The first time I really felt ripped off when renting movies was in high school and it was this movie that ripped me. Eric Zydel and I rented it for two reasons: 1) Robert Englund is in it and 2) it looks like a slasher. It was not one we had heard of and the art on the box (along with the blurb on back) seemed wrong somehow. But, we rented it and we watched it. Then, halfway through, we ended up taking it off. Slashed Dreams became shorthand for “this movie is not what it seems…and it sucks”.
In 2007, the deception continues. The movie is still not a slasher film, nor is it a horror film. To include it anywhere near the Horror shelves is going to guarantee people getting mad at it, laughing at it and falling asleep during it. Nothing really big happens (plot-wise) until halfway into the movie and then nothing much happens after that. If you were a heady renter and you found this one, you can imagine the steam flying out of you ears as each minute passed and you found you’ve been lied to. To the folks who know (maybe just Eric and me), this is one of the most disreputable films in the Horror canon.
The problem is that it is just not a horror film. Not by a longshot. Not even a little. Mame is more of a horror film than Slashed Dreams or, apparently, Sunburst. So, after acknowledging the disappointment, is the film worth watching in whatever genre it actually is a part of?
The film is about a couple leaving their big city college campus and going to the wilderness to find a friend who dropped out. The woman, Jenny, dumps her boyfriend before leaving as he thinks their drop-out friend was just a lazy hippy who didn’t want any responsibility. Luckily, she hooks up with the guy, Robert, and heads out into the woods. Everything seems wonderful at first. They find a cabin that they stay in. They discover the beauty of nature and that they like skinny dipping with each other.
Then, two rednecks show up. At first they just heckle the couple. Then, they beat Robert and rape Jenny. The couple’s friend, Michael (Robert Englund), shows up and tries to help them. Robert has a muddy fight with the two rednecks who run away. Jenny reads a poem about the sun and pain, which begins to help her through her grief.
Does anything in there sound horror-like? The two rednecks are in the film for less than ten minutes. The majority of the film is about two city folks learning that the “virgin’ wilderness has its problems, too. When they finally meet Michael, he proves tremendously unhelpful. In fact, he spends a lot of his time talking about tea. He is given a long scene where he talks to Jenny and tries to convince her to carry on. But, it’s never really convincing. In fact, Jenny doesn’t seem ready to move on until she reads that poem. It might have worked better if they had just gone to the woods to live without trying to visit their friend. (When they make it to the woods, they don’t seem to be in a hurry to find Michael.)
Is it a loss of innocence kind of film? Possibly. Is it a random bunch of footage thrown together and called a film? Possibly. The credits read “Created by James Polakof. Screenplay by James Keach. From an Original Screenplay by David Pritchard.” That looks like a lot of work was put into this film. (Keach and Pritchard play the rednecks.) The first thing I thought was that this film must have meant something to someone. All those people combining their ideas must mean something. But, at the same time, I can’t help but thinks of James Keach in Evil Town. Maybe Slashed Dreams is really just an unfinished mess of a film that everyone had a crack at. Trying to finish it but not getting there.
But then, there are all the songs to take into consideration. There are about six of them that play at poignant parts in the film. They are sung by a woman who reminded me of Judy Collins and reminded me that I find that sort of voice to be terribly depressing. The songs speak what the characters are thinking or provide spiritual direction to Jenny and Robert. (Here’s hoping they can hear the singing.) Are they all part of the grand plan or were they added when the film didn’t really seem to cohere? I like to think it’s the former. It seems like a lot of work to have someone write a series of plot-specific songs rather than dubbing in a line here or there.
In the end, the more I talk, the less this film fits into the framework of this website. It’s not trash. It’s just a slow story about two people leaving the city and going to live in the woods. So, this could be the most redundant review you’ve ever read. As a wanna-be horror film, it’s boring as all get out. As a movie standing on its own, it’s almost very interesting. But, it’s too slow, too meandering, too over-bearing and too unfinished. It has its fine points but it’s nothing I would run to find.
