MASSAGE PARLOR OF DEATH
This review is for the 80’s inspired, shot on video Horror film “Massage Parlor Of Death”, Written and Directed by Richard Mogg. He’s got a bit of experience in the DIY approach to film making, having previously made two other films “Easter Bunny Bloodbath” and “Bangin’ Vengeance”. It’s obvious that he’s a fan of the micro budget classic’s of the 80’s, when you see what he’s constructed here. Massage Parlor Of Death is about a young, attractive an unlicensed massage therapist named Ruby (played by the lovely Michelle Kaveet). She’s been secretly killing her clients, and storing their blood for use in a ritual that will resurrect the spirit of her dead lover. Mogg wrote, directed, shot, produced and edited the film himself (haha). It stars Kaitlyn Yurkiw, Kevin Paynter, Christina Martine, Victor Bidwell and Kirk Munaweera.
Just a quick heads up, there will be much laughter in this review so I apologize in advance. Mogg ticks the first box when it comes to paying homage to this style of film, and that’s giving it an entertaining title with some cool artwork. The tagline for the film is classic, “The Massage Parlor Of Death, Where there are no happy endings!” (haha). If you’re not sold on either the cheesy title or its supporting tagline, Devon Whitehead’s colorful, gory and brilliantly crafted retro cover art is bound to tickle your fancy. People and their talent aye?… it pisses you off doesn’t it? (haha). All kidding aside it looks fantastic, I caught a sneak peek of the artwork for Richard’s next film, kudos on that too Devon. I’ll kick things off with the audio, firstly the dialogue and then I’ll talk about the sound effects etc, later in the review. The consistency of volume in the actors/actresses dialogue was surprisingly good. I caught just about everything they were saying even though it’s not crucial in a film like this. Most of the camera work is basic and steady. A lot of still shots are used but there’s some fun, out of the blue focus zooms going on. It goes in and out, down a passageway or through a room and onto an actor, it’s a technique you often see in old school genre films.
I absolutely love the nostalgic appeal of the 70’s/80’s style, synth music playing throughout the film. There were just two simple tunes on repeat for nearly the whole running time, plus a piano ballad track (haha). We basically had either a two note piece of music when anything suspenseful was happening, or a shift to a heightened intensity with some base in the mix. That went humorously back and forth anytime the scene was building. As each of the characters unknowingly walks in for their massage there’d be a lovely, mellow piano based tune playing. It was awkward and didn’t fit but in the best possible way (haha). On a couple of occasions there’s some unusual 8 bit synth, which sounds like a Nintendo game booting up in the most sporadic of ways (haha). I actually liked it, it was just far too loud in the mix. Gordon (Paynter), is the first young man to arrive for a massage and was easily the funniest character in the film. Paynter channeled any one of those, overly serious male leads from other shot on video films. His comedic timing and line delivery was a blast to watch. Michelle Kaveet appears in nearly every scene, and for the most part does a decent job, given her lack of experience. Despite the fact she’s playing Ruby, whose somewhat of a tempestuous bitch (haha), she herself is pretty and seems very down to earth. The other lead role of Jenny, a newly hired hooker is played by Kaitlyn Yurkiw. She adds to the eye candy and holds her own pretty well.
Blood and Gore has always emerged as the main selling point of these types of low-budget affairs. Most of the impact shots from those films in the 80’s era, weren’t shown due to classification ratings or restrictions etc. It was often only the aftermath that made it onto screen. I’m not going to Coolade coat it (those of you who watch the behind the scenes feature will get what I mean by that haha), Massage Parlor Of Death doesn’t have the best quality blood and gore, but what it does have is heart (I don’t mean an actual heart, I mean that would be cool right but yeah…) Effort is what I mean, Richard had a go and that’s all we ask. It’s ambitious and resourceful, and I enjoyed and respect that about it. The aforementioned Behind The Scenes content is where Mogg explains how he did it, and what you can do to save extra money. The action sequences aren’t the best, but the standout purely from a comedic point of view, involves The Native man from Hades (haha). It’s possibly the lamest death in any film ever made. Quite possibly both the best and worst I’ve ever seen (haha).
