DECEMBER 31, 2011
Once I make my "HMAD Today is" post on Twitter I rarely take it back - I credit Twitter with cutting out 99% of the "Are you really watching one every day?" inquiries, and thus I feel it's kind of important to stick to my word. However, as I went to my queue to start playing the movie I had originally announced for today (11/11/11 - the Asylum one, not Bousman's), I noticed that Blood Hook would actually be removed from the service tomorrow, so I had to make the "emergency substitute" or else I'd have to add the movie to my disc queue, where it would likely keep getting pushed down in favor of more promising sounding titles.
But had I realized who the director was, I probably would have seen the movie a lot sooner than "the last day it was available". Jim Mallon was of course one of the creators of Mystery Science Theater 3000, and because I love that show dearly I am always interested in its crew's other endeavors (on that note, if you haven't read Kevin Murphy's "A Year At The Movies", please do so - not only is it great, it was one of the inspirations for HMAD!). I wasn't even aware that he had any credits of note prior to MST3k, let alone directed a horror movie - this was exciting!
And thus I can't help but wonder how someone who had no idea who Jim Mallon was would react to this movie, which seems to be a spoof of "local legend" slasher movies (and, as Mike Nelson's "Death Rat" novel was, a spoof of midwest living in general). However, it is played so straight that I honestly could not tell if it was supposed to be funny or not - it was only because I had MST3k on my brain that led me to believe that this was supposed to be a spoof of bad horror movies, as that was obviously a sort of pastime for him.
However, even if it is indeed supposed to be funny, the movie more or less ditches the "comedy" as it unfolds, and thus the entire third act is pretty much laugh free as we learn who the killer is (via a rather anticlimactic reveal, for the record) and our heroes figure out a way to stop him. The "motive" for his killings and their plan to take him out is pretty goofy, but I've seen sillier in movies that were most certainly not meant to be funny, so that's not exactly strong evidence. And the last scene is borderline dramatic as the killer's brother (I think?) realizes what he has done and reluctantly decides to help the police track him down (he got away during the climax), before a sequel is set up in the same exact manner as nearly every other horror movie of the era.
But the laughs in the first act or so are a delightfully dry surprise. It's never laugh out loud funny, but there were enough random bits to keep a smile on my face, like when a tourist goes on and on about how the tax dollars should be paying for road signs as if there was absolutely no other thing in the world one could use tax dollars for. And I absolutely loved the strange subplot about a young mother who assumed her toddler son would be safe when she left him alone in their backyard, which was in close vicinity to bear territory ("I don't let him have any sweets, so they won't be attracted to his smell," she tells us).
And really, the only other option for Mallon would be to go bigger/sillier in the 3rd act, which could be disastrous - I think the idiotic finale to the otherwise mildly amusing Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday The 13th is a good example, where it got so "crazy!" that it was no longer "funny". So at least here, right around the time that you're probably going to get tired of the joke anyway, it just becomes a regular slasher movie.
Not only that, but one that's not too bad, all things considered. Mid 80s slashers are usually pretty lousy, and by then pretty much every avenue had been exhausted, so I was a bit charmed by the fact that this movie was offering something a little new. The killer uses a giant piece of hooked bait and a rod to "catch" and kill his victims, which I must admit I've never seen before, and I was surprised how bloody it got - some of the injuries (no one dies quickly) are actually pretty gruesome. Yet the bloodspray is rather normal - Mallon did not have his FX guys go overboard in order to make it funnier, which adds to the "is this supposed to be funny?" feeling.
On that note, the direction certainly seems to be suggesting a straight up horror movie. A big part of comedy is timing and editing, obviously, but Mallon shoots many scenes in master shots, which makes some moments come across more awkward than anything else. Even a giant part of the climax takes place in a single wide shot, in which our hero subdues the killer, frees his girlfriend from her restraints, has some dialogue with her, etc. It's the sort of thing that might be exciting with closeups and back and forth editing, but there is none, and again, by this point they've abandoned the odd/funny dialogue and stereotypical sleepy midwestern "local" characters. His direction also limits the strength of the kill scenes; the killer is off-screen most of the time (we see only the titular hook), which makes them a bit confusing as the hook almost seems to be operating on its own. And what's with all the fades to black?
The score (by Murphy, in fact) also isn't particularly comedic - in fact it just sounds like a John Carpenter score mixed with a few of Brad Fiedel's Terminator cues. It's actually pretty good, doesn't quite fit the movie at times but added to my enjoyment all the same.
At any rate, it's certainly not what I was expecting, and it's kind of a shame that it's no longer on the Netflix service (though it was from Starz Play, which means it was a lousy transfer anyway - maybe it'll come back through more respectable means), as it's the kind of movie that can entertain you if you're scrolling around looking for a time-killer. But unless you're a die-hard MSTie and want to see what a horror movie directed by Gypsy looks like, it's not quite good enough to warrant hunting it down (well, I guess slasher completists should give it a look too). Now, if only Mike, Kevin, and Bill could do a Rifftrax for it!
What say you?