Last thing: Is there a possibility that the rednecks (and possibly Michael) aren’t real? Could the rednecks represent fears and anger that they have stored up? Things that they need to work through and conquer in order to live in the woods. Could Michael represent some sort of ideal they are shooting for? The first time the couple skinny dip and see each other nude is the first time the rednecks appear. Guilt at dumping the old boyfriend? Fear of becoming intimate? Who knows? The next time the rednecks arrive is after they’ve made love. Symbolic? Could it stand for the boyfriend? Could it stand for accepting the fact that there is bad everywhere and it must be dealt with? The third and final time is when Robert fights them off. At the end of that, he is laughing at how pointless the anger and rage was. Jenny is at the point where she is about to fully embrace the woods. And, in an odd moment, Michael announces than the rednecks will not come back. Why? I don’t know but I believe him.
In the end, the film would become really interesting if the rednecks and Michael were all in the heads of Jenny and Robert. I think.
AUDIO AND VIDEO
Old, old VHS. I love the look. The songs come through beautifully.
A coupon for 10% off the soundtrack.
Disliking Slashed Dreams for what the distributors did to sell it is understood but pointless. Especially when there are legitimate things in this film to make you dislike it. Is it boring? A bit. Is it interesting? A bit. Is it worth watching? I don’t know. There is a part of me that wants to watch it again and another part that just wants me to let it ride. How about this? The film is worth watching, but only as long as you haven’t seen Ogroff.
Back in 1996-1997, Scott Reynolds and I had a weekly Movie Night Ritual. I would head to his apartment, sit down with some popcorn and soda pop and enjoy a sweet, sweet movie. We would alternate weeks. The whole shebang began with me showing him Don’t Go In The Woods. He showed me The Wild Bunch. You can probably guess from those first choices that I didn’t always bring the class to these get-togethers. (Sometimes I did. I brought It’s A Gift and Brewster McCloud.) Yes, I brought The Last Slumber Party and Quisenberry’s Scream. Scott brought classy stuff and a load of blaxploitation films. One of them was Gang Wars, a film I’d never heard of, but any film starring Warhawk Tanzania has to be great. And, it turns out my prediction was right. This is an exploitation film of the first order.
If a blaxplotation film begins with a prologue sent in “CHINA 200 BC”, then you’re in great hands. Just relax. Warhawk runs a kung fu school of some sort. He and his assistant, the hot-headed Roldan, head to Hong Kong for training. Roldan digs up an ancient amulet. A demon follows them back to New York City. It hides in the subway and kills folks. And, as always, this is just a small taste of what happens. It’s like describing Moby Dick as a book about some guys hunting a whale. The main plot is important but, oh those incidentals.
Multi-racial gang wars involving awesome kung fu fighting. Dumb honky cops. A demon in the subway tunnels killing people. Gold (lame?) overalls worn during the final fight. A scene that clearly has dialogue but has funky music dubbed over it instead. Warhawk vanishing for a large chunk of the second half so we can focus on other characters. And, even the VHS getting into the fun by replaying a 30-second scene at a subway platform. Hell, Brother Theodore even shows up! The film seems willing to film anything provided it’s entertaining. That is the sign of some steamy, fragrant exploitation. Something for everyone.
What does this film have that you might enjoy? Well, here’s something: The fight scenes. All the fight scenes look very well choreographed. I know this because it looks like they just filmed the cast practicing their moves. Everything moves a bit too slow. Punches don’t connect. Blood flies from people for no reason. And, when one fight scene begins with Roldan in a mesh top, Heaven is a place on Earth.
Warhawk keeps a strong presence throughout, even thought he does vanish for quite a stretch. The man has everything. He is a Kung Fu Master. He is respected by all, the gangs and the cops. He can kick your ass up and down the street and make you want to apologize to him for wasting his time. He, of course, has an awesome lady. They get a “Day Out” montage with a sweet, sexy soul number playing over it. And, we never see the woman before or after that scene, except briefly in the end. Why should we? We can infer that she must be great by her nearness to him. There must be another film where the romance is the main story and there’s a “Kick Ass” Montage in the middle where this movie happens.
I love a film with a “We’re just making this all up” feel to it. Hell, that’s what I’m doing right here. We follow Warhawk, the demon rises, then we follow the gangs, then some demon killing, then the cops, some gang fighting, some this and that. It’s all great. Each portion is so entertaining that you forget about the other bits until they reappear. Did you ever see Nashville? It’s like that, except one has Henry Gibson and one has the Subway Demon.
