First things first. I have been helping out as a heavy metal consultant and true crime expert on a short film called Black Metal that will be directed this summer by Kat Candler and will star Jonny Mars. Candler received one of the “Story By…” credits for Saturday Morning Massacre (SMM) and Mars is a lead actor, producer, and also received a “Story By…” credit for SMM. This film also features a closing credit song by Vesperian Sorrow, an Austin, Texas “extreme dark metal” band that I helped select for Black Metal.
Alright, now that that’s out of the way — on to Saturday Morning Massacre!
SMM premiered tonight at the Los Angeles Film Festival, hopefully in front of a raucous crowd ready for a fun horror thrill ride. I caught it earlier in the week in a room filled with several jaded film reviewers and even they clearly enjoyed themselves.
SMM is Scooby Doo done the right way, not that CGI cheesefest we were subjected to years ago. This version is the tale of a group of four paranormal investigators, down on their luck, but not out just yet. After a hilariously botched investigation, the Fearful Foursome, comprised of Nancy (Ashley Rae Spillers = Velma), Floyd (Jonny Mars = Shaggy), Gwen (Josephine Decker = Daphne), and Chad (Adam Tate = Fred), and their trusty canine companion, Hamlet (played by Hamlet = Scooby Doo), take on what could possibly be their final ghost-hunting gig. If this one doesn’t pan out, they will have to close up shop for good.
The gig seems fairly simple. A bank has acquired the old Kyser schoolhouse in a foreclosure and needs to clean it up for re-sell, however, there are rumors that ghosts haunt the building and are scaring away the custodial help. Despite warnings of Satanic sacrifices, ghosts of missing children, and lousy cleaning skills by squatters, the group opts to spend a few nights in the mansion to debunk, or discover, what ghosts lie inside.
It’s at this point where SMM truly finds it own distinctive voice. I was a bit concerned that we were about to traipse into “mumblegore” territory, but director Spencer Parsons does an excellent job of making you care about this diverse collection of haunting hunters. The relationships between the two unique couples ring true and never feel obligatory.
Also, the humor is solid, not coming across as forced or sitcom-y. The laughs are not piss-your-pants funny, but rather realistic responses to scary situations. Non-Scooby gang member, Officer Lance (Paul Gordon), is aces when it comes to stealing most of the funniest bits. His laconic delivery is rather off-putting at first, but soon begins to flow and make more sense. Once it fully kicks in, his character is simply a riot. A throwaway line about something he discovered inside the school is funnier than any line in The Cabin In The Woods (and I loved that film!).
I despise film reviews that give away too much. As such, I will only say that SMM takes the viewer on a truly funny and scary trip into a haunted mansion, only to end up somewhere much more visceral, lethal, and frightening. It culls from and pays respect to some of the best horror films of the past 40 years including The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (and even TCM II), The Hills Have Eyes, Night Of The Demons, The Blair Witch Project, and Halloween. Mix in a healthy respect for the genre, a glimpse into an adult Scooby Doo mystery, solid acting from all five main actors, liberal doses of honest humor, and some genuine scares, and you have one hell of a horror film.
Corey Mitchell is a best-selling author of several true crime books and is currently helping former Pantera frontman Philip Anselmo write his autobiography.