Most teen slasher films need just three elements to make them interesting. First, create an intriguing and frightening back story that will allow viewers to understand why the bad guy kills. Second find a good looking cast and convince several of the women to take off their tops and scream… a lot. Third, mix together good visuals with a quality soundtrack and throw in a couple of surprises. Writer Jackie Linder Olson and director Bryce Fridrik Olson obviously know how to make a teen slasher film.
This movie actually hits the intended target and will entertain the younger crowd that is it’s obvious demographic but it also completely misses the bullseye that it might have achieved. If you’re hoping for real originality, convincing acting and a scares that will actually frighten anyone old enough to see an R rated film, expect to be disappointed. However, if you’re simply in the mood for a genre film that includes all of elements mentioned it’s worth viewing.
The movie cunningly opens with a lone hiker wandering through a grapefruit orchard while listening and singing to In Delirium by In for the Kill, an up and coming death metal band from Michigan. The hiker approaches the abandoned house and carelessly stomps inside calling out for someone named Derrik to bring him his stash so he can get out of there. He slumps down against a wall, painted in flourescent graffiti (which will be used, considerably, later on), makes a joke about one of the notes on the wall (he points out that some girl named Becky, offering a good time, could have picked better advertising space) and then lights up a cigarette and prepares to wait for his connection to show up.
Suddenly a grapefruit rolls in from the darkness and the heavy metal music transitions to the creepy soundtrack, provided by composer Jim Lang. A faceless figure wearing a straw hat, heavy gloves and the heavy facial covering worn by many agricultural workers steps into the scene carrying a deadly looking fruit picker. The scene cuts to a close up of the victim while the music comes to a crescendo and the metallic sound of knives cutting into meat is heard just as the victims eyes bulge and he grunts.
Cut to a buff young man hanging upside down and doing sit ups. He and his friends discuss their plans for the evening. The trio discuss the fact that they have organized surprises for their dates to the school’s homecoming dance because it’s also Halloween. The three are the usual jock, Topher (Andrew St. John), the token minority, Ricky (Diego J Torres), and the intellectual/spiritualist, Snail (James Immekus). Out of the three the best performance, by far, is given by young James Immekus. The other two are handsome and enthusiastic but a combination of slurred speech (Torres) and the habit of cackling at the most inappropriate times (St. John) mixed with banal dialogue can be downright annoying.
Derrick (Will Stiles), the drug dealer mentioned in the opening scene, shows up at the house on his quad-runner with a buxom blonde named Missy (Lola Davidson) who is dressed up in a French maid’s costume. They begin preparing the house for the arrival of the group of high school kids. While Derrick is outside scouring the location for scary objects to use later Missy remains inside the house calling out suggestively to Derrick and removes her clothing. The mysterious caretaker shows up and garrotes Derrick who screams appropriately frightening half naked Missy. Missy then begins to panic and a grapefruit rolls into the room just as the caretaker shows up. Missy trips and falls on the floor and screams while the caretaker impales her with his ominous, deadly fruit picker. Yes, there’s some seriously twisted symbolism going on.
The boys get into a limo, driven by veteran horror actor Jonathan Breck, and pick up two of their dates, socialite Sonya (Jennifer Freeman) and freshman Chloe (Victoria Vande Vegte) and head to the school. The third girl, Ella (Kira Verrastro), shows up at the school at just about the same time as the other five, dropped off by her wildly over-protective father, played by brat pack alumnus Judd Nelson. The kids are instantly harassed by Miss Perry (Jennifer Tilly) about rumors she got from Topher’s MySpace about them skipping the dance. It becomes clear, early on, that Miss Perry’s intentions towards Topher are far from innocent.
Once the six are all in the limo they head out to the abandoned house from the beginning of the movie and tell the back story, campfire ghost story style, behind the grisly caretaker who locked his pregnant wife up in the house after quitting his job as a successful attorney and buying the grapefruit orchard. Once the caretaker begins picking everyone off, one by one, it becomes obvious that most will not make it out alive.
Eventually there are a few pleasing twists and surprises, like the unexplained appearance, and disappearance, of the body of the lone hiker from the opening scene and mysterious black lights in the graffiti room, that help keep the movie from being a complete disappointment. Much of the tension actually comes more from the quality soundtrack and use of dramatically dark lighting than from any seriously noteworthy performances by the young actors, with the possible exceptions of Immekus and Verrastro. Still, the movie manages to make effective use of the elements needed to tell the story and see it through.
Turkey Ranch Productions is a relative newcomer, having produced films like the romantic comedy “Be My Baby” in 2006 and the supernatural thriller “Dead Write” in 2007. While it’s just impossible to view this particular movie as anything other than a formulaic, teen slasher it’s worth mentioning that there are a few, fleeting moments of radiance. One would be wise to watch out for further movies involving both this particular production group and many of the cast as they improve their skills.
Bryce Olson (director) / Jackie Olson (screenplay)
CAST: Kira Verrastro … Ella
James Immekus … Snail
Jennifer Freeman … Sonya
Andrew St. John … Topher
Diego J. Torres … Ricky
Victoria Vande Vegte … Chloe