FEBRUARY 25, 2008
Part of my post-viewing ritual is to check the film’s IMDb and Wikipedia pages for some random trivia or otherwise useless information that I can use in my writeup. Usually, when it comes to no-budget indies like Motor Home Massacre, there is absolutely none. Sometimes it appears as if I am the only person who has even SEEN the damn movie. So imagine my surprise to find that on the IMDb board for this particular “gem”, the director, one Allen Wilbanks (who also wrote and edited), had taken to responding to pretty much every post anyone else had made about the film. He seems to be a nice enough fellow, and a few of his posts made me chuckle (he occasionally feigns confusion over what some of the more grammatically challenged posters were even talking about). But unfortunately, and I read just about every single one of his 50+ posts on the matter, he seems to be unable to admit that his film just isn’t very good.
As with many horror movies that try to work as a comedy as well, Massacre ends up being neither scary nor funny. The actors are dismal across the board, so almost instantly the opportunity is blown, because in order for this type of humor to work, you need actors who CAN act and are skilled enough to let the audience know that they are in on the joke. Otherwise, it just comes off as bad acting in a bad movie. If the film is supposed to be funny, why am I only laughing at inept camerawork and dialogue that just simply doesn’t make any sense? Take for example the requisite gas station scene. The stereotypical redneck store clerk tells our heroes the “legend” of a pair of murders that took place the night before. We can assume that the idea that this guy somehow knows the entire story, right down to things that happened inside the victims’ tent, and that our teens are THAT stupid to willingly go into the woods when they were just told about a murder there not even 24 hrs ago is just part of the joke, but the only thing that made me laugh was when the clerk claims that “they never did figure out who did it”. Now, if that was an intentional joke, it sure as hell wasn’t presented as one. Just one of many examples of the botched attempts at humor throughout the film.
But even if the actors WERE pulling off their “spoof” roles correctly, or even competently, the film would STILL be a mess, mainly due to the god awful filters that Wilbanks throws over every other scene, and the atrocious editing that even a kid sitting at an Avid for the first time would scoff at. The filters are merely a distraction (one scene will be overly blue, the next overly red, and the killer has a green ‘night vision’ mask for his POV shots. Not to mention the worst attempts at “day for night” I’ve ever seen), but the editing has to be seen to be believed. Surely more than a couple of the people who read this site have made their own backyard films in their youth, and learned the concept of editing in camera. What this means is, you don’t have editing equipment, so you have to film in sequence, and the results will have a lot of pauses in between lines of dialogue. But what’s this movie’s excuse for the exact same result? So it’s like: “Are you OK?” (brief pause, cut, another brief pause) “Yeah, fine. You?” (brief pause, cut, another brief pause). “I’m OK.” This happens throughout the entire film. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that the awful dialogue and bad acting were intentional, but the editing? Anyone will tell you that timing is everything when trying to sell a joke - I doubt it would help much, but a competent editing job could have at least made the film seem a bit more professional.
Plus all of the usual cons are on display – boring gore, nonsensical ending, extraneous padding (an entire fucking scene replays not 20 minutes after the first time we saw it), a total disregard for lighting continuity and the 180 rule, etc. Adding to the mix is Lions Gate’s now standard false advertising – the cover would have you believe that the film is a dark survival style horror movie (they make it look like a sequel to the original Wrong Turn), with the added bonus of a killer who doesn’t resemble the movie’s killer at all, brandishing a chainsaw (a weapon never even shown in the film, let alone used). I don’t blame anyone but the studio for this shit, and in fact I’ve learned by now that any film distributed by LG but not actually produced by them will be sold as a hard dark horror film, regardless of its actual content. They are liars and borderline thieves – but that’s a given. Sometimes the film turns out good anyway (such as Rise Of The Dead, sold as a zombie movie), but this is not one of those cases.
Surprisingly, it’s not a total loss (damn close though). One unexpected “bonus”, if you could call it that, is that when you’re dealing with a film this amateur, the intentionally fake scenes come off just as bad as the ones that are supposed to be real. As our teens are all obnoxious jerks, of course one plays a prank that makes it look like he has cut his own throat with a machete. The effect of his throat bleeding looks just as phony as it does when someone is legitimately killed with the thing later on. I found this kind of endearing in a sad way. There's also a pretty original kill (the killer somehow manages to get a whole tent connected to this pulley thing, and raises the tent into the air then stabs the occupant as she is suspended a few feet from the ground). There is also one (ONE!) moment when the comedy actually works – a guy and a girl are tied together and their dialogue is laced with innuendo. At first it’s standard stuff (“I can’t put it in!”), but then they end up with a full blown incest joke (“I used to do this with my brother” or something like that). Incest is funny, and it’s pretty much the only thing that kept the film from a “Crap” tagging.
Sadly, there’s no commentary track (kind of surprising, since Wilbanks is obviously willing to defend his film to the death, even going so far as to writing a glowing review for it himself on the IMDb), but there is a wholly bizarre “Alternate Opening” (as well as an alternate ending that is pretty much the same, only a tad bit stupider). What makes it bizarre is that the clip begins with a girl saying “I’m sorry, did you say something?” So if this was indeed the original opening, the film would have begun in the middle of a conversation. In my opinion, they totally should have gone with it. This alleged comedy would have at least started with a laugh.
What say you?