There is terror in the backwoods... in a place where violence is a way of life, there are many ways to die!
Year of Release: 1976
Rated: Not Rated
Running Time: 90 minutes (1:30)
Director: Robert W. Morgan
Jerry Albert ... Mike
Toni Crabtree ... Kim
Ken Miller ... Daniel
Cisse Cameron ... Jeri
Herb Goldstein ... The Old Man
Robert W. Morgan ... Jarvis
John H. Meyer ... Lester
David Faris Legge ... Pip
The peaceful, foggy, tropical dawn betrays only the slightest hint of the sheer terror that awaits the two couples heading for a restful vacation in a cabin set deep in the picturesque Florida Everglades. It becomes a screaming, bloody nightmare.
They should heed the warning of the old swamp rat, Kerwin... "That's Bloodstalker Country... nobody can survive out there overnight!"
Just the sight of his two psychotic sons, knife-wielding Mephistophelean Jarvis, and the retarded, shotgun-toting Lester, plus the bearded Englishman, Pip, should be enough to convince them. But Mike is stubborn... "Nobody's gonna tell me I can't stay in my own cabin!"
Then come the unearthly animal-like screams that echo across the vast swamplands, the fleeting, indistinct glimpse of a hulking creature darting through the dense jungle underbrush stalking them as they swim nude in a secluded lake... and the huge, muddy pawprints on the car.
Blood Stalkers, remindin' us that castin' a Brit in an American movie can give it a much needed touch of class... provided you don't ask 'im to play a shirtless, backwater gator skinner who looks like Hillbilly Jim after a 3-day weekend of tendin' the whiskey still, I mean.
An speakin' of guys with inadequate personal hygiene practices; it's official, Skunky Hernandez is on a roll. The guy's actually had TWO good ideas in a row now. "Skunky," I said after he got through tellin' me about it, "if you dig a pond next to the drive-in they ain't NEVER gonna give you a beer permit." Skunky just waved me off like he always does when I've got an utterly devastatin' counterargument to his latest scheme, an responded "beeg deal, those pendejos cain keys my culo." "You could kill a guy that way," I warned, but he was already workin' out the details in his head before finally rememberin' I was still there an respondin': "wahtayver greengo, you help or no?" For the $50 a day Skunky was offerin' I'da helped dig a hole to fuggin' China, but he'd apparently already arranged to rent a back-hoe from Grouchy Joe's Heavy Equipment and CB Radio Repair an hired Rocky Pogue to dig the pond for $10 an hour an all the dirt he could haul home with the scoop shovel. Which was a pretty good deal for Rocky, since dirt can run upwards of $100 a ton at Dirty Larry's Topsoil and Gravel Emporium. Anyway, Billy Hilliard, Tetnis an me were conscripted to install the plastic lining, route the culvert pipe from the southern section of Cowpie Creek back to the pond, an then stock it with fish. Course Skunky originally wanted it stocked with trout, so I hadda explain that not only was it was illegal to catch game fish 1 hour after sundown (which is pretty much exactly when we start runnin' the movies), but that if Amos Anderson found out about it he was gonna end up in a Department of Fish & Wildlife forced labor camp clippin' adipose fins for the rest of his life. He ranted about that for a good 45 minutes before vowin' to write President Trump a nasty letter about "government overreach," an I finally hadda cut 'im off to discuss an alternative before he got cited by the EPA for noise pollution. So anyhow, I laid out his options for what kinda non-game fish we could use that didn't come with daylight restrictions an I just about had 'im sold on the idea of usin' carp, but of course, that woulda been way too simple since you can practically net those dullards outta Outhouse Creek. No, right about then's when I saw the gears in his head start spinnin', an it was obvious that my life was about to get a whole lot more complicated.
