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Genre mashups are pretty standard in movies that involve a certain amount of horror clichés but they tend to be a mixture of comedy and violence. Horror and action is perhaps less common, although at times the use of power tools and shotguns can push things in a certain direction. But in this case writer/actor Paul Logan dares to take the slasher film framework and ask a vital question, ‘what if Rambo was on the camping trip?’ He also wanted to cast himself as the muscle bound hero and who am I to argue. It’s certainly a change of tact in comparison to the other First Blood knock-offs out there. But all of those back woods killer tropes still have to be accounted for and so there’s a whole story about his teacher girlfriend and her class of expendable teens. Does this balancing act work out?
John Crenshaw has a romantic weekend completely spoiled when his other half (Selina Duboix) has to move her student nature trip forward unexpectedly. As a result he finds himself driving the whole gang to the subtly named Sapphire Lake. What could go wrong? Soon enough an array of creepy locals, shady law enforcement officials and oddball strangers on the road are a sign that things are about to go really bad really fast. Will John’s Navy SEAL expertise help them survive the night as a sizeable gang of mutants and escaped killers approach? And which of these obnoxious kids will get the axe first when he’s not around?
A brief prelude cuts to the chase as an isolated couple are taken from their tent and savaged by an ensemble of crazed murderers. Unfortunately the splatter effects are soon interrupted as the real story begins and we are introduced to Mrs. Brouwer and her small group of students. What this class is for and why it only has five or six members is unclear and I’m pretty sure nobody gets a grade for pitching a tent and taking random photos of turtles. I’m not an expert, though I doubt that the horny couple who decide to use their time taking nude photos of themselves are going to pass. This opening is mostly a drag as the rich brat of the group complains endlessly about having to be there and the others make small talk about dating. After the bags are unpacked they finally split up and soon John’s machete swinging skills are put into use.
The real problem with this first act is that the his military past is never treated with any sense of mystery. The group have a run in with a couple of drunks early on who and he quickly despatches them, so it’s obvious he will just use brute force when the time comes. As the cannibals and rapists show up he gets knocked down into a ditch momentarily so some gruesome horror scenes can play out, but there’s no tension building since his abilities are made clear. Don’t get me wrong once he turns full Punisher on the bad guys it is a lot of fun as arrows, knives and fire put to good use. But that should be the whole movie. A character introduction necessary in some ways but most of the chit chat is superfluous, and the half the cast only exists to offer the resident freak show a few torture subjects.
On that subject the film certainly has a lot of nasty gore moments and a few of the effects moments are particularly gruesome. The makeup for the mutated locals is also effect, with some good variety in terms of disfigured faces and limbs. How radiation and inbreeding caused one of them to become some kind of tree-man is beyond me, but at least it’s interesting. This creative production value extends to interior sets which are lit far more effectively than anything else in the movie. There are several visually pleasing, if disgusting, sets used for drug labs and torture chambers. Vernon Wells even gets a brief but show stealing moment as a village butcher of some kind, and his maniac meat monologue adds some much needed character to the proceedings.
It’s just a shame that these moments are so fleeting as the material is desperately asking for a sense of fun to be injected into it. The blend of film influences they’ve put together isn’t quite enough to turn this into something that’s good-bad, even though it’s constantly on the edge of becoming so. At least they’ve included a whole killing spree montage to offer some amusement value. This is particularly true when it becomes evident that the editor doesn’t care if the time frame involved makes sense. John construct elaborate traps with ease because that’s what the material demands, and the same guitar theme plays every time the action starts up because the film makers thing it’s awesome.
Your mileage will vary depending on how much you agree with them. Like everything included here the music the music is over the top and so are some of the sound effects. It can be distracting at times but it’s fairly indicative of the tone so you quickly know what you’re in for. For those who immediately want to see this just after reading the premise alone it does just about deliver in the end, but everyone else might take more convincing. They take far too long getting to the ridiculous moments and the slasher genre clichés in the first half should have been reworked to build on these stronger elements. Bill Moseley should also have been give way more screen time. Overall it’s a mixed bag, not quite cheesy or bombastic as it should be, but still mildly satisfying at times.