Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Final Girl Film Club - Bloody Murder trilogy

Cody is endeavoring to write about all of the Final Girl Film Club entries he missed over the years. The movies will be covered in the original Film Club order in most cases, while some of the articles will be posted to coincide with certain dates.

This new series of write-ups begins the same way the Film Club did, by playing Bloody Murder.


There's an urban legend around the Placid Pines area, a legend of a hockey mask-wearing slasher named Trevor Moorehouse, who stalks the local campground and surrounding forest, looking for victims to dismember with his chainsaw. A chainsaw that he may have even turned into a prosthetic that replaces one of his hands, though the stories aren't quite clear on that. When we get a glimpse of Trevor in action in a flashback/telling of the legend, he's just carrying the saw like normal. Whenever something bad happens in Placid Pines, locals put the blame on Trevor Moorehouse. If there's a murder, as there will be several of over the course of this film, Trevor even gets a front page accusation in the newspaper.

Now Camp Placid Pines is being re-opened and a fresh group of counselors have arrived before the start of the six week camping season to help the camp director get the place in working condition. Among the counselors are a couple guys with perhaps the most nonsensical reason for a rivalry ever - one broke his knee while running in track qualifications against the other and now hates his former opponent for not quitting the track team after that. I didn't realize this was anyone's expectation after being injured in a sporting event. Also in the group are a pair of exes, a couple red shirt fodder types, a desperately horny nerd who, this being the era of Scream, also likes to work his knowledge of horror movies into his exchanges, and a guy who's pursuing a relationship with final girl Julie (whose father has warned her about him), but is also willing to go off with any other girl who shows interest. Julie is assigned to share a cabin with a co-counselor and though the girls would seem to have little in common - our heroine has lived in the same small town all her life, her cabinmate spent her childhood moving all over the world - they manage to bond over "Guam cigarettes" and the fact that they've both lost a parent.

As the counselors get to work, they also get involved with love triangles or squares, fit in a screening of Sleepover Camp Massacre 14 (actually footage from director Ralph Portillo's 1996 horror effort Fever Lake, which starred Corey Haim and Mario Lopez), and take some time to play the game that gives the film its title. Bloody Murder is basically Hide & Seek meets Tag, with rules that make it less fun than either game on its own.

The game ends with a couple counselors pulling a prank - one pretends to be the latest victim of Trevor Moorehouse, while his cohort, whose name happens to be Jason, dons a hockey mask to scare another counselor. Feelings are hurt, violence is implied, and now that the film has set up messy interpersonal relationships and multiple suspects, the murders begin.

At first, Julie earns her final girl status merely by being the most earnest and milquetoast of the bunch, but as the story plays out she'll prove to have a personal connection to the murders happening at Camp Placid Pines. Sort of. Not content to just go with the angle that it's Trevor Moorehouse hacking up the counselors, the film plays out as a murder mystery with Julie taking it upon herself to get to the bottom of what's going on. Warned by an elderly old man, a former camp runner turned doomsayer, that a camper named Nelson has "come back for revenge", Julie searches through the camp's history to find out who this mysterious Nelson may be.

Unlike most camp slashers, the killer here is in no hurry, picking off his victims over the course of several days, giving Julie, her fellow counselors, and local law enforcement plenty of time to go over the list of possible perpetrators. As people theorize over who may be the killer, we see imagined scenes play out in different ways with different people committing the evil deeds and wearing the hockey mask, like a kind of slasher version of Rashomon. (Slashomon? Someone should make that.)

The climactic revelation of the killer's true identity leads to a chase through the campground with Julie and the killer running as fast as they can, featuring perhaps the fastest speeds in any horror final chase.

When word of Bloody Murder's impending DVD release started going around back in 2000, the movie got a lot of attention on the Friday the 13th message board I was frequenting then. A camp slasher with a killer wearing a hockey mask and carrying a chainsaw, the way Jason Voorhees is often depicted in pop culture references despite the fact that he's never actually used a chainsaw himself? A killer called Trevor Moorehouse, a name very similar to Jason Voorhees? This was obviously a Friday the 13th ripoff and wasn't afraid to admit it, and a lot of the F13 fans were interested in checking it out. At that point, there was even a hope among some of us that this could turn out to be a direct-to-video franchise that could in some way fill the gap the lack of new Friday the 13ths had left. In 2000, it had been seven years since Jason Goes to Hell, Freddy vs. Jason was still in development hell, and while Jason X was in the works, we were certainly far away from the '80s heyday of annual releases. If we couldn't get the real stuff (F13), maybe the generic brand (Bloody Murder) would do the trick.

