop and fuck you movie.

Fucking hell, I could go on and on about the plot holes in this film. Like why doesn’t the killer kill one character earlier on when he’s walking alone with her for sometime? Last time I checked movie serial killers weren’t that good at urge control. Why is the one girl camp counsellor coming on to the stereotypically gay camp counsellor especially when she’s known him for years and why does her head terrify me? Is the camp on week long or two weeks long? Accounts vary based on whether it is a parent or a camp counsellor doing the talking. Why is there unnecessary stock footage of an alligator? Why does that chick with the sweet body though slightly odd face have the fattest boyfriend imaginable and no one mentions it? I’m assuming they’d run out of actors. Seriously, that’s not even half of the problems but I don‘t have eternity to sit here.

Right let’s wrap this the fuck up by talking about the acting. It’s god fuck awful. It’s not helped by the god fuck awful script either and when you combine these two aspects together what you get is dialogue delivered like the worst porno you’ve ever seen. They sound like they’re just getting through the lines because hey, no ones here for that, we just need to get to the hardcore fucking as quickly as possible. But you know what? There is no hardcore fucking! Goddamn it movie, if you’re going to star what seem like Z-grade porn stars and have a Z-grade porn-esque script you good at least deliver on the promise that those things suggest. Instead the money shot here is a dude sitting next to a box full of dynamite that explodes…. And he survives with wuite minor looking burns all things considered.

So was there anything good about this movie? Well there was a raccoon in it for a few seconds and raccoons are the greatest things evolution ever produced. Raccoons make all films bearable, right?

Oh right… I guess not.

Ok, well then I guess there’s nothing redeemable about this film. Literally nothing. And don’t get me wrong. I love bad films. I’ve probably watched ‘The Room’ more times than I’ve watched any other film in the past year but this… this isn’t a film. This is just a thing that probably shouldn’t exist. Having said that, it’s still better than watching a film by those fucktards Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer so I guess I have to give it that. Well done movie. Well done. Overall, I’m gonna give it a half pint out of five just for that raccoon. I can’t help it they rule. Seriously though, if you do ever accidentally watch this film, here’s a little song I wrote to help you through:

It’s only illegal,
If you get caught.

With that in mind, I bid you adieu. Laterz.

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