Home Sweet Home (1981)
Be it ever so humble, there's no place to HIDE.
Year of Release: 1981
Also Known As: Slasher in the House
Rated: Not Rated
Running Time: 84 minutes (1:24)
Director: Nettie Pena
David Mielke ... Scott
Colette Trygg ... Jennifer
Don Edmonds ... Bradley
Sallee Young ... Linda
Peter De Paula ... Mistake
Charles Hoyes ... Wayne
Lisa Rodriguez ... Maria
Leia Naron ... Gail
Vinessa Shaw ... Angel
Jake Steinfeld ... Killer
Thanksgiving Day. The Bradley family and friends gather for a traditional feast to give thanks for life's bountiful blessings. And they have every reason to be thankful for their lives. Because before they know it, they'll be dead!
For the Bradleys have an uninvited guest. A homicidal maniac has escaped from imprisonment to satisfy his pent-up lust for murder. And he has singled out their home for his psychopathic killing spree. One by one, the revelers will be methodically stalked and served up in the butcher's holiday blood feast. Until the Bradley's Home Sweet Home becomes a grisly house of horrors!
Home Sweet Home, remindin' us that when you laugh, sometimes the world just can't bring itself to laugh with you. That'll happen when you're a frightenin' side of beef on a PCP trip. You guys all remember the side of beef in this one don'tcha? Ya know, Jake Steinfeld? The guy whose torso looks like somebody drew nipples on a coupla oil drums bein' held together with bungee cords, who used to dress up perky women in hot pink leotards an make 'em do mountain climbers til they cried on national TV? Jake's the killer in this one, cept the director won't hardly let 'im talk cause she's afraid his massive lung capacity might blow the boom mic operator into the next county, so mostly he just laughs like Ebenezer Scrooge at an orphanage demolition. They really shoulda retitled this movie "Body Count by Jake" when it hit the video market to capitalize on his bulkiness, at least maybe then somebody woulda seen the goll durn thing.
An speakin' of guys who can bench press a 1976 Buick LeSabre, Billy Hilliard decided on what kinda pet he'd like to have this last week, which prolly saved me from another BS court appearance with Skunky Hernandez on account of his ungrateful south of the border behind bein'... wait, lemme back up a minute. I'm sure you all remember the little accident a few months back when Judge Wrathis sentenced me to 20 hours of hard labor out at Warden Hernandez' ranch, where that stubborn, diabetic squirrel wouldn't come outta Skunky's sprinkler pipe an I hadda crank the water pressure up to the "Civil Rights Protester" settin' to get it outta there an accidentally fired it through Skunky's livin' room window at the speed of light. Well, after that it ducked under one of his couch cushions an decided to take up permanent residence on account of the abundance of heavily salted snack foods that've been pilin' up in there since the late '80s. But anyway, apparently Skunky's furry houseguest was with child at the time of the alleged rocket launch, an Skunky purt'near went loco in the chijoto when he shook out his mornin' corn flakes an ended up with a P.O.'d mama squirrel in his bowl tryin' to chew 'er way through his protective dirt layer an take his arm back to the sofa for 'er little ones. Skunky claimed this was all my fault an started demandin' rodent child support before finally trailin' off into Spanish an screamin' somethin' about "pendejo gringo." Ya know, this always happens when I go out there. I only even went with Billy cause he wanted to browse Skunky's latest batch of abandoned animals, an fortunately, Billy decided he wanted one of the baby squirrels. You could practically see Skunky's debilitatin' "problem" convert itself into a foolproof business venture when he realized somebody might actually *want* the little furballs, an pretty quick he'd forgotten we existed an started workin' out a ground squirrel based retirement plan. Billy an I took the opportunity to get the heck outta there while Skunky worked out how to go about gettin' his little flea bags stocked in the Of Mice and Zen pet shop for the fall tourist season. I guess there're worse animal species to have for pets. The little guy Billy took home's actually kinda cute, mostly he just rides around in Billy's shirt pocket an pokes his head out now an then to scare the crap outta anybody who don't know about 'im. Billy asked for some help comin' up with a name for 'im, but he didn't think "Mr. Jingles" was very funny an decided to call 'im Tromie, so I guess alls well that ends well. I just know that if Skunky manages to make any money sellin' squirrels to hipsters an 8-year-old girls he's gonna try gettin' his Sage Maze up an goin' for Halloween again, an I'm really not lookin' forward to it. I almost wish he'da just sued me again.
After an afternoon like that I was ready for somethin' a little more plausible, an decided to watch Jake Steinfeld shoot PCP an cackle like Cesar Romano as The Joker between yuppy mutilations. Now I don't wanna say this's the worst slasher flick ever made, but when that kid in the mime makeup started playin' bad Grateful Dead medleys on his guitar, Apollo got up an lifted his leg on the TV set. But be that as it may, Jake took the time to squeeze into that 5XL t-shirt, so the least I can do is share a few of the things I learned watchin' 'im climb the ladder to stardom. First, if you can get lost drivin' between your home and the liquor store, you prolly don't need any more wine. Second, the best way to keep a 5-year-old from freakin' out about the deaths of their entire family, is through the use of emotionless actin'. Showin' exactly zero concern about your impendin' resemblance to a stiff dead trout on a stringer seems to keep 'em calm as a hippy durin' lava lamp therapy. An third, everybody loves a clown, but everybody hates a mime. So thanks again Jake, and may your pecs never sag.
