April Fool! The Pranks and Pranksters of Horror
As we come up to the first of April, a time that sees everyone trying to prank everyone else we thought we would take a look at some of the best pranksters and some of the pranks gone wrong in horror.
Shelly – Friday the 13th part 3
Where best to start than the series that defined what a slasher movie should be. The series cemented the different types of characters that make up a slasher movie and all others after Friday the 13th had to follow suit. You would have the likeable and quiet final girl, the slutty friend and her boyfriend/latest conquest, the loudmouth beer drinking jock and finally the prankster. In my opinion by far the best prankster has been Shelly from Friday the 13th Part 3. A socially awkward character who was just looking for love, he would keep people from really knowing him by hiding in closets with fake axes stuck to his head. He has grown into one of the most beloved of Jason’s endless parade of victims but Shelly has some importance to the series as it was Shelly’s hockey mask that Jason would wear for the entire rest of the series.
Buzz and Rick the Prick – Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
One of my personal favourites from the Chainsaw series starts with two wild punks out raising hell, shooting at billboards and roadsigns with a silver revolver. It seems that there is a big football game happening in Texas between Oklahoma and Dallas and this just brings fights, drinking and anti social behaviour to the city of Dallas. Where best for Leatherface and the rest of his lunatic family to be with their mobile chilli van where the special ingredient in their chilli is love, tenderness and human meat. The Buzz and Rick the Prick are listening to a local rock radio station when they decide to phone in and harass the lovely host and owner of the station called Stretch (Played by Caroline Williams). They proceed to drive a car off the road by playing chicken while on the phone.
This would have dire consequences for our dynamic duo as they meet this same truck on a bridge During a second call to stretch to harass her again. Stretch hears the boys screaming over the phone where a figure standing on the back of the truck (we find out quickly that it is Leatherface with the body of his dead brother tied to him) is taunting the boys with his trusty chainsaw and finally the buzz gets the top of his head sawn clean off causing the car to crash. This prank call is important to the movie as it then sets in motion the events that would lead stretch to seek out the lawman hunting down the cannibal family (played maniacally by the late Dennis Hopper) and would see stretch trapped in the bowels of the family’s lair.
John Travolta – Carrie
What list of pranks gone wrong would be complete without the iconic pigs blood prom scene from Carrie. The kids (led by a young John Travolta in one of his first starring roles) have played a cruel joke on the socially awkward and introverted Carrie which sees her winning prom queen and when she goes up to accept the award in front of the whole school she has a bucket of pigs blood dropped all over her. The film then switches from a drama about a girl who is ruled by her overbearing mother with psychic powers to straight terror territory when she unleashes the wrath of her powers on the whole school, killing, burning and maiming everyone in attendance. Her vengeance is understandable which really makes the film a unique horror film as the threat is someone who we have grown close to, wether in pity or because you can relate to her. So when it hits April 1st just be cautious with who you are pranking and how far you go, and stay away from people called Carrie.
Cropsy – The Burning
This is by far one of my favourite slasher movies. The Titular main villain in the burning is a camp caretaker called Cropsy. The tale uttered by kids across the country is that Cropsy was a vicious drunk who would take delight in in making life hell for the kids in the camp. The kids in retaliation sneak into Cropsy’s cabin and lay a skull with candles on the end of his bed. When he wakes up and sees the skull (complete with writhing worms and maggots) he flips and knocks over the candles. The kids didn’t know that a can of petrol is on the floor of the cabin and when the flames hit it the place goes up like a bonfire. Cropsy runs out of the building like a human fireball (a stunt that was overseen by special effects guru Tom Savini) and falls into the nearby lake. Cut to many years later and the badly burned Cropsy has just been released from hospital and he has nothing but vengeance on his mind. He makes his way to his old summer camp to terrorise the kids with his trusty garden shears as his weapon of choice. We are saved the sight of the horrifically burned Cropsy until the end but it’s well worth the wait.
My Bloody Valentine
How best to prank people when there is a killer on the loose but to tie up a fake body holding a pick axe which means that when someone opens the door the thing lunges forward making them think the killer has found them. The small mining town that sees the return of their resident nutjob Harry Warden has everyone on edge and even after the death of some of the residents, the bartender overhears people making fun of the killer so he thinks its a good idea to set up the aforementioned prank. Only after he has tried it out a couple of times he decides to open it one last time when his rigged miner gag has become the real killer. Cue a pickaxe to the jaw which pops through his eye socket. Maybe he’ll think twice before being an insensitive asshole.
The kids of Haddonfield – Halloween 4
After almost a ten year span between Michael Myers being burned alive at the end of Halloween 2 and the completely unrelated Halloween 3 Season of the Witch (a film which i feel gets an unfair amount of criticism because of its naming as a Halloween film where people were expecting Myers) the producers wanted to bring back Michael Myers again to kick start their own slasher franchise. The character moved from being the voyeuristic, creeper in the shadows to another hulking Jason persona. Being a sucker for slasher movies I still enjoy the halloween sequels but I do know they completely changed the character of Myers to have their own Jason. In this particular film Myers is after his Nice Jamie (played by a very young Danielle Harris. Possibly the first child “final girl” in all of slashers? I certainly can’t think of any others.
During a chaotic night with a full station of cops being slain (frustratingly seen off camera) the maniacal Loomis, hellbent on finding Myers before he kills again and accompanied by the town sheriff who declares a curfew. Unfortunately the young Jamie is out trick of treating at the time the curfew comes into effect and is left alone while the town all go into lockdown. The streets are empty but Jamie sees the scary Boogeyman in the shadows. As she runs away she sees him again but in a different place. Terrified she is running through the backyards (dont any of the neighbours want to help an 8 year old child) where she runs into Dr Loomis and the Sheriff. As they are standing they see Myers in several locations and when Loomis draws his gun it is revealed that several kids are wearing the same costume as Myers. They run away laughing at the Sheriff as they pulled a pretty successful prank, not only on the sheriff but the audience as well. As the cop car drives away to safety we see that Myers was standing watching the whole time. Damn kids.
