Monday, September 30, 2013

DreadBox: Hellabama

Year: 2012
Director: Terron R. Parsons
Cast: Richard Tyson, Sherri Eakin, Jeremy Ivy
Run Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
MPAA Rating: N/A

Sergio and I have been frequenting this delicious pizza place close to campus called Pizzamania because pizza is the foundation of our relationship. Last time we went, we were planning on sneaking on campus to watch us some Game of Thrones and on a whim we grabbed some RedBox movies from the 7-Eleven next door.

I've always been morbidly curious about the dire looking Direct-To-DVD horror that RedBox always seems to have on hand in spades so in addition to The Bling Ring, I grabbed a promising looking slasher called Hayride and thus was born what is certainly going to be one of my favorite blog features. Be prepared for a tidal wave of even more lo-fi horror!

Why do I do this to myself?

Because, God knows, nobody else will.

Hayride tells the story of college student Steven (Jeremy Ivy of absolutely nothing else) who brings his girlfriend Amanda (Sherri Eakin) to his uncle's home in Alabama because 1) It's Halloween Break, which I guess could be a thing, and 2) He doesn't seem to actually have parents.

Every year, his Uncle Morgan (Richard Tyson) puts on a Halloween Hayride, a sort of haunted house event for the community. The main villain in this hayride is Pitchfork, a fictional killer based on a town myth about a farmer who went crazy when his daughter ran off with her boyfriend and started killing everybody. Amanda says that sounds like lazy writing and I'd have to agree. 

There is a weak sort of meta humor at work here, like the filmmakers were vaguely aware that Scream was a thing, but didn't quite piece together that it was necessary to actually be funny.

Or that direct quotations from other movies only work if you actually try to make them scary.

OK, maybe that's unfair.

Yes, to be a slasher movie in today's world means riffing on the already long-established rules of the genre and there's gonna be some references in there. And Hayride doesn't plagiarize as much as most, mainly because it's too busy expanding upon its tedious and convoluted mythology. In the middle of the film, in the guise of a campfire story we get a ten minute, dialogue-free flashback sequence that clarifies the Pitchfork legend about as much as if a child were fingerpainting it.

This point comes at about 45 minutes into the story and not a single member of the massive core cast has even come close to thinking about maybe dying at some point in the future. And there's considerably less hayride than I was expecting.

Although, with all the loving close-ups of Amanda's butt, who would even notice?

The ending does pick up as the hayride begins and employees and guests are picked off by the dozens. Oh, did I mention an escaped convict stole the Pitchfork costume? Yeah that happened. So finally Hayride provides at least a little of the low rent thrills I was expecting as Pitchfork mows down waves of hayriders like some demented MMORPG quest.

Unfortunately the whole thing suffers beyond repair because it positively reeks of prosumer equipment. I've seen student films with higher production values, and I go to a state school. The color balance is knocked out of whack with the yellow cranked up to eleven, presumably to emphasize the theme of... hay, I guess. At least one line in every scene has been altered in post-production dubbing and 100% does not synchronize with the lips of anybody onscreen.

And, like I said before, not too much is stolen directly from other films (although the film does read like a checklist of the slasher section of, but the main theft struck me straight to the bone. My absolute favorite shot of Cold Prey 2, a car door opening and closing as filmed through a side mirror, is lifted with fearless aplomb, presumably because they assumed nobody had ever seen it. Well, kudos for at least watching one of the best slasher sequels that exists. Clearly it didn't help though.

After the killing winds down and the quasi-Final Girl sequence has begun in earnest, the film degrades again with a twist ending that would maybe be effective if we knew anything about the killer.

I'mma spoil this because screw Hayride. The cops in charge of the investigation unmask the dead Pitchfork killer, revealing an old man who patently isn't the escaped convict we saw in the beginning of the film. Who he is, I couldn't say. But the sheriff goes "I know who that is" as the music swells and we get an unnecessary flashback of him killing the convict much earlier in the film as if we couldn't understand that if it's a different person under the mask, he's not the one who did it.

So the sheriff knows but he doesn't deign to tell us.

Maybe he saw him on WWE or something.

I don't know about you, but I don't feel too swell when a movie holds me, the audience, in active contempt.

Crap movie. Seacrest out.

Killer: Pitchfork (Bennett Wayne Dean Sr.)
Final Girl: Amanda (Sherri Eakin)
Best Kill: A sheriff is, with great deliberation, stabbed in the neck with the "sharp" end of an open pair of handcuffs.
Sign of the Times: Basically, the fact that this exists at all and is being distributed.
Scariest Moment: Hayride passengers run away through the forest, but are caught in bear traps. They are completely forgotten about for the rest of the movie, and presumably left to die of starvation and exposure or be forced to 127 Hours their way outta there. (Isn't it sad that the most horror-y scenario isn't even in the script?)
Weirdest Moment: For fun, Steven's family used to quiz each other on microwave instructions.
Champion Dialogue: "Let's rock these people's lives and give them the show of their lives!"
Body Count: 21 (including the killer), but it absolutely does not earn such a hilariously inflated number.

TL;DR: Hayride is a prosumer slasher attempt that manages the rare feat of having me long for the relative thematic coherence of the execrable Memorial Day.
Rating: 2/10
Should I Spend $1.20 On This? Don't do that to yourself. I do this so you don't have to.
Word Count: 1068

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