Monday, October 5, 2020

Census Bloodbath: Love Island

Year: 1982
Director: Harry Preston
Cast: Paul Iwanski, Bob Wagner, Cheryl Black 
Run Time: 1 hour 28 minutes

We're witnessing a little slice of history right here. The 1982 slasher movie Honeymoon Horror is one of the very first movies that was ever released direct-to-video, following the meteoric rise of the video store in the early 80's. Not only was it a harbinger of things to come (the video market was so ravenous that by the late 80's more slashers were direct-to-video than not, with many even being shot on video for that express purpose), it set the bar of quality that the public would come to reliably expect from the direct-to-video market, because it's not all that good.

Not that a lot of the theatrical efforts of 1982 were that much better.

We open on a couple named Frank (no actor listed) and Elaine (Cheryl Black). The second Frank leaves the house, Elaine goes next door to dally with her lover Vic (Bob Wagner). When Frank comes back for cigarettes and catches them en flagrante, he attempts to murder Vic but Elaine smashes a bottle on his head, in the process knocking over a candle and setting the man and the house on fire. She tells Vic to let him burn, because if there's one thing I've learned from watching 80's slasher movies it's that wives with sexual needs have no soul. We catch up some time later with Vic and Elaine, now married and opening up an island resort designed for honeymooning couples. Three sorority sisters are set to stay on the island with their new husbands on opening day (the fact that they're sorority sisters accomplishes nothing other than hearkening to the slasher genre's perennial favorite pool of victims and implying they probably had a creepy triple wedding)

The couples in question are Sue (Kari Addington) and Gary (James Caskey), the only two brunettes so at least they were easy to tell apart because I know nothing else about them other than they like champagne; Linda (Leslie McKinley), who is pouty and complains a lot, and Dwayne (Philip Thompson), who is a bodybuilder with a Rocky Horror blonde bowl cut; and Kay (Margi Curry), who... exists, and Jeff (Paul Iwanski), who kind of becomes Vic's protege when attempting to fix things and protect everybody. And the reason they need protection? Frank, horribly burned but still very much alive, has arrived on the island to murder only the women (and maybe Vic) because misogyny!

Even though the men definitely deserve it!! 

As you might have been able to surmise, the characters here are thin as a low-carb crepe. If there had been more to hang onto in that regard, Honeymoon Horror might actually have been salvageable, because its biggest weakness isn't so much being bad as it is being bland. There's not a single thing this movie is doing differently than a million other slasher movies, As an exercise in going through the motions, it's at least watchable, but here at Census Bloodbath we strive for a little more than that. Not much more, but still.

If we can't have good characters, we might as well have good kills, and Honeymoon Horror doesn't have much to offer on that front either. For a minute there I was worried that every kill was going to be offscreen, so thankfully they invested in a little Karo syrup a third of the way through. But the murder scenes we actually do get to see in camera have an inelegant sameness to them. The killer brandishes an axe, some blood squirts out of somewhere a little off cue, repeat. The only difference between the kill sequences is that sometimes they're edited like a hurricane blew through the cutting room, and sometimes you can actually see what is happening.

I will give Honeymoon Horror's editing credit exactly once: a girl wonders what exactly Elaine sees in Vic, and the film immediately cuts to a shot of his ass as he walks up to a porch. I don't know if this was intentional (though it might be, given the film's unusual reluctance to show naked female flesh even though every male character has his shirt flap open at every opportunity), but it's certainly delightful and redeems a film's worth of horrible editing decisions, including a two-shot that cuts to a slightly closer two-shot of the same people. Or the part where an actress clearly forgets her line in the middle of a take and we sit with her for an excruciatingly long three seconds while she tries to remember what it was.

Not every three seconds is excruciating though, if you catch my drift.

In case it wasn't clear, I don't harbor any ill will toward Honeymoon Horror. It gets in, does what it needs to do, and gets out in under 90 minutes. It's not filet mignon, but it's not dog food either. You clean your plate and are neither the worse nor the better for having finished it. Obviously this is not an experience I particularly recommend, but hey. There are many worse movies you could waste your time with.

The only thing I genuinely hate about Honeymoon Horror, with big flaming letters five feet high, is the material with the Wacky Cops played by Bill Pecchi (who was a grip on Silent Scream and Beware! The Blob, two things I also hate) and Jerry Meagher. On the bad cop comedy scale between The Last House on the Left and Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, Sheriff and Deputy Jerry fly right off the chart and land on the surface of the sun. Jerry is a too-dumb-to-live Gomer Pyle type, and Sheriff screams at him nonstop in some artless, shrill attempt at comic relief.

It's excruciating to spend any time with them, and we get to spend a lot of time with them (legend has it that their material was added later to pad the run time of the movie). And once the island shenanigans draw to a close, we just spend a grueling ten minutes following them around before they discover that hey, something bad happened on that island last night. It's not just rubbing salt in the wound. It's crafting a dagger out of salt to give you new pre-salted wounds. It's torture. I hated it. Please make it stop. I'm not saying I would have given the film a higher rating if their scenes were cut. It's still a mediocre movie. But they turn Honeymoon Horror from insipid to rancid every time they rear their heads. And the movie certainly didn't need the help to be impossible to recommend.

Killer: Frank Barlowe (actor not listed for some reason)
Final Girl: Kay (Margi Curry), but that's really just through process of elimination.
Best Kill: When Sue is axed to death in the kitchen, her slaying is intercut with the overturned kettle dripping boiling water onto the floor. Pretty neat!
Sign of the Times: Elaine very casually uses the R-word multiple times in reference to their mentally handicapped groundskeeper.
Scariest Moment: When Frank is stalking a woman through the woods, her husband leaps out from behind a tree to scare her.
Weirdest Moment: The maid Emily only has one scene, but it's her monologuing to herself in a plummy Cockney accent straight out of Dickens.
Champion Dialogue: "Liquor's like a man, it's best taken straight."
Body Count: 9; not including Dwayne and Gary, who attempt to swim to the mainland and presumably drown because they're never heard from again.
  1. Emily is killed offscreen.
  2. Jill is killed offscreen.
  3. Robin is killed offscreen.
  4. Kelly is dismembered with an axe.
  5. Linda is axed in the shower.
  6. Sue is axed in the chest.
  7. Elaine is axed in the head.
  8. Frank is shot with a shotgun.
  9. Vic has an axe thrown into his back.
TL;DR: Honeymoon Horror is trying its best, it's just that its best isn't very good.
Rating: 5/10
Word Count: 1328

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