[review by JA Kerswell]
|2007 my ass. 1999 called and wants its fashions back!
I have always been intrigued by ‘lost slashers’ and this late 90s post-SCREAM (1996) entry had remained unreleased for over 20 years until recently - and somewhat mysteriously - it was leaked onto YouTube. Of course, there’s the old adage of ‘be careful what you wish for’ and it isn’t hard to see why HOLLYWOOD HORROR languished without distribution - even with a healthy smattering of well-known and soon-to-be-famous faces. Although not totally without merit, this ramshackle tale of partying teens hunted by a skull-masked killer amongst Tinsletown props is unfocused, confusing and has a tone that veers from handwringing sincerity to crude slapstick. However, if you ever wanted to see a freshly severed head say to the camera “Well this sucks!” this could be the film for you.
A disparate group of young people head to a horror-themed party in the penthouse of a grand old Hollywood building that was supposedly once owned by Howard Hughes - where, rumour has it, vegetable oil-fueled naked orgies took place on the roof (!). In a prologue, we see a young woman (Daisy McCrackin) burnt to death by a killer in black robes and a skull mask after a party at the same building back in 1937.
On their way, Kathy (Natalia Cigliuti) and Mary (Alyson Croft) decide to stop in to see a psychic (PHANTASM’s (1979) Angus Scrimm) (as you do). The psychic has an old-time photo that looks just like Kathy and, when they leave, he tells his assistant to go after the pair and warn them not to go to the party - but she is knocked down by a car before she is able to stop them.
|A skull-masked killer is hunting teens in Hollywood in Bernt Amadeus Capra's messterpiece HOLLYWOOD HORROR.
Others gather at the building, only to not be able to find the party and are left wandering through a warehouse full of Hollywood costumes. They realise that the building is a veritable maze with no way out and that they are trapped inside with a killer intent on hunting them down one-by-one …
HOLLYWOOD HORROR is a mess. There’s no other way to describe it. It is very possible that it was never finished and the cut we have is cobbled together from what was available. Either that or it’s just a messterpiece of the highest (or lowest) order. The film unsuccessfully tries to meld the then-in-vogue post-modernist slasher trappings with a supernatural angle. None of it really works. On one hand, it aims for poignancy with revelations about Kathy’s involvement in the mystery - but also has someone sucked to their death down a toilet bowl and a severed hand giving the killer the finger! The killer can’t be the killer unless there are two killers - but that’s never revealed. The budget is obviously on the low side, but not painfully so and wouldn’t have been out of place with other direct-to-DVD slashers of the period. The film even has some passable gore effects (although they are a mixture of practical and somewhat less convincing CGI).
The mystery around the making of and fate of HOLLYWOOD HORROR is more intriguing than the film itself. Press reports about the involvement of Tia Mowry and Tamera Mowry-Housely (from the popular TV show SISTER, SISTER (1994-1999)) clearly show that it was shot on location in Hollywood in 1999. It is unclear if the film got any kind of release anywhere outside of the United States, but the version released to YouTube says the film takes place in 2007. Which hints that it was being prepped for a belated release some years after it was made. In 2010, composer Ciaran Hope released the soundtrack to the movie on his Bandcamp page. The fact that the only available version has no credits suggests it may be an unfinished work print. The lack of credits also makes it difficult to cross-reference the cast. Forrest J. Ackerman is listed as a ‘party-goer’ on IMDB but I didn’t spot him. DIFF’RENT STROKES’ Todd Bridges has a small role as a security guard who the killer pushes through a window with a forklift truck. Natalia Cigliuti was a veteran of SAVED BY THE BELL: THE NEW CLASS (1993-1995). Christopher Berry went on to appear in such high-prestige films as DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012) and THREE BILLBOARD OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI (2017). Daisy McCrackin went on to appear in HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION (2002). Fellow castmates Cory Hardrict and Tammy Townsend have also had long and varied careers since making this.
|Tamera and Tia Mowry chose this as their post SISTER SISTER adult role breakthrough? At least it ended in a real-life wedding for one of them.
The film’s listed director is the Austrian-born Bernt Amadeus Capra, who is better known for his production designer work on projects such as the infamous Michael Jackson documentary THIS IS IT (2009). He seemed to be a strange choice for a teen slasher movie, as his only other directorial effort was the philosophical exercise MINDWALK (1990).
Although difficult to check with a lack of credits, a screenplay under the film’s title was registered to Nicholas Niciphor (who also wrote DEATHSPORT (1978)) in 1998 (with the application title MURDER AT HOLLYWOOD AND VINE). Copyright records suggest that HOLLYWOOD HORROR was linked to Cinema International Corporation (CIC) (although the company was typically a distributor for Paramount and MCA home videos). CIC Video was dissolved during a merger in 1999 (the same year this film was produced) - which might explain its limbo.
Admittedly, the attempt to mix the ghosts of old Hollywood with the then-popular teen slasher could have been interesting. Unfortunately, HOLLYWOOD HORROR just doesn’t gel. I’ve seen worse movies that have been released, but that really is damning with faint praise.
female: 7 / male: 6
1) Female burns to death
2) Male pushed through a window by a forklift truck
3) Male pulled into movie studio equipment
4) Female decapitated with a guillotine
5) Female flushed down a toilet
6) Male has hand chopped off and is electrocuted
7) Female decapitated with a battle axe
8) Male hit with car
9) Female hit with car (off screen)
10) Female hit with car (off screen)
11) Male falls to his death
12) Male dies of gun shot wounds
13) Female dies in falling lift (off screen)
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