Director: Buddy Cooper
Year of release: 1984
Country of origin: USA
Running time: 86 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: Both
Taglines: "By pick, By axe, By sword, Bye, bye" and "A vacation that became a nightmare".
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: While his mother is busying herself in the kitchen a young boy attempts to clean his father’s hunting rifles. Meant as a birthday gift for his old man (some present huh?) things turn nasty when one of the guns is accidentally fired. The wayward bullet just so happens to poleax the boy’s mother leaving her to bleed to death in the kitchen. Returning soon after the father of the family walks into a birthday turned to a nightmare with his wife dead on the floor and his young son responsible.
Years later with the son now a teenager, Little Ed as he is called is charged with going up to the family beach house to help close it up for the winter. It’s Fall break so with time off from school and no other plans his friends decide to join him and have a few days holiday by the beach.
Unbeknownst to everyone however is the presence at the beach house of Big Ed, Little Ed’s father who has apparently been somewhat unhinged since the death of his wife years before. Holed up in a garage room beneath the beach house he now has it in his mind to make his son pay a belated price for the accident which set him on his path to misery.
Good points: *I thought the song “Fall Break” which plays during the title sequence near the start was really catchy. It was some time ago that I watched it now and this song still stands out to me as one of the most memorable and identifiable aspects. Initially I assumed it was a song lifted from an old album but I later learned courtesy of the Blu-Ray extras that it was written and recorded specially for the project to feature as a theme song of sorts for film. It definitely left me with a positive impression as did the rest of the films score to a lesser extent. I liked the synth and piano type music used when the killer was on the prowl for example.
*The characters though quite dumb and stereotypical were pretty good fun in a cheesy way. Pam aside they all seemed a bit silly and daft but in a likeable and even lovable way. Pam herself made for a good if cliched final girl playing to the traditional template to a tee but doing a commendable job in the process and being the only one to keep her head at the end. I actually embrace the clichés in slashers anyway so Pam being a very typical final girl pushed the right buttons for me.
Fast forward sequence aside I also found Ralph to be a funny and entertaining character.
On a final character note I liked how the girls weren’t super-hot, well not Sue and Pam anyway which added to the realism.
*Minor spoiler: The ending to the story with the fight in the garage between Little Ed, Pam and Big Ed and then the scene with the car and the wall is a dramatic satisfactory manner in which to finish things. I heard they originally intended to end it with a drawbridge in place of the wall which may have been even better. It’s a pity that couldn’t come to fruition but it was still good as it was.
*More mild spoilers: The gore effects are pretty impressive throughout with some inventive kills on offer. Favourites include death by outboard motor and the infamous gaff hook to the nether regions of the unfortunate Sue. There are one or two other solid kills as well with the aforementioned end sequence with the car and the wall being suitably gory.
Bad Points: *There are a couple of strangely edited sequences I can pick out as minor nuisances,. Near the start there is a part where Little Ed, Pam and I think either Sue or Ralph are looking into the engine of a car and it seems to freeze frame for a few seconds which seemed a bit out of place.
More notably I didn’t like the part which I briefly mentioned before involving Ralph where he goes to look for a couple of his friends and his search is put on fast forward almost so his actions are ultra-quick. I thought this came across as really lame and somewhat embarrassing, like a bad Three Stooges comedy skit or something.
*At one point the friends decide to play a kind of hide and seek type game around the beach house which I thought turned out to be a bit odd looking in how it was presented. They seemed to be bumbling around as if they were completely blind and couldn’t see a thing. In Ralph’s case at least though he had his eyes open though so I’m not sure why he was acting as if he couldn’t see. It was supposed to be blind man’s-buff mixed with hide and seek I think which goes someway to explain it so probably they were all supposed to have their eyes tightly closed but they didn’t for much of the time yet were still groping around with their hands as if they couldn’t see. Not a big issue I know, just one of those little nit-pick type things I have a habit of drawing attention to.
*The only major drawback for me was how Big Ed didn’t have a costume or mask. Visually he comes across as a very nondescript normal looking guy which unfortunately makes for a boring looking killer who isn’t as scary as he otherwise could have been as a result. As we know who the killer is straight away the film is lacking as well in the mystery or whodunnit department which if present can sometimes go some way for making up for a killer who lacks a mask. With both absent here though it’s a double whammy of disappointment.
On top of these issues the film is also lacking a proper chase sequence featuring the killer. Not a necessity of the genre I know but its something that would have helped here given the aforementioned shortcomings.
Verdict: This film has managed to amass a cult following of sorts but at the same time there are many that really hate it as well so it seems a polarising one among horror fans. I fall more into the former camp of rather quite enjoying it.
I can understand the complaints of those who say it’s super cheesy but this can be part of it’s charm as well. Other complaints are centred around the low budget but compared to many other even lower budget SOV style or even micro budget films out there it looked great so I didn’t have an problem here. Maybe that says something about me in that I watch too much ultra-low budget stuff so have built up a tolerance.
I found this one to be good fun anyway with some impressive gore effects which helped. The unimaginative bland looking killer hurt things to some degree but it didn’t spoil things to much.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1)Little Ed’s Mother: Shot in the back accidentally by Little Ed.
2)Linda: Pulled underwater and drowned in the swimming pool.
3)Mike: Eviscerated by outboard motor.
4)Beach patrol policeman: Stabbed in the face with machete and then decapitated with an axe.
5)Ralph: Stabbed through the neck with a pitch fork like fishing tool.
6)Sue: Impaled through the crotch with a gaff hook before having her head chopped off.
7)Big Ed: Torn in half by being squashed between a reversing car and a cinderblock wall.
Note: Possibly there may have been an eight death as a cop near the end had his leg lopped off at the knee but it wasn’t revealed whether he died or not from the injury.