The man actually believes 'imself to be a great showman, so it couldn't JUST be about providin' a secondary activity for the patrons, oh no. He'd decided on catfish now, an the reason he'd done it is cause he wanted to attach little tags to a select few an offer up free deep fryin' at the concession stand for the folks who catch 'em, an by that point I'd just realized I hadn't even been given a *reason* for this project in the first place, an since I was kinda P.O.'d about the catfish thing (we're gonna hafta drive all the way to Lake Gunkamucka to get those, an sometimes they just ain't bitin'), I demanded to know why in the hell he was doin' all this since it wasn't gonna bring in any extra income the way addin' parkin' spaces might. "Thees not eentend to breeng MORE beesnis pleeb! We do thees to KEEP beesnis! Your pobleck domain movies ees garbeege!" Turns out Skunky's actually a lot faster'n he looks, as I discovered when I swung my shovel at his face for that slanderous remark an narrowly missed puttin' a spade shaped dent in his skull. Never could catch 'im after that cause he ran into an old storage shed an locked the door behind 'im, but he did eventually mutter a muffled, half-assed apology after I made the aluminum siding on the building look like a pan of Jiffy Pop that got left on the stove for two hours. But anyway, we got our differences sorted out; Skunky agreed never to bite the hand that feeds 'im again, an I agreed not to bash his skull in an make it look like a volleyball that's been sittin' out in the rain for three years. So Billy, Tetnis an me went ahead an got the plastic liner installed in preparation for the water we'd be pipin' in shortly, only when we got the pipe installed just a few yards from the creek we happened to notice Delbert Biddle standin' on the other side with a shotgun in hand an a scowl on his face. See, Delbert owns the next parcel over from Skunky, an even though Skunky's got a water right on the creek, apparently he's never used it, an Delbert was none too pleased that we were plannin' on takin' advantage of the water he'd been illegally suckin' up for the last three decades. Or at least that's the impression I got when he started shootin' at us. Chased us all the way back towards Skunky's Sage Maze yellin' somethin' about Cliven Bundy an firin' into the air like Yosemite Sam, but the point is Skunky's gonna hafta sort that out for 'imself before I take my hinder back out there, cause ain't no amount of money worth gettin' your gondolas blown off.
That's the second time I been shot at this year, which is why I generally just stay home an watch movies away from the chaotic hustle an bustle of this burg an its mildly brain-damaged citizenry. Which turned out to be pretty worthwhile this week, cause it's a lot more fun to watch inbred hillbilly maniacs go about their business when there's a rounded TV tube between you. Fairly decent flick too; about this gang of hygienically challenged southern swamp rats who like to loiter around gas stations by day an mutilate city folks by night, so not only are you likely to enjoy readin' about everything it's got to offer plot-wise, but you might even learn somethin' if you'll stick with me here a few more seconds while I discuss a few of its insights. First thing I learned watchin' this is that the threat of imminent mountain man massacrin' does not warrant drivin' a car with flat tires. After all, that's really bad for your suspension. Second, it's hard enough tryin' to get a dog to play dead for the camera, but it's near impossible once you've smeared ketchup all over 'im. An third, if you're willin' to skinny dip in Floridian ponds, you've more than earned the right to claim credit for your own stunt work durin' future casting calls.
Now, I recognize that all you connoisseurs of redneck nightmare cinema're prolly readin' this an thinkin' "seen it." Well, that's where your wrong. Sure, you've prolly seen many of its kissin' cousins, but the thing that really separates this one from all the rest is the director's cognizance of the impact a story can have when you include 397 horrified, sweaty close-up shots. Matter of fact, I got it on good authority that the sweat demand for this picture was so high that United Artists hadda push back the release date on Rocky by a full six months, because every sweat supplier in the country was under contract an havin' to work around the clock locatin' overweight southerners to stuff in steam rooms just to keep up with the perspiration demands. They're really the unsung heroes in all this, but do they get a "blubber wrangler" credit at the end of the movie? No sir. Their invaluable contributions to the success of this flick went unreported an unappreciated for 41 years, but that's not gonna continue another minute longer, cause *I'm* not afraid to tell every man, woman, an child out there that these alleged "thespians" weren't producin' their own perspiration. Forget Milli Vanilli, this is at least 10 times worse than that. These actors're frauds of the tallest order, an I think we should take a moment to thank all the short order cooks below the Mason-Dixon line whose tireless efforts to helped make American waist lines be all that they could be, did not go unnoticed. Because without their lard work an dedication to the cause of sweat production, there'da been no tellin' what emotions any of these actors were tryin' to convey. So to all you blubber wranglers, flab fortifiers, an of course, all the saturated fat foundries who kept their friends close and their buckets of KFC closer, we, the movie going public of America, thank you for your service. This flick could never have been made without you.
