Bonejangles (2017) Review

rsz_bj1Bonejangles (2017)

Directed by: Brett DeJager.
Written by: Keith Melcher
Starring: Reggie Bannister, Elissa Dowling and Julie Cavanaugh.

While transporting the legendary serial killer Bonejangles to an asylum, a group of police officers break down in a town cursed with demonic zombies. The only way they can survive the night and save the town is to release Bonejangles to help them fight the curse, with something much worse.”

The other night I was discussing comedy/horror movies with a colleague. He opined that, to get the balance just right, a comedy horror needs to be written by someone who loves the genre they’re mocking. In his opinion, this is why successful films like Shaun of the Dead and American Werewolf in London work so well, whilst films less popular titles such as Pervert, Lesbian Vampire Killers and Zombie Strippers fail to satisfy large audiences. It’s a compelling argument and the reason why I mention it is, with that criterion of love, my friend could have added a film to the list of successful films: Bonejangles.

Bonejangles begins by introducing a janitor, (Wade Everett, Tilt, Wunderland and Tombstone-Ramoshon). It’s late on his shift, he’s wanting to settle down with his copy of the beautifully titled periodical ‘Melons and Muff’, but he gets summoned to an emergency clean up. As the janitor says, “If it’s not one thing, it’s another in this damned shithole.”

And then he’s killed by Bonejangles.

rsz_bj2Interestingly, Bonejangles kills him with the copy of Melons and Muff, giving an important clue to the psychological underpinnings of the story that’s about to unfold. As it is with so many good comedy horror stories, one of the key motifs in this film is the idea that sex is a bad thing: something that merits punishment. Consequently, the story keeps going back to those natural urges that govern most of our poorest decisions.

I’d like to say that Bonejangles is not your ordinary criminal, but that would be misleading. He looks like a composite of Jason Vorhees and Michael Myers, with maybe a little Ed Gein thrown in for good measure. Several times characters such as police unit leaders and news reporters and other authorities explain, “Conventional weapons are useless against him.” But this is done in a delightfully deadpan way, as though there is nothing remarkable about his well-known ability to withstand bayonets, bullets and bombs.

The main comedy in this movie comes from the superb performances of police officers Wes (Bret DeJager: A Prairie Wind, The Legend of Cooley Moon and Hair Rules) and Randy (Jamie Scott Gordon: Lord of Tears, Good Intentions and The Unkindess of Ravens). These two play off each other with a banter that is childish, cowardly, credible and constantly amusing.

rsz_bj3This is a wonderfully campy comedy homage to 80s slasher horror, in the vein of The Final Girls or Zombeavers or the early examples from the Scary Movie franchise. It’s witty. It has genuine moments of shock, fright and surprise, and it’s entertaining throughout. Unless your next seven days genuinely involve you transporting an indestructible serial killer through a zombie-infested remote town, this is the most fun you’re likely to have all week. 9/10

Graduation Day (1981) Blu-Ray Review

GRAD 001GRADUATION DAY (1981) BLU-RAY

Directed By: Herb Freed

Written By: Herb Freed, Anne Marisse, David Baughn (story)

Starring: Christopher George, Patch Mackenzie, Michael Pataki, E. Danny Murphy

UK Certification: 15

RRP: £17.99

Running Time: 96 minutes

Distributor: 88 Films

UK Release Date: 13th October 2014

Marking the launch of 88 Films Slasher Classics Collection is GRADUATION DAY, a Californian shot horror which was banned after its pre-cert UK release on IFS under a Section 3 Seizure Order, although its content was reappraised to a 15 certification as early as 2003 for its budget Hollywood DVD release. It proved an unlikely hit for director and former Rabbi Herb Freed, who other than this slasher made little impact over his ten directorial outings; though having said that, as schlock-entertainment the John Saxon starring BEYOND EVIL (1980) is a gloriously awful haunted house flick that warrants a late night alcohol fuelled viewing.

GRADUATION DAY begins with a high school track race where Laura (Ruth Ann Llorens), encouraged by the crowd and coach is pushing herself to the limit, so much so that after she crosses the finishing line she collapses and is soon pronounced dead. Shortly after this tragedy her sister Ann (Mackenzie) moves back to the small town where she was born and begins to do some investigatory work around the school in an effort to uncover the killer. As she digs deeper, a spate of killings begin which see Laura’s former track team members murdered by an anonymous black-gloved killer in a fencing mask.

GRAD 002With a synth-laden slice of pop cheese in ‘The Winner’ playing over the opening credits, GRADUATION DAY announces itself as a child of the early eighties loud and proud. While flares and dated hairstyles are the understated aspects that date such peers as HALLOWEEN and FRIDAY 13th, here an antiquated musical score from the band Felony (no, me neither) as well as Bee Gees plastered walls and alternatively shaped headphones mean that GRADUATION DAY wears its year of production firmly on its sleeve.

Deliriously camp in appearance, GRADUATION DAY makes for a decidedly modest slasher. Murder sequences are at times eye-rollingly constructed with the subtlety of a sledgehammer, while the mystery of the anonymous killer never really intrigues to the degree that it wants to and comes with a somewhat disappointing payoff. That said this is a film impossible to dislike irrespective of its obvious shortcomings. With frequent forays into comedic territory; intended or otherwise, along with eye-catching performances from such folk as Linnea Quigley, Vanna White, Michael Pataki and Christopher George, it’s a movie that provides great entertainment, but released slap bang in the middle of the golden era of slasher movies – it’s firmly down the pecking order.

With a region free Blu-ray coming from Vinegar Syndrome five weeks prior to this release, the boys at 88 Films were always going to have to add something special to convince people to opt for this home-grown release. At first glance, the absence of any commentaries (the Vinegar Syndrome edition has two), and the glut of Troma related miscellany from Kaufman’s age-old DVD elicits a resigned sigh.

Thankfully though, the welcome addition of the superb Scream Queen documentary from High Rising elevates this Blu-ray to another level. This feature length extra is introduced by the lovely Debbie Rochon who makes way for a legion of Scream Queens to talk candidly about their careers – from the iconic Linnea Quigley, Brinke Stevens and Michelle Bauer; to the lesser known Forbes Riley, Patricia Tallman and Elissa Dowling; there’s many more too, all of whom make for fascinating viewing.

GRAD 003What’s so refreshing is the concept of having a totally female perspective. It removes the distraction of a leering myriad of guys giving their predictably caveman-like reasons for their Scream Queen appreciation; leaving us instead with a relaxed, honest and informal analysis of the subject. With Jason Paul Collum’s SOMETHING TO SCREAM ABOUT being the last feature I remember on this topic, Waddell’s documentary easily eclipses it and could easily stand its own as a separate release.

Film: 5 out of 10
Extras: 8 out of 10

Extras:

Brand new 4K restoration
Scream Queens: Horror Heroines Exposed (78 mins)
Graduation Memories: Interview with author and critic Justin Kerswell (10 mins)
Introduction by Lloyd Kaufman (complete with insensitive Columbine pun)
Interview with Linnea Quigley
The cannibal lesbian hoedown music video – directed by Lloyd Kaufman
Tromatic filmmaking classroom: The arm rip
Theatrical trailer
88 Films trailer reel
Reversible sleeve
Booklet by Calum Waddell featuring a conversation with Patch Mackenzie