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Sorority sisters, haunted houses, and nights of revenge are all typical slasher movie elements; but Killer Party this is decidedly not. A Canadian blast of cold gore porn, The Scarehouse is a story of two competing horrors: the tortures inflicted by its vindictive protagonists, on the one hand, and the vapid “21st century party monster” mentality of their bevy of victims on the other. As to which is more appalling, that is for each viewer to decide. Co-ed sadists Corey (Sarah Booth) and Elaina (Kimberly-Sue Murray) are out of prison and out for vengeance after taking the rap for a sorority prank that resulted in an involuntary manslaughter. Determined to torment their fellow sisters, the pair has designed a haunted house attraction to mask the actual torture laboratory within.

The lighting and atmosphere of the film should satisfy devotees of the genre, and genuinely homicidal psychos should also be entertained. The lead performances, particularly Booth’s, are strong; but The Scarehouse, like other torture-oriented horrors, suffers from lack of likable characters. The backstory explaining the night’s motivation is never sufficient emotional justification for the shocking degree of onscreen brutality, and serves only to ensure that even the screaming victims of the atrocities garner little audience sympathy. Occasionally humorous, The Scarehouse is more often disturbing, and this reviewer would much prefer to have seen a movie about these two characters not killing people.

2.5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Scarehouse is:

4. Homosexuality-ambivalent. From the perspective that there is no such thing as bad publicity, The Scarehouse is pro-gay for featuring homoerotic flirtation between young women; but the portrayal of the lesbian lead as a psychopath is hardly flattering.

3. Anti-Christian. Jesus freak Jaqueline (Katherine Barrell) stands for the film’s contempt for “fire and brimstone shit”. Other irreverence takes the form of the sadists’ appropriation of crucifixion symbolism: Corey has a cross tattoo on her back, while Elaina at the end can be seen wearing a crucifix.

2. Anti-drug. “You might want to stick to water.” Drinking, along with a rufie, results in the accidental death that sets the plot in motion, and drunks are also more susceptible to the torture porn treatment. One of the songs on the soundtrack also refers to alcohol poisoning.

1. Anti-feminist. Whatever The Scarehouse’s intentions, it shows something of a divided mind with regard to its array of targets. Elaina and Corey advertise no overt ideological motivation for their murder spree, but do demonstrate a distaste for traditionalism as it takes on grotesque, hypocritical forms. Jaqueline’s Christian good girl moral code is a lie, so she must be punished. Similarly, Katrina (Emily Alatalo), for “Frankensteining” herself in an exaggerated devotion to a male chauvinist’s hourglass figure ideal, must answer for her betrayal of her sorority oath to embrace woman’s “inner beauty”.

Corey and Elaina, if they are supposed to be radical feminist progressives, discredit their cause with their violent antics. The moon phases pictured on Corey’s tank top may mark her as merely a walking, talking, rampaging case of PMS. “Why does everyone think I’m a lesbian?” she wonders aloud, to which Elaina replies that “there is some truth in it”, the implication perhaps being that the political agenda of Corey and her type is motivated more by sexual frustrations than by reason or fairness. Elaina blunders through the sorts of clueless academic abstractions that cause social experimenters’ projects to fail. “You know I only have textbook theory,” she frets. “I built this place on a lot of theory, and this is a test run, so give me a frickin’ break on a few minor flaws.”

The fact that horny, drunken fraternity men appear as the gullible victims and not the perpetrators of murder and sex crimes undercuts the popular misandrist myth of an ubiquitous “rape culture” on college campuses. Women’s degradation and endangerment appears as their own doing in The Scarehouse. The sisters only degrade themselves by calling each other “cunt” and “bitch”. As women’s femininity has been eroded, their pedestal toppled by political empowerment, they no longer enjoy their previous freedom from violence and sexual mutilation at the movies. (“I am going to punch her in the box,” Corey threatens.) Just as a man can be kicked in the crotch with the utmost casualness, as has been the case for decades, “liberated” (i.e., dehumanized) women are now more apt to see their breasts removed or their eyelids ripped off on the big screen. A satirical indication of the degeneration wrought by the sexual revolution comes when the sight of the bloody and ravaged Katrina makes one character wonder if this is a “sex party”.

Mia, a boring heroin addict (Fun Size‘s miscegenating tramp Jane Levy), is accompanied by her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) and three other generic and foul-mouthed twentysomething friends to a remote cabin where they plan to support her as she attempts to kick the habit by going cold turkey.  Unfortunately, waiting for them down in the cellar is a creepy satanic textbook bound in human flesh, which one of the the dummies (Lou Taylor Pucci, looking like a live action Mr. Van Driessen) naturally opens and reads aloud, unleashing a gaggle of nasty beings that proceed to possess most of them in turn.

Evil Dead, as one might expect, is a more polished but less interesting film than its 1982 forebear.  Gone are the ratty, organic camera work and the distinctive claymation-style effects.  Gone, too, is most of the dark humor, as only the blackest of black sensibilities is likely to find anything funny about this new version.  No one can fault this Evil Dead for failing to deliver the jolts and gore, however, as buckets of the stuff are sloshed left, right, down, and onto the ceiling before the movie is over.  Superfluous more than actually bad, Evil Dead lacks the rugged individualism of the original, but should satisfy even the most jaded gorehounds in the audience.

3 out of 5 stars.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Evil Dead is:

6. Multiculturalist.  A token character of color (Jessica Lucas) has been added to the cast of demon fodder for this remake – two if white Hispanic Fernandez counts.

5. Gun-ambivalent.  Mia warns that no one should ever have touched the articles brought up from the cabin’s basement – among which are a shotgun and shells.  One character falls prey to a demon as a result of reaching for the gun, but the weapon also comes in handy toward the end.

4. Anti-family.  In the film’s opening scene, a father burns his possessed daughter alive and shoots her in the head to save her soul.  David spends most of the film coping with his afflicted sister, his affection for her being a hindrance rather than an asset.  His insane mother is waiting for him in Hell.

3. Anti-gay.  Demonic attack more than once takes the form of a slimy lesbian come-on.

2. Christian, sort of.  Like The Collection, Evil Dead is rife with the sadomasochistic Christian iconography of spilled blood, bodies transfixed with nails, and spiritual purification by fire and torture.  Evil Dead is certain to tingle the spines of the superstitious among its viewers, striking the fear of the unholy into them.  (See also no. 4)

1. Anti-drug.  Whereas Ash (Bruce Campbell) of the first film must rise from wimpdom and assert his manhood against what can only be described as a pack of demonically PMS-possessed college bitches, David in the new Evil Dead faces off against an allegorical type of demonic possession that most notably parallels or expresses his sister’s drug addiction.

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