DITCH DAY MASSACRE
Firstly I would like to thank Megan Waters, producer of the new slasher flick “Ditch Day Massacre” for sending me the online screener of the film. This is Director Joe Hendrick’s debut feature film so I would like to say a big thanks to him too, for allowing me early access to the film. “Ditch Day Massacre” stars Bill Oberst Jr (“Abraham Lincoln vs Zombies” and “Nude Nuns With Big Guns”), Katy Foley, Zach Silverman and Greg Depetro. Jenny Bilson (Foley), is a high school senior with perfect grades and a bright future. She is trying to put a tragedy from the past behind her and move on with her life. Along with her boyfriend Mike (Silverman), and some other school friends they decide to ditch school for the day. It turns out to be a horrible mistake when Jenny realises that her past is about to catch up with her and it’s bringing an axe!
Being a big fan of Bill Oberst and some of his recent work (especially the two films I previously mentioned), I thought this slasher flick could be a great addition to the horror genre, not to mention the lovely ladies in this one. It’s great to see a bunch of fresh faces and a new director who has only done a few short films take on something bigger and better. It’s an interesting and fun script, not necessarily anything we haven’t seen before but it’s still a solid idea for a slasher. Right from the outset the clear audio and smooth camera work separates this from countless other low-budget slasher flicks with technical problems galore.The film also has a surprisingly impressive soundtrack of rock and pop music. Sadly some of the score was a little uninspiring but a scene towards the end of the film where Vick (Oberst) is chasing the group helps aid in the suspense department.
The two best aspects of the film are Bill’s performance as this lonely man living a slow decent into madness, along with the practical effects that the crew were able to achieve. Bill has really only come onto the scene in the last 5 years with some truly memorable performances. It should come as no surprise that he is the standout here, successfully creeping everyone out as a truly demented killer. Now, the practical effects, wow what can I say. Michael Blue, Greg Butner and Josh and Sarah Russell are the hidden gems behind some of the best practical gore and makeup effects I’ve seen in any horror flick with this kind of budget. I don’t normally single out people in charge of the film’s respective departments but I feel it was definitely warranted for Ditch Day Massacre. Let’s hope these four get the opportunity to do a lot more work within the genre. The film contains some wonderful action sequences. Vick’s weapon of choice is the axe and it’s used very cleverly during the kill scenes. One particular kill scene stands out and not just because it couldn’t have happened to a more worthy character (ha-ha), but simply for the sheer brutal nature of it!
The main issue I had with the first 30 minutes of the film was some of the details surrounding the plot. I think it was sequenced this way purposely, but I found it a little muddled. Generally the first act sets up the revenge aspect, but it was hard to work out all the details initially. There was some confusing imagery in the very beginning and then we pick up with Jenny and her family immediately after. Even though the transitioning between several scenes was a little off we do understand exactly what’s going on around the thirty minute mark. I couldn’t work out the relevance of Vick’s love for apples. Was that supposed to be relevant in any way? or just a quirk? I’m not too sure. I think the score could have been a little more synth based to give it that real 80’s slasher kind of vibe, but it wasn’t too bad. The weakest aspect of the film was Katy Foley’s performance. At times she was pretty good, but I think she had a difficult time with the more emotionally driven scenes. The audience needs a protagonist they can really sympathise with, I don’t think she really got that point across. She doesn’t have much experience as an actress, so I can forgive that and ultimately I don’t think it really takes anything away from the entertainment value the film delivers.
Ditch Day Massacre is one of the better low-budget slasher flicks that I have seen this year! Trust me, I watch a lot of these and this far supersedes most. I rate this one right up there with HazMat, Blood Runs Cold and Bloody Bloody Bible Camp, three of my other favourites from the year. It’s a fun, revenge based and blood soaked throwback to 80’s slasher films and I loved every bit of it! There were a few things to work on and tweak but for the most part you won’t make a better film within the genre and budget constraints. It was an absolute blast! Thanks again Joe and Megan. Please get in touch when a hard copy of the film is available and if you want any help with promo don’t hesitate to ask.
My rating for “Ditch Day Massacre” is 6/10