Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Ghoul Versus Home Sweet Home (1981)

Come celebrate Thanksgiving on A Ghoul Versus... as we try to find a movie about the red headed stepchild of holidays!”

You ever notice there is a dearth of movies about Thanksgiving in the same vein that there are a trillion Christmas and Halloween movies? Hell, even freaking PRESIDENT'S DAY, the lamest holiday of all time, got its own damn movie! Sure, there's stuff like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, Dutch, and the Ice Storm, but in those Thanksgiving is more a plot device than the actual focus of the story. There is last year's animated Free Birds, which features turkeys TRAVELING BACK IN TIME to prevent turkeys becoming the main course of Thanksgiving dinners everywhere, which is certainly batshit crazy enough to qualify for this blog buuuuuuuuut... I don't know, I have no desire to watch that.

Since I already screwed up this holiday review by already doing Liam Neeson's Unknown, as it was took place during Thanksgiving, I made a list of all movies associated with the holiday to find something else. I found most of them were comedies and immediately crossed them off, since those are just no fun to review for reasons I've mentioned before.  Naturally I found myself left with horror movies because OF COURSE I FREAKING DID. No matter how hard I try, I just can't escape horror movies. What, was that a whopping THREE movies I managed to watch without a horror one? GO ME!

The obvious choice for my Thanksgiving review was 2005's Boogeyman, which somehow managed to top the box office upon its release despite being BOOOOOOOORING. But this movie managed to spawn TWO sequels, and I am absolutely not down for that right now. So I went with an obscure choice, 1981's Home Sweet Home. I selected this for two reasons, it's AWESOME tag line of “This year it's not the turkey being carved for Thanksgiving” and the fact it's been released under multiple titles. Any horror that has alternate titles is ALWAYS guaranteed to be worth a few laughs, so here we are.

Home Sweet Home was directed by Nettie Peña, a first time director whose only other major credit was a 1978 hardcore porno eloquently called Dracula Sucks, which I imagine is STILL funnier than Jason Friedberg's and Aaron Seltzer's spoof abortion Vampires Suck. She doesn't seem to be too proud of this movie, as there's no mention of it whatsoever on her Google Plus profile. Come on Nettie, not only are you one of the few directors to make a Thanksgiving movie, you made the very first horror themed one! You should be proud of that! Let's see how proud with A Ghoul Versus Home Sweet Home (1981)!

We open with some guy getting hammered in his station wagon on cheap beer when he turns to us and asks if we'd like one. Never mind, he was offering one to the Incredible Hulk. The Hulk, offended because it's only Budweiser, drags him out of the car and chokes him to death while cackling maniacally the entire time. The radio in car informs us police are on the hunt for escaped mental patient Jay Jones and damn Hulk, you better be careful! There's a wacko on the- ohhh, the Hulk IS Jay Jones, I get it now.

Jay is played by Jake Steinfeld, who is FREAKING BUFF AS HELL in this movie. He even looks a lot like Lou Ferrigno, due in no part to that bitching perm he's rocking. He's had a largely under the radar career, but did play the equally buff rat Git in the Pixar film Ratatouille so that has to make up for a lot of those lowly years. As the report details how insane he is, Jay goes for the gusto and INJECTS PCP INTO HIS TONGUE. Holy shit, that's... actually quite disturbing.

He fires up the car and drives off, the film making sure to show the tattoo on the back of his left hand that reads “Home Sweet Home”. You think they edited that out when this film was released as Slasher In The House or BloodParty? Jay drives down the interstate in nice continuous shot, and I must say I am impressed at how good of a driver he is considering he just SHOT PCP INTO HIS TONGUE. Whoops, looks like I spoke to soon because he just plowed over an old lady carrying bags of groceries in a crosswalk. I'm guessing she's fine though because his windshield is splattered with strawberry jam and not blood. I hope at least he offered to buy her a new jar.

Enough of this though, we have our pool of victims to meet! Harold Bradley, failed record executive and mustache aficionado, is holding Thanksgiving at his ranch house this year. He's a loving father, who... calls his teenage son “Mistake”, throws beer cans at him, and tries chase him down so he can beat him up for playing a guitar outside. Aww, my zombie heart is warmed already.  Mistake spends the entire length of the film wearing KISS face paint, but it's done so poorly he just comes off as a failed mime.  We join guests Scott and his girlfriend Jennifer, whom I'm just going to call “Mmm Lady” because that's been every other word out of her mouth so far, as they arrive for the feast.

Scott and Mmm Lady pull up in front of Harold's house and decide that's the best place in the world to start having sex in the front seat of the car. Why not, really? It's not like there isn't a house full of people like thirty feet away from them. Mistake, having evaded his father, shows up to watch them and immediately earns Scott's ire. Scott begins to chase him for the next sixty minutes, chasing him through the house and into Harold's bedroom where he's undressing his girlfriend Linda. I never knew Thanksgiving made people so horny, I guess I've been doing it wrong.

