So before we get to the latest installment of The Screening Room, there’s a question that I’ve been struggling with.
It’s not one of those easy ones. Stuff like, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Or, “Who shot JFK?” (Which, by the way, Joe Bob has already solved if you know where to look in your National Lampoon back issues). Or, “Why do some companies sell hot dog buns in one quantity but then
the hot dog companies sell the hot dogs in a quantity that does not coincide with the number of buns you bought, so then you either have to feed the extra buns to the birds or go to the gas station and buy a couple of spare hot dogs so stuff evens out?”
Nope, the question that’s been bothering me lately is “How many dead bodies do there have to be in a movie so then you can put ‘massacre’ in the title and be truthful about it?”
But I’m strictly dealing with this in a filmic, Mutant-centric sense, not a real-world or competitive sense. Joe Bob’s busy planning the Jamboree with Darcy, so I couldn’t do the easy thing and ask him. So I had to sharpen a pencil, crack open the laptop and do some capital-R Research.
The easiest place to start is obviously The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (not the first flick with the word in the title, but the one imprinted in culture from here to eternity) and that had four people fall victim to Leatherface and his clan (but the chainsaw technically only killed two of the four). Mardi Gras Massacre, out a couple years later and featuring the only role listed on IMDB by the original Cherry Dilday
(as Disco Girl 2), had four. Slumber Party Massacre had 10. Sorority House Massacre had six and Cheerleader Massacre had around a dozen. Roger Corman always makes sure his massacres were bigger and better.
To answer the ponderous question posed earlier, I guess for a flick to have credibility enough to throw “massacre” in the title, there has to be at least FOUR dead bodies in it, otherwise the use of the word’s a no-go and you can go ahead and post mean things about the person responsible for the title on social media if you find out who they are.
We have to have standards here, you know, and the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a good one to have.
Speaking of standards, this spring has been below our standards, temperature-wise, up here in northern Ohio, so the kids here haven’t been able to go running out in the backyard and swing croquet
mallets at soccer balls or at each other in their spring conditioning efforts for the summer full-contact beanbag toss leagues that are forming as a humane alternative to pickleball here in Cleveburg.
Ever since they disbanded the winter AAU Rollerball league out in Parma, my teenage son’s had to default to basketball himself. So he’s churning with raging disappointment, and rather than ask myself some really hard questions and seriously reflect upon my failure to preserve our nation’s competitive heritage by saving the Cleveburg Teenager Rollerball League as any great father would do, I instead watched Garden Party Massacre, keeping that four dead-body baseline total in mind.
And in the end, only two actual people in this flick met their demises proper adjacent the majestic layout of paper plates, plastic forks and tiki torches overseen by vigilant garden gnomes in the checked shadow of the backyard pergola in the flick. So if you are expecting a slasher where a group of partygoers are whipped to death with wire wickets, have their spines severed by sharp shears and then get garroted by a green garden hose, those do not occur in this film.
Which is in a way a bit of a shame because judging by her demeanor at the flick’s outset and throughout, party hostess Addison (Nichole Bagby) sure looked like she would have been the most likely candidate to go on said homicidal rampage. She’s extraordinarily stressed out because she and her long-term boyfriend Caleb (Andy Gates) are having guests soon. From the outset she has a tendency to wave a knife around while aggressively preparing a veggie tray.
Things don’t get much better regarding her mood when the two male guests from Caleb’s baseball team, the unambiguously gay Wesley and the ambiguously gay Lincoln (aka “Link,” aka the flick’s
writer/director Gregory Blair) show up.
Wesley (David Leeper) brings vegan tibouli salad. Lincoln brings a couple bottles of wine. Addison’s friend Reena (Lise Hart) brings a red velvet cake.
Final guest Melanie, she of the magenta hair, leopard-print outfit and neon green fingernails, brings a
fruitcake that no one touches and the annoying in spades while pursing Link. It’s no wonder her husband’s head exploded after two months of marriage.
Then a big, bald psycho killer carrying a pickaxe shows up to crash the party, molest Rena’s cake and smear red velvet frosting all over the place, entrapping them in the house while they still try to figure out Lincoln’s sexuality, whether Addison will end up marrying or murdering Caleb and if anyone will be able to rescue the cake or escape with their lives.
Yes, it’s really a comedy, but we still gotta do …
Best Bottle Uncorking Technique: Lincoln holds the bottle at crotch-level and thrusts, giving his two observers an interesting silhouette to process and sending Wesley’s imagination aflutter.
Best X-Men Imitation: Reena is an olive fiend and does that thing where you put the holes of the olives on each of your fingers and thumb and then eats them all.
Best Monologue Railing Against Our Ongoing Failure to Live in the Moment: Caleb explains why people can’t use their cell phones at the party: “Our phones and virtual connections are becoming more
important than our real realities. You can’t just have a meal anymore or an evening out. You have to document it and share it with everyone who isn’t there. If we’re going to invite people to be at our party, they’re going to have to be at our party.”
Best Manners: Link habitually raises his hand before speaking and Blair’s character recalls kind of an Emo Phillips/Rick Moranis hybrid.
Best Line of Defense: While under siege by Randy, the menacing killer, the survivors gather a pipe wrench, knife, fireplace poker, curtain rod and then a can of hairspray with the intention of creating a flamethrower to fight back.
Best Beatdown: A tire iron, curtain rod and car jack take down the killer.
Best Rant: Addison goes on a huge monologue about how Earth can communicate with astronauts in space but she’s not able to get reliable Internet service or cell phone service from a tower a couple of blocks away.
As a microbudget comedy with horror winks, bawdy innuendo and as a massacre movie, Garden Party Massacre works all the angles. While some of the characters are kind of one-note at times and might get grating to folks who aren’t in the right frame of mind, the breezy 70-some-odd minute flick doesn’t overstay its welcome. Gregory Blair, as the writer/director and actor, put together a plenty goofy farce that delivers on the massacre part for those who stick it out after a 10 Cloverfield Lane left turn George Romero might have liked. (It’s just not live people that get massacred in the end).
Garden Party Massacre can be streamed on TubiTV or the physical media is out there as well from MVDshop.com. Check it out!