The movie begins with a coupla couples (Mike, Kim, Daniel an Jeri) drivin' to the Florida Everglades in their woody station wagon an communicatin' entirely in voice-over narration cause every time the crew tried recordin' it live from the roadside wheat fields of Florida, the 200' long boom mike pole kept snappin' in the middle an donkin' the cinematographer on the noggin'. But after awhile they hafta stop an get directions from this ole Cajun guy who looks like Joe Unger after three years of dysentery, an the old crank tells 'em to take their fancy big city teeth an their luxury automobile back to Minneapolis cause "their kind ain't welcome here." Mike don't really understand what he means by "his kind" an just assumes it has somethin' to do with the number of fingers an toes he's got, but when they try drivin' away their path's bein' blocked by the local alligator championship wrestlin' team (Jarvis, Lester, an Pip) who won't quit starin' at 'em like a fat bulldog watchin' a rotisserie chicken through the oven window. Course, they dunno where in the name of Bob Griese's gloriously god-awful glasses of gaudily grandiose geekery they are, so they hafta stop an ask this epileptic Tom Savini character who only communicates in oral clicks an eye twitches where their cabin is. Unfortunately, nobody in the car speaks Chickenhead, an since the guy's gotta be gettin' down to the Kmart to warn folks about the extraterrestrial micro-bacteria bein' disseminated through Swanson's Crawfish Creole frozen dinners, the group decides to keep goin' an wing it. They do eventually find the ole two-track leadin' back to the cabin, only the road looks like Ted Nugent's been buryin' Soviet land mines in it to hunt whitetails, an so they hafta leave the car an carry all their gear on foot. Then Kim's mullet senses start tinglin' an next thing you know she's gettin' paranoid an seein' jug bands behind every shrub, an while she's havin' a nervous breakdown Mike heads back to the rig to grab the cooler an gets the holy bejezus scared out of 'im when he hears this panther scream like a veterinarian just tried takin' its temperature with a freezer thermometer.
This ain't exactly what Mike an Kim's marriage counselor had in mind when he recommended they go on a relaxin' getaway, so Mike decides to take Kim down to the blue-filtered lagoon for a little skinny-dippin', while Daniel an Jeri get into this big emotional scene where they leave a variety of facial secretions on each other an lament the fact that their careers ("entertainer" an stripper, respectively) are so much more important than their relationship that they'll probably end up committin' suicide before either of 'em makes it to the Vegas strip. Meanwhile, at the pond, Kim an Mike start makin' the sign of the ham-fisted prairie cankle until Kim starts gettin' these bad vibrations like she's usin' an electric dildo with a defective battery relay, an she an Mike narrowly avoid bein' attacked by an aquatic yak-man that surfaces as they're leavin'. Then they walk in on Daniel an Jeri makin' bacon an hafta Scotchgard the kitchen table so they won't hafta look at Jeri's ass-cheekprints while they have dinner, an once Mike an Kim decide to hit the sack Daniel starts tellin' Jeri about how Mike went off to 'Nam an accidentally killed a whole mess of Ho Chi Men, women, an child civilians when his platoon leader sent 'im to the wrong Vietcommie apartment complex, an that he's been screwed up like a panel of cheap sheet rock ever since. Fortunately, Jeri's a rare breed of woman who's excited by the emotional trauma of 'er close personal friends, so the two of 'em start gropin' each other again until Daniel climbs up to the second story an starts actin' like Vincent Price, an while he's up there tryin' to prove that he's more'n just a Mickey Rooney impersonator with a smarmy Robert Englund grin, this big hairy-armed gorilla reaches in through the window an starts wringin' Jeri's neck like a wounded pheasant. Naturally, Daniel freezes up like snot on Mount Everest at the first sign of danger, an so Mike hasta run in an spank the monkey an start firin' rounds through the window til it lets 'er go, an by that time he's started havin' 'Nam flashbacks that cause his peepers to roll around in his head like those googly-eyed whale figurines from the souvenir shop in Newport.
