MARCH 29, 2013
Holiday slashers are all too rare these days, and with Easter being one of the less frequently used days as a center of inspiration for such fare, I was hoping Easter Bunny, Kill! Kill! would go all out, embracing both the rarity of the subject matter and the fact that it's a sub-genre long overdue for a comeback. But alas, it's strangely low-key, and not nearly as exploitative or gonzo as I would have expected - in fact, it's shockingly... serious?
I mean, don't get me wrong - it's still a slasher with someone in an Easter Bunny mask (another disappointment - not a full costume!), and the deaths are graphic (and loaded with practical blood!) as any good slasher should be. It's also a whodunit of sorts; we're supposed to think that the mentally challenged boy who is being tormented by his mom's boyfriend (and a child molester pal of his) has snapped and is killing everyone, but the way it's set up is too easy, and thus we know it can't be the case. But there's a strong emphasis on character development and a LONG setup before our first kill (almost 45 minutes!), making this more of a drama that TURNS INTO a slasher movie than anything else.
And that's even weirder when you consider that the opening seems to be taking cues from Silent Night Deadly Night, misleading me some as it got me hoping this would be equally depraved (and action packed). The first scene is a store robbery, and Nicholas (who is 16 but acts like a 5 year old; not sure what exact disorder he has) is obviously really into Easter the way Billy was into Christmas before being scarred forever. So I figured the robber (who is the mom's boyfriend) would do something awful, he'd snap, and he'd go on a rampage making his way to his mother, who is working on Easter much to his disappointment. But they never leave the house save for a couple cutaways to the boyfriend (who has gone out for a couple of hookers), and again even though we know the guy's a scumbag it takes quite a bit of screentime before this even really resembles a horror film.
Most of that time is spent on getting us to sympathize with Nicholas, something that might have been easier with an actual handicapped actor in the role instead of a guy pretending. He's not a bad actor, but there's something slightly exploitative about his strange form of retardation, and it took a while for me to realize that this wasn't supposed to be like a Troma thing (where his issues would be played for laughs). On the bonus features we learn that they originally DID cast an actor with Down syndrome but he had to back out because of personal issues, and that would have been a lot more beneficial as we could not only easily identify his issue (and hopefully understand how he would normally act) but also know for sure that he wasn't being made fun of in any way.
Another odd thing is that the boyfriend seems to genuinely love the mom, adding a bit of dimension to his otherwise deplorable character and more weight to the ending when we find out who the killer is. It works for that specific thing, but during the movie I was wondering why anyone who clearly had compassion for a woman could also hate her son so much; it might have made more sense if he was just using her as a convenient lover and didn't want to deal with the kid too. But at least there's some surprise to how this angle plays out, as there's a subplot about a homeless man that's way too easy to figure out its significance, made to be a big reveal - if you haven't guessed it by then, you're not very good at movies.
But kudos to the creative team for trying and occasionally succeeding at making something more dramatic and serious out of a potentially bad-taste goldmine. I suspect I'd enjoy the film more on a second view, now that I know it's not a full blown holiday slasher like Silent Night or any of the various Halloween-set slashers. And on a second view I could also try to imagine what it would have been like with the original cast, who are revealed in the film's lone supplement besides the commentary, which also has to be the first of its type I've ever seen. Titled "Fuck Up", the 17 minute piece explains the headaches surrounding the production's original casting of Joe Pilato as the boyfriend. Joe apparently was going through some sort of addiction at the time (drugs or alcohol wasn't specified) and making the other cast members uncomfortable with his erratic behavior, and was forced to leave the production as they couldn't afford to wait on him to clean up with a filming schedule already set in stone. Not much is explained here about why the Down syndrome actor had to leave, but it also cost them Lynn Lowry as his mother as the actor they cast instead was black and thus the mom had to be too. So actor Timothy Muskatel (who was originally cast as the child molester) got bumped up to the boyfriend, and another actor hired as the despicable perv (who makes the guy in Hardware look harmless). Truly, out of all the hundreds of bonus features I've seen I don't think I've ever come across anything this up front and honest concerning casting; usually they might drop a hint on a commentary about "a previous actor" and you have to go digging to find out who they mean - this actually has footage of the original actor being let go!
The commentary by Muskatel and director Chad Ferrin also talks about this a bit, as well as some other production woes, the worst being when a shady distributor gave them a bad check and then released the movie on Amazon himself, screwing them out of revenue and holding up the film's proper DVD release for quite a while (the movie is copyright 2006 - the disc was produced in 2010). They also talk about the actual production and the usual shortcomings of low budget (under ten grand) filmmaking, and throw in some TMI stories and other off the cuff remarks that make it a pretty good listen. But that's it for real bonus features; the only other thing is the trailer (which DOES sell a more full blown, trashy slasher) and spots for other releases from distributor Breaking Glass. Considering the weak transfer (non-anamorphic on a 2010 disc?) and movie's pacing issues I'd have a tough time recommending a purchase, you can get through the disc in less than four hours and probably wouldn't want to revisit it much, but I'd say it's worth a look if you're a die-hard slasher fan and are curious about an attempt to blend something ridiculous ("killer Easter bunny") with something more dramatic and realistic.
What say you?