Old school slasher done right. That's my five word review of BLOODY HOMECOMING. It would be wrong to say that this low-mid budget slasher is without its issues, but it body-swerves many of the problems of recent slasher movie's (hello unlikeable new Laurie Strode I'm looking at you!) and even throws enough curveballs into the mix to make the familiar territory feel like a comfortable pair of old slippers – that might just bite you!
|It's the first Homecoming after the fiery tragedy three years ago. What could possibly go wrong?|
A group of teens hoping to attend a High School dance are refused entry as part of a cunning plan to get into the underwear of number of the girls. The party moves to a nearby building, where one of the older teens gets annoyed that his new girlfriend Annie (Grainne McDermott) won't put out and attempts to force himself on her. Her screams are answered by one of her friends, Loren (Lexi Giovagnoli), who locks the would-be rapist in a room; but as he attempts to get out knocks over a candle and sets the room alight. Teachers and the students notice the fire, but can't rescue the horny teenager – who lies dead, stiff as a board and smouldering at their feet.
Cut forward three years and the group are now seniors preparing for the school's first homecoming after the tragic death – and they are all dealing with the anniversary in their own way. However Annie is taking it harder than most and is popping antidepressants and avoiding school and her old friends. Then one night she gets an unwelcome visit from someone dressed as a fireman (complete with identity obscuring visor) and wielding a sharpened homecoming baton. Soon afterwards students find a note in their school locker in blood promising a “Bloody Homecoming” for all. And it's a promise that's delivered on in spades…
Who lives and who dies is one of the most surprising aspects of BLOODY HOMECOMING – and one of the most welcome aspects, too. Given the well worn premise (this is, after-all, an affectionate nod back to the best of early 80s slasher movies) having your expectations of who will be left standing and who will be holding the bloody baton at the end constantly confounded is all part of the fun and keeps things fresh.
|Uh-oh. The Homecoming is is not likely to go without a hitch ...|
And, yes, BLOODY HOMECOMING is fun with a capital F. Remember fun when it came to slasher movies? That old fashioned vein of popcorn fun? It's like 'torture porn' never happened! And I know I won't be the only one who will breathe a sigh of relief for that. For a blood-soaked slasher movie with a large body-count, it is strangely reassuring that it doesn't have a mean bone in its body. It's closest comparison in recent years is MTV's surprisingly entertaining SUPER PSYCHO SWEET 16 (2009), although BLOODY HOMECOMING plays it a little more straight.
Fans of slasher movies such as HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME (1981), FINAL EXAM (1981), SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE (1982) and HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW (1983) – and who reading this isn't? – will appreciate the homages to those films (and many more), that are deftly done and don't hit you over the head with them. They'll also appreciate some smatterings of splashy old-style gore effects that again never cross the line into 'torture porn' territory.
Another major plus is that BLOODY HOMECOMING is chock full of nice, relatable characters. Remember them? You know, people you actually care about enough to hope they survive until the end credits. Too many makers of slasher movies of late obviously have as much contempt for their audiences as they do for their characters. Maybe it's payback to all the asshole jocks and bitchy co-eds they knew, but you can keep your catharsis thank you very much. I know I'm not alone in being exasperated in watching a cavalcade of annoying, whiny cyphers who you just can't wait to die. This heralds the return of fun characters – you know, like the classic slasher movies!
However, it's not all good. BLOODY HOMECOMING's meagre budget does shine through at times. The climactic school dance looks serious under-attended and some of the performances are a little broad and in a couple of incidences can take you completely out of the moment. Director Brian C. Weed's direction falls a little flat in some of the action scenes, but he shows enough promise that most of it works and it'll be interesting to see what he does next. Still, the shortcomings are never fatal – and all-in-all the young cast do well to get you to like them. It also scores points for having a gay character without making a huge deal out of it. Does he live? Well, that would be telling.
|Early 80s style slasher killer stalking a high school once more. Good times!|
Thankfully the film is given a sheen by being shot presumably digitally on an SLR lens – which helps low budget films get the look of those that cost many times as much. And BLOODY HOMECOMING is very nicely shot – making good use of its locations, from darkened school corridors to parking lots. All the better for chasing teenagers around – and there are chases. Lots of chases!
The film is topped off with a showdown and unmasking that not only harks back to the best of the subgenre of the early 1980s, but also gives a sly nod to the likes of SCREAM (1996) and the films that richly mined the 80s classics. Thankfully, the script for BLOODY HOMECOMING is witty and sharp, but mostly avoids the increasingly tired post-modernisms of the post-SCREAM slashers. It plays it relatively straight, and I appreciated that.
Now, I should give a short disclaimer: BLOODY HOMECOMING is written by a friend of mine, Jake Helgren. In truth I was a little worried about watching a preview screener. I mean, what if I hated it?! Well, I needn't have worried. Jake knows what makes a slasher movie work – what fans of old school slasher movies want (even throwing in a little t&a!). He breaks the rule that horror movie fans are the worst people to make horror movies – and I for one can't wait for his next love letter to the early 80s slasher movie 2013's VARSITY BLOOD.