Have you ever watched a horror film where you dread night scenes, not because they might be frightening but more because you know that no matter how much squinting you do you'll never work out what the hell is going on? Or, where you know that the majority of the bleeding will be from the 'colours' in a washed-out print rather than an artistically severed artery? Well, despite the fact that the copy of ANOTHER SON OF SAM I watched wasn't a nth generation bootleg, rather a first generation pre-record, this was all definitely the case.
I dug up this film (and from the muddy quality of the print that could have quite easily been literally!) on Ebay a few months back. The artwork was pretty delicious (screaming pure grindhouse), add to the fact that I could find out next to nothing about it anywhere, well, it was a red rag to a bull (aren't we always looking for that elusive holy grail?).
ANOTHER SON OF SAM starts with a roll call of real serial and mass murderers, listing everyone from Jack the Ripper to Richard Speck (and a few more that I just couldn't read due to smudgy red type), before we are 'treated' to a seemingly endless montage of a speedboat going round and around a lake. It turns out that it's being driven by police Lieutenant Setzner (Russ Dubuc) and his psychiatrist girlfriend Dr Ellis (Cynthia Stewart). To add insult to injury - especially taking into account that this movie is, despite what it says on the box, only a scant 70 minutes long (!) - the couple move on to the 'Trees Lounge' bar, where they (and we - the poor audience - or has anyone apart from me ever seen this movie?) have to listen to the one, the only Johnny Charro (replete with hairy chest, medallion and white flares) belt out a sub-Neil Diamond (can there be such a thing?) ballard on such inanity that I had to resist the temptation to rim the nearest available live plug socket.
Put it this way, at this point if this had been followed by a scene of a bell-haired family with cheesy grins unwrapping their presents I would have readily believed I had somehow got hold of a somebody's 70's home movie. Luckily (well, relatively), the, er, action moves to a hospital where a mental patient called Harvey is being restrained in a straight-jacket and is sedated. In some Houdini manner we never see, Harvey shrugs off the jacket and his drug haze and kills two hospital orderlies (one with a handy pitchfork) and puts his doctor (yes, she from the speedboat and 'Trees Lounge') into a coma and then escapes; not before having a flashback of his Mother seemingly about to abuse him (for that's why he's gone bonkers, apparently).
Mad Harvey then takes to skulking around the local park, being a bit of a giveaway as he still has blood on his hands. After a spot of Key Stone Cops tomfoolery, where he runs at two officers holding guns resulting in them falling into the local shrubbery and not getting up (!), he runs through the park like Benny Hill without his bevy of lovelies; he then hotfoots it to the local college campus to carry on his r - e - i - g - n o - f t - e - r - r - o - r !
At the college campus we're introduced to three young coeds, one of whom, Tina (Pam Mullins), it is hinted at has just stolen $500. She tries to tell her room mate, Heather (Bonnie Schrier), but she seems more interested in talking to a giant stuffed dog called Henry, "No, you can't come in the shower with me, Henry!", she barks somewhat eccentrically.
Strangely, Lieutenant Setzner (yes, he of the speed boat and 'Trees Lounge') visits the campus to investigate the missing money (the slight problem of there being a psychotic killer, who has just duffed up his girlfriend, being on the loose not seeming to matter a great deal). It's here that he meets tattle tail Darleen (Kim Saunders), who fingers Tina (as it were) as the thief. However, when they go up to her room they find that Harvey has beat them to it and has murdered her. Thinking quickly they evacuate the campus building and call in a SWAT team to try and deal with the errant Harvey! However, they hadn't figured on the two remaining room mates being so stupid that they would go back to their rooms whilst the killer still lurked trapped there. Harvey, despite being demented, is quite resourceful and gets his Charles Whittman moment when he kills a cop and turns rifle on gormless members of the public from an upstairs window who have come to have a good gawp at the unfolding, er, drama.
It's difficult to tell how much of muddy and muddled look and nature of ANOTHER SON OF SAM comes from an epically poor video transfer, or from the general ineptitude of the film itself. Despite an evidently low, low budget, some of it's nicely shot, with many of the scenes evoking the suburban streets (plus plenty of POV shots, including the old favourite where a hand comes into view and pulls down a branch) of John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN (1978). Funny then that this was made in 1977, although I doubt Carpenter saw this movie. Did anybody? ... Strangely, though, there are about half a dozen scenes where the action freeze-frames but the sound continues on for another five seconds, or so. Intended? I really couldn't tell.
Despite the genuinely grueling task of watching this tape, and the film's general incoherence at times, it does manage to generate a certain level of tenseness during the siege scenes. It also scores bad taste points for having a scene where the Mother, who supposedly sexually abused Harvey, is called in to try and talk him out of the building!
female:3 / male:9
1) Male cut up with telephone cable (?!)
2) Male impaled on pitchfork
3) Female killed (method unseen)
4) Female killed (method unseen)
5) Male strangled
6) Male shot dead
7) Male shot dead
8) Male shot dead
9) Male shot dead
10) Female killed (method unseen)
11) Male shot dead
12) Male shot dead