Seems like every holiday has become a slasher’s celebration. And that includes Memorial Day. Just in time for the start of the summer season, a group of kids heads up to a lake to party where a tragedy occurred a few years before and…the formula all around is clearly modeled after the classics of the genre.
But first, the film begins with the most obvious slasher clichés: sex, boobs, and blood. A hunt for a condom in a car leaves a dude in a blatant rip-off scenario from Scream involving the killer having the keys to the car. Once the dude is disposed of, the killer heads back inside for some boobs. The chick thinks the guy fondling her from behind—then blindfolding her, then sensually feeding her a bunch of fruit—is her boyfriend (think the hot tub scene in Halloween II). But we know how that’s going to end. It’s nice to see the killer getting some sexual pleasure for a change (and with a woman who’s still breathing, no less).
But back to the gang as they travel to their destination. Here’s where you get the sense that the film was put together by a bunch of college friends, regardless of their talents. There is way too much dialogue, including characters telling boring stories and making jokes—which actually makes the situation oddly realistic, because conversations between young people really can be this trivial and uninteresting! This chatter begins on-the-road trip and continues right up to the point when the group is sitting around the camp fire and the murders finally begin.
Now for the nitty gritty of the pros and cons. Much of the film relies on typical low-budget film gore cop-outs: show murder weapon raised menacingly—cut to victim’s reaction—cut to weapon coming down—cut to blood being splattered on a wall. Even so, there’s one scene involving fish hooks and nails that is highly effective, leaving nothing to the imagination (we know where they blew their budget wad).
While the film is not loaded with suspense, there are a couple of tension-filled moments that show some great promise, one involving a guy with a baseball bat, the other a girl forced by the killer into a torturous crawl (in which the actress fails to scream with enough conviction to make it believable).
One of the best lines in the film is when one of the victims yells to the killer, “My boyfriend’s got a bat!” I laughed out loud at that one, which reminded me of Drew Barrymore’s “brazen” declaration on the phone about her big strong boyfriend in Scream.
The big downside for me in Memorial Day is that the killer wields a gun a couple of times, which totally takes me out of the whole slasher concept, presenting the killer as cowardly and, well, not very resourceful! Also kind of ridiculous is the unexplained “demonic” voice the killer uses a couple of times when talking to the victims. WTF? Don’t get me all hot and bothered with some demon talk if you’re not going to deliver!
The big upside of the film is that, well, the joke is kind of on the killer. Memorial Day seems to have been produced simply to arrive at its rather crafty denouement. Does this mega-twist make it worth a watch? We’ve all seen enough beginning-to-end terrible horror films, so why not sit through a film that actually has its moments, puts a new twist on twist endings, and crosses another holiday off the slasher calendar?
Just rent it if you’re curious, but if your obsessive-compulsive and simply must have a slasher for every holiday, then you might as well just buy it cheap on the used market, because I don’t expect there will be any other Memorial Day themed horror films coming out any time soon. Why waste the celluloid when no one has covered Labor Day yet?