If all Ruggero Deodato did was make Cannibal Holocaust, he’d still be lauded — or despised — for his work. But he also directed cop films, like the violent Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man, The House on the Edge of the Park (which owes such a debt to The Last House on the Left that it even has the same actor as the villain, David Hess), jungle violence like Cut and Run, adventure films, erotic thrillers and even a movie starring The Barbarian Brothers called, well, The Barbarians.
For a director who changed genres and sought out his own versions on what was commercial at the time, it’s little wonder that eventually, Deodato would make a slasher. Sure, he was around 6 years later to the slasher craze party, but let’s forget that and just enjoy.
It all starts with two teens, Tony and Rose, who skip basketball practice to make out in the woods. Obviously, they haven’t learned the first rule of surviving a slasher film: do not screw in the woods. The craziest thing is her father knows that she’s going to do this and has a total “oh well, what can you do?” reaction. He does say that the woods are dangerous and there has been this urban legend of a Native American shaman killing people, but kids will be kids.
They’re quickly killed, in case you may have thought the first people we’d meet in a movie would be the main characters. The only witness to their murder is the child of the camp’s owners, who sees everything while he’s in the process of searching for his teddy bear.
Charles Napier is in here as Sheriff Charlie and go figure, he has a teddy bear on his dashboard. Look out! Deputy Sheriff Ted is Ivan Rassimov, a welcome sight to these tired eyes. And is that Doctor Olsen played by John Steiner? Why yes, it is!
Mimsy Farmer (Four Flies on Grey Velvet, The Perfume of the Lady in Black) and the aforementioned David Hess play the owners of the camp, who also have a strange love triangle — or so it seems — going on with Sheriff Charlie.
There’s also an RV filled with teenagers willing to break every law of the woods and court their violent deaths. This film lives up to its title — people are murdered horribly every few minutes — while proving that Italian exploitation directors have no compunction about doubling down on stealing things. Steal the doomed camp idea from Friday the 13th? That’s a good start. But what if that camp was built on a Native American burial ground like Poltergeist? Now you’re talking!
The dialogue in this film is exactly how you would imagine an Italian middle-aged man would think American teenagers talk, as they loudly yell about how much they like Iron Maiden in front of a campfire. They also loudly do Jazzercise, throw Frisbee, have sex, race dirtbikes (and make out on them!) and take plenty of showers to a non-stop blaring synth score courtesy of Goblin’s Claudio Simonetti.
Seriously, if there’s a man who knows what his audience wants, it’s probably Ruggero Deodato. There’s not really any story that you need to follow all that well, but if you stick around for a few minutes, you’ll be rewarded with either copious strangeness, nudity or gore — and often a combination of all three!
Even better, this all wraps up with the kind of out of nowhere twist ending that you’ve come to expect from Italian horror. Whew — this is the kind of movie that I can’t wait to watch again and I just finished it.
I’d like to thank Bill from Groovy Doom and Drive-In Asylum for continually reminding me to watch this and my Twitter pal eye von rassimov for finding a copy for me. Trust me — it’s difficult to get and I’m kind of shocked that Severin or Vinegar Syndrome haven’t released this on blu ray yet. I really hope that happens because as far as I know, every print available is so dark you can’t tell what’s going on.
It’s on Amazon Prime if you want to see it.
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