"The annals of history are full of infamous killers; Jack the Ripper, Bluebeard,
The Boston Strangler and now a mass murderer with a different bent. Having killed
scores of innocent victims, this modern maniac has up to now been invincible,
unstoppable, never tiring from overwork, nor satisfying his sadistic appetite
for suffering and blood. He’s brutal, heartless and obsessed with slaying
whole families … and he has plenty of experience, after all he began with
his own. That’s why they call him The Family Man."
No, first off, this move does not star Nicolas Cage. It is not a sequel to the family Christmas movie. This is an effort from South Africa, who also brought us THE DEMON in the late seventies and SLASH a few years back in 2002. It would seem the country is on a once-a-decade slasher film minimum, minus the nineties. I can only imagine RETURN OF THE FAMILY MAN had enough moldy cheese around its edges to take care of both those decades. That’s not to say that I don’t just adore this movie. I do, for some reason … a large part of it probably has to do with the fact that it comes from South Africa, and, much like SLASH, would never admit it to it, because the plot is set in rural American “Hicksville.”
Our flick starts out with a needless opening in the “big city,” where our would-be hero Alden (Liam Cundill) drives up in a pizza delivery car wearing a sideways cap and those rolled-up eighties’ sleeves. He rings the doorbell and walks into a room full of sexy women and scary mob men. Instead of doing what any sane person would do and leave, he goes inside, flirts with the girls and waits for his money … what a dope. Before he can get out, however, guys from another mob show up and a shootout ensues, leaving only Alden and another hitman alive, who promises Alden that he’ll be back.
Alden, horrified, takes refuge at his ex-girlfriend’s apartment. Sweet Vickie (Michelle Constant), who wears overalls and high water pants, and her jerky boyfriend Brian (Terence Reis), have rented a “mansion” out in the country for the week, and Vickie invites Alden to come along, much to Brian’s chagrin. Alden is more than obliged to escape.
Meanwhile, another car of tourists is headed to the same “mansion,” led by American Adventure guide Libby (Debra Kaye), a bleachy blond tanning bed victim. Her tourists include Weasel (Adrian Galley), an English punk in black leather; Marty (Kurt Egelhof), a comical, Hindu Indian with an exaggerated accent; Evelyn (Vicki Bawcombe), a khaki-wearing African prude; and Sylvie (Dominique Moser), a foxy French babe who coos whenever she speaks.
They soon find themselves in the small town of Borden, where they continue to convince themselves they are in the United States instead of South Africa with lines like, “It’s so … American!” and, “Where could we get a hamburger around here?” They finally meet up with Alden, Vickie and Brian at the “mansion,” which is actually no mansion at all. Instead, it’s a large, dilapidated old house abandoned during a renovation because of it’s er, origins. Alden, scared to go back, however, convinces everyone to stay.
Elsewhere, the infamous “Family Man” (Ron Smerczak) who has become a worldwide boogeyman/urban legend, is being transported (how convenient) in a large criminal bus with a bunch of other loonies, who moan, smile and hop in their seats … I assume these guys are still waiting for their Oscar nods, eh?
The “Family Man,” we later discover, was once a great husband and father who found himself consumed by greed and eventually killed his family for the insurance money … in other countries, such as India, he was simply an evil shepherd! Prude Evelyn even says at one point, “My mom used to say he’d steal our toes if we didn’t keep them under the blankets!” Eew, scary. Anyway, you can guess that since they’re on a bus, chaos will ensue, and faster than you can say Michael Myers, our notorious villain is headed back to his home … sound familiar? It is. Guess who’s crashing in his old house? Surprise.
Well, now that we have our cast of “adults” (you might think you’re watching a teen slasher, though, since most teens in slashers are, in fact, adults, and because these adults behave like overaged teenagers), a remote location (with conveniently large holes in the walls that Alden calls “scenic”), and a psychotic killer (who the producers quite obviously were hoping would become a household name they could turn into a franchise), let the bodycount ensue!
