Who’s behind that mask?

It’s time for a trio of newer indie slashers with killers in masks, and one of them has a queer main character.

DARK WINDOWS (2023)

A group of friends goes to a cabin in the woods to unwind and is soon stalked by someone in a mask. It’s a tale as old as slasher films, but with only three friends in the group, this one plays out more like a very slow burning home invasion film.

The group is feeling guilty over the death of a friend, and we know it involved them all in a car accident. There are people at the funeral who are hateful towards the friends, so blame is being tossed around…as are possible killer suspects.

When the trio gets to the cabin, the main girl learns they invited the boyfriend of the dead friend, who feels like she’s responsible for his girlfriend’s death, but he doesn’t arrive anytime soon.

Meanwhile, there’s some good atmosphere, the internet goes out, and the lights go out. The main girl is also convinced she keeps hearing the voice of the dead friend.

31 minutes in there’s a classic sign that someone else is in the house, but the first hour is mostly all talk with little horror substance.

The invasion by someone in a mask and hoodie doesn’t kick in until the last half hour. It’s a long time to wait to get there, but the third act is definitely strong. There are tense, suspenseful conflicts with the person in the mask, but don’t expect a body count, because there are barely any living bodies to begin with. The violence and last minute kills more than make up for that though. This one is definitely worth checking out for the finale.

FOUNDERS DAY (2023)

This slasher is a political satire emblematic of what’s going on in the U.S. today…people who will do anything to be in power, including kissing the ass of the most vile people to get there, as well as people turning a blind eye to immoral behavior if it means they can advance their own political career. That’s why you need to just watch this one for the awesome and brutal death scenes—because reality bites.

The movie is way too long at 106 minutes. Should’ve been 90 minutes. It begins on Halloween (yay!) but after the first kill it quickly moves on to the days before a local mayoral election. We meet all the townsfolk, who are painted as if they could either be the killer or the next victim, because they’re mostly all awful. Unfortunately, as much as this is one big red herring cast of characters, you’re still likely to guess the identity of the killer.

Our main girl is a Black lesbian (awesome), and the killer is dressed in a judge costume and uses a gavel with a knife in the handle as the main weapon. The plot revolves around the fact that the incumbent mayor wants to continue with the political festivities despite murder coming to the small town, while the challenger thinks they need to take the threat seriously.

And so, the murders continue as way over-the-top characters give us every reason to want them all dead. Therefore, the kill scenes are so satisfying.

It’s the final act where everything just falls apart as the movie attempts to outdo even the most convoluted Scream denouements.

There are way too many twists and turns, and the plot jumps through hoops to try to explain itself, bombarding us with flashbacks of what really happened behind the killer scenes that we didn’t witness. I’m telling you, just watch it for the kills.

SLAUGHTERHOUSE ON THE HILL (2024)

This one is basically an indie love letter to both Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Slaughterhouse, with a large killer wearing a pig head stalking and killing a group of friends in an old abandoned farmhouse.

Thing is, this group of friends is like a bunch of GenXers. They are at a high school football game, of which there is way too much footage to pad the already short runtime of 75 minutes, and lamenting that they’re past their prime. As much as the dialogue and acting are harsh reminders of this being a low budget effort, their longing for the teen years is something a lot of older viewers can probably identify with.

The runtime is also padded with the group getting to the house and talking about partying without actually partying. When they finally do party, we get not one but two montages set to EMO tracks by Bruce Wayne’s Day Off and Evolove from the early 2000-teens. So maybe this is a group of millennials?

Anyway, there’s very little action because the group mostly sticks together instead of splitting up…a necessity if you’re going to have any sense of slasher pacing.

However, this is where the movie gets props. First, when the kills finally hit, they are all practical effects, and it’s deliciously bloody, gory, and macabre. And second, when one couple (they’re all straight) starts getting frisky, this daddy with a white beard gets a few nipple squeezes from his girl, and he doesn’t complain.

Plus, the murder scene is sexy sleazy disgusting. Awesome.

Topping it off, there are some nasty dismemberment scenes, a sewing body parts together scene (which doesn’t hold any meaning), and a flashback that involves a prison rape and is a significant plot point. Interesting.

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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