Thursday, June 25, 2015

Review: Blood Slaughter Massacre

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

Blood Slaughter Massacre
Directed and edited by Manny Seranno
Mass Grave Pictures / Devarez Films
Wild Eye Releasing / MVD Visual
113 minutes / 2013 / 2015

One subgenre of the recent trend of slasher films is homage to the “video nasties” of the 1980s, when video was king and horror and porn were the top renters. Most do a decent job, but it’s rare that anyone gets it this accurate. It’s obtuse (he’s killing them why?), with a large body count of mostly teenage girls (think Slumber Party Massacre [1982]), a masked and silent killer of some girth who likes to pose in hallways, and cops with issues.

Smartly, the introductory murder(s) scene (you think I may be giving too much away? Have you ever seen the genre before?) takes place around 1974 in a town called Havenwood (a perfect ‘80s film locale name), so that way the “10 years later” main story could actually take place in the ‘80s rather than just referencing it. With the exception of some small LED CSI­-style flashlights, the sets are excruciatingly accurate, which is also wonderful.

Matt W. Cody
For the main part of the story, we meet Shaft-style leather jacket-wearing, 5-O’Clock shadowed, alcoholic detective James Fincher (Matt W. Cody, who looks familiar though I don’t recognize any of his credits from IMDB), recently separated from his wife (Melissa Roth, who does a convincingly great job in the role), and daughter. Fincher had been injured as a beat cop by the killer 10 years before, and now he’s an on-and-off the wagon drunk. His partner is Cobb (Byron M. Howard) who sticks by his pal, but has a secret, natch. And the head cop is angry at them, of course.

Now, this next part is both good, and creepy in real life: the actresses who play the teen girls are supposed to be 15, and for once most actually look the part, even though (as the director states in the commentary) they are all in their 20s. What’s disturbing is that most of them appear topless if not nude, including some sex scenes, so it’s sort of ”barely legal” stuff for which I was not comfortable. On a lighter note, but just as seriously curious, that they managed to find this many young actresses without tattoos is admirable, unless they removed them digitally. [I have been informed by the director that only one female cast member had a tattoo and it was physically covered with make-up. I love the Internet... - RG]

That brings us to the next point: as far as I can tell, being an “’80s film,” the effects appear to be all appliances, with no digi, which is what I like to see. Digital effects are fine, but I like the physical challenge of carnage. Just take a look at Carpenter’s version of The Thing (1982); it’s a stunning piece of work without any CGI. There’s a lot of gore here with that ‘80s syrupy kind of blood, and enough spray and blades to make Tom Savini say, “You welcome.” The film also stays true to the look of the ‘80s with just enough fuzzy images to imply VHS – especially with the blurry red-lettered credits at the end – to make it cheesy, fun, and respectful at the same time.

Danielle Lenore, Carmela Hayslett-Grillo
The two teen female leads are also wonderfully clich√© (i.e., modelled on the period). The focus of the clown masked killers attack at the party is Danielle (Danielle Lenore), the “Jamie Lee Curtis” of the film, if you will. She’s the shy girl who you know is gonna get “(wo)man-up” by the end, as these things tend to follow. Her best friend, the tough and hot girl with the heart of gold, is Carla (Carmela Hayslett-Grillo) in the “Rose McGowan” (Scream) sidekick position. If anyone survives the night (most of the film takes place in a single day rotation) of the blood slaughter massacre (the more I say that title, the less sense it makes, but still is a totally wicked-cool name), it’s going to be one of these two.

While the soundtrack is new, they did well in getting that piano-plinking sound for the anticipatory moments (e.g., “let’s go check out that strange noise…”), and gathered a bunch of long-hair rock songs that so fit into the ‘80s motif that you’ll swear you’ve heard it – or something like it – before. Again, excellently executed (pun intended).

No matter how I describe any one element of the story (including the ending, which I will not give away), you’re seen it before if you are a fan of the genre, and that’s part of both the point and the charm of the film. And yet, there are some nice unexpected twists and turns. This is one of the rare releases that if I saw it without any previous knowledge, I would have said it were from that period. It’s that bad, which is a very high compliment coming from where and what I’m trying to say.

There are a stack of extras, some successful, some not. There is a Behind the Scenes featurette (not), some extended and deleted scenes (mostly not) and some fake trailers that inspired this film and music video (successful). There is also a nice commentary track with the director, the cinematographer Louis Cortes, and SFX / make-up / AD Lindsay Serrano.

This is definitely a hoot for a Throw-Back-Thursday, or a Saturday Night get-together for some laughs, some memories of videos-gone-by, or just a chance to see a three-second cameo by director James Balsamo. No matter what the reason, if you’re a VHS horror junkie from or of the period, this’ll hit the ahhhh spot.

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