[review by Justin Kerswell]
Quite often I get sent screeners from new film makers. Sometimes my stomach sinks. I don't want to deflate fragile egos by telling them what they think is the GONE WITH THE WIND of slashers is little better than a home movie made by teenagers that don't know which end of a video camera is which. However, sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised. Thankfully, Drew Barnhardt's film falls into the latter category. It won't set the world alight, but MURDER LOVES KILLERS TOO is a twisty and twisted take on the slasher movie that shows there's life left in the subgenre yet.
The opening – with a peculiarly genteel voice over by an elderly English gentlemen – sets up the action to come. The screen opens with 'Some years ago', and a jeep racing round the corner of a mountain road, full of squealing teenagers. The voice over good naturedly tells the viewer: “Suffice to say, they were poised to enjoy their summer at the idyllic mountain retreat. And no doubt they would have had they not been brutally murdered – one by one.” Fast forward to 'Now', and another car load of teens are racing towards the same mountain lodge. Like a gazillion horny teens that have sped to their doom in slashers of yore, there's two wastrel boys Brian (Scott Nalder) and Kyle (John Jenkinson). Plus, three girls: the blonde and saucy Tamra (Mary Legault); the overly excitable Lindy (Kat Szumski); and the seemingly bookish Aggie (Christine Haeberman) (who, anyone who has ever watched a slasher will tell right off the bat, is marked as the final girl as she complains when the car goes too fast).
The teens hit the lodge in a blizzard of testosterone and oestrogen, and echoing past slashers they hit the bottle (Aggie has raided the bar at work, which will would presumably put her final girl status at risk). Pre-marital sex is also on the cards, with Tamra rushing around the house, saying “First things first – the bedrooms!”.
However, this teenage idyll is soon shattered when one of the group is literally plucked away (in what's one of the best unexpected initial appearances by a killer I've ever seen). Following time honoured tradition, one-by-one they are picked off, leaving just one girl to battle the killer to the end ...
MURDER LOVES KILLERS TOO doesn't disappoint when it comes to classic slasher action. Echoing all the best backwoods slashers the suspense is ratcheted up, with the last victim-to-be playing a highly effective cat and mouse game with the killer. However, despite the affectionate nods and homage to early 80s slashers, the film takes a number of surprising twists and turns; and it's this that makes it stand out from the crowd.
It would be wrong to describe MURDER LOVES KILLERS TOO as a horror comedy, but it does have a distinctively odd ball absurdity about it. No more so than with its killer: Big Stevie (Allen Andrews). Perhaps the only slasher to make his debut on-screen in a dressing gown! Bizarrely matter-of-fact, Big Stevie goes about his murder spree like he's taking out the trash (and perhaps, in a matter of speaking, he is). He also takes a break from killing to tidy up the lodge and fluff the cushions on the coach.
As it turns out, it's Big Stevie's birthday, and murder spree is the present he craves. And, in another first, he approximates a mask out of one of those pointy little party hats, held jauntily over his nose by a band of elastic. To further twist things, he confesses to one potential victim that he has a sexual problem: he gets his sexual kicks by killing people. As he quite astutely guesses, that's not something she wanted to hear.
Again, with nods towards FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980) and the like, the film doesn't stint on the red stuff, with splashy stabbings, stomach drillings, intestine pulling and a knife to the mouth gag gleefully lifted from Lucio Fulci's HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY (1981).
Mention also has to be made to the lovingly created artworks that ape those great low budget genre film posters from the the 70s that put the majority of today's anaemic ones to shame.
For a first time director, MURDER LOVES KILLERS TOO is a surprisingly accomplished debut. Admittedly, the low budget does shine through, and there are some problems with lighting and some muffled dialogue, but great camera work, mostly good performances, a robust musical score, a number of left field turns, affectionate and highly effective slasher action and a boffo ending more than make up for that. A name to watch and a film to seek out.
female:2 / male:3
1) Male drilled through stomach and disembowled
2) Male stabbed to death
3) Female stabbed in the stomach and through mouth
4) Female presumed dead
5) Male has tounge pulled out and shoved down throat