Thursday, March 19, 2015

Review: Jersey Shore Massacre (2014)

Jersey Shore Massacre (2014)

Rated R for graphic bloody horror violence, sexual content, nudity, language and brief drug material

This is one of those (*ahem*) situations where the title and the poster really just say it all. If you're buying a movie called Jersey Shore Massacre, you'd be a fuckin' mook to expect anything other than blood, guts, and boobs spilling from the tanned-up bodies of a bunch of Staten Island fist-pumpers (because actual New Jerseyans have more class than that). It's produced by JWoww herself, Jenny Farley, and the trailer tells us "you're not the only one who wants them dead". And while Jersey Shore may be a few years out of date at this point, anyone who grew up in the Garden State can tell you that there can never be enough temporal distance put between the present and that travesty of a show. Fortunately, unlike some other direct-to-video schlock (*cough*Sorority Party Massacre*cough*) that promised way more than it delivered, Jersey Shore Massacre definitely lives up to its title and, uh, pedigree. It's campy and dumb as all hell, the cast is composed entirely of slasher flick caricatures given Jersey makeovers (i.e. everyone except the obligatory level-headed heroine is a horny jock or a slut), and the reveal of the villain was terrible, but it delivers everything you could possibly hope for from a movie like this.

Our main characters are a group of girlfriends, led by Teresa and Dina, heading down to Seaside Heights for a weekend of sun, fun, and sex, only to find out when they get there that the dumbass, pot-smoking owner of their rental (Ron Jeremy in a cameo) accidentally leased it out to another group of people. Fortunately, Teresa's "legitimate businessman" uncle has a house out in the Pine Barrens (which are depicted as pretty much West Virginia) that they can use, and together with a group of beefcake guido meatheads hoping to get laid, they all head there.

What follows is roughly forty-five minutes of old-school slasher movie goodness. If nothing else, this flick has a remarkably high body count, especially given that most of it is crammed into the back half of the film. It does not hold back with the kills, either, which have quality to spare as much as quantity. They are simultaneously creative and well-done, with the killer employing an arsenal composed of everything from the usual knives, swords, and meat cleavers to more exotic implements like sand belts, a manual hand-crank chainsaw, and (of course) a tanning bed that roasts some poor GTL'er alive, with disgustingly graphic special effects on nearly all of them. This isn't the sort of film that's about leaving things to the imagination -- it knows that we want to see these people all meet spectacularly violent ends, and it gleefully obliges. It's pure slasher formula, but I can't deny that it worked on that level, and writer/director Paul Tarnopol threw in enough shout-outs to classic horror films that it felt more like an homage than a ripoff. There was a lot of love for '80s slashers in this, and it showed in every frame, with a lot of good humor and merciless mockery of its characters throughout.

It just takes a bit of time to get going, is all. Apart from the opening kills, most of the "action" occurs in the second half of the movie, the first half being, essentially, a raunchy sex comedy in which our main characters get into various misadventures in their cabin and in Seaside Heights. Their antics include destroying a sandcastle that a father and daughter had spent all day building, encountering a washed-up '90s rapper named "Italian Ice", getting thrown out of a club, going on a Jersey Devil tour through the woods, watching a cheesy slasher movie (which the filmmakers actually shot and included on the special features), and of course, smushing. It's basically a (more) scripted, uncensored version of a Jersey Shore episode, only here, the humor is deliberate, and purely at the expense of its dumbass main characters. It was funny for a time, but it's a good thing the kills got going when they did, because it was wearing out its welcome by the forty-five-minute mark. Apart from Teresa, Dina, and the minor character/early victim Gigi, very few of them get any sort of development beyond stereotype, and they all play it very broad, acting more with their loud, obnoxious accents than anything. Teresa's actress, Danielle Dallacco, was the only one who even tried to give an actual performance. It didn't do much to get me to care about their characters in any way, but it certainly did the trick in making me hate them; admittedly, that was the whole point of the film, but I'd have liked to see just a few more people I could root for besides Teresa.

Finally, we come to the villain, who turned out to be just some random redneck wearing an admittedly cool-looking mask whose only motive was "it's a Jersey thing". As far as slashers go, he's as generic as they come, and there were so many better villains they could have come up with. You couldn't at least have it be the Jersey Devil killing them, given the tour the characters go on in the beginning and what the guy's creepy mask looks like? Or maybe an ex-friend of Teresa's who wants payback for some stupid reason or another (and knowing these characters, of course it'd have to be something stupid). Or, better yet, build on the opening scene (which has almost nothing to do with the movie) and make the villain a dead mob hit, back from the dead and out for revenge against the mobster who killed him, targeting Teresa and her friends because she's his daughter. The killer this film does have, though, was so bland and cookie-cutter that his reveal sucked a lot of the energy out of the room, and when combined with a false ending and characters making dumb decisions that are no longer played for a joke this time, it made the last ten minutes a bit of a drag.

Score: 3 out of 5

I'm sorry. I have no excuse for even watching this movie in the first place, let alone handing it anything other than the lowest possible score. But when it comes to plotless bloodbaths so dumb that they make Harry and Lloyd look like Carl Sagan, Jersey Shore Massacre does the job and it does it well.

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