DEMENTED DEATH FARM MASSACRE
Directed by Donn Davison. 1972. United States.
Back in the 1970s and the 1980s, it wasn't all that uncommon for distributors or producers to buy small market films for the purpose of re-editing. Roberta and Michael Findlay's SLAUGHTER is perhaps the most well known of these films. A Manson Family based schlocker, SLAUGHTER would be re-edited and re-purposed by distributor Allan Shackleton into SNUFF, complete with a new ending purportedly showing the actual murder of a crew member. It also wasn't uncommon for films, both domestic and foreign, to have new hardcore sex scenes or quick bits of newly filmed violence cut into them, all for the purposes of making a few more bucks at the drive-ins or the grindhouses. Hell, even films like MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH have hardcore sex versions available for viewing.
Donn Davison's harmless bit of hicksploitation, SHANTYTOWN HONEYMOON, received the re-edit treatment from none other than lazy hack director Fred Olen Ray in 1986. Only Ray's idea of a re-edit leaves quite a lot to be desired. The added material meant to spice up this otherwise dull endeavor consists of a few moments of John Carradine reading Bible verses off of cue cards, presumably because Ray couldn't find anyone willing to fuck on camera. Davison's film is otherwise, for better or for worse, unmolested. Believe me when I say that the film needed a helluva lot more than a nearly catatonic John Carradine to save it.
The film also received the obligatory re-title. What was shit out onto VHS by Troma (because of course it was) was re-titled DEMENTED DEATH FARM MASSACRE (because of course it was). Now if you were a horror fan in the 1980s, you probably knew better than to get your hopes up for any movie with the word “massacre” in the title unless that film was directed by Tobe Hooper. "The Blah Blah Massacre” was the ultimate giveaway. Look at films like THE NEW YORK CENTERFOLD MASSACRE, NAIL GUN MASSACRE, MOUNTAINTOP MOTEL MASSACRE, CLASS REUNION MASSACRE, ZOMBIE ISLAND MASSACRE... You knew the movie was going to be terrible just from the title. The only “massacre” movie that isn't terrible, apart from Hooper's films, is the aforementioned MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH. In fact, if you're going to watch one “massacre” movie that just so happens to star someone from the Carradine family, make it that one.
I guess I should explain what this film is about, huh? Well, there's a quartet of jewel thieves (none of whom look capable of tying their shoe laces let alone robbing a jewelry store) on the run from the law. There's Philip, the leader of the group, with his bad British accent. There's Kirk, the muscle, with his bad attitude. And then there's Karen and Susan, with their empty heads and large breasts. The quartet takes refuge at the home of a bitter, religious moonshiner (and drunk) named Harlan. Harlan has himself a young, gorgeous wife named Ruby Sue, who was sold to him by a friend for 200 bucks. In short order, Harlan takes a shining to the busty Susan, Karen ends up dead after catching Kirk bedding Ruby Sue, and Philip decides to muscle in on Harlan's moonshine business. Hijinks and murders ensue.
There really isn't much to say about DEMENTED DEATH FARM MASSACRE. There isn't some well hidden bevy of meaning behind the whole thing (apart from “greed is bad”), nor is there anything truly special about how the film operates. It tries hard to convince you that what you're about to witness is going to be terrible and traumatic. You might even get a few LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT vibes during the early moments of the film. But despite all the creepy music that accompanies our quartet of villains as they stroll through the woods, the film is far too rooted in hicksploitation to ever really cross into thriller territory.
Hicksploitation was far more interested in softcore porn than it was in the more serious thriller territory. Take a look at Harry Novak's back catalog for better examples of this kind of thing, movies like SASSY SUE, THE PIGKEEPER'S DAUGHTER or COUNTRY CUZZINS. There's a bit of those movies floating around in the DNA of DEMENTED DEATH FARM MASSACRE. The characters are all blatant stereotypes, written and performed with as much restraint as a cat in a yarn factory. The women, all of whom are easy on the eyes, spend their time in as little clothing as possible. Harlan is every hicksploitation character rolled up into one unappealing package. It looks like your average hicksploitation film, sounds like your average hicksploitation film and acts like your average hicksploitation film. But it isn't nearly as fun as your average hicksploitation film. Because for as poorly made as the majority of those films were, they were often quite a lot of fun to watch. They were rarely mean spirited, even more rarely without simple pleasures like groan worthy sight gags and plentiful nudity.
Unfortunately, DEMENTED DEATH FARM MASSACRE isn't fun. There are attempts at comedy here, but those attempts fall flat. There are attempts at shocking violence, but those attempts are undermined by the cheap effects (ie. the blood really is just ketchup here) and poor delivery. The two sides of the story, the sex-driven hicksploitation and the murder-driven crime thriller, never meet somewhere in the middle, and as a result the entire film feels disjointed, dull and dreadful. Had Davison decided to more actively pursue one single kind of film here, the movie could have been an entertaining little romp. All the pieces are there for a solid bit of exploitation goodness. The beautiful, busty ladies. The campy villains. The clash of country living vs the big city life. Dozens of good hicksploitation films were built on the backs of those elements and dozens of solid pieces of exploitation thriller fluff were too.
But DEMENTED DEATH FARM MASSACRE doesn't commit to any one thing and as a result, fails at virtually everything. It isn't an intolerable film, I will say that. I didn't exactly hate it. But for the entire 85 minute running time, all I wanted to do was go watch Rene Bond hose herself down in the backyard or watch Leslie Lee chop Jack Canon to bits. This is a “me too” film and unfortunately your time is simply better spent watching one of the dozens upon dozens of other films that did this kind of thing better. But if you're hard up, and I mean flat out dying for a hicksploitation fix... well, DEMENTED DEATH FARM MASSACRE ain't gonna kill you, but it ain't gonna leave you feeling satisfied either.