AUGUST 23, 2014
A while back, I was stunned to discover that Jersey Shore Shark Attack was a fairly enjoyable movie. Not a GOOD one, mind you, but certainly not the type that made me want to quit HMAD, unlike some other shark movies - and even more surprising since I loathe its namesake MTV show. Then again so did its filmmakers, I think, since they didn't exactly try to make them endearing or anything. And since I actually suggested tackling other sub-genres with the same approach, I figured I'd give Jersey Shore Massacre a shot; at best it'd be just as mindlessly entertaining as the previous movie, at worst I could walk next door to see something else*.
Well they did it again. I'd never watch it again - not even the few minutes I missed when the "projectionist" inexplicably began fucking around, stopping the movie for a while and then skipping ahead (blu-ray?) to "roughly" where we left off - but it held my attention and even genuinely entertained me at times. Plus, I can't even recall the last time I saw a new slasher movie in theaters (Hatchet III, I think?) so the sheer novelty of that was enough to win me over, as you know damn well how much I love my slasher movies.
The weird thing is, it seems writer/producer/director Paul Tarnopol does too, as the movie is chock full of what I have to assume are intentional homages (or lifts) from slasher fare of yore. But the choices are more inspired; he doesn't settle for Halloween or Friday the 13th references - he pulls out some deep cuts. A 3rd act sequence recalls Madman, there's a plot twist straight out of Just Before Dawn, and he even pays homage to a kill from Jason Goes To Hell (the only memorable one, so there's no need to wonder which one). He also lifts the great Slumber Party Massacre scene where they barricade a door in an upstairs bedroom only for the killer to come in through the window somehow. The line between ripping off and paying homage is pretty thin when it comes to something as junky as slashers (a genre more or less built on people ripping each other off), so I don't really care what he's doing - the point is he's SEEN these movies, so he's more qualified for the job than I expected from a "JWoww production". I assumed anyone who knew how to say the words "action" and "cut" would have been good enough.
Oddly, while the Shark one, if memory serves, just had one of the cast members in a cameo and thus the slams on him and his castmates weren't too surprising, it's kind of weird/fun that this has the same approach given that JWoww was the producer. Maybe she didn't notice, or hates her co-stars now, but either way this film shares Shark's tendency to make Jersey folks out to be total buffoons and assholes. One of the protagonists is a date rapist, another (who looks like Corey Haim and is apparently a parody of JS cast member Pauly D) drives a woman out into the middle of nowhere and leaves her there because she's a bit overweight, and it takes all of 7 seconds for the females of the group to hate some Hispanic girls who they repeatedly call "Chonga" (a racist term this movie introduced me to! Thanks?). Even the obvious Final Girl is a bit of a jerk; when one of the 'roided out males punches a mime for no reason at all, seemingly breaking his nose, she looks concerned for a second, then forgets all about him before he's even out of sight. You expect her to go over and apologize, invite him to the party, let him be the kindly male lead... but nah. They punch him and that's that.
Tarnopol also takes much glee in killing these goons. The film is much gorier than I expected, to the point where I assumed "torture porn" might come up in someone's review. There's a pretty grisly death involving a bike (?) chain being wrapped around someone's neck, and another guy gets his tattoos removed via belt sander. I figured it'd be more horror-comedy and the cast would mostly be left standing by the end (as was the case in Shark Attack) but no (SPOILERS!), the Final Girl is exactly that; the only other survivor of note is Ron Jeremy, the guy who was supposed to rent them a beach house (he screws up, hence why they go to a more horror movie friendly isolated cabin) who shows up again at the end to make a horrible porn joke. As is often the case I didn't bother watching a trailer beforehand (the title alone enticed me!); watching it now I realize that they actually made this a tagline ("You're not the only one who wants them dead"), a tactic I can't recall ever being used besides for House of Wax ("See Paris DIE!"), which is another movie this one recalls, incidentally.
I'm not sure if this counts as a complaint, but it's still worth mentioning - the movie really struggles to fill its bare minimum runtime. There's an overlong section where they watch a bad slasher movie called "Fat Camp Massacre" or something like that, so of course we get full scenes to pad things out. I guess it's supposed to be foreshadowing, but since a few people have died already at this point it's a bit late. Bizarrely, Tarnopol shot the main movie in 2.35 scope, but shows these movie-in-the-movie scenes at 1.78 - the reverse of how most filmmakers would do it. Mistake, or is he a rebel? Another scene that could have been dropped if it wouldn't keep the movie under the minimum is an inexplicable bit where a has-been local rapper named Italian Ice, who claims Vanilla Ice stole his career, performs his one hit song seemingly in its entirety. The character appears out of nowhere (seriously, he just starts talking off-screen and then we see him sitting at their table as if he was there all along), sings, then leaves the club and is never mentioned again, so I'm puzzled by his inclusion. Hilariously, when I watched the trailer I discovered that there was more that I missed when the projectionist screwed up, but the way it happened in our theater seemed natural (it cut as the girls were trying to decide what to do, and when it came back they were going to the beach - apparently there's a full sequence in between there where they go on a tour of the woods and learn about the Jersey Devil). So this clearly could have been cut as well, since it sort of WAS and I had no idea anything of significance had been missed. The projectionist even asked if this was where we (yes, there was one other guy there) left off, and I was confident all we missed was someone saying "Let's just go to the beach!".
The AVClub or one of those sites basically called this movie the death of cinema, but as always I assume the writer rarely if ever watches stuff like this and assumes it can't get any worse. On an average week of HMAD this might even be one of the better movies I watched, and it certainly wouldn't be the worst (if it was, that'd be a pretty good week!), so I hope you keep that in mind should you take this as any sort of recommendation. It's not a good movie, I will stress, but having seen a lot worse, and that it improved on my expectations, I walked away relatively impressed. If you enjoyed the shark one you will probably like this too, but if you're hating it after 10 minutes, just fast forward the next 20 until they start dying horribly (plus you want to stick to the end to appreciate the legitimately amazing sight gag involving a cop trying to plant a gun), and enjoy for different reasons! You win either way!
What say you?
*On the adjacent screen was a 30 minute documentary called Metallica: This Monster Lives, which I guess is a sort of update/sequel to their incredible documentary Some Kind of Monster. I can't condone paying full ticket price for something that barely lasts longer than the trailer reel, but I'm damn curious about this.