I met Barry when I was in high school. He lived in a town about 45 minutes away from mine. Though we weren’t close, we did share a group of friends so we would occasionally hang out together in a group setting, and sometimes we’d bump into each other at the mall. Eventually, we fell out of touch. Hell, everyone fell out of touch. Flash forward a decade, and somehow through the magic of the Internet we found each other on Facebook and started talking again. I discovered he was a huge gorehound, and his knowledge of the esoteric horrorstuffs put mine to shame. And whenever he’d post pics from his house, it always looked full of great art and good kitschy collectibles. I couldn’t believe it – someone from high school who I didn’t mind reuniting with! We’ve stayed in contact ever since. When I put this thing together I knew Barry had to contribute a piece, and I’m happy to say he did not disappoint. So without further ado, Barry’s Drive-In Double Feature!
There’s a fine line between homage and down right thievery. The horror genre is notorious for squeezing every last penny out of a good idea and running respectable film franchises into the ground. Some filmmakers find inspiration in mediocre ideas and expand them into a complex narrative, while other, less creative filmmakers see a good idea and change just enough to avoid a lawsuit. No film in the horror genre has “inspired” filmmakers more than John Carpenter’s classic, Halloween. In turn, we can argue that Halloween borrowed many elements from earlier films like Black Christmas and Peeping Tom, but it was Halloween that thrust the slasher genre into the mainstream. The mold was cast and like an in demand bootleg, the copies of the copies of the copies kept coming. With each new copy, the films got progressively worse. This ultimately killed the slasher genre as audiences grew tired of the regurgitated plots and uninspired characters. By the late 80’s/early 90’s, the slasher film was dying a slow painful death. Many of the films released at this time were of the straight-to-video variety and offered little hope that the genre would survive. While some of the films from this era have become rediscovered classics, many remain in obscurity. The films I have chosen will NEVER be considered classics but somehow they managed to make a lasting impression on me.
The Last Slumber Party is an underdog of a movie. For all its faults and shortcomings (trust me, there are many), it’s the type of film that is almost too good to be true, and by that I mean absolutely dreadful. This 1988 straight-to-video release from director Stephen Tyler (no, not that Steven Tyler) tells the story of a group of girls who throw a slumber party on the first night of summer vacation. Wouldn’t you know it, a killer dressed as a scalpel-wielding surgeon has escaped from a nearby mental institution and is hacking his way to the party. From the very beginning, it’s apparent that we are in low budget hell. The whole film is a glorious catastrophe that would make Ed Wood proud. The camera angles are awkward, the acting is ridiculous, the heavy metal soundtrack credited to Firstryke is laughable, and the special effects are non-existent, but for some reason all of these elements make me love The Last Slumber Party.
Yes, it’s a shameless rip-off of Halloween and Slumber Party Massacre but you can’t ignore the earnest “let’s make a movie” attitude that Stephen Tyler and his crew must have felt. They put themselves out there and tried to deliver a kick ass horror film, unfortunately they were 10 years late and $100,000 dollars short.
The second film is not much better but must be seen to be believed. If The Last Slumber Party “borrowed” bits and pieces from other films, then 1989’s Offerings is guilty of highway robbery. The movie is shameless in its attempt to steal everything it can from Halloween right down to John Carpenter’s iconic theme. In fact, I was so shocked by how similar it was, that I really wondered why John Carpenter never filed a lawsuit. Offerings tells the story of mute killer named John Radley who escapes from a mental hospital (he literally walks out the front door and scales a fence) and returns to his hometown to murder a bunch of teenagers. John Radley has all the characteristics of Michael Meyers; he’s mute, he’s omnipresent, he slowly chases his victims, he turns his head when he is confused, he possesses super human strength, and he lurks in the shadows. In fact the only thing that sets them apart are their faces. While Michael sports his Captain Kirk mask, John walks around showing off his disfigured face. One by one, John kills his childhood tormentors and stalks his old friend Gretchen Peters (who sports an awesome pair of acid washed mom jeans and a wicked Oklahoma accent). Many death scenes resemble the deaths of the characters in Halloween.
John Radley even has his own Dr. Loomis and Sheriff Bracket that are one step behind his carnage. Just like Michael Meyers, John Radley steals a headstone, eats a wild animal (a duck instead of a dog), and sleeps in his vacant childhood home. The only original element to the film is the explanation of the title. To show is love for Gretchen, John Radley leaves random body parts on her doorstep as offerings. This is the ONLY original thing in the movie and honestly, it doesn’t make much sense. The last ten minutes of the film are so similar to Halloween that I really expected Gretchen to ask if he was the boogeyman. The last line of the movie was so stupid and ridiculous I laughed out loud for 5 minutes. Trust me, Offerings is the type of movie that should reward you with a badge of honor if you make it to the final credits.
Barry is a horror fanatic and collector of autographs.