Movie House Massacre (1984)

FEBRUARY 27, 2013


With only a month or so left, I'm afraid I will have gone through six years of HMADing without finding a single really good horror movie set inside a movie theater (I saw Demons when I was like 15 or something, so it doesn't count). A couple have been OK (Popcorn, Anguish, Midnight Movie), but I had major problems with them - they're just a lot better than the rest: Last Screening, Dead At The Box Office, Midnight Matinee, Nightmare In Blood... the list goes on, and I walked away severely disappointed with them all. And perhaps needless to say, Movie House Massacre (aka Blood Theatre) is no better; in fact it may be the worst of the lot.

But to be fair I kind of expected that, since the film was directed by Rick Sloane, whose film Hobgoblins served as the fodder for one of the better Syfy era episodes of MST3k. Sloane took quite a beating on that one (more than most of the filmmakers in episodes I've seen, in fact), and rightfully so - he's a pretty tone-deaf and terrible director, and here he doesn't even have the benefit of goofy puppets causing chaos. Instead he just has some cheap ghost FX wrapped in what is otherwise a sort-of slasher plot where the staff of a theater that's about to open is getting picked off one by one. There's no mystery to the killer's identity - he's the now ancient manager of the place from the 1930's, when it was a live performance theatre (we see this in the film's prologue, which is also its best sequence by far).

So the plot is typical slasher stuff - what's the problem? Sloane's incompetency, that's what. As the film's writer, producer, director, editor, and cinematographer, there is no question on who is to blame for this nonsense, and no he can't use his budget as an excuse - he's got the location (production value) covered, and while there isn't a single noticeable shot in the entire thing, I've certainly seen worse cinematography. But it's so damn inert that none of it matters - there's a shocking lack of tension or even cohesion from start to finish - and I do mean "finish" as in the very last shot, which shows two cops we've never seen before entering the theater, and then a freeze-frame as we go to credits. And that's not even the most confusing part - early on we see a big crowd for a showing, but then the rest of the movie is about how the theater hasn't even opened yet? The manager leaves for awhile only to be beat up (without seeing any hits) by some random dudes who were either taking down or putting up a sign for a theater-owner convention before he arrived. Later he comes back and offers no explanation for his attack, nor does anyone ask him about it. It almost seems like at one point his disappearance was supposed to be a way for us to think he might be the killer, but we've already seen him several times at that point so that doesn't work.

But that's just one of the many things about this movie that often made me wonder if I was watching the deleted scenes instead of the feature. Passage of time, the location of characters in relation to another... all of these things remain unclear throughout. It took more than half of the movie for me to even understand that the manager's office wasn't located at the movie theater, though it's not my fault - at one point his secretary takes a phone call and walks down to get him INSIDE the theater, so the idea that they're in two locations must have been a decision that came later. Most of the movie consists of people answering phones, walking down hallways, or doors shutting, which is probably for the best when you consider how terrible all of the actors are (one of them is completely redubbed, for whatever reason), so whatever keeps them from reciting Sloane's oft-painfully unfunny dialogue is a good thing.

Oh, yeah, it's supposed to be funny, I guess. The goofy circus-esque music and occasional sound FX are strong hints, as are the bulk of the kills - folks crisping up inside popcorn machines and the like. It's just as inept as a comedy as it is a horror movie - the tone and beats are so off it's mostly just my own optimism convincing me that anything that appeared to be a joke was intentional and not just further incompetence from Sloane. Basically just take the dumbest porno you've ever seen, remove all the sex, toss in a couple of cheapo murder scenes (there's a decapitation that might as well have given simultaneous on-screen credit to whoever assembled the dummy), and you still have a better movie than this. Just rubbish that even the most nostalgic slasher fan couldn't possibly defend.

The movie has three others on the disc; one I've seen (Matthew aka Scream Bloody Murder) and the other two are on the "B side" which scares me into thinking they're actually not as "good" as these (I kind of like Matthew, though it's hardly a classic). Maybe I'll give one a try and just shut it off if it's terrible. You guys shouldn't be dealing with "Crap" entries in these final weeks, and nor should I!

What say you?

P.S. The theater it was shot at has since been turned down. I like to think the owner was embarrassed about possibly being associated with it. It is now a bank.

1 comment:

  1. I saw this several years ago and the only thing I remember about it besides it being inane in general, was the soundtrack. It sounded like it was performed on a cheap Casio keyboard. I know because I received one as a Christmas present back in the eighties.

    There was a drum roll button, that when pushed, gave a very cheesy synthesized roll. This movie utilizes that button quite extensively. I found it very amusing that a movie recorded its entire soundtrack on a very cheap keyboard that was used mainly by children.


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