Two things are always a treat: 1) when the cover art for a streaming movie looks cheesy and all the reviews are awful, yet you still give it a chance and it’s actually kind of awesome, and 2) when you watch a slasher and the killer is some crazy chick instead of a crazy dude. So it’s safe to say I got a streaming double TREATure with these two films.
BLOOD WIDOW (2014)
It boggles my mind how negative people are about this movie online. Despite its main flaw – the lack of explanation as to the killer’s origins and motivation, Blood Widow delivers a tight slasher experience that rivals most of the direct-to-DVD crap that is pumped out these days, and to me personally, it absolutely avoids a low budget or amateurish look or feel.
Things start off great. A dude sneaks into an old house with a camera…and makes the mistake of going into the basement. He learns the hard way that finding a worktable covered in sharp weapons means losing a life to the steely sound of blades swiping through the dark.
We never learn that trespassing photographer’s story, which is a first sign of the underdeveloped script. Instead, we meet a young couple that has just bought the house next door. A group of friends visits and wanders over to Blood Widow’s house. Although they don’t encounter her, they cause just enough trouble while there to piss her off.
Once the big housewarming party starts, so do the kills, and they are a blast. Sleek, fresh, gory, brutal, and CGI-free, they are exactly what I want from a slasher. Blood Widow, wearing a tight leather dominatrix outfit and a blank white porcelain doll mask, uses plenty of weapons, but her most vicious is a cat o’ nine tails that appears to have either razor or hook tips. Eek.
Free of filler dialogue or unnecessary situations and clocking in at a smart hour and 20 minutes, the film keeps a steady pace, delivering some suspenseful moments and jump scares leading up to the friends locking themselves in the house to avoid a good whipping. But Blood Widow is quite resourceful, not to mention relentless in her attacks. There’s even a bit of torture thrown in, giving the main girl the chance to demonstrate her talent of letting out agonized screams.
A nice touch here is the fact that once the group sees Blood Widow outside the house, despite the nature of her outfit and her physical shape, they keep referring to her as a he, a reminder that it’s almost impossible for anyone to fathom a woman committing such heinous acts.
Also of note is the gay Asian guy whose sexuality is never directly addressed. His immediate snarky attitude is an obvious note to the audience that he’s gay, but he doesn’t have a partner and never expresses any desire for anyone at the party. However, there is a playful moment hinting at the unstated truth about his sexual orientation when a female seems to be trying to entice him into sex.
The most telling signs of his gayness come once Blood Widow shows up. For starters, he lets out genuine girlish screams every time he sees her (they’re not over-the-top or played for laughs). He’s also chicken shit smart—he knows to just get the fuck out of there and not be a hero. When it’s suggested that they should go back to save the main guy’s woman, his attitude is, “Fuck that, dude. She’s a goner and we need to get out of here and stop worrying about girls.” Fair warning–I’d do the same.
Throughout the film, director Jeremiah Buckhalt demonstrates a clear knowledge of what makes slashers tick and how to deliver the goods, hitting upon all the most crucial elements perfectly. So considering slashers really only need a simple background story letting us know why the killer is hacking people up and what led to the choice of mask, it is hard to believe Blood Widow fails to give any insight into either. There are some brief scenes of the main girl gathering clues (a diary, a conversation with the realtor, a doll she finds), but they end up being more apparent to her than us.
I have my own theory about Blood Widow’s backstory based on what little information we’re given, but plot holes poke through, way too many inexplicable situations occur in the final act, and Blood Widow is never unmasked so we don’t know what she’s hiding under there. The harsh, downer ending provides opportunity for a sequel, which is really the only solution to fix what’s wrong with the plot of Blood Widow. Based on how the film delivers as a slasher on all other counts, I’d definitely welcome it.
The poster art for Stalker on Amazon in the US is the worst, making it look like a no budget piece of shot-on-video crap slasher (the reason I watched it). The UK cover art is more keeping with what it really is – a taut film that is reminiscent of some of the best thrillers of the late 80s and early 90s (Fatal Attraction, Dead of Winter, Black Widow, Cape Fear remake, The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, etc.). And, it’s directed by actor Martin Kemp, who will always be a member of 80s new romantic band Spandau Ballet to me.
Stalker happens to be a remake of the 1976 film The House on Straw Hill, which some may know as either Trauma or Exposé. That film starred Udo Kier as a writer who comes to a secluded house to finish a novel and hires a woman to be his secretary/assistant. Hammer Films scream queen Linda Hayden, who played the part in that film, has a small role as the housekeeper in Stalker.
In Stalker, the writer is now a woman, which definitely changes the dynamics, as well as removing the sexual elements of the original—and giving a good reason to add a hot gardener.
Plus, the movie downplays the horror and gore, focusing instead on suspense. The general plot is also altered quite a bit so there’s something new to be found here even if you’ve seen the original.
Struggling with writer’s block, the author soon gets more help than she bargained for. The sweet, caring assistant turns psycho bitch, keeping the author captive and ghostwriting for her. You know where this is going.
Anyone who comes calling for the author doesn’t stand a chance. While, the body count is low, the kills are quite satisfying. Actress Jane March, who pretty much got her start in 90s thrillers starring opposite Bruce Willis in Color of Night, is fantastic here as the assistant with personalities on extreme opposites of the spectrum.
Her dark side is freaky good and makes the final scenes between she and the author intense. On top of that, there’s a twist that could be considered pretty unoriginal but still manages to come as a surprise and will totally be appreciated by fans of those 90s thrillers.