Thursday, October 3, 2019

#2,505. Blood Hook (1986)


Directed By: Jim Mallon

Starring: Mark Jacobs, Lisa Jane Todd, Patrick Danz




Tag line: "Blood Sports of the Human Kind"

Trivia: Most of the cast has never appeared in another film










It was probably about 15 minutes or so into 1986’s Blood Hook that I started to think this micro-budget slasher film was, in reality, a comedy, a spoof, if you will, of the entire subgenre. 

For starters, Blood Hook was distributed by Troma (The Toxic Avenger, Class of Nuke ‘Em High), and on top of that its co-writer and director, Jim Mallon, would in later years produce the original episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Hell, in an interview conducted for Vinegar Syndrome (the label that released Blood Hook on Blu-Ray), Mallon even said it was the ‘60s comedy sketch show Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In that inspired him to break into show business in the first place! 

So, taking all of this into account, I figured Blood Hook just had to be a comedy, right? 

Right? 

Seventeen years after witnessing the mysterious death of his grandfather, Peter Van Cleese (Mark Jacobs) inherits the old man’s former home: a cabin situated on a picturesque Wisconsin lake. Accompanied by his girlfriend Ann (Lisa Todd) and friends Rodney (Patrick Danz), Kiersten (Sara Hauser) and Finner (Christopher Whiting), Peter drives out to inspect his new property, which has been cared for all these years by his grandfather’s long-time friend Wayne Duerst (Paul Drake). 

As luck would have it, Peter and his crew turn up on the very weekend that the town is holding its annual Muskie fishing tournament, an event so popular that it attracts thousands of people to the area, all hoping to catch the biggest Muskie in the lake and win the $5,000 grand prize. 

But there’s more than fish and fishermen in these here parts; there’s a killer on the loose as well, and by the look of it he’s set his sights on Peter and the gang. Peter, who is still hauntd by his grandfather’s death, can’t help but wonder if this is the very same psychopath that took out ‘ole granddad all those years ago, a death that has been officially ruled an “unexplained disappearance” (since a body was ever recovered). 

Will Peter learn the identity of the killer in time to save his friends and bring some closure to the past, or is history doomed to repeat itself? 

Blood Hook makes good use of its central location; the entire movie was shot in Hayward, Wisconsin, a lakeside community that is also home to a four-story-tall fiberglass Muskie, a structure so big you can actually walk through it (which Peter and his friends do soon after they arrive). As for the lake, it’s quite beautiful, and reminded me more than a little of the locales used for such early ‘80s slasher films as Friday the 13th and The Burning. In addition, the opening scene, a flashback where we see the demise of Peter’s grandfather (played by Donald Franke), was handled well, and, along with the techno score that played over the credits, was enough to give me a little hope that Blood Hook might just be worth the effort. 

Then, before I knew it, everything had gone to hell in a handcart. For one, the characters - from Peter all the way down to the most insignificant local inhabiting this tiny town - were as exaggerated as they come. I’m not talking exaggerations of real people, or even exaggerations of ‘80s slasher characters (which are themselves already pretty exaggerated). No, this was like an otherworldly exaggeration, as if aliens were trying to mimic human behavior. Nobody in this film acts in a believable manner, nobody utters a believable line. Then, a short time later, it’s revealed that the killer’s weapon of choice is a fishing lure bigger than a human forearm, with large hooks attached to every side of it (which he cast at his victims, hooking them and reeling them in). I mean, this damn lure was so impractical that it was ridiculous. If a fisherman tried to actually use it, the fish would scatter the minute this behemoth hit the water! 

As I sat there - slack-jawed - trying to make sense of what was playing out in front of me, a coping mechanism kicked in, and I spent the rest of the first half of the movie convinced that Blood Hook was a comedy. And on that level, its awfulness became much more tolerable (once the film was over, I looked Blood Hook up on the Internet Movie Database, where it is, indeed, listed as comedy / horror, so I was glad to see I wasn’t totally off-base). 

But then, something unexpected happened. Right around the halfway point of Blood Hook, when the killer’s identity is revealed to both the audience and, a few minutes later, the remaining characters, the movie changed gears. The characters seemed a bit deeper than they had before, and the tension was more substantial. All at once, Blood Hook started to feel like an honest-to-goodness horror movie. 

Now, I don’t want to oversell this: when I say the characters were “deeper”, I equate it to stepping out of the kiddie pool and into the shallow end of the main swimming area. It’s not like they suddenly transformed into actual human beings. As for the tension, it was more substantial only when compared to what came before it in the film. Even at its most gruesome, Blood Hook is not a movie that will give you nightmares, or even cause you to wince a little. 

Yet this subtle shift in quality was enough to win me over, and what had been nothing more than a lackluster comedy was now a horror film I was invested in, genuinely anxious to see how it would end. 

I know I’m setting myself up for a fall here. Like many fans of ‘80s slashers, I’ve been accused of seeing movies like Blood Hook through rose-colored glasses, allowing the nostalgic feelings I harbor for the time period to cloud my judgment. And if those same people who leveled these accusations were to actually sit down and watch Blood Hook, they might just have enough evidence against me to prove their case in the court of public opinion. 

Hell, it’s entirely possible that the fans who worship ‘80s slashers will be scratching their heads over this review, wondering how I found anything positive to say about Blood Hook

So pity me if you can. Judge me if you must. But know that I’m a victim of circumstance. I’m a child of the ‘80s, and that child sometimes just can’t help himself. 

The heart wants what the heart wants. And there’s was a small corner of mine that opened itself up to Blood Hook.








1 comment:

Peter Nielsen said...

Hey, Dave
This review made me laugh out loud... What a great read! And that's what these kind of movies do... they spark good conversations, and funny reviews... but only if you have a smidgeon of appreciation for this kind of "schlock". Otherwise you'll just loathe this movie!
You and I both share that appreciation, my friend, because movies like this always "lure" me in too... I just can't help myself! So if you're going to be judged... or pitied, for that matter... I'll be right there next to you... being judged too!

Best, Peter