The slasher film subgenre has banked pretty heavily on the holiday calendar for much of its success. With 4/20 Massacre, writer and director Dylan Reynolds has taken the rather creative route of embracing a relatively new holiday for a slasher film – ‘4/20’, or April 20, the day of all things marijuana. Not surprisingly, 4/20 Massacre has been marketed as a horror comedy. It probably couldn’t work any other way.
Unfortunately, 4/20 Massacre wasn’t available to Canadian audiences this past April 20. However, that problem was rectified as of yesterday and now 4/20 Massacre has finally hit select streaming platforms. The ‘stoner’ horror-comedy already has a few positive reviews circulating so I was hopeful it could break the doldrums of some the recent horror duds.
The plot to 4/20 Massacre doesn’t deviate much from the standard slasher film blueprint. Five friends head off into the woods for a camping trip to celebrate a birthday. Among the group is rough-around-the-edges Rachel, the prissy Michelle, pothead Donna, Aubrey, and the level-headed birthday girl ,Jess. As they leave their car behind to hike to the camping site, a park ranger warns them about ‘guerrilla’ marijuana farmers. It also happens to be 4/20 so when the friends decide to ‘light up’ their high times are interrupted by a madman who will do anything to protect his crop.
Good Mix of Gross-Out Horror and Comedy
Reynolds directs his violence with a fairly deft balance of over-the-top, gross-out gore, and outrageous humour.
With respect to style and tone, 4/20 Massacre is most reminiscent of late-80’s slasher, Intruder. Reynolds directs his violence with a fairly deft balance of over-the-top, gross-out gore, and outrageous humour. This is the kind of movie that will have you screaming and laughing aloud at the same time. A pothead has her bong shoved through the back of her head; the scene ends with the killer taking a last hit before throwing her body aside. In an earlier scene, another character has his stomach cut open and desperately clings to his intestines as they slip through his fingers.
All of the the gore effects for these scenes – created by Brennan Jones – are very impressive for such a low-budget film. It looks like 4/20 Massacre uses all practical effects and it’s a better film for it. Even if the intestines looked like a string of sausages, the blood, guts, and viscera were all well designed.
The Acting Performances Light up ‘4/20’
Another area in which Reynold’s 4/20 Massacre stands out from its low-budget peers is the acting and characters. Unlike most slasher films, the five main characters are surprisingly likeable, presenting with fairly relatable traits. In addition, 4/20 Massacre spends just enough time with each of the characters to develop some empathy for them.
Aubrey’s romantic feelings for best-friend Jess is handled well and their scenes together actually carry some emotional weight. Both Jamie Bernadette (Jess) and Vanessa Rose Parker (Aubrey) turn in performances that are much better than what you would normally expect from this type of film. Even Stacey Danger’s pothead Donna rises above being a caricature. The result of this character development is some investment in the slower moments when someone isn’t being killed.
Well-Paced and Edited Thrills
Much of the effectiveness of these scares can be attributed to the film’s smooth editing and decent framing of the action.
For a low-budget horror film, 4/20 Massacre is surprisingly well-edited and tightly paced. Reynolds actually manages to get a couple of good jump-scares into the movie. Much of the effectiveness of these scares can be attributed to the film’s smooth editing and decent framing of the action. There are a couple of moments in the film that drag a little, but 4/20 Massacre never overstays its welcome.
To be sure, 4/20 Massacre is far from a perfect film. Although the credits rather boldly credit the film’s killer as ‘The Shape’, 4/20 Massacre’s villain is rather forgettable. Visually and personality-wise, he doesn’t offer much, making very little of an impression over the course of the movie. The film’s score is fine – it doesn’t distract or overpower the action – but it leans a little to heavily on the 80’s vibe, which has been done to death at this point.
A Joint Worth Rolling Up
Over the last several weeks, I’ve reviewed quite a few low-budget horror films for this blog. In most cases, I have been pretty disappointed with most of these movies. Fortunately, 4/20 Massacre is exactly what a low-budget horror film can and should be for fans. It’s a fun, gleefully gross, and self-aware horror film that doesn’t try to be anything more than a good slasher film. For fans of this type of horror film, 4/20 Massacre is a joint worth rolling.
THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: B