BACKWOODS BUTCHERS DVD SET PART 2
Main Cast: Adam Scarimbolo, Emily Grace
Director: Jeff Roenning
Whenever I watch a movie I’m going to review, I always look up the writer and director afterward, or sometimes during if it’s a particular good movie, to see what else the people who made it have done. So after I finished Mother’s Day Massacre today, I looked up the writer/director Jeff Roenning to find this is the only movie he’s made. He’s worked on other movies, was apprentice sound editor on the 1996 Travolta movie Michael, but 2007’s Mother’s Day Massacre is, to date, his only writer or director credit.
And it’s not that this is the worst movie ever made, so it makes me wonder why he only made the one. Was the process much harder than he expected and he never wants to do it again? Did he only have one idea? Does he have twenty other scripts he’s been trying to get made but people saw this one and said, “Pass”? I’m curious. Not curious enough to dig deeper, but curious nonetheless. Because, I’m just saying, if I was a filmmaker and this was my only credit, something inside me would feel the need to do just one more. You know, a good one.
Mother’s Day Massacre is the story, for what it’s worth, of Jim Cavanaugh, a “shy suburban New Jersey teenager” and his friends who travel to a small backwoods part of the state one weekend to see whatever happened to the mother who abandoned him. What they find isn’t Jim’s long-lost mother, but a couple of barely-functional brothers with a taste for murder and mayhem. Jim and, well, half of the party, escape and make it back home, but it turns out the mother of the two killers isn’t quite done with Jim Cavanaugh and his family.
Let’s start with the plot. The story itself contains several complexities that you don’t normally find in this type of movie working on this type of budget, so I have to give Roenning credit for at least putting forth some effort with the plot. The script, on the other hand …
You know what’s worse than a badly-written script? A badly-written script brought to life with amateur level acting. And some of these actors have legit credits, before and after this movie. Carlito’s Way, “As the World Turns”, “The Sopranos”. So I can only guess that the failings in the performances weren’t in the experience of the cast, but in the direction and writing, because you’d think in a movie with a full cast of 24 credited characters, one of them would be good. It’s like Ray Bradbury’s advice to writers: write a story a week for one year, eventually one of them will be good because it’s impossible to write 52 bad short stories in a row. I feel like that about this movie. Surely ONE of the 24 could pull it off, right? Right? BAH!!!!
Don’t worry, though, there were many more problems than just the performances. Let’s take the special effects. I don’t think someone just out of shot tossing a cup of fake blood on a wall to simulate bloodspatter from someone getting an ax in the chest counts. I mean, I guess if you want to get technical, sure it’s a “special” effect, but is it REALLY?
And speaking of that ax in the chest, how about if you make it look like someone’s actually getting an ax in the chest as opposed to the “killer” is clearly not even trying. In one scene, the killer sort of nudges the ax toward the actor, the actor goes down, and the killer has to fight for several seconds to pull the ax from the actor’s chest. I guess because his suggestion that the guy take the ax from him was too powerful? Had to be, because it sure as hell wasn’t that swing.
I’m also trying really hard to find good things to say about the House of X soundtrack, but it’s just not my kind of music. And I’m sure there are some slasher scenes out there where these songs would fit perfectly, but in this half-hearted attempt the deathmetal just feels like someone is trying too hard to be edgy. Lemme tell you, this movie isn’t edgy.
I suppose if I have to go out on a positive note, I can mention the totally nihilistic ending where all is terrible and the bad guys win? Well, to a degree. I’m not going to spoil it just in case one of you reading this decides not to heed my warning (in which case you can watch it free on YouTube) but the ending was pretty dark and not at all what I was expecting, so if you dig really dark endings, there’s that at least to look forward to.
But the truth is, you really shouldn’t waste your time. As this universe spins ever onward toward unavoidable oblivion, time grows shorter and there are so many other, better, more deserving movies out there to spend what time we have left watching. Go find one of those. Mother’s Day Massacre isn’t it, folks.
C. Dennis Moore is the author of over 60 published short stories and novellas in the speculative fiction genre. Most recent appearances were in the Dark Highlands 2, What Fears Become, Dead Bait 3 and Dark Highways anthologies. His novels are Revelations, and the Angel Hill stories, The Man in the Window, The Third Floor, The Ghosts of Mertland and The Flip. He is writing another Angel Hill novel called Return to Angel Hill with co-author David Bain.