Tuesday, September 9, 2014

MASSACRE AT FEMUR CREEK (Review)

MASSACRE AT 
FEMUR CREEK 
(2014)
[Short Film]

review by AARON ALLEN

Written and Directed by Kyle Hytonen

Starring Nigel Grinstead, Andrew Barr, Dean Young, Heather Dicke, John Migliore, Scott Geiter

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The summer may be over, but all the cheesy fun of summer-themed slasher films will live on in Massacre at Femur Creek.

Directed by Hamilton filmmaker Kyle Hytonen (FOLLOW), Massacre at Femur Creek pays a very tongue-in-cheek tribute to the heyday of 80s slasher films. It's 1984 and three friends head out into the woods of Femur Creek in Cherry Hill, Ontario to celebrate a buddy's birthday. While drinking beers, smoking weed, and pondering the mysteries of life, they are stalked by a heavy-breathing masked killer. The predictable slasher shenanigans ensue, but they are actually far less crucial to the film than you might expect. Massacre at Femur Creek rises to stand above so many other copycat slasher wannabes by subverting the over-used hallmarks of slasher films.

If the smokes don't get you, the Shape will.
The slasher genre, which dominated horror film culture in the 1980s, was a unique stylistic moment in horror film history that still influences the horror genre to this day. As such, it is nearly impossible to recapture the spirit of 80s slashers within a modern context. Those who try usually fail. Recognizing this, a whole new generation of young filmmakers who grew up on these summer camp bloodbath movies and babysitter-in-peril pictures -- no doubt rented on VHS at far too young an age from their local Mom & Pop video stores (bless their bankrupt hearts) -- have returned to the slasher genre and its distinct conventions as a fertile breeding ground for satire. In this very self-aware style, Kyle Hytontn's Massacre at Femur Creek is a slasher film throwback that verges on being an "anti-slasher" lampoon. At first giving audiences what they expect from a slasher in the form of an opening scene that recreates the memorable hitchhiker murder in Friday the 13th Part 4, Massacre at Femur Creek quickly and intentionally shifts its slasher elements to the background to instead focus on a succession of bawdy comedic exchanges between our three bro-bonding protagonists. In fact, there's a really great running gag about our modern reliance on technology as predicted by 1980s stoner teenagers buried in these scenes that doesn't get all the development it deserves. Finally, in a surprise turn, Massacre at Femur Creek "goes for the dick," by which I mean a hard left-turn into the absurdly gross and hilarious. The jokes are broad and dirty, and while not every laugh hits its mark, Massacre at Femur Creek completely succeeds as a Clerks meets Friday the 13th mashup.


*inaudible heavy breathing*
On a technical level, Massacre at Femur Creek is a real treat to see and hear. For one, Massacre at Femur Creek boasts one of the most authentic and nostalgic synth scores I've heard in a long time. Composed and performed by Gregory Barnes and Thomas Joly, the score immediately dialed me into the low-budget screeching keyboard scores of bargain basement 80s slashers. It's fantastic! Also, Directors of Photography John Michael Forbes and Michael Key have conspired with lighting cameraman Craig F. Watkins to capture some truly atmospheric scenes. Massacre at Femur Creek looks damn good, especially when the light and smoke play across the lens! Finally, while the trio of lead actors are clearly struggling to deliver some of Hytonen's very particular style of witty dialogue, actor John Migliore delivers a really creepy and nuanced silent performance as the loping, knife-wielding psychopath. A truly great physical performance by Migliore as "The Shape" here that speaks louder than his character ever does.

...and no dirt bikes, damn it!
Despite its minor flaws, Massacre at Femur Creek is a slick and sometimes hilarious spoof of slasher movie conventions that manages to send up the ridiculous and outdated tropes of 80's horror films but with a loving, nostalgic touch. 

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