Now it's Linda's turn to chase Mistake, and boy this movie is taking its sweet time. After splattering that old woman in the beginning it's been nothing but sex, running, and bitching about Mistake. Maybe introducing us to more of the house guests will get this plot moving. Let's see... there's famed drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, his young girlfriend Maria, Linda's best friend Gail, and Gail's young daughter Angel. Angel is played by a five year old Vinessa Shaw, an actress who would go on to have a pretty respectable career with roles as varied as Eyes Wide Shut to Alexander Aja's remake of the Hills Have Eyes. It's also worth noting Maria is as much of a spaz as Mistake, as she ALSO plays guitar around the house for no good reason. I think she's supposed to be the comic relief because she can't speak a word of English and makes a lot of weird faces.

Linda and Gail realize there's no wine in the house to drink away the ignominy of being in this movie, so they borrow Scott's car to go buy some. Alright, separating the cast into more easily killable groups, NOW we're getting somewhere! As they drive into town, they pass a trailer where Jay is hiding out and cleaning the jam off his windshield, our resident psycho deciding to investigate where they came from and discovers Harold's house. Jay and his muscles creep around outside the house to the fuse box, where he cuts the power. This draws out Harold to turn on the backup generator, who begins to grow very suspicious of the suspenseful music playing. One of these days slashers are going to learn to turn that shit down, and then their killing sprees will go MUCH smoother.

Harold shrugs it off though, as it was probably just some raccoons or swamp gas. He goes back inside where he tells everyone the generator only has enough gas to last a few hours so he's going to go get some more. He get dressed and maybe I got confused and started reviewing a Halloween movie, because that's obviously a Burt Reynolds costume from Smokey and the Bandit that he just put on. Oh, but get this! HIS JEEP WON'T START! Good God am I getting sick of this one, maybe I'll start reviewing westerns so I can avoid a movie with cars.

After a few more attempts the engine does start, but now it's been established that it's unreliable so you know this issue will turn up at the most dramatic moment possible. Engines have a twisted sense of humour like that. On his way out, Harold notices Jay's jacked car and pulls over to investigate it, Jay secretly watching him from the bushes. He decides to steal the gas from the car because I guess he REALLY took a bath on his failed business and he's got to cut corners wherever possible? When he gets back into his jeep it- GASP!- won't start so he goes to steal the battery from the car as well. Damn, Harold doesn't fuck around with what he wants!  This proves to be unwise, because Jay jumps on the hood and crushes Harold's skull like a grape. And that's why you don't take things that aren't yours kids, you might get killed by a musclebound giant high on PCP. I had no idea this was going to be an educational film when I settled down to watch it.
Jay returns to the house and cuts the phone lines because he's nothing if not well prepared. Well, except for killing those two people in broad daylight in a heavily populated city, bu no one's perfect. Inside, Pablo gets tired of waiting for Harold to return so he decides to go looking for him. Great idea, going out alone in a slasher movie. That NEVER backfires- oh didn't even get time to finish that sentence because Jay appears and strangles him to death. Farewell Pablo, at least you can go to the great beyond knowing you'll be immortalized in about a million rap songs. But hey, now that he's gone that gives Scott and Mmm Lady the perfect chance to sneak upstairs to resume their aborted car sex session. Sex in a slasher film, that ALSO never goes awry.

The movie returns to Linda and Gail, who have gotten lost on their trip back from the store. They get pulled over by two police officers for speeding in a scene that feels completely improvised, the officers giving them a warning and driving off. Their luck ends there though, because when Linda goes to start the car- no, you've got to be kidding me. TWO plot convenient no start cars?! That's some bottom of the barrel scraping shit right there. They start walking home where they run into Jay, and I'm not too sure what happens next because this scene is so freaking dark it's nearly impossible to see anything. It's basically a black screen for a few minutes in which both women wind up dead. You can't argue with Jay here, the man gets results. However I do question him killing off this way people so fast, we still have half an hour of the movie left. You gotta pace yourself man!

We return to Harold's house, where everyone is digging in for dinner while Jay watches them through the window waiting for his next victim to have a flimsy excuse to go outside. You know, who's supposed to be the HERO of this movie? Like, the person that we're supposed to care about and want to see escape the house of horrors? The only one I give a damn about is Angel, as she's the only likeable person in this entire freak show. If it ends up being Mistake, we're going to have problems Peña!  And there's Jay's opportunity, as Mistake, who is quite taken with Maria over their bond of shared weirdness, accidentally spills cranberry sauce on her. She goes to the bathroom to wash up where Jay jumps her, but Mistake walks in before he can slit her throat. Jay takes them both outside into the pitch black so we can't see a single thing that's going on, stabbing Maria to death. Mistake runs for his life. I think. I can't see, but I'm going to assume by the sound of running that's what's going on.

