Expecting a trio of low budget slashers with my streaming picks this time around, I got three very different experiences with Elder Island, Phantom Of The Woods, and Ditch Day Massacre.
ELDER ISLAND (2016)
When an 80-minute movie – 75 without the end credits – makes me squirm with impatience, you know there’s trouble.
I honestly don’t know what the hell I watched here. Elder Island is apparently based on a true story about an island, 5 families, a dead reverend, a revenge curse…
What we get is a movie about a 3-person documentary crew visiting an island full of dysfunctional people, a supernatural killer reverend with an axe, and a crazy old dude who goes around raping and killing women…and yet it’s still boring as fuck.
The film drags as the film crew spends time encountering the various islanders, which seems to be an attempt to profile each one for us yet clarifies nothing. I’ll blame part of that on the fact that the audio mix is so bad that it virtually cuts out whenever anyone starts talking.
There’s a cheesy period piece flashback showing us how the reverend was killed. There are a couple of random kills that lead to all the characters scattering in the woods, creating narrative chaos. And there’s such an abrupt end to the film that I couldn’t really comprehend what the storytelling goal was here.
I’m not even sure if the ghostly reverend with the axe was real, because I stopped trying to follow the plot, especially since he was barely in it.
Sad, considering his minimal appearances were the one highlight of the film, offering glimmers of good old cheesy slasher atmosphere and hacking. Also, the lead guy of the 3-person film crew is HOT and has a shirtless scene.
PHANTOM OF THE WOODS (2013)
Although it takes a while to get going, indie film Phantom of the Woods becomes incredibly engrossing and eerie once it starts moving. It’s a unique, much darker take on the familiar premise of an entity that feeds on victims’ fears.
At first it seems this is going to be a typical slasher about a bunch of trouble-making kids in a small town.
But when a guy loses his shit after being chased by a phantom form in the woods, all hell breaks loose. Locals begin to see disturbing visions of people from their past, which leads them to commit murder.
Director Michael Storch uses the low budget to his advantage, delivering a horror experience that gets under your skin with a trippy, dark, 1970s horror feel and a creepy score. Things just keep getting more intense as the film progresses, until all the main characters end up in the woods for the final act, seeing things that aren’t really there.
Each character’s delusional state adds some confusion to the mix, but it also creates a sense of dread as we are immersed in the fear of the unknown, much like the characters are experiencing. The supernatural tone is ominous and eerie, plus there’s plenty of tangible, horror, including gruesome murders, a freaky as hell scarecrow, and hints of re-animated corpses pursuing the main characters.
Best of all, instead of the victims having the usual cliché fears – spiders, the dark, heights, etc. – the fears here are much deeper, psychological, and significant to the lives of each individual character. It’s not every day that you get a horror film that’s both smart and actually scary.
DITCH DAY MASSACRE (2016)
If you just need a good fix of teens having sex and getting mutilated, regardless of how cliché the plot, Ditch Day Massacre is not to be missed.
Intro scene – a teen leaves a party and gets into a car accident.
Next – teen is still coping with the emotional scars of the accident, so when she’s left home alone, she skips school and has her friends over for sex and booze!
Little do they know that always-freaky Bill Oberst Jr. is coming after them with an axe…after a revealing naked workout session.
Meanwhile, always-daddy Brad Potts is a burly lawman, pursuing the killer on the loose.
Ditch Day Massacre is undeniably entertaining in its simplicity. Horror icon Lynn Lowry has an absurd cameo as a neighbor who doesn’t hesitate to invite weirdo Oberst in for sex, leading to a gruesome little scene involving a fish tank.
A very cute boy hooks up with the freaky goth girl and barely puts up a fight when she whips out a vibrator for some pegging action—which becomes the cute boy’s biggest concern for the remainder of the film.
Oberst does some seriously brutal ditch day massacring, a strong point of this slasher.
Otherwise, it’s quite generic, right up to its big shocking twist, flashbacks to exactly why Oberst is hacking up teens, and vicious final act.
As a bonus for those missing the days of horror nudity, there are boobs, and the peg boy in a towel.