MARCH 30, 2010
There’s nothing wrong with combining two sub-genres to make a horror movie, as long as they work as both kinds on their own, or tie together in a way that is completely creative. American Werewolf is one of the better examples - it works as a dry, black comedy, but it also works as a pretty great werewolf movie. Spiker, on the other hand, is a combo ghost and slasher movie, but it fails to compel on either level, resulting in a film that could have simply been generic had it just been one or the other, but is ultimately generic AND messy as the two stories cross in less than successful ways.
Let’s start with the slasher. It’s got a painfully common setup, that of the six friends going to party in one of their relative’s isolated homes for the weekend. All cheerleaders and jocks too, so there’s barely even any variety between the guys (the girls, at least, benefit from a “goth” among them). This is never as apparent as around the halfway mark in the film, where all three couples make love at the same time, in their rooms that all look alike. Kudos to getting all three girls to show their breasts, I guess, but all it does is further cement the idea that they are completely interchangeable.
To be fair, the slasher himself is a bit original - an albino (played by director Frank Zagarino) who exclusively uses railroad spikes to carry out his kills. He’s an imposing figure, and is a bit more memorable looking than other maskless killers (Final Exam, for example). Even if he wasn’t an albino, I think you would understand that someone was dressing as him if they chose to go as Spiker for Halloween (as opposed to the Final Exam killer - if you “dressed” as him you could be mistaken for a neighbor who wandered over to steal some beer).
His backstory factors into the ghost story, which never really makes a lot of sense. Basically, the ghost is that of his ex fiancé, who was fucking his best friend, something that was discovered on their wedding day (so she threw herself in front of the train - least boring wedding ever, I’ll give it that much). So ever since, Spiker has been killing anyone and everyone, and the friend (who looks like a Hollywood Blvd Johnny Depp) is left with the torment of knowing that Spiker’s rage is his fault. Not exactly sure that correlation makes any sense, but it’s still more logical than why the woman’s ghost would hang around and do nothing of note.
Except help our heroine play the piano. One of the many awkwardly implemented bits of backstory for our Final Girl (the very cute Giselle Rodriguez) is that she never learned how to play piano, and in fact never even HAD a piano growing up (shit, how did she ever make the cheerleading team then?). The ghost helps her play it near the end, which keeps Spiker from killing her. At least, for now. He seemingly kills her at the end anyway (off-screen while we watch faux-Depp feel sorry for himself). Again, the ghost stuff serves as padding and nothing else.
There is one thing about the movie that kept me midlly entertained though, which is the strange ties to my hometown of Methuen, MA (the film was shot in Long Island, NY for the record). The movie opens with a nice looking road with a sign stating that it’s Route 114, a route that runs through my town (it’s the road I would take to get to Hometown Buffet back in high school, when I could get my money’s worth from such places). And then our cheerleaders show up wearing blue and white, which are also the colors of my hometown team. Then later in the movie, the cops are driving Chevy Corsicas, a car which was used by a lot of my town’s government types (and myself - a 1988 Midnight blue one, which I still miss). Methuen is a very Springfield-ish town, in that it seemingly has everything (woodsy areas, city areas, suburban areas, even a factory area! No escalator to nowhere or tire fire though), and I always thought it would make a good setting for a horror movie. Rest assured if I ever write/direct a Scream type slasher, I will set it in a town called Methuen, if not go ahead and film it there.
I also got a kick out of the pretty much universally terrible acting, because everyone was so damn earnest. There’s a cop named Scott who delivers every single one of his lines as if he was absent-mindedly muttering “mm hmms” to his wife while she rambled about her day at work, and Linda Tovar is the least goth-y goth girl of all time. And special mention must be made of the guy who played the boyfriend - just check out his reaction to finding a body (of a character he had no connection to, as far as I can recall):
(Forgive the presentation - I did it with my phone and don't feel like editing out the "fat" on each end of the relevant part)
Oh man, I love it. I also liked the schizo score, which sounded rather library music-y for the most part, but near the end there’s a cue that sounds like the Halloween theme as played on an inverted piano. Why they used a rather ill-fitting, Guster-esque pop song for the DVD main menu instead of this is beyond me.
As for the kills, meh. Most of them are “aided” with bad digital blood/impact wounds, so those all suck on principle. And since he only uses spikes, it gets a bit monotonous - you know, Leatherface always uses his Chainsaw, but Chop-top or Vilmer or whoever else is in his “family” for that movie adds the necessary variety. There are two moments I liked though. In one, the car won’t start (no shit!), and when the kid opens the hood to look at it, he sees the head of one of his friends placed inside amongst all the belts and fluid containers, which prompts him to scream and slam the hood back down (poor head). The other is what I believe is the first 1-2 punch of the final girl screaming because she sees a ghost, and then screaming because she finds one of her dead friends right after. Would have been great if they threw a vampire or a giant insect into the mix at this point - “Let’s see how many different things can scare this girl in under 60 seconds!”
Well, whatever. Low budget slasher movies are a dime a dozen, and it really isn’t any better or worse than anything else with the same pedigree that I’ve watched. I was hoping that the ghost element would elevate the film above those others, but ‘twas not to be. Add that to the usually crummy MTI transfer (possibly the first time someone watched a horror movie and had to make their screen DARKER, so that the blacks actually looked kind of black instead of light gray; the trailer below actually looks better than the retail DVD!), and you have a movie that really serves no function. Hell, the only reason I watched it is because my first choice for the day, Flu Birds, turned out to be a user-unfriendly disc containing a workprint (no music or FX, varying aspect ratios, etc), so I opted for something else. And I watch everything!
What say you?