SEPTEMBER 23, 2013
I just got back from Austin's Fantastic Fest, where more than once I had the thought that some of the movies I saw seemed designed specifically just to play in Fantastic Fest, and thus felt soulless. So it was fitting that I came home to a reminder that Bloody Homecoming was hitting DVD today, as I thought it was next Tuesday and thus quickly put it in my player so I could get my review up on time - otherwise I would have waited until the weekend and I might not have appreciated the fact that while it's not exactly a classic, I never doubted for a second that its heart was in the right place.
By now there are about as many "throwback" slashers as there are the genuine, original ones such films are paying tribute to, and most suffer from the mistake of having their characters be intentionally terrible people and played by awful (or overly campy) actors. This approach baffles me; the thinking is seemingly "the actors in those movies were terrible! It's part of the joke!" but for every poor performance you may find in Friday the 13th or The Burning, you will find one that's also quite good - remember that a lot of these movies served as introductions for future megastars like Tom Hanks (He Knows You're Alone), as well as solid, working actors that continue to appear in small film roles and on TV with regular frequency, like Fisher Stevens in The Burning or The Dorm That Dripped Blood's Daphne Zuniga. The majority of Homecoming's actors may never reach that level (time will tell), and some are pretty bad, but there's no sense of irony to it - it's just a bunch of inexperienced kids doing their best, and for that I can give the acting a pass.
Otherwise, this is a pretty solid entry in that sub-sub-genre of slasher films that act as if Scream never happened and just go about the usual business as if competing with a dozen others in the glory days of 1981. Plus, unlike some other recent ones that seem to think their brand new killer is already an icon, the killer is refreshingly simple - he's got a fireman outfit with an air mask to conceal his face, sticks to basic weapons, and (thank Christ) remains silent until the reveal. Yes, it's a whodunit, and while the mystery isn't particularly interesting, it's not overly complicated either - it's basically just a combination of Prom Night and Friday the 13th's motivations (albeit without a family tie), with a touch of The Burning for good measure since the opening scene tragedy involves a fire (and it's possible that the killer is that thought-dead student seeking revenge).
But Prom Night is the clear influence - it's really just a better paced remake, since the second half is set at their homecoming (a queen is crowned!) and it comes down to (spoiler) "You killed someone and got away with it so now that it's a random number of years later I will have my revenge!". But it's also got another thing that made me happy - chase scenes! Specifically, chase scenes featuring girls who are not the heroine. I recently rewatched a couple of the Friday the 13ths and was reminded that their climaxes all went on for far too long; Jason (or Mrs. Voorhees) would make quick work of the rest of the folks and leave too much time in the 3rd act with only one victim (one we know won't get killed anyway). So it's fun to have such fare in the middle of the movie, especially in one like this where more than one person survives.
Finally, the practical gore is much appreciated. I'm guessing they couldn't afford CGI, and there aren't a lot of impact shots or heavy prosthetics, but seeing real red syrup pooling around a victim's feet a few yards away from dancing students (seems like a nod to I Know What You Did Last Summer) warmed my slasher heart, because so many soulless producers will explain that they didn't use practical gore because they wouldn't have time to clean it up. Thanks for budgeting in the time to do it right, Bloody Homecoming producers! It's actually got a respectable body count - 10 or 11 I think, right in line with the sort of films director Brian C. Weed and writer Jake Helgren were clearly influenced by, and on that note I tip my non-existent hat to whichever of the two came up with the name Annie Morgan, a combination of the character and actress name of the girl who was the first present day victim in Friday the 13th. THAT'S how you do an in-joke name, not with distracting silliness like "Sheriff Savini" or a pet named Jason. It'll just go over the heads of anyone but the hardcores that will appreciate it most, and at the same time, tells us that they're not shoving their "expertise" down our throats. Indeed, even with the aforementioned influences, the film doesn't have any overt references and has its own identity (though it bizarrely cribs its sad theme from Armageddon, of all movies), allowing me to forgive its flaws more easily.
That said, again, it's not great. It gets stuff right, but it might take a surplus of exposure to horribly shitty slashers to recognize it - if you've only seen the Fridays and what not, you might find this to be pretty unbearable. And I have to remind you that I'm a pretty easy sell for whodunit slashers, so temper those expectations - it's a serviceable slasher at best. However, I think these guys have the right approach, and if they want to apply what they've learned here on their next feature (Helgren is currently on post on another slasher that he directed himself), perhaps with a little more money and a couple of experienced actors, we can get something truly solid to enjoy. I look forward to seeing it either way.
What say you?