Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Look Out Jason and Freddy!

Any cult movie fan worth their salt can tell you that the heyday for slasher flicks was the end of the 70s until probably about the time Freddy showed up on Elm Street in 1984. Arguably Friday the 13th really kicked off the flood of slasher movies. For a while there it seemed like a new one crept into the theater just about every week, and I'm not talking about the flood of sequels with Jason, Freddy, etc. Before those guys came to the party, it reached a point that I recall Siskel and Ebert devoting a whole show devoted to slasher movies. This would be, if memory serves, right around '80 or '81. Mostly Siskel and Ebert were pissed off at the way these movies debased women, showing them chased, humiliated, and murdered from the killer's point of view, thereby giving the movie-goer a voyeuristic thrill.

I couldn't really argue their point. Most of the movies they were talking about were pretty awful.

Anyway, this is all a lead-up to the book I'm throwing up for consideration, 1982's Ninja Master #6 Death's Door by Wade Barker. It takes the idea of what slasher movies did to audiences, and runs amok with it.

November 1982, Warner Books, Inc.

Before I get any further I have to give a shout out to two terrific blogs: Glorious Trash and Johnny LaRue's Crane Shot, for reminding me just how much fun these old paperback men's adventure novels were.

Anyway, as I was reading this book I couldn't help but wonder what old Siskel and Ebert's response to the Ninja Master would have been, considering that some of the villains in this book are exactly the type of monster that would have been in the theaters getting their rocks off at each hack 'o the knife.

The Ninja Master series lasted 16 novels. Ric Meyers took over the duties as of the 2nd novel (this one) and went on to write 12 of the Ninja Master adventures in all. The bad guys in this novel feature over-the-top violence, strong sex and villains that would give The Joker a serious run for his money in the “bat-shit crazy” gig. Death’s Door uses horror movies like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday 13th, and Halloween as its launching point, as a murderous gang of savages reenact their favorite scenes from the slasher movies of the day. Their torture and brutality are described in lurid detail. The big difference with our gang of maniacs here is that they like to change the endings, meaning no survivors. Ninja Master Brett Wallace is on the case in no time flat, stalking the killers after a murder attempt is made on a former girlfriend of his, Lynn McDonald. Brett Wallace, we’re told, has spent twelve years training as a ninja, and has devoted his life to eradicating evil and, you get the idea. After a failed attempt on Lynn's life, he goes on to slice and dice his way through the plot leading to a wild climax that takes place in a mental hospital for the criminally insane where the diabolical physician in charge has hatched a scheme to take revenge on society. Right out of Dr. Tarr’s Torture Dungeon, the inmates have taken over the asylum.

Nothing left for the Ninja Master to do, but clean house. “His teeth were gritted as he sliced down, up, to the sides and across…Each twist of the blade caught flesh and dug. No matter how the crazies twisted, jumped and ducked, the swords found them. Brett hacked through heads, arms, torsos, necks, hips, and legs as he moved through the crowd. Unarmed, terrified, all they could do was fall before his wrath.


I had a good time with this book. It's fast, it's violent, and rude. There are some inconsistencies with the setting. I didn't know if we're in San Francisco or L.A. part of the time. Also, Brett seems to blend into a crime scene too readily, but what the hell. Reading it was sort of like sitting through one of the better examples of horror films that it references. Give me this anytime over the next bloated and gassy summer blockbuster. 

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