Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy
By Steve Anderson
December 1st , 2007

Chicago Massacre: Richard Speck

Chicago Massacre: Richard Speck
** DVD
Directed by Michael Feifer
Written by Michael Feifer
Starring Corin Nemec, Andrew Divoff, Tony Todd, Debbie Rochon
Produced by Michael Feifer
92 mins

There are days when I'm convinced I'm one of the last dozen people on earth who remembers when Corin Nemec was Corky. And worse, who remembers when he was Parker Lewis.

Because watching Nemec in the latest attempts to outrun his past--and this time in horrific scar makeup--is actually wavering wildly between comical and terrifying.

And this time, Nemec is bringing us Michael Feifer's take on Richard Speck's rampage of killings back in the mid sixties. Just in case you're not conversant with the details, Speck took nine student nurses in Chicago hostage and beat, raped, and killed eight of them. The last survivor, who hid under the bed, manages to give details to the police.

Now...that's not comical. Nothing about that is comical. Though Nemec manages to bring a raw, almost hysteric, edge to his portrayal of Speck that belies a certain skill. One minute a down-home shitkicker country boy, the next a cold steeled killing machine, and then seguing into a deep but somber remorse, Nemec takes Speck through the gamut of possible emotional ranges in a serial killer to an unexpected depth.

Granted, maybe movies like "Mansquito" weren't exactly the way to get his skill across. It's hard to look like a Serious Actor when you're toting an M-203 around and blasting genetically modified mosquito men. But "Chicago Massacre: Richard Speck", for all its bluster and splatter and gore, gives Nemec a chance to actually expand for a change, and do something that almost makes you forget "Gentlemen, synchronize Swatches".

Almost. He's never gonna get past that as far as I'm concerned, not least of all because back when my friends and I were twelve the best possible thing we could do with our high school careers was be Parker Lewis. Indeed, he could Not Lose. So too did we hope to at least Not Lose.

My own geriatric flashbacking aside, "Chicago Massacre: Richard Speck" at least manages to generate some authenticity for a change of pace, unlike the flood of serial killer movies Lions Gate has been putting out lately courtesy of non-stop trash machine Hollywood House of Horror. "Chicago Massacre: Richard Speck" actually manages to get us caring about the character, giving juuuuuuust enough exposition to know what's going on without bogging things down.

The ending allows the loose ends to be tied up in a fairly succinct fashion, and Nemec ramps up the chuckle factor by having Speck burst out a string of profanity unlike anything I can generate. Until about the last four minutes, in which a baffling video is described--and maybe even partially shown, I couldn't quite tell--in which Speck, in prison, has sex, does drugs, and sports a couple of breasts from hormone treatments he smuggles in. That just takes the whole proceedings and throws it squarely into a "huh?" zone from which there is no escape except the end credit roll. Which, mercifully, comes quickly.

The special features include Spanish subtitles, English closed captions, audio commentary, audio options, deleted scenes, a stills gallery and trailers for "Murder Set Pieces", "Curse of the Zodiac", "Ed Gein: The Butcher of Plainfield", "The BTK Killer", "Black Dahlia", and an advertisement for Fearnet.

All in all, not bad. A decent performance from Nemec and a little bit of actual narrative goes a long way in "Chicago Massacre: Richard Speck". If you're looking for something harrowing and horrifying, then you could probably do a whole lot worse, unless you can't stand a story where you already know the ending.

Haunted Forest

Haunted Forest
Directed by Mauro Borrelli
Written by Mauro Borrelli
Starring Sevy Di Cione, Adam Green, Mark Hengst, Naomi Ueno Produced by Mauro Borrelli
81 mins

If you've been stalking the aisles of your local video store lately, it's entirely possible that you've wandered past this title. And though you may think "Japanese import", you'd be wrong. Though this time around, you shouldn't let that stop you. Go ahead. Take a walk through the "Haunted Forest".

And in "Haunted Forest", what we've got to deal with is three guys going into the titular haunted forest where a vengeful ghost named Satinka waits to lure travelers to their likely deaths but generally just disappearances. Someone else has just vanished, you see, and thus the three guys want to figure out just what happened to him--whether he just fell into a lake or a gully or pit or assorted hazard of the forest or whether he ran into Satinka. If he ran into Satinka, they realize, based on an old book one of them has inherited from a grandfather, they will likely find a tree marking a burial ground with, apparently, cash at the bottom. The trip, for numerous horror movie reasons, will be highly dangerous and probably a bad idea. With, of course, a body count.

Those of you who looked at the box art and thought this was a Japanese import are not alone. I thought much the same thing, and frankly, the farther we get into "Haunted Forest", the more it looks, feels, and watches like a Japanese import.

Sure, it's a little flimsy in the plot department--a ghost who haunts the woods and kills by slipping a twig under the skin?--but despite that weak little premise, "Haunted Forest" actually manages to keep things moving at a halfway decent pace and in a fairly stylish manner. It may not be an Oscar contender--may not even be terribly deep--but it doesn't look or feel cheap. It's actually not half bad.

Though the plot is a bit flimsy, it's executed very, very well. It really does have the look and feel of a Japanese import, with all the positives that term can muster. Lots of quick appearances of our ghost Satinka, lots of strange things that pop up out of nowhere and vanish almost before they even register in your brain, all those wonderful things and more that make Japanese horror rank among the best on the planet.

The ending, meanwhile, is more than a little far-fetched, but doesn't diminish too badly from the events preceding it.

The special features include audio options, English and Spanish subtitles, and trailers for "The Abandoned", "H.P. Lovecraft's The Tomb", "Reincarnation", and "The Lost Room"

All in all, "Haunted Forest" isn't a half-bad entry into the wide array of horror choices we have to choose from these days. You could do wildly worse, and frankly, you'll be hard-pressed to find much better.