Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #98
Number of Views: Two
Release Date: June 30, 2009
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 75 minutes
Director: Drew Barnhardt
Producers: Guy Clark, Chris McKinley
Screenplay: Drew Barnhardt
Special Effects: Eric Kirker, Dustin Owen
Cinematography: Kevin M Graves
Score: Ryan Franks
Editing: Chris McKinley
Studio: Radar Dog Productions
Distributors: 4Digital Media (UK DVD), Well Go (US DVD), Eventity Entertainment
Stars: Christine Haeberman, Allen Andrews, Mary LeGault, Scott Nadler, Johnny Jenkinson, Kat Szumski, Kathryn Playa, Kelly Devoto, Ryan Franks, Anna Graves
and Nigel Lambert as the Narrator
Suggested Audio Candy
Arrested Development “People Everyday”
How well do you know that guy next door? By all accounts he looks fairly unremarkable. Middle aged, balding, a little overweight and most likely suffering from a spot of erectile dysfunction – seems pretty much your everyday douche to me. One thing’s for damned sure, he certainly ain’t no serial killer. He couldn’t possibly be such a deviant, after all, he has a wife and teenage daughter. Granted, he seems to throw out more garbage than your average American and there appears to be fresh blood dripping from the trunk of his car, but it’s likely just roadkill right? If I had a dollar for every time a seemingly normal man went on a vicious killing spree for no apparent reason, only for his neighbors to remark in an interview that “he just didn’t look the type”, then I’d have enough to buy myself a log cabin in the woods. Of course, if a group of hormonal teens needed a place to engage in binge drinking and unprotected sex for the weekend, then it would be rude not to offer them a loan. Doesn’t make me a sicko.
Drew Barnhardt’s Murder Loves Killers Too slipped out unannounced in 2009 and has since been renamed as the utterly faceless Blood Cabin, which does it absolutely no justice as it is far from your conventional slasher. Hopefully it will earn enough respect to shed that uninspired skin as what Barnhardt has achieved here is pretty much off-the-scale. He takes a well-trodden formula (free-spirited co-eds venturing to an apparently isolated cabin for uncultivated merrymaking and meeting grisly ends), plays very much by its rules for the opening two acts then says ”nah, fuck it” and does something that has his audience’s heads spinning like Maltesers in a wind tunnel. You see kiddiewinks; it doesn’t take a trove of forbidden treasures to make a meaningful piece of art, just the seed of a killer idea and the testicles to make your brain wave tangible.
To begin with, Murder Loves Killers Too really couldn’t be less inspired if it tried. After a brief introduction from our narrator, we meet Tamra (Mary LeGault), Brian (Scott Nadler), Aggie (Christine Haeberman), Kyle (John Jenkinson) and Lindy (Kat Szumski), five college co-eds who have rented an isolated cabin in the Colorado Mountains for some good old-fashioned party hard shenanigans. No sooner have they set down their bags, than they are made to feel far less than welcome and Barnhardt wastes absolutely no time in putting the teens to task. I know what you’re thinking: some guy in a knock-off hockey mask right? At this point it would be no less than we’re expecting but this is not your average hulking juggernaut. Actually scrap that, our killer really couldn’t be more average.
You see, our silent and resourceful aggressor goes by the name of Big Stevie (Allen Andrews) and looks like the kind of guy you’d find propping up the bar at O’Malley’s. Mid to late forties, balding, in need of a good few hours on the treadmill and, lo-and-behold, suffering from problems in the sexual confidence department, Stevie is a model for middle-aged despondency and the last person on earth who looks capable of running a bloodbath. However, looks can be rather deceiving and it turns out he makes up for what he lacks in anything resembling distinguishing features with the ability to get the job done with the kind of nonchalance that makes him a fascinating subject to observe. He also knows the floor plan better than our five babes in the woods and accesses their coordinates via a man-sized cat flap in the wall that conceals a network of well-woven crawlspaces throughout the cabin’s structure.
As aforementioned, Stevie procrastinates not in commencing his eradication. Indeed, we are down to the barest of bones in absolutely no time and only our final girl Aggie (a lady with commendable lungs I might add) remains. Ordinarily I wouldn’t dream of divulging such information but, should I not do so, then I will be ignoring the elephant in the room as Murder Loves Killers Too has itself something of a doozy. At around the halfway mark, we switch from generic slasher to insightful character study and it comes as a bolt from the blue as our blasé butcher suddenly opens up to his sole remaining tormentee like he hasn’t just spent the past half hour slaughtering the poor girl’s buddies. Calm and collected, he informs her of his ongoing battle with sexual dysfunction and hardly bats an eyelid as he does so. From hereon in we are in very different territory.
However, Barnhardt isn’t done with us yet by a long chalk as we vacate the Rocky mountains and head back to suburbia as we are provided with a look at Big Stevie (a character Andrews bases on his own father) in his natural habitat. Married to a woman who has long since ceased finding him even the faintest bit attractive and with an insubordinate teenage daughter who barely even acknowledges his existence, poor Stevie is your everyday schmuck and suddenly his extracurricular activities are provided with some meaning. It’s an ingenious move from the director and takes Murder Loves Killers Too to an entirely different level. Indeed, by the time we are delivered kicking and screaming to the end credits and beaten to a bloody pulp, it feels as though we have just witnessed something truly worthy of remembrance, the greatest gift any film can bear.
That’s not to say for one second that Murder Loves Killers Too is a classic; for the opening two acts it is as standard and unremarkable a slasher as they come. The opening narration is a tad trite, although there is a nice retro feel to the opening that harks back to the Super-8 shot low-budget efforts of yesteryear. However, in producing a twist that turns the entire genre on its head, Barnhardt earns himself limitless kudos and does ample to showcase his aptitude as a filmmaker in the process. There is much to be said for a film that takes a direction that none of us see coming and, to Big Stevie’s infinite credit, he sure sneaks up on our blind side.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10
Grue Factor: 3/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: Barnhardt provides a fairly unspectacular melange of stabbings, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it disembowelment, 360 head twists, and the customary blood splatter. The dispatches do the utmost with the limited kitty available but it’s Stevie’s indifference that impacts most and his unblinking detachment reaches in and twists our guts. As for accompanying fleshy tissue of the bloodless variety, the obligatory unleashed breasticles tick another welcome box in the slasher checklist.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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