Pledge, Skeletons in the Closet, and Alien Party Crashers delivered a good variety of horror subgenres, and I found something to like about each of them, but only one of them may end up in my DVD collection.
I was a fan of the werewolf flick Uncaged, so I assumed things should turn out okay when I realized the same director made this film, which was already in my watch list because…well…it’s a movie called Pledge with a paddle in the artwork.
It’s exactly what you would probably imagine.
A group of geeks is rejected at a big frat party, but then a pretty girl invites them to another party at a house in the middle of nowhere.
They are welcomed by a bunch of frat boys, and soon they are being brutally and gruesomely hazed. There’s undeniably a whole lot of torture—including a redo of the rat in a bucket scene from the 1983 film Epitaph, but not exactly much story.
You just keep waiting for the geeks to turn the tables…which should have happened sooner so the film could have had more focus on action and suspense rather than torture.
The reveals and twists in the final act definitely rescue the film from solidifying itself as nothing more than torture porn, and the virtually all male cast lands this one on my sausage fest scares page.
SKELETONS IN THE CLOSET (2018)
An indie anthology so schizo, choppy, and non-linear that I was almost guaranteed to be totally annoyed by it…which probably means the filmmakers are brilliant, because it’s those very things that kept me watching.
At first, this seems to be your usual anthology formula. A babysitter and the bratty girl she’s watching sit down to watch a horror anthology series on TV…
…that has a pretty blonde and a funny skull head horror host pair…that seems to be commenting on a horror anthology with a wraparound about a babysitter and a little girl…
Trippy! This one really keeps you on your toes, never knowing exactly what you’re watching as you are bombarded with disjointed scenes, short films, wraparounds within wraparounds, and commercial breaks, including a movie marathon ad featuring clips from a bunch of black and white horror films, as well as some clips of 80s pop culture references like Ronald Regan and an aerobics class. Even the wraparounds poke fun at the jumpy presentation.
The movie smartly doesn’t try to take place in the 80s, instead just perfectly capturing the feel of VHS era anthologies. There’s a hint of Halloween décor outside at the beginning, but there is no follow through with the theme, so this can’t be considered a holiday horror flick.
Meanwhile, between all the insanity, at least three specific tales do come forward:
1st story – one of the creepiest “scary granny” stories I’ve seen, this one has a stylized scene near the end that would have destroyed me if I had seen this film as a kid. It did a number on me as a semi-adult.
2nd story – a short one with a classic anthology story zinger twist, this tale sees a bound woman in a basement fighting back.
3rd story – two dudes encounter a masked killer in a junkyard in this gory entry. It becomes a rockin’ action flick when they fight back.
And in keeping with the round and round structure of the rest of the film, the wraparound can’t quite determine how to wrap things up. Classic.
ALIEN PARTY CRASHERS (aka: Canaries) (2017)
It’s odd holiday horror that has a lot going for it, with some standout moments, but it just never quite comes together as it heads towards an open-ended conclusion that simply demands a sequel this probably won’t get.
A government group is monitoring a time travel alien invasion problem, which complicates what is otherwise a straightforward horror flick about a New Year’s Eve party crashed by murderous alien life forms in human bodies. It becomes distracting each time a scene relating to this government group interrupts the action at the party.
A cute DJ with a nice bod is hosting a party with a handful of friends.
The tone seems to be going for humor, but it’s just not quite funny enough and lacks the correct timing to deliver the laughs. And when it does, it’s because the lines come from a gay character who pretty much steals the show. He’s not what you’ve been programmed to expect from a gay character in any way, he fights back big time rather than play the victim, and he drops some good 90s references. And of course, he lands this movie on my die, gay guy, die! page.
It takes a while for the action to start, but once it does it keeps coming. The “alien” people, who look like zombies from the neck up, are all in yellow raincoats with long fingernails that look like they are attached to gloves even though they are actually supposed to have grown out of their fingers.
Originally the film was called “Canaries” based on this look, but I guess beaks would have been kind of crucial if they wanted to go with that title…
There are some good suspense moments and some great gore, but the sound mixing felt raw. In essence it was more in keeping with how it would really sound if, for instance, you had a fight with a humanesque being in a kitchen, but it did make you realize why movies don’t go for realistic sound. Realism just doesn’t have that oomph. And speaking of realism, the big cool claws lost their oomph because they do like claws attached to gloves…rubber claws. The horror just didn’t quite hit the intensity needed to really keep me on the edge of my seat, despite the potential it had.
Finally, I have to give a nod to all the songs used by the band Le Cassette. I immediately scored a copy of their only album and will be playing a whole lot of their modern new wave sound on my Future Flashbacks show.