Murder Party

Didn’t we learn anything from Lamberto Bava’s Demons? Never accept a weird party invite (in that one, it should’ve been even easier to heed that advice too. The guy wandering around in a silver mask in a Berlin train station was one odd dude). In Murder Party, the protagonist, Christopher, is a lonely sad-sack. (How do we know this? The pet cat/single guy speaks volumes, even as he doesn’t)…So any socialization will do, even an invite that instructs him to “come alone.”

Christopher’s wandering around a New York borough when he spots said Halloween party invite on the ground, directions to a “Murder Party.”

And perhaps inspired by his hairy feline, Sir Lancelet, or the boys in Monty Python, he heads to his humble apartment and slaps together a Crusader costume from cardboard and duct tape and ventures out into the night a passable knight.

Chris makes his way to a not-yet-gentrified part of Brooklyn, wanders down an alley, and enters a sprawling warehouse space. It’s there that a group of art students take him hostage, all part of some diabolical plan to maybe turn the taciturn parking enforcement officer into some kind of hipster inspiration for a Death of Marat. The art school crew comes bedecked in Hammer Horror vampire, Warriors-related attire to name a few.

The collective, true “fauves” conspire to make Chris’ death, the life of their art, and debate how they’re going to go about doing it and which medium they’ll choose.

Murder Party shows a real flare for exterior horrors, even as the bulk of the film takes place in one space. There are some choice digs at the cloistered world of modern art, and few punches are pulled with racy banter.

The third act kind of dries up after an inspired start. Still, there’s a lot of fun and for an indie horror, it’s executed oh so well.

Man’s Best Friend

The animal attack film is the most enduring horror sub-genre, as straight-ahead slashers fall and and out of fancy. Man’s Best Friend is an overlooked 90s entry, in a time when even natural horrors looked like they were losing steam.

Put out by New Line Cinema, “the house that Freddy built,” this one is a nightmare of another sort: a Fido lab creation run amok after escaping a research facility.

Ally Sheedy is ingénue-journalist Lori Tanner who gets an inside scoop from an employee of top-secret lab, EMAX. The tipster turns up dead, so Lori along with her producer gain access to the facility and unearth nefarious animal experiments. Lori bonds with the title character, a hulking Tibetan mastiff with anthropomorphic quasi-human eyebrows, named Max, whom she lets out of his cage and lets live with her.

We get a taste of the creature’s capacity for blood-lust when it tracks down a mugger, leaping over shopper carts with Westminster Dog Show abandon. Lassie, this ain’t, and soon the beast is ravaging even humans who don’t deserve, like the poor local postie, as well as Lori’s live-in beau.

Researcher Dr. Jarrett (the perma-scowling Lance Henriksen) lets cops know that a notable lab animal is missing. Jarrett is the founder of EMAX and the creator of this particular pooch, which has bear, tiger and even chameleon DNA spliced into its genetic makeup. It’s Max’s genetic mods which provide the film’s darkest moments of pure hilarity (a large tree is no match for Max, who morphs into verticality mode to torment and then make a meal of, another local pet and yes, Max can camouflage himself).

As audacious and ridiculous as any of its beastly brethren, Man’s Best Friend holds up exceedingly well against some hoary (or is that hairy?) 70s animal attack flicks, like Grizzly or Day of the Animals.

***1/2 (out of 5)

[Listen to our discussion of Man’s Best Friend on the Really Awful Movies Podcast!]