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Motor Home Massacre
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by Jack Sommersby

"Another Z-Grade Slasher Flick"
1 stars

Those looking for an undemanding good time will simply be better off seeking out one of those '80s slasher flicks that, even while bad, at least contained some semi-recommendable elements. Here, all that's worth gandering at is one shot of a bodacious set of ta-tas.

In the brain-dead-garbage department, Allen Wilbanks' Motor Home Massacre ranks fairly high and emits an irrefutable stench that makes you question the advantages of digital video in that anyone, no matter their lack of talent, can produce something for unsuspecting audiences that leaves them gagging and in the foul mood to swear off movies altogether. Wilbanks wrote, edited, lit, and directed this Ed Wood-ish puerile production, so there aren't a whole lot of other people to blame for its all-out awfulness. True, the horrendous acting is the fault of the thespians on display, but quality acting in a slasher pic isn't the most harped-on of flaws in a subgenre that can be fulfilling for the undemanding when done even adequately but nauseous when done as titanically terribly as it is here. It's only ninety-one minutes, but it's ninety-one minutes of your life that could be spent doing better things, like cleaning your commode or burning ants with a magnifying glass -- both more constructive and pleasurable than subjecting yourself to what Wilbanks is serving up here.

The story has to do with a group of college students taking a parent's motor home on a week-long vacation to a place called Black Creek Park, where they find themselves on the nasty receiving end of some very sharp instruments compliments of a fiend decked out in a black-hooded costume with night-vision goggles. The place is virtually deserted thanks to a murder the night before, consisting of a boyfriend and girlfriend; when the teens learn of this, they go there anyway and are forced to stay the night by the park ranger for some inane reason that escaped me. And it doesn't take long before they start getting picked off one by one, consisting of arrows and knives and the like. Of course this isn't the most sorrowful thing in the world in light of the plasticity of the characters who run to every imaginable type: the good-looking but headstrong hero and heroine; the horny boyfriend and girlfriend; the machismo-fueled lech; the black-gangsta-rapper-talking white guy. You know the lot. One doesn't require Oscar-worthy performances from them, but we at least expect them to be able to carry off a single line of dialogue without it sounding as stiff and forced as a Bible reading by an atheist, and they fail this simple test.

One must admit that the movie doesn't play itself out normally. It opens with a double murder but doesn't show the killings, yet later on down the line we get a ten-minute flashback to what really happened. We also get flashbacks to the heroine's troubled dealings with her boyfriend, who put an end to their relationship and left her devastated. Neither is tantalizing enough to warrant being thrown out of the straightforward narrative; it's gimmicky in the Memento vein in trying to dress something up in attention-getting artifice to camouflage the lameness of the context. And there are far too many scenes of the characters just sitting around and endlessly talking, so there's absolutely no suspense conjured up and sustained, with the abysmal attempts at humor further handicapping matters. Even when the violence breaks out, everyone's still cracking groan-inducing one-liners, which wouldn't be so detrimental if any of them were the least bit amusing; as it is, they stick out like an exposed panty girdle and place the movie on a comedy-chiller level that it can't deliver on.

And the continuity errors! A shot inside a tent obviously shows a huge light source from outside, indicating daylight, yet when someone steps outside it's pitch-black night. Someone starts to run away from the villain when it's nighttime, but when the shot cuts to them in a full-blown run it's dusk out. When the hero's right outside the motor home he's dressed in a shirt, when he enters he's got on a sweater vest and tie, and when he steps out a few minutes later he's in just a shirt again. Low-budget features certainly have their limitations, but common sense is something that a multi-million budget needn't buy -- it just needs a director who knows how to get maximum results from minimal-thought processes. When the teens pull up to the park, they don't really need to ask the ranger why there's police tape and an investigation going on because the convenience-store clerk just told them about the night-before murders five minutes back. And while it was necessary to put a black tarp over the motor home's front windows to assimilate a nighttime setting, shooting the interiors from an angle that reveals the tarp is just plain careless. You almost feel Wilbanks is doing this on purpose, trying to entertain us on an inferior level where, in his mind, all of the movie's faults automatically become virtues, but we're more prone to rolling our eyes than good-naturedly laughing at it all.

The murder sequences are ineptly shot, either where the weapon clearly hasn't made contact with the victim before blood starts spurting out or some fancy-dancy editing tricks up the film speed to give the illusion of repeated stabbings. Some intestines and the like are on occasional display, but they're lingered on for too long so we're overly aware of them as special effects. The gore factor is reasonably high but far from imaginative. There are a fantastic pair of D-cup breasts on fine display, though it takes until the midway mark of the running time to get a gander at them. The corny dialogue elicits not a single good line (a guy, for instance, grabs his crotch and says, "It may not look like much from the outside but it's solid where it counts."). And to top everything off, there's not a single valid scare to be found anywhere in sight -- the staging is akin to a drunk fumbling about for his car keys. Throughout Motor Home Massacre I couldn't help recalling Rob Spera's unexpectedly dandy Bloody Murder 2: Closing Camp, which mixed horror with comedy with very fine results; there you could sense a capable director in control of the timing and tone of the screenplay, whereas here you're aware of a director of no particular skill making a movie for the sole sake of making one, with the overall result a maladroit movie only a mother could love, and even then only with a great deal of grudging effort.

Gag me with a heroin-encrusted spoon.

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originally posted: 07/02/07 06:11:35
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1/17/09 Shaun Wallner Poorly Made! 1 stars
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  23-May-2006 (R)
  DVD: 23-May-2006



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