Though this film was released in 1980, it was immediately blacklisted due to its extremely gruesome and depressing nature. It would take another 15 to 16 years before 70’s to 80’s horror fans would discover this film and spark a trend in watching what had once been called the “sickest movie ever made”. Some go as far as to say that this movie enjoys cult status. I prefer not to go that far, psycho was the one that claimed cult status by sparking the rating system we have in the present movie system, any movie that came after that and got blacklisted only pushed against the loosely sealed envelop in one specific direction.
The movie is a little too close of a look into the monotonous life of an especially sadistic murderer, Frank. (I don’t know if he can be called a serial killer, because there isn’t any defined way he picks out his victims.) However, what he does with them afterwards is what is truly attention catching. After dispatching of them in very inconsistent manners (opening the possibility for death by multiple types of weapons) he scalps the female victims, takes each of their scalps back to his house and puts them on mannequins, which he proceeds to sleep with, kiss, and talk to (he thinks the things are his mother and he has to convince her not to go out for prostitution that night!).
Just reading the previous paragraph, I’m sure your impression is “that is a very dark movie”. Well, you’re wrong, you have NO idea just how dark and screwed up this movie really is until you watch it!
Okay, getting to my reaction to the film. First I’ll mention a definite positive of this film: The gore is excellent! These here are the gore scenes that the infamous Tom Savini, himself, disowned having done once he realized the public’s reaction to them were very critical. There is one particularly spectacular scene where Franky boy blasts Tom Savini in the face with a double barrel shotgun. It is more or less an up close and personal shot of the JFK assassination, as you literally watch his head vaporize into a pile and spray of gore! I haven’t seen anything like that one since!
Another somewhat okay point was the acting on Joe Spinell’s part. Primarily Joe sticks to mafia roles; this was totally apart from any other role he played before hand (that I can think of). He managed to pull it off pretty well, considering that most of his roles prior to this didn’t even involve more than a sentence! Don’t get me wrong, in parts his acting really reeks like rotten fish but he didn’t suck nearly as much as he could have considering his lack of experience.
A final good point that I’ll mention on, it is actually what kinda got this movie disowned when it first arrived, is that it carries a very consistent atmosphere to it. Obviously, the production line was totally amateur for this film, yet they managed to hold a steady atmosphere really well. A movie like this could turn into a laugh fest but this did not, it maintained a depressing atmosphere the whole way through. That is probably what keeps you watching it till the credits roll.
Now for a few things that pissed me off: Whoever came up with this movie did not bother to employ their brains as much as they indulged their most nightmarish instincts. There are many really inexplicably stupid parts that don’t serve well when you’re trying to match them up with a movie that’s so serious.
Though the gore was elaborate, the behavior of the victims before their murders is not. In most slasher movies you’ll find characters doing stupid things, but in this movie you can tell they didn’t even bother trying to rectify these bloopers. In one case you have a nurse that just gets off duty that’s so edgy that when she simply sees Frank walking in the same direction as her for a few steps, she takes off on a mile long dash not stopping till she gets to a woman’s bathroom in a subway a half a dozen blocks down. There she goes and sits in a stall, about to have a cardiac arrest she’s so frightened. Frank comes into the (women’s!) bathroom for one second, then leaves and within 10 seconds that same lady that ran like a bat out of hell comes out of the stall, goes to the sink, turns it on, making all types of noises suddenly assuming that the huge guy that followed her all the way down the deserted street, all the way down to a deserted and closed subway, and all the way into the women’s bathroom had obviously been a big misunderstanding and that it was probably a coincidence that he was peeping around the lady’s room… so why not relax! Of course, this is a stupid move; she doesn’t even get a chance to breath ten breaths before Frank is behind her taking care of business.
On a psychological level: Of course, you’d think that because the fact that Frank’s mother was a prostitute, and her leaving to work nights was what disturbed him, that his targets would exclusively be prostitutes. I guess the producers of the movie, including Joe Spinell (the actor who plays Frank) decided not to spend too much time thinking.
Another pathetically unrealistic thing that totally blew my top off was a scene were Frank is strangling a prostitute (the only prostitutes he actually targets in the movie), while he’s crushing in her trachea she’s able to perfectly enunciate herself, saying “Stop it, stop it!” with precise clarity, a task you have to have an oxygen flow present to accomplish, and then the next second she just dies (while talking!)… Hmmm, oki doki.
To sum it all up, the gore was excellent, the acting was better than expected, the film had a powerfully sick effect on the viewer’s state of mind, but everything else sucked! Watch it anyways, remember; it’s being revered as cult status ; )