Welcome to the 14th Annual October Horrorshow here at Missile Test, when the site is dedicated to reviewing horror films for an entire month. This year features a mix of random horror films and themed reviews. The theme this year is It Came from the Camcorder, wherein we dive into the strange world of low-budget horror flicks shot on videotape. These movies were never released theatrically, and represent some of the worst moviemaking one is likely to see. But, these movies represent a true cinematic ideal of perseverance. These auteurs and the other people that worked on these movies let nothing, not Hollywood, not money, not expectations, stand in the way of making their movies. Every finished movie represents an heroic effort, and I’m glad to play a small part in helping to spread awareness that these movies exist, and have not simply gone quietly into that good night. The first camcorder flick is a real doozy. Enjoy.
Going into this year’s Horrorshow, Missile Test was aware of how much of a slog a month’s worth of shot-on-video horror would represent. Lucky us, then, that the first SOV horror flick of the month would be so outrageous, hilarious, and watchable, despite it being a mangy mutt of a movie.
From 1987 comes Killing Spree, the fourth feature from writer/director Tim Ritter. Coming right in the middle of the era of SOV horror, Killing Spree is a fantastic benchmark through which a viewer can judge whether or not they appreciate this wild subgenre of film. It has just about everything one could expect or want from the shittiest of horror films. It has the muddled look of being shot on magnetic tape, the muddled sound of a stock microphone attachment, a script that never would have been approved for a Hollywood shoot, a cast full of amateurs, a synthesized soundtrack that could have been made on a toy Casio keyboard, special effects that are outrageous but the opposite of convincing, and no regard for the way movies are supposed to be made. This is outsider art. It may not be good art, but it’s a gigantic middle finger to big time cinema, and we here at Missile Test love nonconformity.
Asbestos Felt (yes, Asbestos Felt) stars as Tom Russo, an airplane mechanic who has entered into wedded bliss with Leeza (Courtney Lecara). Bliss is a strong word, now that I consider it further. Leeza is Tom’s second wife, the first being tossed to the curb after Tom found out she was cheating. Tom’s pain has yet to heal, and he harbors a fair amount of paranoia about his new wife’s comings and goings. He doesn’t want Leeza to work, he doesn’t want anyone coming to visit her, and any little amount of freedom or understanding she shows is met with quite a lot of anger. Who knows if Tom was like this during marriage #1, but in marriage #2, he is a huge dickhead.
Leeza, meanwhile, is the most patient person on the planet. Not once during this film does she ever return Tom’s anger, nor does she ever appear all that worried or frustrated with it. That’s all down to the writing. No person in real life, or character in a mainstream movie, would put up with so much rage with a smile, but in the dregs of cinema, anything goes.
Tom’s jealousy and anger grows to murderous proportions after he finds Leeza’s diary, detailing sexual encounters she has had with Tom’s friends, and literally ever other man who has stopped by the house. He gets the red ass real bad, lures the supposed adulterous perpetrators back to the house one by one while Leeza is away, and kills them. It’s not revealed until the final act whether Tom’s jealousies are justified, or the product of a troubled mind. He’s so keyed up that it is not beyond the realm of possibility that Leeza’s diary is nothing but blank pages, and it is his own imagination, driven by his insecurities, that are filling the pages with lurid tales of extramarital lust.
As the movie goes on, the murders become more graphic, with the effects unable to keep up with the scale of Ritter’s ambition. It all leads to a final act twist that I won’t spoil. Just about every description of this movie on the internet gives away the third act, so if one is curious, the google machine is there to satisfy. But, I recommend going into this film blind to how events play out. I feel that will make the ending feel all the more absurd, and satisfying.
That’s just about all that is good about this flick. Judging its quality from an objective standpoint, it stinks. It’s barely a competent production, seemingly held together by the stubborn willpower of Tim Ritter. That’s probably going to be a constant theme this Horrorshow — shitty filmmaker plows ahead, letting nothing stop them from making their movie. Good for them, and good for Ritter.
Shitty filmmaking moments abound in this flick, but the standouts to me are the gore effects. Early on, Ritter has a very obvious mannequin head standing in for one of Tom’s poor victim’s melon. It’s a stunning moment in the film — a true howler. It would set the tone for the film were it not for a dream sequence earlier that must be seen to be believed.
More than likely, a viewer will hate this movie. I maintain that it is a darkly comedic diamond in the rough. It is silly spectacle writ small — a joy to watch Tom lose his mind. Killing Spree, despite all expectations, finds a home in the top half of the Watchability Index, displacing Impulse at #106. Check it out.