Each of the films in my latest marathon of movies has some slasher elements, but they don’t follow the most obvious formula. Let’s take a look.
FEAR STREET PART 3: 1666 (2021)
The trilogy comes to a close with the longest film in the bunch, which is also partially a period piece, so I assumed on two counts that I was going to like it the least. This fricking installment ended up being my favorite because unlike the first two, it remained focused on the plot.
The film begins in the 1600s to give us the witch backstory, with many of the actors from the first two installments in roles in the past. Take my opinion about horror movies from where it’s coming—I’ve been watching this shit for five decades, so the fact that this segment borrows generously from The Crucible and the actual witch hysteria in Salem in 1692 adds to the been there done that feeling I was getting.
However, the plot shines when it takes on its own twist as the 1600s plot concludes in order to take us back to 1994. At last, the kids in the 1990s have a grasp on what they need to do, making for a fantastic final act with the kids and the killers in the mall. And the nod to Fear Street books at the end totally rocks.
Not to mention, it becomes clear this funny dude should have had a larger role in the first film…
As I could have predicted from the very first film when we were introduced in flashes to various killers from over the years, I do feel the trilogy blew a golden opportunity to make the first two installments slasher anthologies instead of excessively long single story slashers. Considering each killer seems so cool, I want to know more about their backstories (think the Thir13en Ghosts remake). I would have loved to have had part 1 and part 2 each feature three short tales focusing on one of the killer’s stories and time period in a trajectory that takes us from 1666 to 1994. Especially since I personally found the other killers much more compelling than the two generic killers we contended with for nearly two hours each. Come on. A skeleton mask and yet another sack head killer? Really?
Like I said, five decades…
THE EMPTY MAN (2020)
When The Empty Man showed up on HBO, I didn’t even know it existed, so I was all excited to have a surprise horror flick tossed my way on a Saturday night. I was, however, horrified that it was 2 hours and 20 minutes long.
The intro sequence is totally awesome, but honestly, after 140 minutes, I have no idea how it was supposed to relate in any way to the rest of the film. It involves a handful of young people mountain climbing, finding an empty house for shelter after one of them is hurt, and then experiencing some really creepy supernatural shit.
Then we meet our main man, a sexy ex-detective turned security salesman. There are signs he is grieving from a loss, and he has a special relationship with a woman and her teenage daughter. Then the daughter goes missing and a message from The Empty Man is left behind…
The main man begins an investigation into The Empty Man legend, and for a while this feels like an early 2000s supernatural slasher, with a group of kids finding a bottle on a bridge (that I’m pretty sure is the same bridge the kid gets chased on in My Soul to Take), blowing on it, and then summoning The Empty Man. Wouldn’t it be easier to just look in a mirror and call Bloody Mary or Candyman instead? Plus, who the fuck wants to get COVID from blowing into a used bottle right before The Empty Man gets them?
Sure, the kids die off, but this isn’t about them. It’s about the main man’s investigation, and the way it unfolds reminds me very much of The Ring. However, in that film we’re drawn into layers of Samara’s backstory as Naomi Watts investigates, but The Empty Man details just don’t come as fast nor are they as intriguing for a majority of this film.
That being said, what does work here are the suspense and scare scenes. In between the uninspired investigation, there are some fantastically eerie and atmospheric horror sequences the main man gets drawn into. If there had only been a way to tighten up all those failed exposition scenes, this would have been a total winner. There are definitely shadows of other films sprinkled throughout, but none are glaring enough to make this feel like a copycat of any one movie, and the conclusion definitely breaks from typical expectations. That’s a nice surprise for sure, but it leaves us with more questions than answers.
BLOOD PI (2020)
Blood Pi is the low budget slasher of this bunch, and it grabbed my attention because the description references it taking place at Halloween. I’ll give it a spot on the holiday horror page since the plot has college kids going from one costume party to another during football season with orange lights strung around, but the holiday doesn’t get any kind of recognition or love here, and there isn’t a pumpkin in sight.
After an opening kill scene, we meet our main college girls and their gay BFF—who in his initial appearance seems like an extreme caricature.
This isn’t your usual slasher, for we know who the killer is all along—a redhead girl at odds with the popular sorority while also Single White Femaling a nerdy girl.
She’s a damn psycho who indiscriminately starts killing people as she hits up one party after another like everyone else, and the actress rules in the role.
The first part of the film has plenty of your standard cheesy partying, socializing, and dancing scenes as the conflicts of the main characters are established, but later on, the psycho girl gets things going with some nice and gory kills, teaching sleazy guys some serious lessons.
She really amps things up with an axe in the final act, and the gay guy comes back on the scene in a major way and vindicates himself with some quite humorous moments.
Naturally, that lands this one on the does the gay guy die? page.
THE DARK MILITARY (2019)
It’s another Halloween horror movie without a pumpkin in sight. This one is about a group that calls themselves “the dark military”, and they’re doing a live streaming show on Halloween in which the contestants think they are just contestants…
I was so feeling the beginning of the movie as a group of fun-loving, likable characters is introduced, waiting to get on a bus to be whisked a way to an undisclosed location. It had a total late 90s/early 2000s teen horror vibe.
Once they’re dropped off in a field, guys and a few women dressed in black and wearing black masks start hacking and slashing! The contestants run into the woods and the chase is on. At the same time, scenes of viewers and the cops watching the footage are interspersed, and even grown up Andy from the Child’s Play series has a cameo.
The film repeatedly sets up scenes promising torture and gore, but is surprisingly tame, and most of the masked baddies aren’t all that menacing, because they tend to get into wars of words with the feisty contestants. There are some funny moments, but nothing is particularly suspenseful or frightening here. And in the end, it turns into a death match as the baddies and the contestants get into a melee battle.
It had its moments, but The Dark Military isn’t thrilling enough to stand out from similar films. It also makes the massive mistake of lapsing into a moment of anti-gay shit. The baddies catch a couple, their leader calls the guy a faggot, one of the female baddies lures the girl into kissing her with the promise of sparing her (of course the guys take a break from killing to watch), and then the female baddie starts beating her to a pulp while furiously calling her a dyke. When are filmmakers going to learn that this stupidity can isolate a segment of the horror audience? Sure it can be argued that these types of immoral people would say shit like that in real life, but a) if these types of people would say shit like this about gay people, chances are they would also make racist remarks towards the non-white contestants, and that doesn’t happen, and b) when making art, you can either lead the conversation or follow—you don’t have to put anti-gay shit in your movie at all. It does nothing to further your plot.