Written and Directed by: Mark Jones
Starring: Tyler Farrell, Scott Fletcher, and Corie Ventura
Reviewed by: Brett G.
“The pledges are OUT and running!”
Since their inception, slasher films have been built upon the presence of young, nubile female victims. More often than not, they’re “some big-breasted girl who can’t act, and they’re “always running up the stairs when they should be running out the front door.” Appropriately enough, said bimbos are usually members of a sorority that’s being stalked by some maniac. Very few slashers have bothered to reverse this trend, as the amount of male-centered fraternity slashers are few and far between. The minds behind Fraternity Massacre at Hell Island obviously realized this and have even gone one step further by touting this one as a gay-themed slasher film. Does this approach really offer anything new to a sub-genre that’s practically been re-treading ground since its introduction?
The film opens in a year when slashers were king: 1984. It’s here that we find a group of young adults who are part of a dance troupe performing a 4th of July themed show. After the show winds down, they manage the piss off an old lady who happens to know some gypsy curses, and the four kids are doomed to wander the titular island for eternity! We then flash ahead to the much more drab present day, where we’re introduced to a seemingly endless horde of characters: there’s Jack Jones, who’s pledging for his college fraternity. Jack’s gay lover is among the frat vets who have one last initiation in store for the rest of the pledges: hell night, where they’ll have to spend one night on the island that’s still haunted by the souls of the dance troupe. If that’s not enough, there’s plenty more shady characters introduced: Jack’s clown-loving, unbalanced roomate who was jilted by the fraternity, a psychotic dean, an escaped mental patient, and one of the frat boy’s extremely jealous and pissed off girlfriend. It should come as no surprise that bodies soon start dropping like flies on this hell night!
Obviously, that synopsis is more than a mouthful, and it should come as no surprise that Fraternity Massacre is one huge, jumbled mess. Ambition is a nice thing, but when it runs unchecked, you get a movie that’s just all over the map. It’s not content to be a ghost story, a slasher, or a whodunit; instead, it tries to be all three and doesn’t pull any of them off particularly well. It also doesn’t help that the first 20 minutes crams in as many suspects and red herrings as it possibly can, with each of them getting 2 scenes apiece that are dull and repetitive. By the second time you see the crazy dean conversing with his imaginary “mother,” you’re just ready to get to the island itself and see some nice slashing.
Unfortunately, things don’t get a whole lot better at this point, mostly because any said slashing is so dry or even unseen. With the exception of one pretty nice knife gag, the film is almost bloodless and mundane. This might be alright if the film took a more suspenseful approach, but it’s so tongue in cheek that it can’t possibly be taken seriously on any level. A more gory approach would have been more appropriate; instead, we get a lot of characters wandering around doing silly things at the most inappropriate times. This might be okay if the comedy was funny, but it mostly misses the mark, and the film’s best joke gets recycled throughout the film and pummeled into oblivion.
The gay angle is the one thing that could have set this one apart, in theory, but that’s not quite the case. The main character’s homosexuality plays no real role and is just incidental; the press materials claims that Jack will have to battle “homophobia and a killer clown on hell night,” but this isn’t true. In fact, I would say homophobia is almost non-existent in the film, and Jack’s homosexuality is rewarded in a sense at the end. As such, the film just sort of plays out as a slasher for the ladies (and gay men), which is only fair given how exploitative the sub-genre has been of the female flesh in an attempt to appease the male crowd. So there’s some guy-on-guy action and such, but it’s clearly just as pointless as any other type of sexuality in a slasher. Naturally, I must note that this doesn’t stop the film from showing off a pair of breasts.
That’s admittedly a pretty shallow compliment, but this is a pretty shallow film, though I don’t think anyone should expect otherwise. Sure, the filmmakers tried to stretch the concept by cramming in a lot of elements, and such effort and ambition is to be commended. I should also note that, with the exception of the B-grade acting (it doesn‘t help that the actors are stuck with bad expository dialogue at every turn), the film is put together decently. There’s nothing especially stylish or inventive about the direction, but it works well enough. Ariztical Entertainment recently released the film on DVD, and the screener provided me boasted a decent audio and video transfer that adequately reflects the film’s low budget. Your best bet is to check this one out from your preferred online rental service. It’s not exactly a torturous experience that’s worthy of hell night, but you really don’t want to be stuck on this island for too long. Rent it!
For more information, please visit the Arizitcal Entertainment website.
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