I’d like to think that you and I learn things together, dear reader. Just a month ago I had no idea of the existence of the “I Will Dance On Your Grave” non-series, featuring two movies from the great Donald Farmer, “Death Blow: A Cry For Justice” (an apparently terrible movie about women fighting back against a rape epidemic), and “Killing Spree”. Now we all know about it, and we can try and figure out what the link between the four movies was. Half of them are very definitely about rape, but the other half aren’t – they’ve all got a lot of sex in them, but that’s par for the course in exploitation movies. Three of them could be loosely called “revenge” movies, but “Cannibal Hookers” doesn’t fall under that banner at all…it’s a conundrum, for sure.
But let’s talk about “Killing Spree”. It’s another shot-on-video, as the ISCFC likes to be 25 years late to every party, but the gulf in technical quality between this and, say, “Cannibal Hookers”, is gigantic. Every scene is lit properly (although it probably helps filming it almost entirely in daylight), all the actors are in focus, the effects – while cheap – are cleverly done and practical, and you can hear everything that goes on. And it features one of the most amazing central performances you’ll ever see!
Asbestos Felt plays Tom Russo. Let’s get it out of the way now, because every other review of this movie ever has done it – it’s the greatest name of all time. I’ve got no idea why he picked it, but I’m very glad he did. Anyway, Tom is a pretty terrible husband to Leeza, demanding that she stay at home (due solely to his jealousy); even though she doesn’t seem to mind too much, and defends her husband when it’s brought up. She’s loving and understanding, so it’s not just their appearances that make such an odd match – she looks like a perfectly normal suburban woman, and he looks like a skinny crazed hobo.
Slightly similarly to “Driller Killer”, this is a movie about a man who loses his mind and then starts killing people – of course, “Driller Killer” has the slight edge on this in terms of budget, acting, plot, and effects, but you get the point. Tom is disturbed at the beginning of the movie, because his first wife cheated on him, so when he discovers a “diary” where his wife appears to be describing erotic encounters with the men she comes into contact with (starting off with his best friend, then the TV repair guy, mailman, lawnmower guy, and so on), he falls off the deep end. Oh, and there’s a super-annoying neighbour too, but she’s just there to get her jaw ripped off by a claw hammer.
Director Tim Ritter really tries to make this film visually interesting. Unlike so many other shot on video movies, he tries little tricks, weird angles, cuts, and so on – not all of it works, but he’s trying, with the upshot of it all being that this movie feels shorter than some of the 60 minute-long garbage I’ve seen. Now, even though he tries with that, there are some visuals that are too odd, in a way. Tom’s best friend / best man at his wedding is Ben (Raymond Carbone), but he’s a good 20 years older than Tom; plus, he brags about his 18 year old punk girlfriend, whose weirdly horrible insults to Tom, a man she’s just met, are the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
There’s also the house where most of the action takes place to comment on. Apart from one picture in the lounge, the walls are entirely blank, and the entire house looks like one of those show homes that new housing developments have. In fact, the neighbourhood looks like that (when we see outside) so it’s entirely possible that Ritter was offered a house by a friend who was in construction, or something, provided he didn’t get blood anywhere, but had zero money to dress his set. This blankness actually makes things eerier, so kudos to them if it was a real choice.
The budget can only go so far, though, and the biggest issue by far is the acting. Asbestos Felt is amazing, almost the personification of rage, and while he’s not got a lot of levels (he does tired, wired, and insane) he’s a truly great central character. Everyone else, on the other hand…Courtney Lercara as Leeza tries her best, but all the movie’s other cast pitches things at an insane level, like they were told they were filming a knockabout comedy or something. The TV repair guy who brags about his karate skills is the best, but they’re all OTT in the way only completely amateur actors can be. I think Ritter was going for some sort of split in their acting between what actually happens and Tom’s fantasies, but they aren’t good enough for that! It seems a decent portion of the cast has this and Ritter’s previous movie “Truth or Dare” as their only credits, and that’s to be expected.
The twist, such as it is, is so obvious you start to hope that when they reveal it, they’ll do something really weird, like Tom apologising for all the murder and them just going on with their happy married life. They don’t do that, obviously, although what they do end up doing is even better, as Tom’s past comes back to not quite haunt him, but definitely get involved in his life again. Some of the little touches (which I can’t reveal for fear of spoilers) show a filmmaker with who wants to do more than just hurl gore at the screen, and has a decent sense of humour (as well as the little visuals, my favourite line is “you screwed my wife, so I’ll screwdriver your head!” while, unsurprisingly, dropping a screwdriver which goes straight through the top of a chap’s skull).
Okay, it’s really cheap, the acting is ropey as hell, the plot isn’t original and the twist is horribly obvious. But it’s a gore-drenched good time, with a sense of humour and a surprisingly clever use of the cheapest shooting medium there is. Plus, it’s got maybe the best thing I’ve ever heard in a movie. If you ever thought “you know, I wish there was a bit in the end credits of movies where the psychotic killer did a light-hearted rap about the people he’d killed”, then this is the movie for you. It’s absolutely amazing, and is worth keeping it on til the bitter end for.
I think we’ll be covering more of Ritter’s movies, perhaps after our Donald Farmer season is over.
Rating: thumbs up