What we got wasn't quite what we were hoping for. Rather than a DTV F13 stand-in, Bloody Murder's tone and style was more along the lines of a Lifetime Channel mystery. Beyond that disappointment, the movie turned out to be a mess on just about every level, but particularly from a technical standpoint - terrible sounding ADR, boom mishaps, and some very dodgy editing, including a decision to drop an important scene that gets referenced throughout the film.

Apparently there was a moment while the counselors were out in the woods the night they were playing the game Bloody Murder when the character Jason mistakenly believes that horror nerd Tobe is making a move on Julie (which wouldn't be surprising, since Tobe makes awkward/creepy sexual comments to Julie on several occasions) and punches Tobe in the stomach for it. That shapes how some characters view Jason, he's referenced as having violent tendencies, it causes Julie to ask him during an argument, "Or else what? You'll punch me in the stomach?", and Tobe to leave Julie's presence for fear that someone might think he's trying to, as he says, stick his tongue down her throat. But the Jason-Tobe confrontation and punch is not in the movie, making Julie and Tobe's comments very strange and out of place.

Despite all of its problems, Bloody Murder has garnered a cult following over the years, largely because it was so poorly put together. Its badness is the sort that some viewers may find very entertaining, a situation where ineptness circles around to becoming accidental genius. Other viewers just enjoy it without picking apart its flaws. I don't think it's exactly a good movie, but do find it kind of charming in its own way. And I like the acoustic guitar tracks of the score by Steven Stern.

Screenwriter John Stevenson seems to be a fan of the genre, the way the legend of Trevor Moorehouse is cobbled together from multiple sources (a hockey mask like Jason Voorhees, a jumpsuit like Michael Myers, a chainsaw like Leatherface, possibly a chainsaw for a hand like Ash) and the way Tobe prattles on shows some familiarity with the classics, and in that way the script almost comes off like fan fic. Stevenson may have envisioned that he was writing something much more along the lines of a proper '80s slasher, but that's not how it was executed.

Spoiler: In the end, it's revealed that Trevor Moorehouse is not the person who's been killing people at Camp Placid Pines, the legend is merely being used by someone to cover up their own crimes, much like in Friday the 13th: A New Beginning. But, we were still left with hope that there could be a Trevor Moorehouse franchise. The killer didn't murder everyone whose body turned up at the camp. And when one surviving character takes a walk down a country road, he comes across a threatening man. A man wearing a jumpsuit and a hockey mask, carrying a chainsaw. Trevor Moorehouse lives!


John Stevenson returned to write the sequel, the second and to this day final credit on his filmography. Set five years after the events of the first film (like Friday the 13th Part 2), the sequel centers on a girl named Tracy, the sister of the character Jason from the previous movie. Jason is the person who had the final scene encounter with the threatening man we assumed was the real Trevor Moorehouse, and he was never seen again after that. Haunted by memories and nightmares of her missing brother, Tracy has decided to work out her issues by becoming a counselor at Camp Placid Pines herself. She has spent the entire summer there by the time the movie begins, camping season has come to an end and she and her fellow counselors are now spending their last three days on the job helping the camp director close the place down for the year.

After a game of Bloody Murder, which Tracy declines to participate in and the counselors play by different rules than their five years earlier predecessors did, a game that ends the same way the game in the first movie did, with a couple counselors pulling a prank where one pretends to be a victim and the other pretends to be the hockey masked Trevor Moorehouse, the real murders start up again.

Though the hockey mask part of the Moorehouse legend gets a nod in the prank, the real killer dresses differently. This time he wears bib overalls over a black sweater and his face is obscured by what looks like a featureless white mask added to the front of a black ski mask.

The Moorehouse legend gets fleshed out a bit more this time around, the backstory of this possibly fictional killer more fully explained - Trevor Moorehouse was the son of Clayton Moorehouse, the meanest camp director in Placid Pines history. Trevor would rat misbehaving counselors out to his father, so the counselors decided to take revenge on him with some kind of prank. Things went horribly wrong, and Trevor ended up at the bottom of a ravine with hungry birds feasting on his face. This horrific experience caused Trevor's mind to snap and he ended up spending time in a mental asylum, where he took to wearing a mask to hide his bird-ravaged features. At some point, Trevor escaped or was released from the asylum, and now he stalks the campgrounds and surrounding forest, looking for victims.

Again, this film plays out more like a murder mystery than a straightforward slasher with a simple "Trevor is back" explanation. As Tracy takes it upon herself to get to the bottom of what's going on, her fellow counselors - which include the guy who's pursuing a relationship with her but is also willing to go off with any other girl who shows interest, a slutty girl played by Tiffany Shepis, a guy named Elvis, and even a secondary final girl type - are picked off one-by-one.