But even in a movie as masterfully written as this one, one question springs to mind; how come everybody's always tryin' to convince people "everything'll be fine" when they've got absolutely no idea whether it actually will be? I mean, okay, I get *why* they do it. Maybe the question shoulda been "how come nobody realizes that 'everything'll be fine' is an expression so universally rejected in just about any situation that it actually becomes insulting to the recipient when you end up breakin' down in the middle of nowhere an realize the only house within' walkin' distance looks like the cast of The Hills Have Eyes lives there?" The person tryin' to reassure you knows they're full of it, an the person bein' reassured knows they're full of it too, so basically they're just wastin' valuable time that'd be better spent hidin' pointy objects all over their bodies in the event they're attacked by cannibal hillbillies an have no alternative but to start twistin' redneck eyeballs outta their sockets with cork screws. You might at least be able to calm somebody down enough to prevent their teeth from chatterin' down to the gum line if you were to say "don't worry, I've got a plan", cause that at least implies there's a chance you're not talkin' outta your ass. Nobody thinks I'm wrong about this, right? I mean, if you've been run up a tree by psycho environmentalists who're firin' poisoned arrows coated with tofu at you an your buddy says not to worry after assurin' you he's got everything under control, you wouldn't really believe that, would you? You wouldn't just nod an start prayin' for His Big Bossiness to come pluck your butt outta there, right? Hell no you wouldn't, you'd prolly ask the jackass what'n the heck he's basin' his assessment of the situation on, an then you'd start lookin' for a pine marten to hold hostage til the tree huggers fall back to their dollar store pup tents. So could we all stop pretendin' like everything's gonna work out, when we know it ain't? That don't help nobody. If you wanna help, you tell someone that whatever happens you'll be there, or that the guy with the chainsaw's gonna hafta go through your skull before you'll let 'im hang 'em on a meat hook. Now that's how you provide emotional support in a crisis.
The movie begins with this drunk in a woodie station wagon pullin' over to consult a map after hearin' a public service announcement about how you should always keep both hands on the wheel, leavin' 'im no other choice but to look for the nearest convenience store that sells three foot long bendy straws so he can drink his beer without ever divertin' his attention from the road. Unfortunately, he's too distracted to hear the radio broadcast about the escaped mental patient on the loose (Jake Steinfeld), an pretty quick he gets disembodied by Jake, who then proceeds to shoot about eight ounces of PCP into his tongue vein, steal the station wagon, an drive over Miss Daisy when she stops in the middle of traffic to pick up 'er fumbled groceries. Elsewhere, some couple's drivin' out to have Thanksgivin' dinner with the poorman's Joe Spinell (Bradley), cept when they (Scott an Jennifer) get there they end up rootin' around in the front seat of their car til this mime (Mistake) playin' bad Jimmy Hendrix covers on his guitar shows up just as Scott's about to stuff the turkey. Scott's P.O.'d, an chases Mistake all over the property til he runs into Brad's room while Brad's tryin' to boff this chick wearin' a couch doily (Linda), an once she gets 'er jugs back in their fully upright an locked positions, she starts chasin' Mistake through the house tryin' to tear off his cranberries. If that seems hard to follow, imagine a Benny Hill sketch with breasts, cause that's pretty much what's goin' on. Course, she can't keep up that pace forever, an eventually hasta stop when she gets a coupla black eyes from 'er only partially secured hootage. Then she starts to realize just how bad an entire weekend with Shmuckles the Clown's gonna be, an drives off to the liquor store with Gail so she'll have a designated driver for the return trip. Only by now, Burly Temple's driven 'imself out into the country in search of fresh air an the hose he needs to try washin' the contents of granny's colostomy bag out of his grille, an decides to head up the road the broads just exited. Then Thick Nolte flicks the breaker off out at Brad's house an makes 'im think the power gave out like the knees on a geriatric hooker, so he kicks the generator on an heads for the 76 station to get more gas an price some prostitutes for the day when Linda inevitably realizes he's a 60-year-old man with skin like Play-Doh an leaves 'im for somebody who doesn't grunt like a constipated jungle animal every time they get up from the kitchen table.
