APRIL 27, 2010
Ever watch a movie when you’re kind of tired and become convinced that you dreamt part/all of it? That was how I felt with Fraternity Massacre At Hell Island. The narrative was as loose as could be, and featured enough concepts for 4 or 5 movies, and since director/writer/producer Mark Jones seemingly has no understanding of pace or structure, scenes would come and go and I would wonder if my “I should go to bed” mental state was causing me to just imagine them. “Did they really just cut away from a scare scene to show two guys trying to steal each others’ pants?” Yes. Yes they did.
The camerawork is the polar opposite of a dream world though. In dreams, things are constantly in motion, but the only time the camera moves in this entire film is when a character moves out of frame and the camera operator plays catch up. I know people rag on Kevin Smith for his “turn the camera on and leave it there” approach, but its ten times worse when it’s for a horror movie. Entire kill scenes will play out in one master shot, and not in any meaningful way like say, Exorcist III’s scissors scare. It would be an ideal movie to convert to 3D - not only are there only like 200 shots in the entire movie, but nothing moves in them either. They could bang it out in a week!
There are a lot of attempts at pop culture humor that seem overly forced as well, further hurting matters. There are a lot of Star Wars references that are seemingly aimed only at people who have heard of Star Wars, since they’re so basic and lifeless, and at one point an old lady actually utters “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up”, with an expression on her face that seems to suggest she’s practicing and looking to the director to make sure she has the saying right. There’s also a very odd joke late in the film:
Guy: “There’s a clown going around killing people!”
911 Operator: “That’s not a nice way to talk about the governor’s health plan!”
Now, maybe if I was a resident of Tennessee, this would make a lot more sense and be a lot funnier, but even then it’s not a very good joke, because it would only apply to the time it was made (and being that this is a not very good independent horror movie, means it was made 3-4 years before it was released). So we have a dated AND geographically specific joke!
Some of the humor does work, however. During the climax, the soundtrack seemingly turns into a dance remix, with dialogue being repeated over and over (sort of like the “Cool Beans” sequence in Hot Rod), and there’s a guy using a fake snobby voice throughout the whole movie for some reason, which ultimately amused me (mainly when I realized it reminded me of “Jerem” from 30 Rock). And the whole thing is rather ridiculous, with the guys trying to steal each others’ clothes and the ghosts who are trapped until they can find someone to take their place singing "Yankee Doodle" and other patriotic songs for eternity (another plot element that I momentarily thought I was dreaming up).
The big hook for the film, however, is that it’s a “gay” slasher, in that many of the fraternity brothers are either openly gay or closeted. It’s not as much of a plot point as say, Hellbent, and it does provide a few laughs, like when they spend about 3 minutes on a guy trying to make sure no one “finds out” what he’s about to do and then we see he’s just worried about being seen in the library. And it’s not really in your face either, though I am unsure if that’s because they wanted to keep it as commercial as possible, or if the multiple story threads just didn’t allow any more time for it. It seems like there is a lot of humor potential in taking the piss out of homoerotic fraternity practices, but its largely glossed over in favor of things like a barbershop quartet singing the "Star Spangled Banner".
According to my screener, the DVD was released last week, but if so it doesn’t seem to have found its audience. The IMDb page is a ghost town (not a single thread on its messageboard as of this writing) and I only found 3-4 other reviews for it, all of which were posted a while ago. It’s not a terrible movie by any means, just an uneven, blandly directed one. But it does have its moments, and a certain goofy charm. And besides, I’ve seen worse this week!
What say you?