Lessons in horror from the new millennium

I’m a big fan of cutie Justin Urich—Robert Urich’s nephew and the obnoxious character in one of my favorite horror movies: Monster Man, which I blog about here. So when I went looking for his “101” teen slasher in my horror collection, I could not find Serial Killing 101 anywhere. It was simply gone from my collection.

justin 1Justin Urich.

But actually, it wasn’t. Because it was never in my collection. See, Serial Killing 101 is an alternate name for Justin’s 2004 movie Serial Killing 4 Dummys. The DVD I actually had is Justin’s 2001 film Horror 101—as a double feature with the 2004 sequel Horror 102: Endgame, which doesn’t star Justin. Confused? So was I. So I quickly snagged a copy of Serial Killing 4 Dummys (aka: Serial Killing 101) and decided to sort it out in a blog.

SERIAL KILLING 4 DUMMYS (2004)

serialkilling 101 coverIt’s hard to believe this dark horror comedy came out in 2004 because everything about it screams the 1990s. Justin’s character is a goth type high schooler and he’s a big fan of Marilyn Manson (I guess we just didn’t have any big goth freak role models in the new millennium). He cozies up to a cute yet morbid fellow classmate, played by 90s one-hit-wonder Lisa Loeb (who was in her 30s while playing this 17-year old). Plus references include things like the Jenny Jones show and psychic phone networks. Holy flashbacks.

serial killing 101 justinJustin is obsessed with serial killers and often has daydreams about performing gory slaughters. When he does a career paper about becoming a serial killer, his teacher isn’t happy, but it catches the attention of Lisa, who befriends him. Together, they decide to make Justin a serial killer. But Justin can’t get up the nerve. However, someone has, because dead bodies start turning up and Justin is the prime suspect.

serial killing 101 lisaSerial Killing 4 Dummys basically takes Scream from the perspective of the would-be teen killer and throws in a clever little twist. Justin and Lisa are adorable together and Justin delivers some fun comic lines—for instance, when he’s given a Rorschach test, his responses to what he sees on consecutive images is “The Blob. The Blob 2.” I’m so going to use that when I eventually get tossed in the loony bin.

serial killing 101 teacherAnother highlight of the film is Thomas Haden Church (aka: Sandman from Spider-Man 3) as the militant gym teacher who regularly harasses and puts down Justin, taking constant jabs at his masculinity. So it’s delicious when Justin slaps an “All American cocksucker” bumper sticker on the teacher’s van, getting him unwanted attention from two pretty boy students.

While the film is fun and playful, it just doesn’t deliver enough of a horror or comedy punch. In fact, the body count is quite low and doesn’t even begin into well into the movie, while the humor is intermittent rather than quick and steady. Plus, the plot tends to be all over the place, simply stringing scenes together, which drags down the pacing. A prime example would be when Justin goes to a hardware store to buy supplies for his arson of serial killer weapons and the clerk is Corey Feldman, dressed as a geek with ridiculous fake buck teeth and eye glasses. His appearance is neither funny nor necessary.

Actually, the Corey Feldman scene is pretty much the low point in an otherwise fairly entertaining film. I’d highly recommended it to those nostalgic for post-Scream era teen flicks and looking for one they missed the first time around.

HORROR 101 (2001)

horror 101 coverJustin Urich stars as a college student in some sort of serial killer psych class alongside cutie Josh Holland, who was in the classic gay film The Fluffer. The teacher is none other than Bo Derek. I had such high hopes for this one, which promises to be a suspenseful whodunit….

A class of students meets one night in school to present their finals to their professor…but Bo never shows. And then students go missing. And the lights go out. And Justin, who brought a bag dripping red stuff as part of his final, goes missing…as does the bag. But then Justin keeps popping up and acting weird and suspicious as the kids split up and walk all over the school looking for those missing. And there are vicious Dobermans roaming around the school.

horror 101 justin

NO ONE DIES. This is not a slasher. It’s just a missing kids movie. In fact, it ALMOST has an April Fool’s Day twist, but then suddenly, well…everyone finds themselves in a fatal predicament. Atrocious “shocker” ending. What a shame. Because actress Brigetta Dau, who also appeared in Retro Puppet Master, plays a great ditz and has the best (and only) comic moment in the film, in which she reads her report of the 10 reasons why women are never serial killers.

HORROR 102: ENDGAME (2004)

horror102 coverJustin bows out of this sequel, but Michael Moon, one of the other guys from the first movie, is back, playing a completely different character.

A bunch of college kids comes to an abandoned insane asylum for their class final…but the professor never shows (sound familiar?). But this time, one chick is into witchcraft, there’s a creepy caretaker, one student is acting all manic paranoid, and it appears there are ghosts roaming the halls.

horror 102 goreAND, this IS A SLASHER! Wahoo! Cheap and cheesy perhaps, but there are kills and gore and a killer in a hoodie. There’s even a killer twist and a twist concerning the supernatural shit. This is the closest to a traditional post-Scream era direct-to-video cash-in slasher of these three films. Only thing it’s missing is…Justin Urich!

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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