MY TAKE: SplatterFlix Film Series: Part 1

October 6, 2023 by Sandy Lerebours

Our Senior Director of Film, Jim Carl gives his take on horror films that have been in the SplatterFlix Film series.


Make a horror movie too artsy and it sits there on the screen, a boring Halloween decoration. Let it grow too gory and it becomes a study in clinical pathology.

SplatterFlix Film Series was inspired by fond memories of TV shows and cartoons from my childhood involving creepy crawlies and ghastly ghouls, like “Scooby Doo, Where Are You?” which mesmerized me as a child. There are a few updates to reflect modern sensibilities. The characters in these movies are now sometimes possessed by Satan.  Although people die, they usually come back as flesh-eating zombies or vengeance-seeking vigilantes. And I don’t recall Scooby encountering a scene where a scientist performs an experiment that turns a baboon inside-out, or a madman buries an axe into Scatman Crothers’s chest cavity, but times change.

The thing is, lots of horror movies are actually quite good at providing a complicated motive for existing as if they’re thrilled to throw a party and want us to have as much fun as possible, which is a good thing since some other genres, like superhero movies, are nowadays acting like they’re at an all-night bender and can’t wait for us to leave.

There is a formula for these types of pictures—time-honored cliches which propel the story and pull us along.  Many horror movies seem to believe we’re here for human drama rather than watching people die in gruesome ways. If they would only follow the formula, many horror pictures might be a lot more fun.

All of the films below are playing at this year’s SplatterFlix. If you want to read about others that have played in past editions, or are promised to appear in future ones, then check out “Part 2: The Sequel,” my continuation of this blog which my editor should publish in the next week or two, if not sooner, due to the inevitable popularity of this one.

 

AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION (1982)

In the first picture, the house actually tells its new occupants to “Get Out!” and they don’t leave immediately. No such omens greet the family in this second movie, but the house is no less ornery. It takes place in one of those oceanfront neighborhoods where dead leaves blow in the wind, dark clouds loom on the horizon, a kid’s choir sings lullabies in the background, and there’s always a 99% chance of fog. This isn’t one of those pictures that teases us with a slow first act and promises thrills to come. Nope, it’s a brutal kick-in-the-teeth from the opening minutes, which can be jarring in more serious pictures, but is the savior of films like this one. The opening credits are barely finished before crucifixes are flying off walls, unseen forces are knocking at the front door, and the cast is sweaty and out of breath from sprinting to stay in frame with the camera, which is jet-propelling down hallways, up stairwells and ceilings, around corners, and even flipping upside-down like an out-of-control Tilt-a-Whirl. We’re so busy marveling at the technical craftsmanship on display, we forget why it matters to the story.

 

ATTACK OF THE BEAST CREATURES (1985)

It’s gory, violent, and funny, all at once, and is a throwback to simpler times when pictures lived by their practical effects; and surprisingly, this film does not skimp on the gore. There are many truly disgusting and unsettling moments of carnage, including one inspired sequence that begins with a character stepping into a lake of acid and ends in a bloody operation that looks like what you do to a Halloween pumpkin before the candle goes in. If only the filmmakers had offered us the obligatory scene of a screaming victim tied to a stake, I might have given it a Centerpiece timeslot.

 

DUDE BRO PARTY MASSACRE III (2015)

