Written by: Larry Edgerton, John Galligan (screenplay)
Directed by: Jim Mallon
Starring: Mark Jacobs, Lisa Jane Todd and Patrick Danz
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
"It's so loud, I can't hear myself drink!"
I owe a lot of my cinematic development to Mystery Science Theater 3000; actually, I suppose most would argue that the celluloid refuse on the show probably stunts intellectual growth. However, after spending several years with Joel, Mike, and the ’bots , I came out pretty much prepared for the worst anything could be thrown at me, and have a pretty high tolerance and unreasonable appreciation for bad movies. For all of these reasons, I was naturally drawn to Blood Hook, which is the only thing MST3K creator Jim Mallon ever directed outside of the show. Since it’s yet another 80s slasher, it should probably come as no surprise that I had to use all of the put all the wits I developed on the Satellite on Love to good use to make it through this sucker.
Playing out like a checklist of the slashers that came before it, Blood Hook opens with the requisite prologue that sets up the action. Here, young Peter watches his grandfather get dragged into the lake by a fishhook and drown. 17 years later, he returns with his buddies to attend the “Muskie Madness” fishing tournament, where they bump into a bunch of yokels, many of whom tell them that they’re doomed in some fashion or another. The of course ends up being true, as the kids are not only damned to the hell that is rural towns obsessed with fishing, but also the bloodthirsty maniac that stalks the lake and reels victims in with a giant fishing hook.
Read that over again: this is a slasher movie where the killer (who is unseen until the climactic reveal) hooks in his victims like fish. Don’t ask me how no one can see him or how he’s even able to pull this off when his targets are sometimes in the middle of the lake; it’s an absolutely bonkers notion that’s kind of inspired. However, it’s also sort of the problem here, as despite its outlandishness and Mallon’s presence, you’re never quite sure if Blood Hook is intentionally playing for laughs. It certainly is funny in the same way all bad movies are funny (the acting is fishy, the dialogue flounders, etc.). But sometimes, between the deadly serious score and vicious bloodletting, you’d swear this is a straight slasher that just happens to be unintentionally funny most of the time.
It’s also a pretty bad movie, not only for those aforementioned reasons, which come with the slasher territory 90% of the time. Those are pretty forgivable since I’m pretty sure just about everyone here wandered into the set straight from the day jobs; however, the film makes the huge mistake of thinking we should be stuck with them. Instead, there should be things getting stuck into them in rapid fashion, which just doesn’t happen nearly enough. We witness their terrible romances and the lead character’s whiny neurosis; Peter’s still haunted by the death of his grandfather and is determined to bring his killer to justice (why he’s just now decided to do this after 17 years is beyond me). He’s also a musical prodigy, as evidenced by his tinkering on a keyboard. Other highlights from the proceedings include fishing and people talking about fishing; also, don’t think for a second that the local sheriff is even remotely considering cancelling the big tournament, which is popular and generates a lot of money. I don’t think he particularly cares that people seem to be disappearing; in fact, no one seems to. Once the first victims vanish, it’s almost as if they’ve never existed, as they’re rarely referred to again; there’s a family of four that arrives along with the main group of kids, and the mother and father end up falling to the psycho’s giant hook. They’re never referred to again until their children pop back up in the third act, where they do nothing of note.
That sort of blatant disregard for logic is indicative of how Blood Hook treads the waters of absurdity. Surely something that obvious had to be intentional; other moments of demented pseudo-brilliance point to this as well, such as when the aforementioned mother inexplicably hoots and hollers like a loon (as in the aquatic bird). Also, our main pack of characters stumble across a local girl who lives in the woods with her baby, whom she apparently leaves on his own while she goes out for a run. She’s not particularly worried about her son being eaten by a passing bear, as she never leaves him with sweets; plus, she’s gotta have her own fun too. That’s an actual exchange in the movie, and, had all of the interactions been this bonkers, Blood Hook would have been an amazing horror comedy. Instead, these kind of moments sporadically pop up in the form of demented locals, particularly the paranoid conspiracy theorist who brandishes an M-16.
I do have to give it up for the last fifteen minutes or so, which is where the movie does seemingly decide to completely embrace its silliness; not only does our hero use his musical prowess to determine that the killer’s psychosis is set off by the cacophony of chirping crickets (!), but he also decides to take matters into his own hands by confronting the slasher. This entails sitting in his boat like a complete wuss before being goaded into action; one of his newly-made local friends offers to help, but he (in fucking deadpan fashion) declares that he must go it alone to earn his family name. This then gives way to a glorious display of dueling fishhooks, which is almost enough for me to declare Blood Hook great. As for the killer himself, you’ll never really be able to guess who it is--the film paints just about everyone as a red herring, so you wouldn’t really be shocked to discover that anyone could be using their expert fishing skills to off all of these idiots. The gore here is pretty decent; again, even this doesn’t take off until the last act, where we finally see some extremities ripped off, plus a trek to the killer’s abode reveals that he likes to keep his human remains refrigerated right above his ice cream. Brilliant set decoration. We also catch a glimpse of some grisly waterlogged corpses that he also keeps around, seemingly for his own amusement.
Blood Hook obviously isn’t great on any level unless you compare it to movies that Mallon would one day lampoon on MST3K. Thankfully, this doesn’t quite sink to that level, as its few moments of peppered absurdity keep it afloat, but just barely. You can have a lot of fun with it, particularly trying to figure out if it’s meant to be funny. In fact, as I was watching it, someone on Twitter asked me if I thought it was supposed to be a horror comedy. I certainly hope so; otherwise, a lot of people were tone deaf. At any rate, to figure it out for yourself, check out Troma’s release, where it’s housed with Blades and Zombie Island Massacre on one of the studio’s “Triple B-Header” discs. The quality is just above VHS level, which is probably expected since three movies are crammed into one side (the packaging boasts that this is possible due to “the miracle technology of V3 media,” but I think we all know better). You’ll also get to see Lloyd Kaufman rant and rave as he introduces the movies, so it’s not all bad, particularly since it’s got a bargain price. As of this writing, Blood Hook is available via Netflix streaming, so give it a whirl if you’re curious--hey, it beats actually going fishing. Rent it!
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