Halloween Horrors 2011 : “Killing Spree”

Posted: October 29, 2011 in movies
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What the hell? While we’re on the subject of Z-grade 1980s shot-on-video horror movies (and this one’s also part of the “Retro 80s Horror Collection” from Camp Motion pictures, in case you hadn’t already noticed — nice full-frame picture, good quality remastered stereo sound, extras include two commentaries, one from the director, another from three of the “stars,” a making-of documentary, video test shoots, and an investor’s (good luck with that) promo reel — and it’s shot on 16mm, not on video, but I didn’t want to ruin my intro segue), let’s take a quick look at one more, shall we? the “one more” in this case being writer-director Tim Ritter’s 1987 offering Killing Spree.

Shot in sunny Jupiter, Florida for the princely sum of $75,000, this one’s an absolute blast from start to (almost — more on that shortly) finish. With tongue planted so firmly in cheeks it’s just gotta hurt, Ritter tells us the simple tale of one Tom Russo (played up — rather than just played — to the hilt by Asbestos Felt — and yes, like you, I’m assuming — hell, desperately hoping — that’s not his real name), a guy who’s so convinced that his wife Leeza is cheating on him when he’s at work, out running errands, basically doing anything other than sitting at home and watching her like a hawk, that he figures his best course of action is just to start killing any guy who happens to be anywhere near his house at any time just in case he might be sleeping with her. And Tom not only has a grand old time dispatching them (watch for screwdrivers to the head, dismemberment (followed by an accidental death when he lobs said dismembered head off the balcony and right onto the noggin of an unfortunate passerby), all that good stuff), he figures spending too much time burying these folks is just time that could be better spent killing even more guys his old lady might be getting it on with, so he just buries most of them out in the back yard.

And that’s when things get a little bit hairy towards the end (I told you we’d be getting back to it sooner rather than later) — for reasons not entirely explained (well, okay, not explained at all, truth be told), Tom’s victims all rise from the grave and kill him at least as spectacularly as he did them. So yeah, things do go off the rails there a bit at the conclusion, but you know what? It’s all good, because this is one sadistic, malicious, tasteless, downright nasty little piece of businees, and it does it all with a wink and a nod.

First off, the effects are straight-up impressive. I mean, you’d think Ritter was spending some actual money  on this shit. Yeah, he’s hemmed in by his obvious limitations, of course, but that’s not about to stop him from making you go “eeeeeeeewwwwwwww!!!!!!!!!!!!!” as loudly, and as frequently, as possible. Huge props for that.

Secondly, everyone from felt on down through the cast is hamming it up in the best possible way, yet they all uniformly give the impression that they actually want you to think they might be playing this straight even though you’d have to be literally, clinically insane to think they were. Given that this type of overall uniformity in tone (admittedly bizarre as it is) absolutely can’t be chalked up to each and every individual in front of the camera on a movie this far below the “B” level being, you know, talented, credit has to be given to the director for clearly communicating, and then not stopping until he damn well gets, exactly what he wants from everyone involved.

Finally, a lot of the trappings inherent in the homemade horror genre (think long, slow pans of the scenery for no reason, lots of dead space with nothing going on — everything that goes with a medium where editing is such a pain in the ass when we’re comparing this to many of its contemporaries, which were SOV affairs) are noticeably, and thankfully, absent here. In short, Ritter doesn’t demand that you make allowances for his paltry budget — he just delivers the best-quality product that he possibly can given what he’s got to work with.

I don’t know why Tim Ritter never went on to have much more of a career. He certainly deserved bigger and better things slaving away on a bunch of direct-to-VHS-and-DVD “erotic thrillers,” by-the-numbers slashers, sci-fi cheapies, and crooked-cop crime “dramas.” But hey, give him credit — he’s carved out a living at it and is still going strong today. It certainly beats factory work, at any rate.

But based on the strength of Killing Spree alone, it’s this reviewer’s considered opinion that he probably deserved a shot at the big time. Or  at least bigger than he ever ended up getting.

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