Imagine if the shirtless bros from the volleyball scene of “Top Gun” were given a camera, lots of straight razors, a bucket of blood, told to act terrified and pretend they’re in a horror movie, and this is what you might get. It’s set in a fraternity house named Delta Bi and its cast is jampacked with attractive young actors in tight muscle shirts, including Greg Sestero. It’s the type of picture where the boys always seem to be losing their clothes without motivation, except when the script says so—and there’s always a fresh clean T–shirt lying around, just out of camera frame, even in the killer’s lair. I’m so relieved the filmmakers allowed nothing like restraint or the Bechdel Test to stand in their way, launching themselves straight into the deep end of the pool, filling this movie with all kinds of sight gags, one-liners, gory deaths, pratfalls, and homoerotic housecleaning music montages. I especially liked Samantha, the only female character, who’s a man-crazy, brownie-baking, blonde housewife-in-waiting whom all the bros hate. “It’s me, Todd’s girlfriend!” she exclaims, climbing through the fraternity window. “No, you’re not! Todd doesn’t have a girlfriend!” the men shriek back. “He’s still discovering himself!” When the script calls for the bros to reflect on a horrible fraternity prank-gone-wrong that resulted in a dam bursting and flooding a country town, killing all its citizenry, the picture doesn’t just give us an underwater miniature set or two. It gives us trampled Barbie Dream Houses as cabins and decapitated Star Wars action figures as corpses. If this is not your brand of humor, this picture is not for you. You know who you are.

 

FRIDAY THE 13th (1980)

Thanks to this picture, everyone on Earth now knows if you plan on going to summer camp, plan on it being the last thing you ever do. It’s set in one of those horror movie campgrounds with no means of communication, littered with ramshackle wooden architecture, and lit by a thunderstorm which is always on its way. Meanwhile back in the cabins, the guidance counselors are either having sex or playing Strip Monopoly. “You’re doomed.  You’re all doomed!” says the town crazy, not unreasonably. It’s a cute idea for a horror movie, and maybe that’s why we’ve seen this particular idea so many times.

 

ISLAND CLAWS (1980)

This story is familiar to anyone: A tiny coastal fishing village is overrun by giant mutant killer crabs who eat human flesh and roar; created by that all-purpose 20th Century villain, the nuclear power plant. It’s highly doubtful that a tiny fishing village like this one needs its own nuclear power plant for energy, but what the hell. I can’t fault a picture that gives us a timely subplot about Haitian refugees and a 1000-lb animatronic crab. Although they’re usually intended to clean up the sea bottom by harvesting decomposing plants and animal matter, the crabs in this movie have now expanded their aquatic duties to decompose all forms of life, but mostly the human kind. Thanks to this picture, I now know that a bunch of crabs is called a consortium. (Note: If my editor truly believed in my writing, they wouldn’t make me learn these new words as a fallback.)

 

PSYCHO II (1983)

If you’re going to make a wholly unnecessary sequel to a great, undisputed classic, like “Psycho,” the least you can do is bring back old pros, like Anthony Perkins and Vera Miles, write them some hammy dialogue and give them a decent twist-filled script, then watch them walk into almost any scene and make it seem like it’s as good as the original, which this picture almost is. Perkins’ performance is aided mightily by the fact this his character, Norman Bates, is a taxidermist, which is an occupation that comes in handy when you’re a graverobber. As everyone knows, a boy’s best friend is his mother and Norman has an unusual Oedipus Complex, a plot device much beloved by horror movie screenwriters. Honestly, I have no idea what horror movie screenwriters did for plots before Sigmund Freud came along and gave them material.

PS: My editor informed me that this blog should be limited to 10 movies. “No more than 10,” they emailed me. Of course, I wrote 13, and that’s why this blog is coming to you in two parts. Like Disney, I believe in overkill.


JIM CARL is Senior Director of Film at the Carolina Theatre. He has been in charge of its film program since 1995. Some of his favorite horror movies include “The Manitou,” “Prophecy” (1979), and “Ghost Story.” He loves slasher films and will watch anything involving killer fish, underwater monsters, animals-gone-wild, or is set in a coastal fishing village. His favorite horror movies of all time are John Carpenter’s “The Fog” and “The Legacy.”  His favorite horror movie franchise is “Final Destination.” Some of his least-favorite horror movies include “The Descent,” “Doctor Sleep,” “The Babadook,” and almost anything described as “elevated horror.” His least-favorite horror movie franchise is “Saw.” He is a firm believer in the presentation of pictures that are fun and entertaining (and sometimes scary) and will book any movie he suspects will make money, even if he hates it, except for “The Babadook.”