165. Memorial Valley Massacre (1989)
Director: Robert C. Hughes
Writers: Robert C. Hughes and George Frances Skrow
A campground opens for its inaugural Memorial Day Weekend, but is beset by problems that aren’t wholly the fault of the boorish customers. A wildman is stalking the campgrounds, seemingly exacting nature’s vengeance on those who’d cross him.
This is trash and I love (very nearly) every minute of it. The movie starts with our lord and savior, Cameron Mitchell checking on the condition of the campgrounds he’s been developing. Turns out there are all sorts of problems running the gamut from a lack of running water to the recent suspicious death of a contractor. He demands the park open anyway just as his naturalist son arrives seeking work. Mitchell gives him a job as assistant to the chief ranger, which the chief ranger doesn’t like at all.
And then it doesn’t matter. The customers who decide to stay are all hilariously, but not quite cartoonishly, awful inverting the slasher movie morality. Even though slasher movies have a set of rules you’re not supposed to break, you’re also supposed to have some sympathy for the victims. Here, you’re rooting for the killer from jump street. The only time I wasn’t on his side was when he killed a dog, but that happens off-screen and the dog is such a bad dog actor that, even though it’s supposed to be threatening the killer, can’t help but be vigorously wagging its tail the whole time. You guys, doggo is so happy to be in this movie! How can you be mad?
The inevitable deadmeats include a klepto fat kid who wanders around playing with a knife, some kids into “speed metal” that sounds like lite rock, a bike gang that’s lost all its members to middle class softness, and a retired general and his wife sitting in an RV. All the deaths are pretty hilarious including a trio of people getting crushed by a rolling truck that could easily stepped away from. There’s also a man on fire.
+2 points for man on fire.
There are clichés: the forest ranger is gruff, but has a sad past he’s trying to cover up, Mitchell’s son is suspected of being in it for the money but is actually hoping to protect the forest, there’s a love interest you couldn’t possibly care about, lather, rinse, repeat. The movie doesn’t really innovate in any way, but the enthusiasm with which it pursues its clichés and cheapness is really endearing.
This comes at the end of 80’s direct-to-video/made-for-TV glory and it’s clear that this was intended for broadcast in the Saturday afternoon slot or on USA Up All Night. The movie is completely TV-safe despite its plot which is the big clue as to what the producers intended, and I love it. I unabashedly love this movie. It’s probably one of my favorite flicks in any of these sets.
This was the fourth or fifth time I’ve watched it and, fourteen minutes in, I started laughing at how bad it is. Still. And this is a movie where the first death doesn’t happen until nearly halfway through. Normally I’d complain about it being a failed slow-burn or not knowing what it was trying to do, or being a crass attempt at being a genre picture—and it is—but it has just the right mix of competence, ineptness, and straight-up weirdness, that it never fails to delight me. Memorial Valley Massacre is pure Bull Dada and it’s what I hope all these movies are.