Are there now so many retro-Eighties slasher films fans need no longer feel nostalgic about them? True to form this low-budget, shot-on-DV cam indie kicks opens with a pair of hayloft heavy-petters being killed by a grunting, mystery monster (Seth Chilsen). The boyfriend is swiftly despatched, but his lingerie-clad cutie (Julie Roy) is splattered in a slow, squishy burst of raspberry syrup. Ho-hum, here we go again…
Six obnoxious former college friends, reunited following the death of their buddy, set out on a road trip into rural Wisconsin for a weekend of drinking, screwing and sundry misbehaviour. Good girl Jessica (Angela Lowe) is drawn to photographer Mark (Jesse L. Cyr), formerly the put-upon geek of the group, to the displeasure of her ex-boyfriend Brent (Josh Mijal). Slutty Becky (Amy Quinn) hooks up with token black guy Paul (Dwight McMillan), a onetime soldier and closet coward, while Cooper (Travis Ruhland) just wants to follow the college football game on radio. Local rednecks, including surly cabin guide Brick (Scott Ash) and bereaved huntsman Scott (Ryan Bluth) warn the out-of-towners that the woods are haunted by the ‘Black Hodag’, a legendary creature dating back to the 19th century with a taste for human flesh. Sure enough, the Hodag proceeds to wreak bloody mayhem with the clueless college guys and gals.
Typically for the genre, the seemingly invincible killer is able to take six shotgun blasts to the chest and still keep on hacking, which saps most of the suspense and reduces the film to an extended smorgasbord spilling intestines and pancake syrup everywhere. And that of course is why our cast of belligerent college kids are so uniformly dislikeable, so the gore geeks can relish their messy deaths. Debuting writer-director Donn Kennedy won a Best Horror Feature award at the New York Independent Film festival. His editing and camerawork show a degree of flair - though he bathes the Hodag’s lair in garish lime green lighting straight out of a kid’s Halloween party - but the bulk of this meandering gore-fest is slapdash with wildly uneven performances.
Of the principal players, Angela Low and Jesse L. Cyr start out strong yet grow progressively asinine while the supporting cast range from unintentionally funny to the truly wretched, which makes the dodgy sound recording almost a relief. Woven amidst the stalk-and-slash antics is a “worm that turns” subplot culminating in a lame twist that never explains how one character can be in two places at the same time. Kennedy describes his film as “American Pie in the woods, where the pie eats the kids”, which goes some way to explaining why this wavers from cheap gore, T&A and even cheaper laughs, never certain if it’s a straight up splatter or campy send-up. A “morning after” montage that shows the hangover, STD and diarrhoea afflicted twenty-somethings groaning, puking and shitting their woes away, inclines towards the latter. As do inexplicable scenes like the rednecks who fantasise about sodomising Paul, who himself jerks off to a photo of a man in drag.
Amidst the usual mimicry of crowd-pleasing tropes from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1973), Deranged (1974) and Friday the 13th (1980), Kennedy stages a handful of effective chase sequences. But the big problem is anyone who hasn’t spent the last twenty years living under a rock can set their watch by this plot. Indie horror needs to stop wallowing in clichés and recover some its invention. We need another Carnival of Souls (1962) or Martin (1977), not more tenth-rate Texas Chain Saw wannabes.