Witness in the Dark (1959)
Wolf Rilla is better known these days for his Village of the Damned, but this short true horror from a year before is mostly forgotten, despite having a recent renaissance on Talking Pictures. In a way, it predates Wait until Dark and Hush, in that we are presented with a blind person and a murderer.
Patricia Dainton plays the lead, Jane, with believable vulnerability and intelligence. You might recall her from 1950s cult British horror The House in Marsh Road, but her career (on the evidence) unfairly fizzled out before recent reappraisal in her late 80s - she is still with us. A desperate man kills the old lady upstairs, but thinks he is seen by Jane, only to realize she is blind in a tense moment on the stairs. He failed to get the treasure he was after, and sure enough but the neighbours blab to him in the pub that the old lady bequeathed it to our Jane, who is now intended victim of a killer she can't see. Being 1950s British, a lot of the horror relies in tension and offscreen antics, but Nigel Green fills the murderer with a brooding intensity which illuminates the screen. Conrad Philips also appears as a reliable (and intelligent) police officer. This wont frighten you, but its very well made, has three strong performances, some nice camera work, and is a decent hour spent.
The Last Showing (2014)
Robert Englund is having the absolute ball here. Which is just as well, as every one acts like a ¤¤¤¤ing idiot. It's like a game, who gets to be the daftest sod? The manager? Allie? Her would be boyfriend? I suppose that says something about the horror films being spoofed. But really, this Englund's time to play a creepy cinema dude, and he can play that sort of role in his sleep.
Hey it's Robert Englund, this should be good. He's playing creepy old guy in a swamp. You ever think he might be typecast. He's also the spitting image of my wife's uncle these days. Did anyone see Englund in the Donald Pleasance role in Behind the Mask? I loved that. I was the only person who did.
Oh wait... Freddie's lost his head.
There was me thinking "another horror film that relies on a bunch of naked women" for no real reason when one of the characters turns round and says "Aren't you tired of all the breasts?" I laughed.
Then the Candyman shows up, with a story of dread on the swamp that ends in him getting sued for negligence, a laugh out loud reveal that reminds me of "no, a crocodile bit my damn arm off" from Happy Gilmore.
This seems to set the scene for Hatchet. Talk up the cliches of exploitation horror, as an excuse to show even more of it. The gore in the early kills is OTT to the point even Tarantino would go "Yo, too much gore",
Elsewhere Richard Riehle is one of those actors who has been in so many things that you recognise the face by osmosis, over 350 film/tv credits with another dozen in production according to I Am Da Bee.
Even the weird old man trope is played for laughs, as instead of being mystic and cryptic, the dude loudly yells "Don't go into the swamp, Victor Crowley is back" and no one listens or hears him over the boat engines. A boat with... 2 main characters, the female lead (you can tell that because she's shy and quiet), the stars of a softcore porn which goes badly wrong, an inexperienced tour guide who isn't as funny as Tony Todd, and the old couple who are hilariously out of place.
"The police are going to send the cops. They're the same thing!"
"No, they're not."
She might be the troped dumb blonde in this tale, but in instantly trying to phone the police - there's no reception - she proves far more sensible and intelligent than her counterpart in "serious" horror films.
Somehow, despite being mostly awful, this film is flying past, time wise.
Main female lead Marybeth is daughter of Freddie. Actually, that's a different film idea entirely... Meanwhile, Ben is going on about being dumped by his childhood sweetheart so much I'm surprised folk aren't willingly letting Crowley bump them off to escape. Come to think of it, that would explain some of them. It's not the idiot ball, it's suicide to get away from that guy! Even Marvin the Paranoid Android would tell this guy to chill.
A serial killer was born one day when his dad accidentally killed him with a hatchet. Yes, accidentally. Seriously. Hang on, all the traditional roles in the slasher film are gender swapped here. Marybeth is the hero, Ben is the designated survivor (who can die in a twist, depending on the film), the girls are more resourceful than you'd assume at first glance, and Marcus is the sex mad easily distracted friend with slight self awareness. (Although yeah, that opens up another can of worms entirely..) The guys are playing the roles traditional thrown to the women and vice versa. So perhaps this film is actually far more clever than it's pretending to be.
Man, there's no kill like overkill in this thing. Reihle's dead, and off to film an episode of Murder She Wrote or ER or whatever was still on at the time.
"You shot him, but he's a ghost, I thought you can't shot a ghost!"
Again, point well made.
Aforementioned blonde asks what the number for 911 is, potentially ruining all the credit I was giving her as a character. Then she dies. Then everyone dies. Gore everywhere. I think I died watching, I lost count.
The film is bonkers, and bollocks but surprisingly fun too.