Sunday, January 25, 2015

Review: Pizza Girl Massacre

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2015
Images from the Internet

The Pizza Girl Massacre
Produced, written and directed by Jason Witter
78 minutes, 2014

When I first read the title, my question was: “Okay, is it a massacre of pizza girls, or a pizza girl who does the massacring? Well…

But first… Here is the thing about clich├ęs: they tend to get annoying, but when you employ enough of them together, sometimes it creates something else, or other. Take the case here, for example. There are lots of tropes here that would be familiar to any horror fan, be in indie or mainstream. To name just a few: lost footage; theater troupe; cabin; in the woods; masked moron; meta-film documentary… Then, throw in a little bit of Mother’s Day (1980) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) for some good measure.

Additionally, if one is going to make a horror comedy, using Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1596; sorry, my General Semantics timebinding training is ingrained) as the direction for the acting troupe, it sets a good tone. This is especially true since director Jason Witter seems determined to use much of the Bard’s work in his screenwriting, in one way or another. Actually, using Willie S. as a mode for a slasher works as well, since many of his plays are bloody and have exceedingly large body counts.

Of course, the biggest problem with the found footage subgenre is that basically you know, at the onset, as the Doors famously phrased it clumsily, “No one here gets out alive.” But is the journey worth the ride?

Set and filmed in Albuquerque, we meet the central characters who include the cast and crew of the hopeful Shakespearean stage production, plus the camera guys, led by an obnoxious and lascivious dolt (played with aplomb by director Witter, wearing James Howlett (1974; aka Wolverine) style mutton-chops. They take their chance and rent a desolate cabin (always a mistake when there is a camera pointing at you) to rehearse. The owner, Mama Debi, explains they have to use basement. As Scooby-Doo (1969) may have said, “Wuh-oh.”

Needless to say, things don’t turn out well, but they do end up kinda funny, which is good as this is a dark comedy. If you are a fan of this genre, the jokes are definitely humorous in both a ha-ha way, and in a knowing one. Most of the wit is quite subtle as it is often in a knowing glance, a quick reference, a throwaway line, or on the outer frame of the camera. While there are few guffaws, it is worth it to pay attention to the action, but watch peripherally as well.

The look of the film is a mixture of ‘80s-style slasher, with some bright colors and deep red blood, and the jumble of hand- and head-held cameras with and the occasional flash insertion editing (where some of the humor is inserted). It has a good look to it, with some nice gore effects that are wet, enjoyably gruesome, and a tad (and appropriately) cheesy; there is, however, almost no nudity.

For the most part with rare exceptions, the acting is quite good for a low-budgeter, including the leads, Rhiannon Fraser and Rachel Shapiro, and especially the interesting (and cute) titular pizza slicer, Amy Bourque. Speaking of which, an interesting choice of Witter’s is to have every character in the film named after the actor playing them (other than the Pizza Girl, who is only known as, well, the Pizza Girl).

There were only three things I noted about the film on the negative side, and again, in this genre this is miniscule and nit-picky: first, it obviously takes place in the present considering the cameras used, but no one has a cell phone? I could understand if they were far enough outside a tower area where they wouldn’t work, but not one of this young cast tries (did I miss something where they were told not to bring it? However, that doesn’t mean everyone would listen to that directive, even from the play director; I wouldn’t and I’m older). Second, why did it take so long for anyone to leave the basement, never mind the house? And lastly, even though the Pizza Girl is nutsoid, surely a room full of people could have taken her down. I mean, they were able to tie up the bigger and angry Witter, so why not Pizza Girl?

Witter takes a lot of chances on this film, especially with using so many tropes, as I mentioned earlier. Luckily, it works for him. And even more fortunately, it works for the viewer, especially if one is versed in the genre, though even if one is not.

I agree with the film’s slogan: Pizza Girl Massacre delivers. The rest is silence…