First, a few reasons I love the movie … there are just a thousand hilarious moments. The clothes, the hair … fabulous, terrible, eighties. Nuff said. Upon arriving at the house, we hear Alden and Vickie singing “Summer Nights” from Grease as they pull into the drive. There’s Alden’s sound imitation of Gremlins in the grocery store, and then there is the weird, chunky guy with glasses and what looks like baby food around his mouth who does nothing for our plot except make us go, “Huh?”
There is a great moment where our resident bimbo Libby makes a nasty concoction in a blender and calls it a health shake while the others watch on in disgust, ala Molly Ringwald’s sushi scene in THE BREAKFAST CLUB. And let’s just say that, later in the movie, that blender gets put to good use. And then there is even the cliché eighties moment where they all take a group picture on a camera-timer which, as most eighties movies go, never turns out the way it should. Finally, the 101 positions for Kama Sutra and those are eager to learn … well, I can’t give it all away!
As far as the T&A goes … let’s just say there is a whole lot of wasted potential there … hot chicks, no tits. And as far as the gore goes, it’s certainly bloody, but it’s typically the aftermath of the deaths we see instead of onscreen with effects … it’s a shame about that, too, because some of the deaths could had great potential. A couple deaths of the main cast aren’t even shown at all, which is a total disappointment.
There is, however, in the action and suspense department, a couple of good moments … the moment where the Family Man stumbles upon a family barbequing is quite mean-spirited, and the moment where Brian stumbles upon the basement generates a smidgeon of tension. And there’s a pretty cool moment where the Family Man sends the cars into nearby pond, and there’s this great aerial shot of the surviving cast surrounding the empty parking spaces as they realize they can’t escape. Then there’s the awesome montage to follow, where the victims suddenly become creative and begin putting together household products to fight our foe with … it’s great: first because it’s got that typical eighties’ getting-things-done music in the background, and second because it actually generates some sympathy in the remaining cast as they learn to work together, and we almost hope they all live … well, not really. Because it’s one of the biggest downfalls, too, how completely inept the characters are, wandering or running off by themselves to get killed … well, they can’t say they didn’t see it coming!
Now, I also just have to mention Weasel, the blonde British biker. Who is this guy? Where did he come from with all his sterling silver bling? Why does he morbidly surround himself with mice traps to kill poor little mice? And when Alden asks him to come play baseball, or “shag some flies”, he responds, “What are you, some kind of a pervert? In England, shagging means fucking!” I’m still thinking about that one.
Also, our villain…The Family Man’s crappy one-liners are typical and cheesy … after a victim is apparently drowned and floating, he says, “Now that’ll teach you to play by the water … you just sit there and think about it.” He spouts the, “Honey, you didn’t have to wait up for me!” line to our heroine, who has a nasty encounter with her leg and a piece of plywood, and who gets little time or her own chase scene to shine in (another downer), and then there’s The Family Man’s last one-liner, which is so unoriginal, and yet I still laugh when I think about it. Maybe this movie works because it’s cliché, who knows.
The film itself has yet to see a DVD release that I’m aware of, and it rarely if ever pops up for bidding on ebay.com. You can, however, find reasonably priced VHS NTSC copies on half.ebay.com. Don’t be put off by the cover, though … there’s a scantily-clad babe (much like the cover of SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE (1986)) peeking out from behind window blinds at a killer on the front. She, nor the lingerie, nor the window blinds, are in the movie. Go figure. I will say that, overall, the movie is definitely worth a watch if you’re a fanatic … besides, there’s a whole lot of crap out there that’s much, much worse.
female:5 / male:23
1-4) Males and one female all shot with guns
5) Male has eyes poked out with fingers, then shot
6-9) Four males, all shot with gun
10-17) Eight males shot with gun (offscreen)
18) Male killed (offscreen)
19) Female beaten w/block hammer
20 & 21) Two young males glimpsed dead
22) Male stabbed with broken end of beer bottle
23) Female killed (offscreen, method unknown)
24) Male beaten then bludgeoned with broken sledgehammer (offscreen)
25) Female has face obliterated on blender blades (offscreen)
26) Female choked and hung with fanny pack
27) Male killed (offscreen, method unknown)
28) Male blown up in well with propane tank (offscreen)