Many minutes of black screen later Mistake wanders in front of apparently the only light the production team owned, which is helpful since we're able to see Jay kill him by strangling him with his guitar cord. The guitar bursts into flames because THAT makes sense. Well, at least my fears about Mistake having to carry this movie are allayed. That just leaves ultra bland duo of Scott and Mmm Lady, as well as Angel who BETTER not wind up on the victim list. Scott goes outside to check on the generator or something, finding Maria's body. His response is HILARIOUS, as I think he was the inspiration for Harry Mason's comatose line reading from the first Silent Hill video game.

“Oh God, what's going on here.”

He delivered that with all the enthusiasm and emotion of a man reading the closing minutes of a city council meeting. I actually looked up his IMDB page PRAYING he was indeed the voice of Harry Mason, but alas, was met with more disappointment than by how boring this movie is. He runs back into the house, telling Mmm Lady that Mistake has gone psycho. Her response is as equally funny as his, her tone matching only the excitement of an auditor reviewing some zoning laws. Scott concludes they should all lock themselves in the house and stay together, since Mistake can't take on all three of them at once. THREE? What Scott, you're planning on getting Angel involved in this? Heroic much? Although how badass would it be if Angel was the sole survivor of this night? Fingers crossed!

Scott goes into the kitchen to grab a knife, Mmm Lady asking him what it's for. REALLY? Duh, to carve the fucking turkey you dumb ass! It's getting cold. Ohh, and there go the lights because it's no fair that the outdoors should have the lockdown on incomprehensibly lit scenes. Scott explores the house to make sure all the doors are locked while Mmm Lady and Angel huddle together in the living room, which goes one FOREVER. It really is amusing how scared they are at the prospect of being killed by Mistake, the kid's like a hundred pounds tops. I'm pretty sure Angel COULD take him out single handedly.

Five years later SOMETHING HAPPENS! On his way to take Angel to the bathroom, Scott gets attacked by Jay. I almost forgot he was in this movie! Hell, I almost forgot how my eyes even work I got so accustomed to staring at darkness. Mmm Lady grabs Scott's knife and stabs Jay in the back, the two using this diversion to run outside. UMMM, aren't you assholes forgetting something?! A little girl left alone in the room with a fucking pissed off murderer? Ringing any bells? Mmm Lady finally realizes this MINOR oversight, Scott going back in to get her. He walks right into Jay, who slits his throat. Can't say I'm too sad over this one.

Mmm Lady goes into full force “fuck the kid” mode and runs upstairs, hiding in a closet, which experts agree is always the smartest thing to do in a slasher movie. You don't EVER want to run outside where you can't get trapped, no sir. Jay is able to follow her thanks to his PCP-fueled sonar, as even the sound guy gets as bored as I am and starts playing whimsical circus music just to see if he can get away with it. He does. About to be discovered, Mmm Lady gets the brilliant idea to... play dead? What? Jay opens the door and the scene ends.

It's now the next morning, the two cops from earlier driving along the road where they discover Gail's body. They don't bother to, you know, CALL IT IN or anything, but instead bust out the shotguns and go exploring. We return to the house, where Mmm Lady carefully sneaks out of the closet. Wait, she was in a DIFFERENT closet? That was just a fakeout I guess? Again, this film is so fucking dark I can't follow any of it. Why did she play dead then? Was that supposed to be her fainting? She stomps downstairs as loudly as possible so Jay can know exactly where she is, aaaaaaand there he is. He grabs her by the arm and drags her along the ground, giving the cops ample time to show up and pull their guns on him.

They shoot him dead after he refuses to put down his knife, one of the cops finally getting on the radio and calling it in. We see Angel is in the backseat of their car, as they found her wandering down the road earlier. Strange in the scene where they find Gail's body we couldn't see her, but whatever. She's fine and my fears are put to rest. The cops take a closer look at Jay's body, and I am freaking READY for him to spring up and attack them. Jay's eyes open... and the movie ends. Yeesh.

Cue the credits.

Rhaargh! This was EVERY 1980s slasher movie ever: fucking AWFUL. It had the requisite blood and boobs, but was soooooooo boring thanks to characters too stupid to make you care about any of them. It didn't help this had acting that was terrible even by slasher standards, as I truly question if this movie had an actual script or the actors just freestyled all their lines because that's what it REALLY felt like. Even all the deaths were uncreative, these kind of movies are supposed to be about showing off your skills at making awe inspiring and vomit inducing make up effects. Instead, Jay mostly just used a knife and wasn't even flashy about it.

If this wasn't the first Thanksgiving horror film ever made, I don't think this would even be remembered as there is nothing else memorable about this. Jake Steinfeld certainly looked the part of a demented slasher and had a pretty spooky laugh, so I will give Home Sweet Home that. Otherwise, this is one of the worst examples of the genre with its laundry list of cliches that were already played out by 1981. Don't waste your time on this one if you want a seasonal movie, instead go watch Dutch because that movie is SO underrated. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!