AUDIO AND VIDEO
Pretty awful. I think Scott’s copy was EP. My copy is an EP copy of his. If you can imagine that. Under all the EP bother, it looks like decent low-budget 70′s film except the print is far too dark. On my copy, you can’t see what’s happening during the final subway fight. Imagine my joy when, on a Code Red DVD, I saw a preview for Devil’s Express and you can actually see what’s happening! Where’s that DVD?
I’m lucky I have this copy.
There is always another one out there. Just when you think you’re hitting the end of the line and there is no more insanity left…This weekend, I saw Gone With The Pope and reacquainted myself with this wonderful film. So, there is stuff out there, hiding away and kicking my ass when I least expect it. Thanks for finding this one, Scott. Movie Nights were awesome. Sorry about Frozen Scream.
It’s really not about the horseman. This isn’t a Sleepy Hollow remake. It’s made by the man who made Carnival Of Blood. If you haven’t seen that film, then you might not be able to catch the rhythm and feel of this film. It seems like it’s starting off with a plot of some kind. Something about an inheritance is spoken by a very serious narrator of unknown provenance. Then, we meet “the kids”.
“The kids” are a bunch of grown-ups. They might be hippies. I’m not 100% sure. But, they all hang out together. And, when one of them inherits some land with a Wild West Show-thing on it, all his friends join him and decide to try and “put on a show”! But, there is a legend on this land: The Legend of the Tamal (I think that’s what’s being said) Moon. And, the longer they stay, the greater the chance that they will be menaced by the Headless Horseman who protects the land.
The scenes that seem very ad-libbed are the sure sign of The Kirtman! The narrator who goes on menacingly is very Un-Kirtman. But, he didn’t produce or write this one. All “the kids”, I would warrant a guess, are not actors. I would warrant another guess: They are friends of the producers or there is some sort of link. The main couple, the ones who seem very square with jobs and plans of marriage, seem like actors. I think I’ve seen the guy somewhere else. But, all “the kids” (and there are a lot of them) are glorious amateurs.
And, this is where the other film comparison slides in: The Howling: New Moon Rising. Clive Turner’s Valentine to the people of Pioneertown. That film has a plot, it has a lot of plot, but it moves and shift and vanishes under the weight of all the appearances by Turner’s friends and buddies…and all the little in-jokes (Dicktheria, anyone?). All those strange moments that everyone in the film laughs at that the viewer needs to watch multiple times just to sort out what the hell is happening.
Curse Of The Headless Horseman feels exactly like that, except not as well-shot. “The kids” are, generally, very vaguely defined. There’s the two showman guys, the “mystical” gal, the older couple who seem grounded, the slightly fey guy, the guys and gals that never quite get defined…they’re all here. Skippy, Jimmy, Bella Sue, Ron, “The HoDaddy!”, Dick Vermillion, Jennifer Brown and the Torrential Twins. And, they go on and on. They goof around, dance, do some comedy and keep the whole pace of the film off balance. When you think things should be swiftly moving towards the climax, people are still doing their party pieces.
Now, I love this movie. I think it’s full of joy. It’s people having a good time. Hanging out and goofing around in some of the cheapest looking shots ever. Look at those credits! Brilliant. It’s the fact that the film looks like a very cheap early-70s film coupled with the strange freeform feel of the characters and their stories. From the Wild West stunt men who seem to be real Wild West Stunt Men to the strange appearance by Ultra Violet to the ramblings of Solomon the “Old” Caretaker with his strange makeup to the cover of the Bob Dylan song being sung during the scene where the man is sexually assaulting his “girlfriend” behind the Stagecoach, the movie has it all. A focus, however, is required.
Carnival Of Blood should definitely be watched first.
“It is Beginning Again!”
“Enjoy the sunshine! Relax! Wander about. Soon it will be night! And there will be a Moon…a Special Moon.”
Like The Last Slumber Party, if you’re not paying full attention, this film looks like incoherent ramblings where nothing happens for long stretches. But, focus…focus. And, it’s all there. And, it’s bitchin’. Every single day things just keep getting bitchin’.
Some movies stand on their own. Some need the context of what’s happening around them. Sometimes, rarely, films need context that’s even further out. Ten minutes talk with the producer/writer of this film would clear everything up. I don’t want to have that conversation.