Director: Jim Valdez
Year of release: 2011
Country of origin: USA
Running time: 82 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: Both (Under the Spring Break Killer name at least. As Machine Head I think it's only on DVD)
Taglines: "Spring Break, live fast, die young" and "High octane terror".
Also known as: Spring Break Killer
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: Hoping for a spring break to remember college student Rachel has plans to spend the week at a ritzy villa on the outskirts of the desert. Inviting her two best girlfriends along the trio intend to meet up with Rachel’s boyfriend and two of his buddies at the villa for a fun filled vacation. With the villa belonging to a client of Rachel’s father who is away on business the girls initially think they’ll be house sitting alone until the unwelcome news is delivered to them that they will only be allowed to stay at the villa if they agree to take along Rachel’s two younger sisters. The news goes down like a lead balloon with Rachel herself seemingly the most upset as one of her sisters is an anti-social deviant on the verge of being expelled from high school. Reluctantly however the decision is made to take them along and they set out.
On the way the party are left shaken by a motorist in a black muscle car who torments them on the road before later spying on them at a rest stop. Unbeknownst to our leading ladies the man behind the wheel of the car is a deranged psycho, someone who after apparently committing a number of local murders has been dubbed the “machine head killer”.
As the girls arrive at their destination it soon becomes apparent that the machine head maniac has marked them as his latest victims.
Good points: *The black muscle car looks cool and is probably the most unique and memorable thing in the entire film. The film makers have gotten a-hold of a very nice looking car which is to some extent the star of the show despite only having a very limited role. It definitely seemed underutilised as it was largely only seen in the very beginning stages. I was expecting it to come into play later on, either via a vehicle chase scene or driven through a window of the villa for example. Sadly neither of these things happened which was a shame. Maybe they just didn’t want to put it into a situation where it could become damaged. Still, even as it is the car injects a tiny touch of class to the otherwise dull proceedings.
*The acting isn’t too bad from all concerned with everyone doing a more than passable job with what they’re given to do. The script isn’t exactly great but the actors to be fair do their best despite the short comings. The three female lead actresses are attractive as well which I wouldn’t ordinarily mention but what can sometimes serve as eye candy here at least wards off a little of the boredom. A scene where one girl sheds here bikini top to go into the pool reveals an admittedly pretty glorious breast shot. It’s one brief high point for the film, (or should that be two?).
*Going along with the acceptable acting the production values seem healthy enough with the film not coming across visually as a picture made for very little money. In this genre low budget amateurish looking films can often scare people off but in spite of probably having little funds behind it and being a real obscurity to boot this at least looks half way competent in the presentation department. Mind you there are lots of slashers out there that have much worse production values, presentation and acting than this but still manage to be far more entertaining so it’s kind of a back handed compliment.
*There is a twist in the tale at the very end which does elevate things script wise ever so slightly. You’ll probably see it coming but at least it was an attempt to add some shock factor and a bit of excitement.
Bad Points: *As you’ve probably gathered from the positive points Machine Head isn’t up to much and the main reason for this is that it comes across as being boring, boring, boring! Slow, dull and despite a decent body count strangely uneventful the eighty two minute running time seems to drag by at a snails pace. Even when things should be heating up nicely when the killer lays siege to the house it remains a tedious, laboured affair with nothing much of interest taking place. The attempts at creating suspense largely fall flat and there’s nothing at all in the way of scares. On top of this there’s no humour or any real drama either so it’s really something which struggles to hold a viewers interest.
The killer doesn’t seem to possess any kind of credible or threatening stalking techniques but despite this the girls act completely terrified much of the time which comes off as odd and as if they’re over acting. You can’t blame the actresses as they’re just doing as directed but more the lame uneventful script which is at fault. Adding to the boredom this also suffers from too many scenes where characters walk around super slowly and in a much more panicked state than they have a right to be as they investigate a strange noise. It happens about four times throughout the movie and mainly results in an anti-climax.
*As I allude to the script isn’t very good and as such the characters all came across to me as very bland and forgettable. No one really stands out as being likeable and I didn’t find myself invested in anyone’s chances of survival. I also felt that there were too few characters with the three guys that were supposed to be coming over not actually making it while the two younger sisters added very little to the point of nearly being a pair of non-entities. Some snappy, sassy banter could have been included with Rachel bickering with her younger sister (the poorly behaved one) but instead the younger girls disappeared for most of the running time only contributing anything of note at the very end.
*The Machine Head killer is awful and doesn’t appear in the least bit intimidating or scary. Much like most everything else on offer he makes for a boring fellow who does little of note from start to finish. He doesn’t have a mask which only makes him more forgettable and on top of this they go for a very minimalistic approach with him rarely even being seen on screen. The odd fuzzy shot of his bearded face is largely the extent of what we see. I’m not sure why the police dubbed him the Machine Head killer either as that implies some sort of robot type mask. Well either that or he plays Machine Head music when going after his victims. I guess it’s supposed to be related to the car but if that’s all it is they may as well call him the Petrol Head Killer or the Muscle Car Maniac.
*There is absolutely nothing in the way of special effects with scarcely a drop of blood seen spread across ten murders. Several of them are off screen with the others being lifeless and uninspiring.
*There is a confusing part towards the middle where a guy is introduced to us as he is having a telephone conversation. With no explanation forthcoming as to who he is or who he is speaking to on the phone as it’s a conversation which makes littler sense to the viewer. What follows is a very long winded scene where he spots the muscle car parked up in the distance and goes to investigate
but it takes too long and nothing comes of it. All the while I was left wondering just who the hell the guy was!
Verdict: A vacant, vapid bore of a film this obscurity is unfortunately one best avoided. It’s a film with little going on when it comes to positive qualities and it simply makes for a tedious viewing experience. It offers nothing by way of likeable characters, memorable set pieces or cool kills. The killer isn’t up to much either and is as bland and ineffectual as everything else both in appearance and actions.
The acting and production values are better than in everything else I’ve graded this low so maybe that counts for something. It also has a seldom seen muscle car and some hot girls. With nothing else to recommend it however and with it being as boring as it is I’d say it’s one to pass over.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1) Boyfriend of prologue girl: Found dead on the floor/slumped against door.
2) Prologue girl: Abducted and later placed in bondage and then stabbed with knife/machete.
3) Shane, 4) Tristan and 5) Logan: All three shot with shotgun.
6) Man that came to check on the house: Found dead in his car.
7) Mila: Drowned in swimming pool.
8) Chloe: Either neck broken or strangled with a makeshift noose made out of a belt.
9) Rachel: Bludgeoned on the head with lug wrench.
10) Nikki: Shot by Sandra with handgun.