Lilla and Mary Loomis – Psycho 2
One of the most underrated sequels in my opinion is 1988’s sequel to the original Psycho. Sequels to classic movies can go either one of two ways. They can either ruin the impact of the original by just not getting what made the original so powerful i.e Exorcist 2 or they can actually be surprisingly good and close to the originals intention. For me this one falls into the latter category and for good reason. Directed by horror master Tom Holland who at this time seemed to hit a home run with every film. Director of the original Fright night, Holland made films that acknowledged what came before and was respectful of the source material whilst offering something new and fresh. Psycho 2 sees our “hero” Norman Bates has now been released from the confines of his mental ward and after much counselling is deemed to now be sane by the courts. He now has to deal with the prejudices of people who know his past and when he gets out he sees that things have changed. His Motel is now being run into the ground and is used as a stop off for prostitutes and drug dealers. Mother would certainly bot be happy. Bates then gets a job as a fry cook at a local diner where he now seems to be getting strange messages and phone calls from mother. Is it all in his head? I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone who hasn’t seen it so if you haven’t seen this then please skip now.
The reveal that Bates was being tormented by his female companion (played by the lovely Meg Tilly) and her mother who was the sister of Janet Leigh from the original really made you feel sad for Norman. It all ends nastily as is expected and leaves Norman back to square one with his “mother” and the motel. Perkins plays Bates beautifully and he really makes you feel for the character once again even although we all knew the evil things he had done in his past.
Meg Tilly – One Dark Night
We visit Jennifer Tilly once again in this low budget video shop classic from the 80s which was also known as Entity force. This film sees Jennifer trying to join a sorority house and one of the initiations is for her to spend the night in a tomb. They have rigged a number of gags for her in order to scare her however none of them were aware of the evil inside. Little do they know that a practitioner of the occult has recently killed himself and he has just been laid to rest. He has now revived as a zombie with psychic powers. Whilst not particularly gory the tension and zombie effects in this film are excellent. One of the first films from Ken Weiderhorn who went on to direct the best nazi zombie movie named Shock Waves and Return of the Living Dead Part 2, this film deserves to be seen by anyone into 80s horror.
Over 30 years before Deadpool was being touted as the first adult superhero film, we had the Toxic Avenger. This film opens up with the immortal Stan Lee setting the scene of Tromaville and it’s crime ridden streets. We are then introduced to the Tromaville fitness centre where Melvin the mop boy is undertaking his daily duties. Looking on at some of the beautiful people of tromaville some of the local bullies take offense to his geeky demeanor and they want to play a prank on him.
One of the hot girls in the group decides to lay the trap by inviting Melvin after hours for a little hanky panky. Melvin eagerly shows up and is led into a dark room wearing a tutu and he starts to make out with what he thinks is the hot girl. Suddenly the lights go on and there Melvin is, kissing a pig and the whole of the fitness centre are standing laughing at him. Humiliated, Melvin tries to run away but the crowd are giving chase. Who was to know that at the same time this is happening a truck carrying dozens of canisters of toxic waste is parked outside the fitness club and Melvin falls (actually jumps head first) out of an upper story window into one of the canisters. And so is the birth of this hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength and the first superhero from New Jersey.
Slaughter High – Caroline Munro
The prank played on Melvin the mop boy that results in him becoming the Toxic Avenger is very similar to the prank played on the antagonist of this lower tier slasher. This one stars ex bond girl Caroline Munro who fans would know from the original Maniac as one of the ex students being terrorised by another deformed killer. A group of students are invited to a reunion at their old school years after they were involved in accidentally causing a young student to be deformed. The student now dons a mask of a court jester and he has rigged a number of fun tricks for the group, including a beer can filled with acid that causes one of the groups stomach and intestines to burst open.
This British made horror comedy has the late great Christopher Lee in a supporting role. Christopher Lee owns a huge property which he loses in a card game. The film then follows the mansions new owners as they discover that this property is the home of a very unique demon. The demon comes in the shape of a demonic Mr Punch and he likes to play tricks on his unsuspecting victims. This underrated little film from the mid 90s has the same kind of sense of humour as the League of Gentlemen and Psychoville TV series and it definitely is an a acquired taste. It is very Brittish in it’s sense of humour and the welsh accent of the funnyman seems to make everything funnier.
The characters in the film don’t seem to acknowledge the absurdity of the scenarios they find themselves in and with the funnyman breaking the fourth wall at every opportunity by speaking directly to us it’s like we are a part of the joke. This was made at a time that very few horror movies were made in the UK. The only other horror films that managed to get released around this time was Dream Demon with Timothy Spall and Beyond bedlam with Liz Hurley and Craig Fairbrass but none of those are anywhere near as good as Funnyman. I have seen criticism of this movie online asking why sir Christopher Lee was a part of this movie however I don’t think these reviewers have any idea of the British culture at the time. This was a time that the British film industry was in the toilet. There were no directors making horror and the only films seeming to come out were period dramas and comedy which were also few and far between. Movies like Reservoir Dogs, Natural Born Killers, True Romance and Menace 2 Society were finding themselves on the banned list for short spells so this shows there was a real crackdown on violence in movies. I think this scared a lot of directors away from the genre and it wasn’t until a few years later with directors such as Neil Marshall, Danny Boyle and Alex Chandon where horror movies were being seen as viable investments again. So in a way Funnyman is quite an important film in it’s own way.