Then the apes start tryin' to pound their way in to the opening beat of Nine Inch Nails' "Mr. Self Destruct," an when that don't work everything gets real quiet like that brief respite between a SWAT team's final warnin' an the battering ram smashin' your door into 10,000 pieces, an Mike steps out onto the porch to find their little yapper dog whittled into puppy pulp. As you can rightly understand, Jeri's got the Percodan Stare of Eternity by this point, so Mike decides to try drivin' the car as close to the cabin as possible like a 400lb woman parkin' in the Walmart fire lane, only when he gets back to the Buick the tires're all flatter'n a Chinese gymnastics team an so he hasta hoof it back empty handed. Now it's lookin' like their best chance to avoid bein' ground up into gumbo gizzards is for Mike to dust off his military trainin' an go knock on the doors of hostile apostles at 4 in the AM to see how eager folks are to help somebody who's been votin' against their political interests for the last decade. That goes about as well as you'd expect, as Mike wanders from one house to another until he's had more doors slammed in his face than a Jehovah's Witness in Tehran. Finally he comes to this black church where everybody likes to practice gospel choir in the middle of the night just to hack off the white trash in the trailer park next door, but even the church pastor shuns 'im cause he's already in hot water with the county for helpin' abused farm animals escape their owners an flee to the safety of the North. Meanwhile, at the cabin, the remainin' guests're tryin' in vain to come up with excuses for why Mike ain't made it back yet, completely oblivious to the monkey-suited maniac hidin' upstairs grinnin' like a hungry hyena waitin' for a groupa poachers to saw off their ivory an leave the bountiful corpse. Gonna cut the summary off here, but if you haven't completely lost faith in this movie yet, do be advised that all the best stuff is jammed into the last 15 minutes.
Alrighty, there ya have it: Blood Stalkers. It's definitely one of the lesser-known entries in the always enjoyable "maniacal Southerners menace the woefully unprepared urbanites" flicks of the 1970s, which as far as I can tell, was a concept originally invented in 1964 by Herschell Gordon Lewis when he released his classic: Two Thousand Maniacs. Of course, it was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre that really brought this subgenre into the mainstream, and its success encouraged many others to draft their own screenplays, and I generally enjoy these regional Southern flicks produced on the cheap in rural areas, even though they often falter when it comes to the technical aspects. Blood Stalkers is no exception in that regard, but it's got heart, and not only that, it does manage to deliver a level of competence on both the directing and writing fronts that nearly all of these types of movies lack. Believe it or not, you do actually find yourself giving a damn about the characters, due in no small part to the fact that Morgan's script makes an effort to give them a little depth, and indeed succeeds in doing so. Admittedly, I suspect a lot of people will find the pacing a bit slow, and there's no sense in trying to pretend it isn't, but the reason for it is that, at its heart, the flick is structured more like a Suspense picture that just happens to go nuts during the final 15 minute stretch, and it is during those periods of slow pacing that Morgan is able to build sufficient suspense for the moment when everything gets turned on its head. Of course, I wouldn't actually lump it in with the Suspense genre, because not only does it get a bit too grisly for that during the climax, but it's also way too gritty and amateurish in its cinematography. Suspense movies are generally slick productions, and Blood Stalkers has that trademark grainy, unpolished look about it that defined many of the classic horror flicks of the 1970s. Watching these types of movies always makes me wonder whether there were ever outraged Southerners out there protesting 'em on the basis that they didn't like the way they were being portrayed. You get that a lot nowadays with folks complaining about the way specific groups are portrayed, which is why I get curious about whether or not you used to have P.O.'d white trash out there frothin' at the mouth about how they came across as sadistic, retarded, subhuman monsters in these exploitation flicks. I imagine there probably were some groups that got worked up about flicks like Two Thousand Maniacs, although I never have understood any of that nonsense, because even discounting the fact that they're all just fictional portrayals, having a few people of a specific persuasion performing in a tasteless manner for a movie isn't representative of the entire group, it's representative of a very small number of fictitious characters. I guess at the very least, if you're gonna be outraged about the handling of one group, it's only fair to be outraged about all of them, after all, just look at how sitcoms have depicted plumbers and mechanics for the last 40 years.
