Don’t Go To The Reunion (Review)

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DON’T GO TO THE REUNION

THE SETUP

Written by Kevin Sommerfield, Directed by Steve Goltz and Released by Slasher Studios, “Don’t Go To The Reunion” is a slasher film inspired by a wave of horror flicks from the 80’s. Influenced by films such as “Madman”, “Slaughter High” and “Friday the 13th”, Kevin and Steve have created a clear homage for all fans of the genre to enjoy. It’s 2004, and a group of popular students from Hamilton High are on the eve of graduation. They decide to play a prank on misfit loner, and horror obsessed Scott Rantzen (played by Brady Simenson). The extremely popular and beautiful Erica Carpenter’s (the lovely Stephanie Rose), seemingly innocent flirting backfires and Scott ends up being expelled. It’s now ten years on, the group of friends have gone their separate ways, but are uniting for a one-off reunion weekend at a cabin. It’s there where they come to the realization that Scott might be back and out for revenge. The film also stars Nick Sommer (Blood Junkies and Billy Club), Jonathon Krautkramer, Spencer Harlan, Hannah Herdt, Mike Goltz and Matty Dorschner. I stumbled upon the Slasher Studios website about a year ago, and have since started following their projects. I’ve had this film for about a year, so it was nice to finally get the chance to watch it (my stack of unwatched films is constantly growing). You have to admire both Kevin and Steve for their do it yourself approach. This was a first time for both, Writing and Directing full length features. They had only previously worked on a few short films.

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THE GOOD

I know what your thinking when you look at the awesome artwork and poster for Don’t Go To The Reunion, it screams 80’s right? Yes, you’d be correct. These guys don’t claim to be reinventing the genre, or for that matter even making anything original. It’s clear from the outset, with the tongue in cheek humor, and constant slasher film and franchise references that these guys are simply fans making a film for other fans. Everything is incredibly self-aware, right down to characters knowing something strange is going on but waiting far too long to do anything about it (haha). Through to the killer explaining how each of the kills fits into the master plan. It’s a fast paced film that only runs 62 minutes, it’s plainly an opening act set during high school in 2004. Followed by a recap with exposition regarding what’s happened in each of our characters lives over the last few years. To the climax, which is all about the motive and revenge. You won’t get a picture painted clearer than this one and fans of the genre will appreciate that. The dialogue audio is nice and clear, and the shot choices are steady and simple.

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The opening sequence to the film had some smooth and effective panning, coupled with some jarring sound effects, and you’ve got that 80’s vibes right off the bat. Some of the score towards the final act sounded a little “Maniac Cop” inspired, to be honest I was hoping there would be a heavier use of synth then there was. Most of the writing is about what you’d expect. The jocks Chris and Joe (played by Sommer and Goltz), mostly just guzzle beer and shut the girls down the second they want to contribute to the conversation. Erica and Jessica (Rose and Herdt), have the closest thing resembling a meaningful conversation, where secrets and revelations about Scott’s troubled past come to the surface. Brandon (Dorschner), the most mature of the group and David, Erica’s new boyfriend (Harlan), are probably the two most likeable and interesting characters. There were a few fun comedic gags here and there, but nothing overly memorable. Kills you say? How does the violence and gore stack up? We’ll you have to keep in mind this is an  indie film with an estimated budget of $18,000, most of which I believe was raised through Kickstarter. Taking that into consideration, it’s not bad at all. Firstly, Kevin doesn’t break the cardinal rule of the slasher, by going any longer than 20 minutes before the first kill, so kudos on that. I won’t spoil the kills for those who haven’t seen it, but the most impressive of the bunch involves a car hood with some cool practical effects. Unfortunately most of the impact and blood sprays throughout the film take place off-screen.

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THE BAD

I’ll start off with some of the complications that could have been avoided, or things I would think could have been fixed regardless of budget. Consistency, or should I say lack there of, is a word that comes to mind when you watch Don’t Go To The Reunion. I don’t take issue with the badly dubbed and forceful screaming from one of the secondary characters, but the constant peaking of my sound system I do. Several of the songs played throughout the movie, along with most of its sound effects are deafeningly loud. The variation in levels between dialogue audio, screaming and music/sound effects will have you reaching for the remote several times throughout this one. Steve and Co probably should have spent a little more time in the editing phase. While we’re on the technical front, most of the lighting throughout was good given the budget, but the second half of the film and in particular the last act, goes painfully dark. I wanted to see some of the red stuff and unfortunately I didn’t see much of anything. Several of the uninteresting establishing shots probably could have been done away with too. Though saying that, it’s not the end of the world in a film that only lasts 62 minutes (haha). Normally I don’t take issue with profanity if it’s in context, but it’s clear here that all the male characters are trying extra hard to win that coveted royal douchebagery award (haha). I could have done without the couple of C’s and consistent F bombs. Some is okay but it’s a touch excessive.

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In the greater scheme of things most of those smaller issues don’t hurt the film, I was still thoroughly entertained. The common recurrence with slasher films though, is that all the characters usually suck (haha). Now I know that’s often the intention, so when the body count rises and each of these foul-mouthed brats gets what’s coming to them, we as an audience are happy we were there to witness it. Saying that, most of us want at least one character to make it out alive. I suppose our final girl here isn’t too bad, I’d just like to see a few more interesting characters and not just the stereotypes (although I love them to haha). When you take into account the average level of experience here, the acting was alright. Stephanie, Spencer and Nick delivered slightly better performances than the rest, and the lady who played The Teacher has to get “worst on ground” sorry (eek). I wanted to see more blood and gore in this film, and I’m sure Kevin and Steve wanted to deliver that and probably just couldn’t because of the budget. Regardless, I’m always hoping for more and in that sense I was left a little disappointed (but I’m tough to please).

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I knew that Don’t Go To The Reunion was a low-budget film from a first time director, rightly or wrongly I had the bar set high, but overall was pretty impressed with the end result. This get up and go attitude from Slasher Studios reminded me of Chris LaMartina and his films “Witch’s Brew” and “Presidents Day”. The camera work and shot choices, clear-cut story layout and cool practical effects, separate this from a lot of its competition. In addition Stephanie’s a cute final girl. It’s the lack of polish in the lighting, sound and music editing and sections of the writing letting this one down somewhat. I was hoping for less idol chit-chat and pleasantries and more of the killing, but I also appreciate this isn’t a great sum of money to make a film with so well done Steve, Kevin and everybody else involved with it. I can’t wait to see Dismembering Christmas!

My rating for “Don’t Go To The Reunion” is 6/10

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