Director: Bob Dennis
Year of release: 1995
Country of origin: USA
Running time: 80 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: Both
Tagline: "In sickness...and in death...In life one will slay...In death one will prey" and "Say your vows...Then say your prayes"!
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: Savage Vows is an extremely obscure SOV slasher from 1995 which up until recently was very difficult to find. So obscure was the film it didn’t even have a page on the IMDB for many years though that’s changed quite recently. Reviews were also hard to come by with the one on the ‘A Slash Above’ website being the only one I’ve seen previously.
Last year however in 2018 Savage Vows enjoyed a limited re-release with new custom art work on both DVD and Blu-Ray. I’m not sure but it may be hard to find again now but I made sure to pick up a Blu-Ray copy during the small window last year.
The film tells the story of grieving widow Mark who after recently loosing his wife is now afflicted with bizarre nightmares of his late partner. Several friends turn out for the funeral and as a show of support to Mark they mostly all decide to stay with him at his home over the weekend. Mark’s best friend Adam in particular does his best to stand by and support his troubled friend. By contrast however Adam’s wife Jamie seems in a strange argumentative mood and is snappy with everyone including her husband to both his and Mark’s confusion.
The drama then spikes with the appearance of a mysterious black gloved killer who begins eliminating the house guests one by one.
Good points: *I enjoyed the music throughout the feature which for me turned out to easily be the most competent and accomplished aspect of the entire film. Unfortunately early on the audio for the dialogue wasn’t great and sometimes the music didn’t help as it was a bit too loud playing over the top of the speaking. That aside however the music was a constant highlight. It was spooky and creepy in the right places and helped build up something of a credible atmosphere.
*The deaths on display were fairly strong and varied and I’d say were one of the more creative things on offer. Certainly an effort was made to try and make them mostly different from one another. I don’t want to sing the films praises in this area too much as it was a mixed bag with some cliché and forgettable ones scattered in but the variety was there at least and a number of different weapons or implements were used. A poisoning as well as kills involving things such as cleavers, pitchforks and a machete are all here. Though the gore effects that accompany the kills are hindered by the budget they aren’t too bad taking that into account. To be fair considering this is an extremely low budget film I found the effects mostly to be of the acceptable to decent level.
Mild spoiler: The murder of the prophet in the woods in particular stood out as being brutal and the severed head dream sequence was nicely carried out.
*Very mild spoilers again: There are a couple of decent jump scares which were well done. One involving Kevin surprising his girlfriend in the conservatory/shed type building and another earlier on with Mike inside the house. I suppose it could be said it was a bit unrealistic for Mike to pull such a stunt at what was essentially a wake but it was effective never the less seeing that we thought from the long POV shot shortly before that the killer could still be inside the house.
Bad Points: *As stated this is SOV style micro budget film which in itself will be enough to put many off. The humble budget is very noticeable throughout in this instance, so much so that it probably warrants highlighting. It has an amateurish homemade type quality to it particularly with the camera work and picture quality. This is kind of shoddy and poor from start to finish with the aforementioned audio levels for the dialogue early on also hindering things.
As expected the acting isn’t too good either. The film is actually linked to the Polonia brothers one of whom appears onscreen as a lead character. He did okay I thought to be fair but the acting elsewhere can be questionable. If you’ve seen other films linked to Mark Polonia such as the latter Camp Blood entries then you’ll know what to expect in terms of presentation and such. Lower down the totem pole than even those films budget wise however this is a particularly notable example of the lower quality end of the SOV style or micro budget catalogue.
The re-release appears to be a straight rip from the old material with no enhancements so transferring the whole thing to Blu-Ray unfortunately didn’t do anything to help.
*The characters of the prophet and his wife weren’t very good coming across as strange for the sake of strange. It made no sense for the guy to be quoting Bible verses and predicting doom as in doing that it made him look as if he had inside knowledge about what was going to happen which didn’t prove to be the case in the end. Mark also states that he had treated them kindly in the past out of pity so in light of that it seemed odd that they would approach he and his friends so soon after the death of his wife spouting nonsense. It was an attempt at Crazy Ralph inspired characters I guess but it wasn’t very well executed.
*Big spoiler: The twist ending though reasonably effective and perhaps a mild surprise on one level didn’t completely hold up and follow logic. I was left wondering why Julie would go to the excess, trouble and potential legal ramifications of faking her own death just to get revenge on Mark. It’s revealed that she discovered husband Mark was planning to murder her to cash in a life insurance policy but wouldn’t she just go to the police in that situation? If she did that we have no film I know but they need to give us a reason as to why she felt that wasn’t a good option. Also why did she and Jamie go after everyone else at the house as in the friends etc? Presumably none of them were a part of Mark’s plot. We often have collateral damage in revenge slashers of course so I don’t want to sound too harsh but it seemed excessive here.
Continued spoilers: On a somewhat related note there were hints earlier on in the film of some animosity between Jamie and Kristen with Kristen later muttering something at Julie’s grave site that made me think these two had once had a secret. (When I say “these two” I’m not sure if I mean Kristen and Jamie or Kristen and the now seemingly deceased Julie. It was last year that I watched it and my notes on this aspect aren’t clear). Regardless this story arc with Kristen was not mentioned again after her death. Seeing that Jamie and Julie were in the end revealed to be working together I thought Kristen may have been said to be involved as well with a role in things up until her death but they didn’t say anything about her. As a result the earlier scenes of friction with Kristen’s character didn’t make much sense.
*Towards the beginning of the film there is a very long POV shot of the killer moving around inside Mark’s house which seems to drag on for an eternity. The house is empty at the time as well so with no one we know of present or being stalked there is no sense of trepidation or jeopardy. It makes for a boring few minutes.
Verdict: As far as interesting obscurities go this is a nice one to have on your shelf as a collector. Other than the sought after appeal of the film due to its rarity however there isn’t really much going for it. The amateurish feel and very evident low budget will be off putting to many and it’s also thin in the story department with the plot being bare bones at best. With that said there is a somewhat decent twist end to things but even this doesn’t make complete sense and is too far-fetched.
On the plus side the music is solid throughout and the deaths are at least creative at times with acceptable gore effects for some of them taking into account the budget.
It’s going to have to be a pretty low score from me overall with around a 2.5/10. Bad as it is though and it’s very bad at times it’s by no means among the very worst I’ve seen.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1)Kristen: Impaled with a pitchfork.
2)Mike: Run through with a knife/machete through the back seat of his car.
3)Prophet: Stabbed multiple times with a knife.
4)Prophet’s wife/partner: Struck in the back with a cleaver.
5)Laurie: Stabbed with knife in either the side of the head or neck.
6)Kevin: Throat cut.
7)Adam: Poisoned with a pill dropped into his drink and then finished off with a knife.
8)Mark: Legs cut off at the knee and then put out of his misery with a machete thrust.