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Hook of Woodland Heights, The
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by Jack Sommersby

"Perfect for Six-Pack Viewing"
3 stars

Does better than a good many bigger-budgeted of its ilk.

Subtlety and nuance are most definitely not to be expected from an ultra-low-budget/40-minute-long/mad-killer horror flick by the brazen name of The Hook of Woodland Heights. In fact, checking your brain at the door isn't even remotely an option here -- it's an all-out necessity like removing your clothes to shower and chewing your food so not to choke. What little there is of the bare-bones story has to do with a convicted mass-murderer breaking out of a mental institution he's been a patient at for ten years, and, like Jason in the Friday the 13th series, gorily terrorizing more than a few innocents in the nearby woods of a small town. Unlike Jason, though, he doesn't make for a particularly menacing screen presence -- he's bombastically extroverted in the manner of an uncouth actor in an avant-garde, off-off-Broadway production, which is fine because the proceedings play out in the lighthearted tone that's required in the comedy-chiller subgenre. Rather than a machete or chainsaw or knife, the villain's chief weapon once he escapes is an outdoor-grill thong that he's bloodily rammed into the stump of his handless arm; before that he took out two orderlies by severing one's arm in a door and impaling the other one's head with the high-velocity throwing of a clipboard (by far the most inventive of the kills: a giddily conceived one that alone is worth the audience's time).

What else to expect, of course, from a writer/director like Michael Savino who also did the equally-cheesy, quarter-of-an-hour-long Attack of the Killer Refrigerator (see review) that boasted a couple of decent moments but wasn't nearly as appealingly goofy as Heights -- he seemed to have reached such a nirvanic high from the sole idea of a large, menacing kitchen appliance that he neglected to amusingly and satirically develop it no matter its brief screen time. The blood-and-guts factor on display here isn't anything great yet serves up some decent stuff like a nasty stab to the groin of a plucky teenager with dubious karate experience; the dialogue has its share of agreeable howlers like a feisty girl telling her can't-keep-his-hands-off boyfriend, "You're not gonna have a pump to prime."; and while there's a disappointing absence of nudity, at least the heroine is a decent-enough screamer when the opportunity presents itself. Oh, there are a few quibbles. A forward-moving point-of-view shot of the killer's is at first way too low to the ground. A sequence where the killer chases a victim around a car and into a cabin is abysmally staged and timed. And the twist ending at a campfire with some Boy Scouts is more than a little bit lame. But overall what's served up is finely feasible for the undemanding craving a horror-flick quickie that one doesn't have to feel guilty about the next morning.

The out-of-print VHS is harder to find than "compassionate conservatism."

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originally posted: 05/04/10 06:23:03
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Directed by
  Michael Savino
  Mark Veau

Written by

  Christine McNamara
  Robert W. Allen
  Michael Elyanow
  Justin Ballard

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