A traumatic trio from a 15-movie budget pack

I innocently sat down to make it through what I assumed would be the final 3 lame films crammed onto a multi-movie DVD set I bought for a single movie. Instead, I was disturbed by two of the titles and surprised (and relieved) that the final film I watched was a deliciously brutal slasher.

SPECK (2002)

 speck cover

Speck is little more than a re-enactment of a true crime – the murder of 8 nursing students and rape of one of them in 1966 by a man named Richard Speck. It’s unsettling thanks to strong performances, and we are offered a look at the killer’s backstory through voice-over narration of the killer’s “thought process.” However, there’s really nothing frightening here, and the “plot” becomes repetitive – Speck ties up all the women then takes them out of the room one by one to kill them. It’s essentially all that happens in this 75-minute film, which is more than long enough to get the point across.

speck victim

Speck is a good curiosity piece for those interested in real-life killers, offering the main details about the murders themselves with just one odd scene at a hospital after the murders.

speck victims

The kills aren’t overly exploitative. Even though they’re shown in slow motion for effect, they don’t dwell on gore or torture. The most vicious murders include an eye being gouged out and Speck stomping on one woman’s head.

speck eye

For me, what was most disturbing is that while the real Richard Speck looked like a freak-o killer/rapist, Doug Cole, the actor who plays him, is fucking hot and his presence is uncomfortably sexualized – he takes his shirt off various times, including right before he rapes his final victim. Thanks for making me feel real icky about myself, Speck.

speck bod

MEADOWOODS (2010)

meadowoods cover

I’m not a major fan of found footage and I’m definitely not a fan of “horror” movies about modern spoiled brats killing for kicks (All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, The Final), but damn did this movie get under my skin.

Meadowoods is unsettling and stomach-churning because it shows the harsh truths about how seemingly typical kids can just decide one day to commit a heinous crime against a random victim for no reason.

meadowoods kids

Some might think the footage leading up to the trio of friends in the movie committing a murder drags and that “nothing happens.” For me, it is a chilling journey that realistically details the calm, matter-of-fact premeditation, including the kids confessing to the camera why they want to kill, the “wheel of fortune” way they choose their victim, and their trip to a video store’s horror shelf looking for ideas on how to do the killing.

meadowood video store

Most upsetting is that we get to know the victim. She’s a classmate – an acquaintance – persuaded to do an interview with the kid manning the camera for a “class project.” The girl cast in the role of the victim is perfect, portraying a young woman who’s likable and sympathetic as she opens up about her life. It is a fictional reminder that in actual, sensationalized true crime stories, the casualties are real people with families, hopes, and dreams.

meadowood interview

That’s why it’s so much more heartbreaking when the trio puts its plan into action. Again, some might think that what they do to her goes on too long, but for me, it was hard to sit through because what was happening to her and how she reacted to it was so real I felt like I was there with her—that I could be her.

meadowoods victm abuse

There’s no bright side to the conclusion of this film – it is brutal and abrupt with no tidy ending and no “justice is served” moment. We already know what happens after these kinds of crimes are committed in real life.

FILTH TO ASHES, FLESH TO DUST (2011)

filth to ashes cover

Two years before the film The Purge even existed, this indie slasher gave its killer that name – and blows that piece of crap mainstream film out of the water.

filth to ashes intro

Filth to Ashes, Flesh to Dust opens strong, with women in a lair being terrorized and killed by…PURGE. He’s not deformed, he’s not muscle bound – he’s simply a large, imposing figure with seemingly superhuman strength fueled by anger and hate.

filth to ashes killer

Filth to Ashes is perfectly straightforward. A year later, a group of friends decides to take a trip to see Purge’s lair. But this film presents an uncomfortable dynamic. Notably racist tension exists in the mixed group of white, black, and Latino friends, setting this group apart from the usual slasher gang.

filth to ashes stalk

Purge, believed to be dead, is basically a madman determined to cleanse humanity of the “undesirables” – druggies, whores, and yes, people of color. He might as well be wearing a red “Make America Great Again” baseball cap.

filth to ashes newspaper

Once the kids arrive at Purge’s lair, no time is wasted in having him show up and attacking the group hard and fast. While no one is immune, it’s impossible to overlook that the black woman in the group gets particularly brutal treatment. Bianca Lemaire, the actress playing the role, really gets to show off her acting chops because she is relentlessly hit from all sides. You really want her to be the final girl.

filth to ashes main girl

As if the incredibly vicious killer isn’t enough to keep this one going, there’s a good cat & mouse chase sequence, and the film even avoids dumb character clichés, with friends getting their shit together and taking on the killer all at once.

filth to ashes main guy

This slasher even gets bonus points for casually working the line, “It’s Britney, bitch” into the plot. Definitely psyched Filth to Ashes, Flesh to Dust accidentally landed in my movie collection.

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES.

I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.

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