Saturday, July 19, 2014

Ditch Day Massacre Only Has One Card Up Its Sleeve: A Movie Review

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*full disclosure: an online screener of this film was provided by producer Megan Waters. Waters and this reviewer had a minor business relationship back in 2013.

*a minor spoiler is hinted at in this review.

Director: Joe Hendrick.

Writers: Daniel P. Coughlin and Ryan Coughlin.

Cast: Bill Oberst Jr., Katy Foley, Zach Silverman, Morgan Benoit and Lynn Lowry.

There is something that can be said about horror slasher or thriller features. They can often be predictable and formulaic. Unfortunately, this feature, from producer Megan Waters and director Joe Hendrick, offers only one surprise in its eighty minute runtime. Character actor Bill Oberst Jr., offers another compelling performance, especially in the extended finale. But, many of the minor characters are just a line or two away from being butchered. A revenge plotline can be unpacked in a few minutes and mystery is lacking in this production. Very indie in scope, Ditch Day Massacre offers a few gory scenes in Acts II and III and not much else.

The story is focused on the character Jenny Bilson (Katy Foley). Jenny is a precocious young girl, with a habit of driving drunk and killing people with her car. She escapes prosecution, by knowing the right people. But, consequences have a way of catching up to people. And, Jenny has a way of catching back up with the bottle. Now, Jenny must deal with a murderous and vengeful father. This father wants blood! Other, minor character just want to drink and have sex. They find an axe wound or a bludgeoning, instead.

Ditch Day Massacre is mostly an indie revenge thriller, with a few horror elements added in. The film was primarily shot in one setting, a moderately sized house. Hendrick uses several interior, tight shots to capture the action. There were few other options. Also, the film involves two primary actors: Jenny and Vick (the killer). The rest of the cast is comprised of several minors. Indie films often utilize only a few characters and that is the case here. Though, veteran horror actress Lynn Lowry is introduced and outroduced in a couple of scenes. Scenes are uncomplex. And, the tight, interior shooting becomes repetitive over time. A few exteriors were needed, along with a few extras.

The film element this viewer enjoyed the most was the finale. Act III offers a long running series of action scenes, culminating in a final confrontation between a malicious father and a shadowy sidekick. This duo work their way through much of the cast with: an axe, a weedwhacker, an electrical cord or a chainsaw. The gore is often over-the-top and actor Bill Oberst Jr. seems to relish in all of the gruesomeness. Horror fans might also find entertainment in the well produced make-up effects. The blood-letting continues late into the movie and into several scenes.

Ditch Day Massacre is well-paced, but the story is too predictable. Act I is the slowest of the three acts and there are a couple of scenes with dubbing (ADR). However, events begin to pick up in later scenes. The characters play a game or two of spin the bottle, while Vick (Bill Oberst Jr.) stalks about upstairs. The nudity is rampant and the sex jokes are plentiful. But, these characters have very little to say. Still, action elements begin to pick up at the mid-point of the film. The storyline offers a few overused plotlines; blood feuds are common in film. As well, there are very few side-plots. Although, there is one side-plot offered between Jenny and Zach, who are dating. This element offers one surprise; there are few others in the picture. Ditch Day Massacre is too formulaic and the events and confrontations unfold too conventionally. Fans of revenge thrillers can see where this film is going and how it will get there; there are few diversions nor misdirections along the way.

Ditch Day Massacre is beginning a film festival run this year and this reviewer is giving the film only a marginal thumbs up. This horror film fan would like to see many of the cast and crew continue to fight in the film arena, but this viewer hopes that future films, from Megan Waters and Water Tree Media, offer a little more mystery. In horror, the curtain should be pulled back late in the picture and not before the opening credits roll.

Overall: 6.25 out of 10 (more realistic anguish and terror was needed from actress Katy Foley, minors meet a predictable demise, an over-reliance on sex and nudity in place of characterizations).

A trailer for the film is available here:

A Ditch Day Massacre Trailer on 28DLA

An extended movie clip for the film is available here:

A Ditch Day Massacre Movie Clip on 28DLA

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