The folks behind Midnight Releasing are a lovable bunch, bringing many up and coming filmmakers into their fold and distributing some fun schlock, and gutter horror films. Sadly two ponies from their stable are giving me the trots. Both films suffer from the same problems that keep them from going anywhere but straight to DVD. I don’t want to piss on any one’s parade, especially when both films exhibit such clear effort and determination. But like an uneducated lover, no matter how much they care, without the proper techniques, it gets boring and just starts to hurt.
Now first up is Brett Kelly’s remake of ATTACK OF THE GIANT LEECHES. He had me slightly won over with his man-in-a-monster-suit movie PREY FOR THE BEAST, but here all bets are off. A remake of the black and white Corman classic, the film should be ripe for many reinterpretations. You could go campy satire, retro throwback, or even a gore-filled splatter fest. Sadly, this went nowhere and expects you to hang around for its entire running time. Kelly sticks to a formula that works for him, one where he is shooting outside in the daytime which drastically cuts down on the cost of sets and lighting, but here it doesn’t even look like the cast or crew tried to bother.
Instead of embracing a Corman classic in the sense of taking it over the top for schlock value, Kelly lets his story wallow in the muck of bad story telling. The characters are cardboard cutouts forced to interact with each other in producing nothing but pure drivel. The female lead is meant to be empowered by not letting a man dictate her behavior, yet instead there’s no conviction to her actions, just a whole lot of insepid whining. The clash of power between the supposed hero, the game warden, and the local sherrif stands at about the scale two gents would argue over a basket of buffalo wings during a half-priced happy hour. There’s a poaching redneck that gets whats coming to him, but little else in the way of comedic relief outside of laughing at how bad this entire flick turned out. There’s no character to connect with and the leeches as the enemy to be toppled have about as much screen time as the opening credits. Thrown into the mix is a half assed bit of environmentalism of the sheriff and the game warden having a pissing contest over jurisdiction and protecting the water life. While this could provide the conflict the story needs, a sense of stagnant environmentalism gone awry, Mother Nature giving us back a bitch slap, there’s never enough character development to effetively call this drama.
The special effects just fall flat like like a stilt walker on roller skates and offer just as much bang for your entertainment. The giant leeches that we’re supposed to fear look like a car tire cut in half and rescued from a trash fire. The complete design of these “monsters” sincerely makes them wiggle about like rhino turds. There’s no blood or guts and the only truly notable death is attributed to a CGI explosion that even the Sy Fy Channel would scoff at. Kelly sticks to his guns of no nudity though there are the bikini clad girls that show up to jiggle about with little fanfare. Nothing is even played as kitsch, instead it’s bad props and terrible costumes meant to be taken seriously.
The troubling concept to grasp is the wasted amount of potential this title offers from its predecessors. This title is definitely apt for a low-budget reinterpretation, but the original rings so much truer for a cadre of reasons. The dialogue of Kelly’s remake is so wooden I’m surprised the actors didn’t get splinters in their tongues. Even with the lackluster design of the leeches, there’s not nearly enough encounters for this film to warrant the word ATTACK in the title and the leeches size might necessitate a clearer definition of the word GIANT. These blood suckers are the size of dachshunds and just about as threatening. The biggest trouble besides not having a clear hero to root for as they overcome plot based obstacles, is that there’s not one true moment of terror. It’s not evenly laugh-with-your-friends bad to watch either. Horror without blood is certainly achievable, especially without pandering to gratuitous nudity, but you can’t have terror with a story. The scariest thing about ATTACK OF THE GIANT LEECHES is all the things I could have been doing instead of watching it.
MOTHER’S DAY MASSACRE is a title that conjurs certain images on its title alone. It’s a combination of ideas that tickle the imagination. This film and director Jeff Roenning definitely seek to tickle more than just your imagination, but remember no one has a right to touch your bathing suit area without your permission. From the jump Mother’s Day Massacre goes for a cinematic gut punch in a favorite scene from the film, “bacon grease burned baby”. Say that five times fast. But I’m getting ahead of myself, lets get to the basics.
A meek but randy teenager is just about to get it on with his girlfriend, when his creepy mustached dad bolts in and spoils his hormone fueled fun. Seems dear old dad has a bit of a thing for wayward loving. His wife had discovered his extramarital affairs and when she confronted the Mamacita she got her skull caved in with a skillet for her troubles.
Flash forward a decade or so and the story begins. Now to blow off some steam from an ever aching pair of blue balls, the son and friends travel out to an abandoned farmhouse where they can drink, screw and hopefully find a rumored field of marijuana. Little do these chuckle-heads know while playing a game of hide & seek that this farmhouse is now where, you guessed it, Mamacita and her brood reside. She’s raised her two boys to be redneck psychopaths and the whole dynamic seems far to reminiscent of Troma’s MOTHER’S DAY. But what Troma beat them with in originality, they also outshine in depravity and special effects. While trying to raise a vision of THE HILLS HAVE EYES style of redneck terror we’re treated to sloppy miscreants wallowing in a blood lust you’d sooner find at a monster truck rally. That’s especially tough to pull off in the setting of rural New Jersey.
As the story develops we’re treated to a glory hole amputation and other depravity that has all the makings of an enjoyable splatter fest, but the characters are so one dimensional that they only serve as set dressing until the next instance of unmotivated carnage. The cast is actually pretty decent, offering a believable range of teens in trouble trying to survive. The relationship between dear old Dad and Mamacita comes to a boil when she comes to seek retribution for her seized pot farm to no avail. From there she sics her murderous boys on her former lover’s homestead that culminates in the most laws of physics shattering display of gunplay you’ll ever witness in the final showdown.
This film has a lot going for it, but just doesn’t run with it. The cinematography is pretty steady and the story lingers in some very unsettling plot points. One that particularly sticks out is with the Dad and his Doctor friend that molest a hynoptized housewife. But for all these shocking moments there’s no cohesive narrative that drives the story along with any message or consisive reasoning for this display of madness. At moments it’s damn near laughable, but you realize this is not the response you’re wanting even if the sum total warrants that reaction. It’s like scoffing at an ugly baby and then discovering you’re related. MOTHER’S DAY MASSACRE has nothing to do with Mother’s Day, and the body count doesn’t even really quantify a killing spree. It is an interesting jumping off point that could be revisited as an anathology with its open ended storyline, but there’s really no need for a sequel if you can’t get past the genesis.