The Backlot Murders (2002)

FEBRUARY 13, 2008


Let’s be honest, The Backlot Murders is a pretty bad movie. But there’s JUST enough good natured fun in it to warrant a pass (or at least, keep it from a Crap tagging). While there were more than enough groan-inducing moments, on more than one occasion I found myself pretty entertained and even somewhat charmed by the film’s bizarre blending of comedy and horror (heavy emphasis on the comedy). In short, any movie with the line “Pumpkin needs to poop” can’t be altogether bad.

(Pumpkin is a dog.)

I have never seen David DeFalco’s infamous film Chaos, and that is due to the fact that I hear it’s fucking terrible from pretty much everyone who’s ever seen it (including members of its own cast), and the guy says that it’s not a remake of Last House on the Left, when it so clearly is (even the damn poster is a copy). A little honesty goes a long way with me. As I learned on the extra features, DeFalco is a bit of a tool in fact, referring to this goofy, ridiculous movie as a “thinking man’s horror movie”. Maybe he means “a horror movie for the thinking man who is tired of thinking and just wants to be mindlessly entertained”, but I don’t think so. Anyway, when I saw his name in the credits, I feared the worst, and then an establishing shot of a movie studio with the superimposed title “Empire Studios” when we can clearly see that the studio is actually called Metro Studios didn’t help much.

But then, like the voice of an angel, I hear (and then see, obviously) none other than Ken Sagoes. Ken, of course, is Kincaide from "Dream"s Warrior and Master, and his dialogue from those two films was commonly repeated by my friends and I in high school (I don’t think a day went by without someone saying “Yeah, I do it so I don’t have to look at yo’ ugly face all the time!”). Sadly, Sagoes dies about 2 minutes after being introduced, but the work had been done – he had blessed the film with his presence, and from then on, the film was more or less a delight of bad slasher movie clichés combined with hit or miss comedy.

And props to the film for being I think the first slasher movie to take place on movie sets that actually exist in the real world. When someone says “It’s the Psycho house!”, it is indeed the actual Pyscho house (the whole movie was filmed on the Universal backlot) They don’t make up random titles meant to evoke the real films, they just use the real ones. It’s refreshing. Also, using Psycho allows the film to quickly characterize one girl as a total idiot, because she’s more familiar with the bullshit 1998 version than the real one.

Also, the director of the video being shot within the movie is a total hoot. He’s played by Charles Fleischer, better known as Roger Rabbit, and while some of his lines are lame and obvious, he has enough gems to make up for it (there’s a line about Chatsworth, a town I loathe for no real reason, that had me nearly pissing my pants). He also survives most of the film, which is nice since he’s the oldest character, usually a kiss of death.

Speaking of which, it’s actually somewhat difficult to pin down who the survivors will be. Since everyone seems to be a bit stupid (save for an AD who is written out of the film 20 minutes in, presumably to be a suspect), there’s no obvious Final Girl. In fact, one of the few times the movie really got on my nerves is when they kept putting the same two kids in standard slasher movie danger, only to end the scene with them perfectly alive. I think it’s finally on the fourth go-around that they are finally killed (and even then, one of them escapes and gets killed a few scenes later). Come on movie, when two kids go off to fool around, they are to be killed within 7 minutes, not 7 scenes.

I hate to spoil the film, but it’s too admirable not to mention. Not only is the killer the most obvious choice (though he has a slightly less obvious partner), but he actually appears to dress AS HIMSELF. Seriously, the killer’s getup is some human mask that just looks like the bobblehead version of the guy who’s actually the killer. It’s fucking hilarious. Imagine if Michael Myers wore a Sabretooth mask in the Halloween remake? I loved it.

So with all that love, why don’t I give this movie a wholly positive review? Well, the acting is abysmal (part of the point, but it doesn’t seem that many of the actors are in on the joke), the gore is pretty minimal considering how over the top the rest of the film is, and even though they are on an actual movie studio, everything still feels pretty cheap (they also seem to be able to film a music video with only a director and 2 special effects technicians?). The finale also drags a bit; the movie could be 10 minutes shorter for sure. And while I am certainly not one to talk, the profanity is a bit too rampant, and sounds forced to boot. It’s distracting, to say the least. So while I may have been somewhat impressed with the comedic angle, the film is an utter failure when it comes to the horror, which is a big problem when you have a “thinking man’s horror movie” such as this.

Still, not the worst movie I’ve ever seen by any stretch, and the 4 or 5 laugh out loud lines, plus a small role by none other than Corey Haim, are enough to make it worth your time, especially if your other options are Lionsgate scarecrow movies.

What say you?


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