I have to mention that lame death again because it really was awful shitty (haha), so it gets included in this section as well. The execution of most of the technical stuff is good, especially when you take into account the micro-budget. However, the film has some lighting and color saturation issues in a few scenes. I don’t want to leave those of you who have never seen a shot on video film in the dark about what to expect. Richard recorded the film on his own personal HD camera, and rather than use filters he decided to run it through a Video recorder and dub it over. It wasn’t quite grainy and old enough for the desired effect, so he ran it through again in order to get some static, and that ever so slight syncing delay. If you’re a fan of the genre but not necessarily the time period, worry not. There’s also the original high-definition version of the film included on the DVD. This reviewer watched it in it’s intended format, but will be revisiting it in high def as I’m not really a product of that era and couldn’t relate too it as well. Richard needed to be a little more composed with the camera during the death sequences. It tends to bounce up and down too much (maybe intended), none the less not easy on the eyes. Even though most of the audio is solid, there are still constant spikes in volume when characters laugh or scream, which is way too often for my liking. I found that part of the track nearly unbearable, and it partially ruined the film for me.
There’s plenty of problems with acting and professionalism in the second half of the film, but I suppose that’s to be expected though. For mine, the acting gradually got worse as the film wore on. Michelle’s dialogue delivery impressed me in the beginning, the painfully forced laughing and screaming aside. Unfortunately she can be seen smirking, and or trying to hold back laughter in several scenes. The ridiculous nature of the screenplay probably doesn’t help, but still (haha). During the resurrection scenes, it’s clear she’s reading words from the script and on another occasion, she pauses on the first line she’s obviously forgotten. The secondary cast members annoyed me too, because a screaming track can be heard as each of them are being killed, yet none of the cast are actually shown screaming. Massage Parlor Of Death is mostly just guilty of a lot of continuity issues and things clearly down to budgetary constraints. When weapons are used it’s clear they aren’t making any impact with the characters. Excess blood stains on the sheets, from the massage table are visible each time a new victim comes in (haha). A woman is decapitated but the head is extremely rubbery, and looks more like a blonde Amy Winehouse (R.I.P), than the actual actress (haha). I wasn’t a fan of the story, well what story there was. I think it might have worked better played as a straight Slasher flick. Ruby supposed to be storing blood for a resurrection, but I never actually saw her gather any. She’d just kill somebody, and take their remains and put them in her garbage. It’s a very short film, with a run time of only 60 minutes but I feel like at least 10 minutes could have been cut. There’s a totally pointless POV (point of view) scene in a graveyard, whose point of view it’s from I don’t know. Ruby’s dream sequences sucked, and all of the stuff that was supposed to be set in Hades just bored me. Obviously those plot points were already in the script, hence why I would have liked to see some alterations made.
I originally per-ordered Massage Parlor Of Death, then read a few comments and watched the trailer and changed my mind, I didn’t think it was for me. I did a bit more digging and got a better understanding of Richard’s intentions for the film. Here’s the kicker, he shot this film in only 2 days because that’s the only window of time he had with friend, and lead actress Michelle Kaveet. If that wasn’t enough, Richard’s wife only allowed him to spend $50 on the film, yeah you heard me right… $50! Even without fact checking, I’m going to go ahead and say Massage Parlor Of Death is the lowest budget movie ever made. That in of itself is truly something, so many congratulations go out to Richard for sticking to his guns. He spent 2 days, and 50 dollars to watch his film come to fruition. What we have here is a very well made, homage to shot on video films of the 80’s. It’s got killer artwork, a couple of lovely girls, some cheesy comedy and one awesome synth based soundtrack. The acting drops away as things progress, the sound peaks and unfortunately the screenplay contains unnecessary material, making it rather forgettable. Saying that, the effects achieved with coolade, ketchup and toilet paper were a lot of fun, and Richard accomplished something I don’t think anybody ever has. If you’re a fan of films like “The Woodchip Massacre” or the more well-known “Nail Gun Massacre” (which had a $400 budget), this one is worth a look. I look forward to Richard Mogg’s future projects and you should too. 50 bucks…. seriously, say that shit to yourself 50 bucks! Do him a favor and purchase a copy so he can make his next film for maybe $500 (haha)
My rating for “Massage Parlor Of Death” is 4.5/10