Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #192
Number of Views: One
Release Date: April 29, 2008
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 92 minutes
Director: Joe Ariola
Producer: Joe Ariola
Screenplay: Joe Ariola
Special Effects: Tate Steinsiek
Cinematography: Leif Husted-Jensen
Score: Scott Anderson
Editing: John Alessi
Studio: Ariola Productions. Inc.
Stars: Nicole Abisinio, Joli Julianna, Matt Fraley, Jim Ford, Misty Dawn Meeler, Matt Lish, Chris Bashinelli, Kat Castaneda, Sal Sirchia, Antonio Mastrantonio, John Cipriano Jr., Damion Lee, Jeremy Drew, Tiffany Cook, Lou Savarese, Kim Taggart, Anthony Palladino and Vinny De Vingo as Hank the bartender
Suggested Audio Candy
Bob Dylan “Knocking on Heaven’s Door”
“I’ve never seen anything like this, not even in the movies”
Let me start this appraisal by confirming that the above line of precious dialogue is indeed plucked straight out of Knock Knock. That’s right y’all need to be aware from the offset that, should you choose to donate 92 minutes of your time to Joe Ariola’s eighties-styled slasher, then this is the kind of rejoinder you’re going to be hearing a lot. You’ve guessed it, Knock Knock is pure condensed spam. That said, if you grew up on the likes of Pieces, The Mutilator and The Deadly Spawn, then you may well be partial to the processed flavor. I’m not actually a fan of real-life spam but do like irreverent B-grade schlock so I was like a pig in swill when I realized what was in store for me.
We all know that I hold the decade dear and many would say I never left the eighties. So, when a film such as this surfaces, as was the case with Justin Russell’s The Sleeper, I lower my bar of expectation and take it for exactly what it is – the bastard child of countless slashers past. It tells the tale of a spate of particularly vicious murders which take place, at first apparently randomly, as a bunch of teens begin to pay dearly for the indiscretions of their parents. It treads the well-traversed boards of ‘child wronged takes revenge on the children of his persecutors’ and does so knowing exactly how preposterous it is. Right from the offset it is hard to be down on a movie which is fully aware of its limitations and uses them to enhance the experience rather than becoming caught up in attempting to be good.
“Hi. I’m here to solve the case”
The co-eds who are for the chop here are of barely one-dimension, non fleshed-out, bumbling boneheads who have ‘me next please’ practically stapled on their stupid foreheads. None of them offer even the slightest resistance as they walk like lambs to the slaughter. Of course, 92 minutes is tough to fill when dealing with such nondescript characters, so Ariola decides to throw in a couple of clueless detectives to spice up the mix some. One is a buxom blonde who looks like she made the force through clerical error and, the other, a washed out drunk who looks the spitting image of Tim Thomerson. Back in the eighties plenty of lesser known siblings did the rounds with varying degrees of success. Eric Roberts did rather well for himself whereas Don Swayze, Frank Stallone and Jim Hanks were three more bargain bin-like prospects and, when the credits rolled here, I was half-expectant of the name Joey Thomerson scrolling up the screen. It didn’t.
“Well you ain’t Helen Hunt but you’ll do”
Upon learning that their friends have begun to show up dead, the remaining teens show little to no empathy which is mildly hilarious when you put into context alongside the magnanimously melodramatic reactions from anybody discovering the cadavers. Meanwhile a sub-plot involving a mentally challenged school janitor who is allowed back to work even after being questioned for multiple murders is downright insanity. If I were to say that the film wasn’t utterly shambolic then I would be a big fat lying asshole but if I were to say that it wasn’t a whole heap of fun then I would also be a big fat lying asshole. Go figure!
The film appears to be resting its hopes on one flimsy gimmick, that being the ill-fated knock on the door. Mercifully this is abandoned early on and instead our killer pops up wherever the bloody hell he pleases and gets to work with all manner of murderous tools. When the writing is of this standard a slasher tends to live and die by its dispatches and that is where Ariola pulls a rather glorious trick from his sleeve. They aren’t just put to task, more eviscerated, or fucked up good if you prefer.
The sweetener is that the grue is provided by none other than Tate Steinsiek whose work is of an alarmingly high standard and, better yet, entirely practical. It is utterly mean-spirited although the victims are ordinarily bludgeoned to death quickly before any real skulduggery commences, lessening both the terror and tension considerably. Not a single one of them puts up the vaguest fight so don’t go expecting any drawn-out hallway chase scenes as you won’t be finding them here. What you will find is a contented grin which will be spread across your face whether you like it or not.
Our deranged psychopath himself is a hulking heathen wearing a mask which looks like little Timmy’s home economics project gone south. A mass of bandages do not an iconic killer maketh but it certainly helps when the unhinged reprobate in question revels so much in fashioning new ventilation in obnoxious turds who pretty much had it coming. His presence is accompanied by incessant children’s verse and some rather erratic editing, not to mention a soundtrack which sounds like it was included as some sort of dare. I shit you never, you will not believe your ears at times. Somehow Ariola holds it together like a ball of septic plasters, despite it looking on numerous occasions, as though the set is about to come crashing in.
Despite the fact that Knock Knock is pure crud, it gets by on no shortage of charm and Steinsiek’s extraordinary SFX. You may recall that I appraised his stellar short film Clown recently, and he was already squarely on my radar before working on crew for The Amazing Spiderman. After seeing what he is capable of here I am very much curious to see what direction his career takes. One thing is for sure, should he stick with make-up, there is a very bright future looming. Elsewhere, it’s hard to see where the £1.2m budget went and, considering The Sleeper came in at around $30k all in, it doesn’t show anything like the investment. All bones picked, the truth remains, Ariola’s film is a wonderful hark back to a forgotten era which is oodles of fun as long as you don’t go expecting anything ludicrous, like it actually not sucking.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 6/10
Grue Factor: 4/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: The obligatory naked rub down is present and correct but it is the grue which is nigh on off-the-scale. Multiple stabbings, disembowelment, decapitation, and dismemberment come courtesy of knives, hammers, blow torches, hack saws and there’s even a full-on face pummeling via fists and eventually heel to keep these meatballs spicy. Everything is shown up-close-and-personal including a particularly unpleasant shower autopsy which reinforces our belief that once the slasher titties flop you’re pretty much FUBAR.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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