Legacy of Blood
A Comprehensive Guide to Slasher Movies
By Jim Harper (Headpress)
by John Bikowski
Want an easy cheesy way to make some dough in the film business? Grab a bunch of hard-bodied teens and lose them in the woods and slice ’em up “one-by-one” style. Is there good dialogue, you say? Screw it. What is the plot, you ask? What the hell is wrong with you, I already gave away the plot. And besides, we’ve got gore and boobies, and your rental money. Unfortunately, this has become the way of it for slasher films. But that wasn’t always the case. The slice’n’dice genre was built by some true classics, and every so often, a true gem pops up. Legacy of Blood celebrates both ends of the spectrum and reminds us of some of the more obscure films that may’ve been unjustly overlooked by today’s audiences.
The first 60 pages offer a complete background on slashers. The history begins with Bava’s Blood and Black Lace and runs through the more obvious groundbreakers Halloween and Friday the 13th. There’s a bit on the gradual demise of the genre in the late ’80s, and the subsequent rebirth in the mid-’90s. Many of the featured films have certain running themes and conventions. Some of these characteristic strands are highlighted, such as the role of the heroine, the style of the killer, the location of the story, and the role of parents and authority figures.
The most enjoyable part of the book is the 120 pages of horror film reviews. Scattered amongst the more obvious slashers are some cool little films that I probably wouldn’t have remembered. Here are some interesting tidbits you can find within. Alone In the Dark (1982): A squadron of psychos flees the loony bin to hunt and kill their doctor and his family. Black Christmas (1974): One of the creepiest films ever where a nut ruins the holidays with rampant mutilation and scary-ass phone calls. Cheerleader Camp (1987): Cheesy but sexy horror-spoof with none other than porn hottie Teri Wiegel and old school hottie Leif Garrett. Cutting Class (1989): Brad Pitt plays the high school hero on the trail of a killer. Final Terror (1983): Sexy and sophisticated Rachel Ward and Daryl Hannah play potential victimettes stranded in the woods with a disgruntled stalker. Happy Birthday to Me (1981): Cute little Melissa Sue Anderson could be a nut who mangles her childhood “top ten” for ditching her party. Well-known for the Shish-ka-bob force-fed through some guy’s face. Hell Night (1981): Plucky Linda Blair is a sorority babe locked in a mansion with fellow pledge victims who’re hunted by a murderous duo of anti-social ugly folk. Hospital Massacre (1981): Some killings and lots of Barbie Benton’s breasts: Win/win. The House on Sorority Row (1983): A mutant child grows up in secrecy, he sees his momma murdered by some college gals and goes on a kill-happy revenge vacation. Look for the swell decapitated head in the toilet scene. Intruder (1988): A disgruntled supermarket owner decides to off all of the employees locked in for the evening. If you get the unrated cut, you get some of the sickest scenes ever filmed. Especially juicy is the scene with the squirming guy held down as a band saw slowly blasts through his face: Teeth, lips, blood exploding all over. Nasty. Maniac (1980): Joe Spinell has a weird mother fixation, which is only satisfied by hacking up beauties. He then dresses up mannequins in the bloody clothing and hair so he can sleep with them. Show-stopping gore effects provided by Tom Savini. People are scalped, stabbed, and blown into raspberry Jell-O by a shotgun. Throw in super-hot Caroline Munro and you have a sleaze classic. The Mutilator (1983): College stalk’n’slash notable for extremely graphic murders and for having the survivors disembowel the killer. Get the unrated version. The New York Ripper (1982): Italian director Lucio (Zombie) Fulci tries to appeal to the Americans with his style of down’n’dirty sex and graphic violence. I found the film appealing except for one annoying thing: The killer quacks like a spastic duck. What the hell was Fulci thinking? Just try not to squirm during the razor blade through the nipple scene. Pieces (1981): Some of the worst acting and bloodiest deaths you will ever see. Somehow this combo is quite hilarious. Random kung fu attacks, limbs lopped off by chainsaw, a dead body comes to life for no other reason than to grab someone’s crotch. No one makes ’em like this puppy anymore. Pledge Night (1988): A college revenge tale notable for having Joey (Anthrax) Belladonna as the young pledge who dies in a hazing ritual. He’s resurrected as “Acid Sid” 20 years later for the good times. Slaughter High (1986): This is a nostalgic crappy favorite of mine. Thirty year-olds play high schoolers in this “mutilate the nerd and be killed by him later” tale. One of the final survivors is the former Bond-girl, Caroline Munro. The nerdy star killed himself after filming ended. Stage Fright (1987): Michele Soavi directs this Italian take on the slasher genre with superb results. Actors in a play themed around a serial killer get locked in with the actual nut the play is about. He goes kill-happy as those left alive band together to try to destroy him. Great style and a daring sense of going over-the-top keep this film rolling nicely. Not even the pregnant are safe here. One young lady is pulled in half. Sick. Tourist Trap (1979): Gorgeous Tanya Roberts and her stranded buddies attempt to outwit a psycho who can manipulate killer mannequins. Twitch of the Death Nerve ( 1971): A Mario Bava gore classic that was the blueprint for the Friday the 13th-type death sequences. This one has lots of twists and turns, with more than a few killers.
Author Jim Harper also reviews many, many other films. He has a sense of humor and knows plenty of not-so-widely-known trivia bits to make Legacy of Blood a quality reference guide for the horror lover. Buy this book and get a-rentin’.