Scare Wars: slashers, home invasion, a musical, and an anthology

Knocked 5 more films off my must-see list…which, after I’ve completed the task of depleting it, I’m probably going to rename my “curious to see” list going forward…

THE DEAD INSIDE (2011)

dead inside 2011 cover

Director Travis Betz, who brought us the bizarre horror flick Joshua  and the horror musical Lo, does musical horror again with The Dead Inside.

dead inside hands

This isn’t as light and playful a musical as the opening number suggests. It’s actually quite a tragedy in the end and has a strong horror tone both in atmosphere and look. It focuses solely on one couple, which means a whole lot of duets.

The awesome Sarah Lassez (Mad Cowgirl, The Wicked Within, Lo, The Clown at Midnight) is a horror writer, and her man is a wedding photographer. Both are creatively burnt out. At first, the film seems to be bouncing between reality and her fictional zombie story as she writes.

dead inside zombies

But then she begins to change and the film gets very dark. She appears to be suffering from a mental disorder at first.

dead inside scissors

She becomes dangerous to others and herself, so the husband locks her in her room. He starts to suspect maybe she’s possessed. She keeps reverting back to the story she’s writing. They break into song.

dead inside male lead

There’s a lot going on in this 2-person show and the twists get even more complex as it progresses. It’s intriguing for sure, but it does get overly long after a while. And as with most horror musicals, the music doesn’t enhance the narrative for me personally.

Problem is, we’re not talking Rent here. Horror isn’t where I generally go to explore my inner feelings about other human beings or the human condition. Music moves my heart, horror stops it. Combining the two rarely works for me. I need a number as magical as “Suddenly Seymour” in between all the flesh eating, you know?

SCAREWAVES (2014)

scarewaves cover

The director of low budget Halloween slasher Babysitter Massacre returns with an anthology featuring a wraparound about a radio host who tells his own chilling stories after taking some calls that fail to impress.

scarewaves DJ

These are tales with Twilight Zone-esque twists, but overall, they don’t deliver enough punch to keep you riveted as they work towards their conclusions. Low budget in look and feel and loaded with female nudity, they bring to mind the direct-to-video days of the 80s.

1st story – While the story itself drags a bit, the horror ending makes this one my favorite. An artist paints naked female models…with a horrific, ulterior motive.

scarewave photog monster

2nd story – Greedy rednecks commit a robbery…and then turn on each other so they won’t have to split the money. It’s a “back from the dead” scenario that’s been done before, and much more effectively.

3rd story – This is a very repetitive tale of a crooked cop who shoots criminals regardless of how little threat they pose to him. He learns his lesson, but I didn’t quite understand who or what was teaching it to him…

scarewaves cop

4th story – A cheater tries to get his woman out of the way so he can be with his lover, but jealousy lives beyond the grave. Cliché but okay for a low budget rendition of the plot.

SUSPENSION (aka: Dead of Night) (2015)

suspension cover

Jeffery Scott Lando (Insecticidal, Boogeyman 2012, Haunted High, Goblin, House of Bones) manages to bring us a slasher that’s exhilaratingly brutal…yet mostly boring, tells a tale of cruel bullying…yet offers oddly dark moments to those that don’t deserve them, creates a narrative that is incredibly confusing…yet so blatantly obvious it’s ridiculous.

We meet a high school teen who is constantly mocked and bullied by her classmates because her dad was a serial killer who is now locked away, and she spends all her time drawing comics of him committing gruesome murders.

suspension drawing

She’s also kind of dumb. I mean, she knows these kids hate her, a chick approaches her in the hall and so obviously spills/tosses a drink all over her on purpose, and then drags her to the bathroom, claiming she’s going to help her clean it off. I’m not saying we should ever blame the victim, but it’s the dumb bitch’s fault her head ends up in a toilet bowl.

Anyway, her one friend decides to go to a party to hang out with all the cool kids, so she stays home and babysits her little brother. She also does a whole lot of horror drawing…pictures of her father escaping and coming home to kill some more. And it appears everything she draws actually happens…eventually.

suspension mask

There are a couple of scenes with the killer causing trouble around the girl’s house early on, but mostly significant happens until the last 20 minutes of the film, when everyone shows up at her house.

suspension killer hand

Then the slaughtering begins, and it’s good old school masked killer fun. But seriously, if you know horror and know reading comprehension, you can probably figure out the twist just from reading this blog.

KILL GAME (2017)

kill game cover

You know how the best slashers start—a prank gone horribly wrong. Well, in Kill Game, so many have gone wrong – on purpose – anyone could be the killer.

It’s quickly established that our core group of friends is a bunch of privileged, racist white assholes. How I long for the 80s, when white kids were cool, edgy new wavers.

Anyway, in high school they made a game out of playing really vicious “pranks” on classmates. And then they accidentally killed one. And they covered it up to make it look like an accident. Now someone in a mask is making them suffer horrible, painful deaths.

kill game guts

Initially, someone starts playing pranks on them. Then they start dying. It also turns out the kid they killed has an estranged twin brother who is suddenly back in town. He’s so fricking hot. But is he a killer?

kill game pretty boy machete

The kills are cruel and vicious, but there’s nothing scary or suspenseful here. It doesn’t help that this is one of those slasher flicks that is all over the map in the literal sense. These kids run around town trying to figure out whodunit. Lack of isolation or claustrophobic setting – a slasher killer for sure.

kill game killer

What I’ll remember most about Kill Game is the flashbacks of a naked guy with a rockin’ bod bound and dangling upside down. Well, that and the frustratingly inconclusive ending.

kill games fry guy

JACKALS (2017)

jackals cover

After this one, I think it’s time for home invasion films to just stop being a thing.

Kevin Greutert, director of Saw VI, Saw 3D: The Final Chapter, and Jessabelle, takes everything he learned…as the editor on The Strangers…to retell that story, I don’t know…his way?

jackals female mask

It’s 1983 (it’s irrelevant and doesn’t look like it), and Johnathon Schaech and Deborah Kara Unger (Dahlia in the Silent Hill movies) have hired Stephen Dorff to kidnap their son from the cult he has joined, bring him to a cabin in the woods, and deprogram him. Present for the fun is their son’s baby mama and baby, as well as their other son.

jackals cast

Masked cult members show up, standing out in the woods watching the cabin like something out of…The Strangers. Stephen Dorff goes out to, well, I’d say kick them off the property, but you can imagine what really happens.

jackals johnathan

Next, the family inside does absolutely nothing to prepare themselves to fight back once the cult members begin busting in, even though they have way more of a heads-up about what is going to go down any minute than the characters in The Strangers did. So honestly, I couldn’t give two shits when everything you can predict is going to happen (especially if you’ve seen The Strangers) begins happening.

jackals deborah kara unger

Jackals is a bit more vicious than The Strangers and the “good guys” are even dumber. That’s all I got.

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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