GORE IN THE STORE
VICIOUS FUN ****
Directed by Cody Calahan.
Starring Evan Marsh, Amber Goldfarb, Ari Millen, Julian Richings, David Koechner.
Horror comedy, Canada, 96 minutes.
Released by Black Fawn Films. Reviewed as part of FrightFest Glasgow.
As unlikely self-help groups go the last you would want to stumble upon would be one for serial killers. Yet it is precisely this situation that heartbroken horror film journalist Joel finds himself in after tracking down his house mate’s sleazy boyfriend. From here on Joel fights to survive as a host of blood crazed killers, including a cannibalistic Japanese chef, a hulking welding mask wearer with a penchant for tearing apart sexually active camp dwellers and a creeping silent clown pursue Joel through the night to protect themselves and further their own self esteem.
Set during the genre’s heyday in the early nineteen eighties, Cody Callahan’s riff on the genre works as both a send up and affectionate love letter to the glory days of mask wearing and seasonally affected mass murderers. With dialogue that is sharp as the many bladed weapons put to use throughout here the script, written by James Villeneuve from Calahan’s story, nicely lampoons these killers and the ever elaborate ways they indulge themselves. Chaired by company man Zachary, played by a game David Koechner, the small but extremely fatal unit also includes the mysterious Carrie, Amber Goldfarb, a leather jacketed peroxide blonde who has already by then proven her hunting skills and has her own mysterious reasons for attending the group.
What follows is a quickly paced, funny and exciting blood-soaked romp with the hapless Joel barely making his way through each scene alive. The films premise proves as an effective opener providing opportunities to refresh itself at regular intervals right up until the closing scenes. As violent as it is funny there is much here that is going to appeal to die hard funs of slasher cinema as well as those who may find its appeal limited. This fine line is threaded neatly by its witty script which is neatly performed by its entire cast. From Koechner enthusiastically detailing government sanctioned massacres performed abroad to the gigantic Robert Maillet explaining away his blood frenzy and lack of subtlety; “I don’t do my dishes half the time, you think I’m gonna clean up a blood drenched camp site?” and Julian Richings mild mannered yet supremely creepy explanation of his own sadistically elaborate technique the script and its cast neatly send up the genre whilst also displaying an affection and admiration for the many variations it can provide.
Evan Marsh makes for a great foil against this gallery of murderers with his know-it-all attitude about the genre being kicked into touch when having to face up to the warped reality of his situation. With his character the film manages to pass comment on the entitlement of such a figure and neatly subverts his role as the main protagonist who somehow manages to continuously makes things worse for himself as the film barrels along. In counterpart to him, the groups alpha figure Bob, played smarmily by Ari Millen, nails pretty much the entire 80’s villain repertoire from smarm to homicidal genius.
Directed with style by Callahan the film manages to pack a lot on screen in terms of story and with more than its fair share of crowd-pleasing moments that are tailor made for its target audience. The film effortlessly manages to achieve what its title promises. While it may be more comedy than horror it still manages to keep the viewer on edge with its surprising twists and knowledge of what makes a slasher film work and a sense of glee in breaking the genres rules.