Sunday, March 21

Some quick thoughts on Killing Spree (1987)

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Tom (Asbestos Felt) finds out that his wife Leeza (Courtney Lercara) has been sexing up a gamut of friends, repairmen, and essentially any guy who stops by while he's away through the discovery of a little black book explicitly detailing each encounter. Becoming ever more enraged every time he cracks the pages, Tom sets out to systematically lure back, viciously murder, and squirrel away each man mentioned in the hidden tome. The only problem is when Leeza takes her book across town and Tom's rotting victims decide to not rest in peace after all...

After detailing Tim Ritter's very first feature, 1984's Day of the Reaper, and his high praised third, 1986's Truth or Dare?: A Critical Madness, I figured I'd finally see his fourth, 1987's Killing Spree. Some call this feature Ritter's pinnacle as a filmmaker and I'd have to agree considering what I've seen so far. Ritter crafts a very tight little psychofest that's much less rough around the edges than Truth or Dare (TorD). There's more confidence behind the camera with a bevy of interesting angles, cleanly accomplished editing, and cheap flourishes like bright red light flooding the set whenever Tom opens Leeza's book and then suddenly snapping back to normal upon shutting it. The idyllic, eternally sunny Florida cul-de-sac suburb locale also doesn't hurt. Impressive considering Killing Spree was shot for not even half of TorD's cost ($75k vs. $200k).

Otherwise, Killing Spree is a blander tasting brew of ideas explored to better effect in TorD. Looking through Ritter's filmography, it's apparent nearly everything after TorD has been dictated by the concepts of sometimes-escaped psychos, philandering women, and the lawmen hot on their trail initially set forth in 1986. I guess that's okay, but once is enough, especially with the film that blazed that ground in Ritter's career being pretty damn good.

The desperately-in-need-of-a-haircut, Val Venis-sounding Asbestos Felt just can't reach the depth of psychosis seen in John Brace's T&D performance as a man also pushed over the brink by his cheating spouse. You genuinely believe Brace's Ted Bundy-like cunning and desperation; while Felt merely acts perpetually irritated, shouts loudly, manically laughs, and wears far-too-snug underwear. Killing Spree's gore quota feels oddly constrained and only gets truly messy in two splattery sequences of some gushing chainsaw action and hammer/face mutilation after about an hour passes. Also no boobies to speak of with one getting the sense of this being a direct stipulation in Courtney Lercara's contract; even though she went on to only two more outings of zero-budget mayhem (including 1993's Things). On a final note, the aspect of Tom's killings returning to life for revenge is nifty, but again, most of TorD's carnage took place in the lead madman's mind. This added extra resonance to the narrative and character; yet Killing Spree's unexplained corpse uprising isn't in Tom's mind, which only leads to confusion as to what the hell is going on at the conclusion...and something we've already seen in an earlier '80s horror anthology landmark.

If you like 16mm DIY genre backwash, Tim Ritter doesn't disappoint here.
Killing Spree isn't a waste of a slightly intoxicated, Dorito-engorged late night VCR adventure. It's one of those flicks that seems twice as tolerable if watched on ol' trusty VHS. Still, if you've seen Truth or Dare?: A Critical Madness, this lesser exercise isn't all that important. You've already bore witness to the better of Ritter's two looney with martial issues niche splatter classics. Though extra points for the several Fangoria magazine appearances, direct Truth or Dare references, a Sony Betamax machine in Tom and Leeza's den, and one hilarious tidbit involving the hammer smashed face trying to speak after the dead return.
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