But anyway, now that I've offended everyone under the sun (and probably at least a few alien species), let's go ahead and take a listen to this here banjo jubilee and find out if it can carry a tune. The plot's nothing new, we've seen this before time and again in the movies, and despite the fact that it's a decent, time-tested story, there isn't much here that hasn't been done better in other flicks made both before and after Blood Stalkers was released. Vacationing couples venture into a rural setting and the rednecks make 'em pay for it. It's a very "safe" plot, with no boundaries being pushed, and just enough hicksploitation to make suburbanites cringe at the thought of their cars breakin' down in rural America. Nothing special, but handled competently, with absolutely nothing in the way of plot twists. The acting is probably the most surprising aspect, given that the flick never got anywhere close to the $100,000 mark on its budget. The best performance is given by Herb Goldstein as the crusty old gas station owner; he's damn convincing, and even a bit menacing, as the head of the greasy swamp rats who urges the kids to get their hinders outta there before they get mutilated and added to the gator etouffee fixins. His underlings are less talented, but still satisfactory, while the main cast manages to punch well above their weight class when it comes to registering emotion. I'm not saying the primaries are extraordinary or anything, but again, for the budget, they certainly out-performed my expectations.
Here's who matters and why: Ken Miller (It Came from Trafalgar, Attack of the Puppet People, I Was a Teenage Werewolf), Toni Crabtree (Eyes of a Stranger, The New Kids, Mako: The Jaws of Death), Cisse Cameron (Space Mutiny), Herb Goldstein (Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde, Eyes of a Stranger, Mako: The Jaws of Death, Beyond the Bermuda Triangle), John Meyer (The Evictors), Lane Chiles (God's Bloody Acre). I'd also point out that 11 of the cast members also worked as part of the crew, just in case it wasn't clear how small the budget on this flick was.
The special effects are pretty pitiful, and suffer greatly at the hands of the vibrant 1970s blood that almost everyone used at the time. But it's not just the color of the blood, it's also the consistency, which ranges from a bit too runny to outright ridiculous at times. There's also a severed hand (the hand looks okay, but the wadded up fist inside the guy's sleeve is extremely noticeable), the dead dog (which is very much alive and breathing at a rate that would indicate it was pretty damn hot on location), and a few wounds you never actually see because there are always farm implements still stuck in them. Then of course, you've got the gorilla suit, which isn't intended to look real to begin with. I'd assume that, because the director was obviously fascinated with the Bigfoot phenomenon (he played himself in four 1970s Bigfoot documentaries), he may have acquired one of these suits after his involvement with one of the films, and decided to incorporate it into this film... for reasons I don't entirely understand. Anyway, the special effects aren't so hot. As for the shooting locations, well, the IMDB claims it was filmed around Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but it sure's heck doesn't look like it. Georgia I'd buy, or generally anywhere below the Mason-Dixon line that's east of the Mississippi, but if it was indeed filmed in Florida there's certainly no evidence of it. The wheat field in the opening sequence is especially incongruous with what one would expect to see in that area, so while I can't say with any certainty whether or not the IMDB is right, it at the very least *seems* wrong. Now, I'm not saying the locations look bad, because they don't. The gas station with the single pump, the deserted cabin, and the pond all look nice and make for excellent, authentic slices of rural America; I just don't buy that this is Florida, or even understand why they bothered to point out that they were vacationing in the Everglades, because the specific setting is essentially irrelevant, so long as you place it in the south. The soundtrack is without a doubt the single most damning problem with the movie, as it absolutely destroys the atmosphere of 9 out of every 10 scenes it plays in. There is *one* track that almost fits in, and even though it doesn't quite manage it, it does at least sound nice. All the other tracks sound like they were pulled from cheesy police procedurals, and clash in every conceivable way with what is attempting to be conveyed on the screen. It literally would have been better had Morgan chosen not to integrate Stan Webb's soundtrack (Hey whaddya know? The guy never worked again after this), and instead gone with dead silence. This kinda music would probably fly in a court drama or something of that nature, but it's absolutely out of sync with the rest of the movie in terms of tone, and makes it easy to be pulled right out of the proceedings. Overall, I *like* the movie well enough, but it simply tanks too hard on a technical level to be elevated to passing status by my own personal opinion. I'd still recommend it to fans of the "evil, sleazy Southern town" subgenre, but I don't think too many others are likely to enjoy this obscure little feature.