Hal Needham was a prolific filmmaker. Although “Blood Frenzy” was his only horror movie, he made a ton of, er, more adult entertainment – all 25 volumes of the no-doubt edifying “Caught From Behind” series and a whole bunch with quite chaste titles like “Sweet Nothings”, “Layover”, and “Angels of Mercy”, for example. His stuff appears to have had plots and “jizz biz” veterans who could act a little, should that be your cup of tea.
One of our more beloved ISCFC review subjects, Ray Dennis Steckler, made several adult features but he also made tons of “normal” ones too – why Mr Needham decided to give it a try once and only once is a question it looks like we’ll never get answered (his writer, Ted Newsom, scripted a dozen or so pornos before moving on to the sort of trashy sci-fi fare we love to cover here).
This is a cheap-looking movie, whether shot-on-video or some nasty broken 16mm camera is tough to tell – doubly so, watching it on an old VHS tape. After a cold open featuring a kid murdering an abusive parent with a trowel to the neck, lifted from “Halloween”, we move on to a premise lifted straight from “The Hills Have Eyes”, where an RV full of people go for a nice relaxing weekend in the desert between LA and Vegas.
Well, it’s not really a holiday, it’s a group therapy session led by Doctor Barbara Shelley. Perhaps mental health was a more casual, less regulated business back then? Her clients include Rick, a traumatised Vietnam vet; Dory, a predatory lesbian; Dave, just a generally angry guy; Cassie, a nymphomaniac; Jean, a woman petrified of being touched; and Crawford, a cheerful alcoholic. Quite why some of these people got into the orbit of a psychiatrist, or certainly of the same psychiatrist, is one of those things the movie just expects you to take on faith. The “meet the meat” section has never felt more perfunctory.
Dory’s family apparently owns a spot of desert, containing a long-defunct silver mine, so she offers this to the group for their therapy. Tents are set up, Rick and Dave fight, Crawford carries on drinking (how much booze did he take for the weekend to stay as sozzled as he is every second he’s on camera? Who knows); but, astonishingly, it seems Dr Shelley is pretty good at her job and some actual breakthroughs are made. Well, one – Jean gets over her phobia quite quickly.
This whole preamble takes about half an hour, fairly standard in slasher movie standards, but this has the added problem of looking ugly and cheap. Then there’s a murder, then it immediately grinds to a halt for another half an hour. There’s a weird tonal problem which becomes apparent now – some of the characters appear to think they’re in a comedy movie, others don’t, and the rest are just desperately trying to act (you’ll be unsurprised to discover there’s a handful of actors for whom this is their only credit). Are we supposed to be taking the threat seriously? Worried for the characters? Or laughing along with them?
The one interesting bit of casting is Dory, one Lisa Loring. The name may not be familiar to you but her most iconic role probably is – Wednesday Addams from the 60s TV “Addams Family”. This represents one of a tiny handful of movies she made in the late 80s, after a tiny handful of TV appearances in the late 70s, after her childhood fame in the mid 60s.
The reveal / twist, when it comes, is faintly ludicrous. Imagine the number of things that needed to go perfectly well for the killer’s plan to work out, and how much easier it would have been to just kidnap the one person they definitely wanted to kill back in LA. All those group therapy sessions just to get to this point! Imagine if Dr Shelley’s boss had said “I’m absolutely not letting you do this, it’s a ridiculous idea”?
Ultimately, it’s absolutely no different to hundreds and hundreds of other slasher movies from the 80s. The gore is more gleeful and plentiful than the average, perhaps? If you like that sort of thing, you’ll probably have a tolerable time, but unlike a few of the curios we’ve unearthed here, deserves to remain in the obscurity which it currently languishes in.
Rating: thumbs down