Monday, March 20, 2017

Review: Easter Sunday

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2017
Images from the Internet

Easter Sunday                                                                                              
Written and directed by Jeremy Todd Morehead
Northgate Pictures / Camp Motion Pictures / MVD Visual
93 minutes, 2014 / 2017

Holidays have been the focus of horror films – especially slasher ones – at least since the original Halloween in 1978, though one could easily also go back to the likes of the 1972 anthological film Tales From the Crypt, where one segment had a manic in a Santa suit terrorizing Joan Collins (based on a comic book short from the early 1950s).

The Bunny Man
For a long time, one of the holidays that seemingly passed over was Easter, the joyous celebration of the death and rebirth of you-know-who. But that has changed, and the story has had a number of recent releases, including ZombieChrist (2010), but it often seems the evil villain is a variation of the Easter Bunny (shades of 1975’s Monty Python and the Holy Grail), such as in Easter Casket (2013), Easter Bunny Bloodbath (2010), Bunnyman (2011; first of a trilogy), The Night Before Easter (2014), and now Easter Sunday. Usually it’s a person dressed in a fully bunny outfit, but in this case, The Bunny Man wears just a magic Papier-Mache mask whose eyes glow when the killin’ begins.

This film plays a lot with genre tropes, such as the prologue killing spree which takes place 24 years before the main part of the story, but this is such an insaniac vision of a slasher film, it’s not surprising that (a) while touching on paradigms, it’s more like a rock skipping on the water than wading, and (b) there is just bat-shit crazy WTF stuff going on all the time that has nothing to do with anything you would expect. For example, there is a part in the beginning where this looks like it may become “found footage,” but it’s more an acknowledgement than a full-length trend (thankfully).

Robert Z'Dar
In the opening, we meet the Bunny Killer as he creates and then dons his mask, develops a very high pitched voice who’s puns smack of the Kruger. He goes on a killing spree, finally being stopped by a local cop, played by C-film legend Robert Z’Dar (d. 2015). Just about a decade later, we meet our hapless heroes, a(n approximately) mid-20’s group of..well, I’m gonna say high-functioning mentally challenged friends. The guys are in a pretty awful rock band, and the more sane of the collective, somewhat, are their girlfriends. The leader/singer is Jeremiah (director Morehead), and his girlfriend is the very cute Amber (Anne Morehead, the director’s spouse in real-life).

One of the band members, Ryan (Jason Delgado, the co-producer on the film) has a deep secret that comes out pretty early when they use a sorta Ouija board to raise the evil spirit of the Bunny Man. Of course, things go from bad to worse. While I’m at this point, I’d like to note that this is this collective’s first film, and so not only does the cast act, write and produce, but also does the hands-on work, making this a talent showcase in the classic idea of “Let’s put on a show!!” I actually applaud this attitude, when it works. Does this? Well, that may depend on to whom you talk.

The reason I say that is that the comedy here is quiiiiiite broad, with some jokes working better than others, and this kinda tickles some funnybones, while other people may be turned off by the style. For me, it was a mixed bag, and there were some bits I thought were hysterical (such as the burrito in the refrigerator gag); others kind of fell flat (e.g., the comment, “What the fuck! And your breath is really bad!”).

Jeremy Morehead
There are also some interesting inside jokes, such as Jeremiah waking up and stating, “Why was I dreaming of Shawn C. Phillips!?” (this made me smile, FYI). Another is the reincarnated Bunny Man saying to Z’Dar, “You must be some kind of Manic Cop to try to unmask me!”

There are some additional cool nods to other films, such as the Black Knight scene of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and having the killer say “Happy Easter, motherfucker,” surely a gesture towards the “Gobble-gobble, motherfucker” catch phrase of Turkie, the killer fowl in the also holiday themed ThanksKilling (2009). Even The Wizard of Oz (1939) is referenced.

The acting is waaaay over the top, I’m assuming purposefully, such as Jeremiah’s near constant high-pitched screaming as a running bit. I mean, often the killer in these kinds of films is extreme in the acting (such as Englund’s Freddie K.), but this is especially true in comedy slashers. The name of the film company really does say it all, because this really is high camp. I was almost expecting someone to yell out “No! Wire! Hangers! Ever!!”

Anne Morehead
Now there are two approaches to this kind of level of goofiness. One is the intentional errors and flubs, such as employed by The Seven Dorms of Death (2015), and here, well, sometimes it feels purposeful, but sometimes I wondered if it was just overlooked (or given a budgetary whatever stamp). For example, the Bunny Man is shot a dozen times, and the shooter says, “I put six bullets into him.” In another, a dead person blinks. Also while some of the effects are pretty decent (more on that next paragraph), either knife wounds disappear on a white shirt (with green blood), or bullet holes don’t show up at all. It’s also obvious that another actor is playing one of the key characters at the end (in a hidden face way, a la Lugosi in 1959’s Plan 9 From Outer Space). There is, however, a larger suspension of disbelief dependant on how broad the comedy, and this one is the Mississippi River.

There is a small bit of nudity and lots of bloody effects, most of which are digital. Some look, honestly, spectacular (a beheading near the end is particularly well done), and others look decent, but puzzling to me. The reason for that is it seems like no one has any bones in their bodies. Someone is split in half and it’s just goo inside, like it was melted by upchuck from The Fly (1986). I wasn’t really bothered by that, but it was noticeable. For me, the sound was more distracting, as it felt like a lot of it was overdubbed, which gave the voices a flat tone (in other words, everyone sounded like they were at the same distance from each other, no matter where they were on the screen); though at other points, the vocals were drowned out by added sounds.

I would also like to commend the cameos, including Edward X. Young (e.g., 2010’s Mr. Hush), Ari Lehman (the first Jason Voorhees; they nicely play around with this in his dialog), and Z’Dar, whose role is kind of brief, albeit pivotal.

The extras are a shit-load of other trailers (yeah, I watched them all, even the ones I’ve seen; many seem to star scream queen Erin R. Ryan and director Henrique Couto, which made me happy), and an hour-long “Making Of” featurette that includes shooting diaries, the first script reading, SFX set-ups, deleted scenes (such as those with Shawn C. Phillips, explaining a bit why he’s mentioned), bloopers, make-up tests, etc. About half of it is interesting, which is better than most.

The thing about broad comedy is that one never knows how it will be received down the line. It could be one that friends will quote for decades, or it may become tiresome and outdated rather quickly. With all the inconsistencies, holes in the story, over-acting (and under-acting as well), I enjoyed it this time around; about in the future, only time will tell. And besides, it’s almost Easter, what else are you gonna watch for a laugh, The Passion of the Christ (the feel-good movie of 2004)?

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