Whether the killer is Trevor or not, whoever he is he dispatches his victims in much more brutal, bloodier ways than the first movie's killer did. The tone is darker overall and the style of cinematography more appropriate for a slasher than the previous film's Lifetime look. With director Rob Spera (the first Witchcraft, Leprechaun in the Hood) at the helm, the movie is on a technical level a vast improvement over the one it follows. Bloody Murder 2 works as a proper slasher movie, getting closer to what viewers were hoping for from part 1, even if they did ditch the hockey mask this time.

Bloody Murder is known as Scream Bloody Murder in the UK, but the sequel got a more drastic title change there, being released as Halloween Camp: Trevor vs. Jason. An attempt to trick people into thinking that Jason Voorhees might be showing up in this the same year he was fighting Freddy Krueger on the big screen. Anyone who was fooled by that title would be sorely disappointed, as the only Jason in here is Tracy's brother, giving warnings to his sister and getting chainsawed by Trevor Moorehouse in her dreams.

Trevor Moorehouse is much more of a character in this film than he was in the first, further fuelling the hope that this was a slasher who could end up carrying a prolific DTV slasher series... Unfortunately, the legend of Trevor Moorehouse ended here.

The 2004 slasher Adam & Evil was released in the UK as Halloween Camp 2: Scream If You Wanna Die Faster, but isn't any more related to the series than the multiple Italian horror movies that were released as Zombie number whatever or Demons 3 were to the other movies in those series.

More connected to the Bloody Murder series is


Written by Michael Hurst (Mansquito, The Darkroom, Room 6, Pumpkinhead 4: Blood Feud) and directed by Michael Feifer (A Dead Calling, Ed Gein: The Butcher of Plainfield, producer on Witchcraft 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9), The Graveyard is listed as a "spin off" of the Bloody Murder movies on IMDb. Made by the same company behind Bloody Murder 1 and 2, it seems very much like it was initially conceived as a Bloody Murder 3.

The Graveyard is set in the Placid Pines area, the titular location is the Placid Pines Cemetery, and it follows the Bloody Murder formula. It begins with a group of teens sneaking through a hole in the cemetery fence to play a version of Hide & Seek among the tombstones, but rather than Bloody Murder they call their game Run For Your Life. As the characters squeeze through the fence, we can immediately recognize the girl named Michelle as our final girl because she's the one who makes her way through the space in the most simple and demure manner. Following the lead of the Bloody Murders, the game turns out to just be a ruse so a prank can be played on one of the participants, with one teen dressing up as a knife-wielding killer and others pretending to get murdered by him as he chases the prank victim through the cemetery. But things go tragically wrong and the person being tricked ends up dying for real, impaled on a fence post.

After he serves five years for manslaughter, the prankster who was dressed as the killer is paroled from prison and his old friends gather to welcome him back out into the world. The venue for the Run For Your Life group's reunion is the old camp near the cemetery, Camp Placid Pines, where they intend to catch up with each other, face their demons, let go of the past and heal mentally and emotionally. Getting settled in at the old camp, the group deals with guilt, resentment, relationship issues, one has to grapple with her own sexuality, but they don't even get through the first night before the murders begin, this time committed by a killer wearing a very baggy, hooded outfit and a mask that looks like it's been stitched together from another person's face, Leatherface style.

As Michelle takes it upon herself to get to the bottom of what's going on, dark secrets are unearthed, suspects are considered, and red herrings presented. Like in the Bloody Murder movies that came before, local law enforcement does get involved and one of the group gets arrested as a suspect, but is soon cleared as the murders continue while they're in custody.

Despite the movie being set on his home turf, the legend of Trevor Moorehouse is never mentioned this time around, a reason why the Bloody Murder 3 title wasn't applied to the film in the end, and as such we're never teased with the thought that Trevor might actually be doing the killing this time. It's clear from the beginning that the killer is just another person with issues, and when their identity is revealed, Michelle is taken back to Placid Pines Cemetery to play one last, deadly serious game of Run For Your Life.
The Graveyard is a decent DTV slasher, though after checking it out in 2006 I did completely forget that it existed until I was revisiting the Bloody Murder movies for this article. So it's obviously not particularly memorable (to me), but it passes 83 minutes pretty well.

P.S. Mainline Releasing, I'm still game for a series that would follow the real Trevor Moorehouse's bloody escapades at Camp Placid Pines.

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  1. I loved your write-up on the series. If you're interested, there's technically a fourth Bloody Murder film as well. It's called The Butcher, same screenwriter as The Graveyard. There was massive home video success with BM2 so the studio commissioned Hurst to write BM3 and BM4. Sadly, we didn't get "real" BM sequels.


    1. Thanks for reading! And thanks for the info. I had never heard of The Butcher before, I'll have to seek it out.

      - Cody