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  Staunton Hill Splatter of '69
Year: 2008
Director: Cameron Romero
Stars: Kathy Lamkin, Cristen Coppen, David Rountree, Kiko Ellsworth, Christine Carlo, Paula Rhodes, Charlie Bodin, B.J. Hendricks, Cooper Huckabee, Sherry Weston, Reema Anbari, Jake Andolina, Lauren Bayer, Kevin Kirkpatrick
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: This latest addition to the “trap them and kill them” sub-genre of backwoods horror unfolds in the autumn of 1969. The year of Altamont, the Manson murders and Hello Dolly. The year of terror. After credits roll over images of a blood-splattered torture dungeon and the sound of distorted screams, we meet five fresh-faced youths: Cole (David Rountree), Jordan (Cristen Coppen), Boone (Kiko Ellsworth), Raina (Christine Carlo) and Trish (Paula Rhodes), a kindly, likeable bunch who are hitchhiking their way across the state to attend a political rally in Washington D.C. The gang hitch a ride with affable, twenty-something Quintin (Charlie Bodin), whose van breaks down in the woods. So everyone takes refuge at a seemingly deserted farm, actually inhabited by a family of scary hillbilly-types who don’t like comely promiscuous teenagers, hide a slaughterhouse in their barn and… If you can’t see where this is going, you’re either five years old or spent a lifetime watching nothing but musical comedies.

The spectre of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre - both original and remake - hangs so heavily over Staunton Hill, you wonder why Cameron Romero (son of George A. Romero, though lets cut him some slack and spare comparisons with his father’s work) and actor/screenwriter David Rountree even bothered. Yes, the Staunton family include a hulking homicidal maniac with the mind of a child (B.J. Hendricks). Yes, the cutest, most foolhardy girl stumbles into his lair and dies an agonised, blood-splattered death. Yes, the Stauntons harbour religious delusions too, because that’s what rural religious folk do, they chop up city folks. Frankly, I’m surprised there has never been a grassroots protest against this most wearisome of screen clichés. The film includes a ho-hum twist, with cutaways to doctors operating on a little girl and confusing phone conversations between an anonymous surgeon and body-snatcher, but ultimately offers nothing horror fans have not seen a hundred times before.

Cinematographer Andrew Iko McLean’s striking autumnal colours impart a wistful tone, yet aside from a cutesy reference to Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Boone’s passing mention of the Black Panthers, there seems little discernible point in setting this in 1969. Especially given how the characters talk more like 21st century teens. Some impressive aerial photography distinguishes this from its torture-porn cousins and Cameron shares his father’s skill with actors. All the performances are good. Paula Rhodes, for example, weaves a nice line in self-deprecating humour that briefly lifts her above the level of decorative victim. The inclusion of two monstrous matriarchs (Sherry Weston and Kathy Lamkin) inverts the male-dominated Texas Chainsaw clan, though the potential is soon squandered.

Where Tobe Hooper cleverly hinted at all manner of graphic mayhem, Cameron Romero dwells on sheets of flayed skin, limbs ripped off and intestines spilling all over the place while live victims scream in agony. It’s all very tedious in its predictability and underlines a nagging point. That where the Seventies horror auteurs, who seemingly inspired movies like this, were serious men who wove socio-political statements into their gory manifestos, the new generation: Eli Roth, Rob Zombie and now Cameron Romero are content to revel in splatter and shrieking starlets. Surely, we can do better than this?

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


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