Only Brad don't get that far before he happens upon Jake's station wagon, an when Brad don't see nobody around he decides to suck all the gas out of it like Kim Jong Un slurpin' the cream fillin' out of a Twinkie. But then his Jeep won't start, so he goes back over to the station wagon an tries yankin' the battery out of it, an by this time Jake starts to feel like he's bein' taken advantage of an decides to bonsai drop onto the open hood an pinch Brad in half like a stubborn turd. Later that night, another hitherto irrelevant character (Wayne) is gettin' a little bit antsy about the results of the Cowboys/Lions game that he bet his knee joints on, an decides to head into town to see if it's safe to show his face at The Legitimate Businessman's Social Club. Unfortunately, Brawny Carson's lurkin' in the backseat real inconspicuously like a pool of dog piddle on some black upholstery, an when Wayne gets about a quarter mile down the road, The Incredible Bulk slits his throat an starts cacklin' like the Predator when he activates the self destruct button on his wrist control panel. Elsewhere, Gail an Linda've managed to not only get lost after failin' to realize that drivin' in the opposite lane on the same road they took to reach the liquor store'd get 'em home, but've also gotten pulled over. So now they hafta act real cute an helpless, an manage to get out of a ticket without even havin' to resort to usin' their emergency flashers, only the cops drive off right about the time they discover their car won't start an end up havin' to go out street walkin' after midnight to get home. Eventually they find Wayne's car abandoned a little ways from the house, only Jake's watchin' from the underbrush an doesn't like the way they're eyeballin' its hubcaps, so he comes tearin' outta the woods an scoop slams Gail onto a rock an busts 'er head open like a jar of raspberry preserves hittin' a basement floor. Linda tries makin' it back to the house, but Beef Cassidy stalks 'er in the darkness, breathin' like Meat Loaf after runnin' five miles on a treadmill every step of the way, til he catches up to 'er an slices 'er up into Oscar Meyer lunch meat with his Bowie knife an cackles like Woody Woodpecker on speed. Meanwhile, Scott an Jennifer head into the dinin' room an notice their Thanksgivin' turkey lookin' like it got carved by Leatherface after havin' his eyes dilated at the optometrist's office.
They don't wanna offend 'im in case he's hidin' somewhere listenin', on account of it bein' his first go at carvin' somethin' that's not screamin' an tryin' to kick 'im in the danglers, so the remainin' guests dive into the remainin' turkey shrapnel til the mime spills Au Gratin taters down Maria's (Wayne's girlfriend who's strictly here for bramic relief) shirt. Maria's P.O.'d, at least it seems like it, since she don't speak any English, so Mistake shows 'er where the bathroom is an goes to dig his favorite Led Zeppelin shirt outta the hamper for 'er to change into, only when he comes back Hulk Slowgan's got 'er by the throat an tells 'im he'd better remember the first rule of mime class, an that if one word comes out of his mouth he's gonna turn 'er into goat-kabobs. Mistake figures he can Monty Hall his way outta this situation an tries to make a deal, but Jake really hates KISS an refuses to negotiate with anybody who wears more makeup than Tammy Faye Bakker, an ends up cleavin' Maria's cleavage. This is about the point where everybody watchin' starts to perk up cause Jake's got his slightly cross-eyed sights set on that punk kid we've been wantin' to see cut up into 76 pieces an mailed to the Jimmy Dean sausage plant in Newbern, Tennessee, an when Jake gets ahold of 'im he stuffs the little bastard's amp cable up his hinder an electrocutes 'im with his own guitar like Yahoo Serious in Young Einstein. The downside for Jake is that, while Mistake's gettin' slow-roasted outside, it causes a brownout in Mistake's shorts an the interior of the house, forcin' Scott to go make sure the generator's still shatterin' the serenity of nature. What he finds instead is Maria's bloody maracas, so he calmly an rationally runs back into the house screamin' like a 6-year-old girl in the cosmetics aisle at Wal Mart when 'er mother refuses to buy 'er eyeliner, an tells Jennifer the clown's finally gone full John Wayne Gacy an chopped up Maria's breast meat. Jennifer's reaction is a combination of mild disappointment and regret over the loss of a perfectly good holiday weekend, an Scott figures they'd all better hole up in the livin' room near the fireplace just in case whoever's tryin' to kill 'em has a hard time seein' in the dark. I'm gonna cut it here, cause you prolly don't wanna hear about the next ten minutes spent in front of said fireplace where absolutely nothin' happens anyhow.
Alrighty, well, did it sound like a disorganized mess where nothing really happens for long periods, and when something actually does happen it doesn't make a lick of sense? Cause that about sums it up. This flick plays out like something a horror movie fan who'd never been to film school might come up with, because the director seems to understand what needs to be done, but has no idea why the things she does do or don't work as plot devices. I almost wonder if it wasn't a student film, because she thanks the "Loyola Marymount University Communications Arts Department Internship Program" in the credits, in addition to thanking "Dr. and Mrs. Hilarid S Pena." That last credit bears the same last name as the director, and leads you to believe that they're prolly her parents who generously gave her the money to shoot the thing in their home, and allowed her to stay up past her bedtime. The only thing she ever directed after this was a documentary nearly 30 years after Home Sweet Home came out titled "They're Not Green", which looks to be a documentary about wind power wherein she explains how wind power's not really eco-friendly at all and that we should all just shut up and keep burnin' coal. Or something, I'm not about to watch it to actually find out. But more to the point, no movie made in 1981 with an 84 minute run time should drag like this, it just shouldn't be possible. You know how most movies drag in the middle, due to their need to define characters or explain a complicated plot? Well, this movie drags in the beginning, the middle, and the end. You seriously get the idea (particularly at what you'd have to call the climax for lack of a better term, unless you wanna call it a "climin") that the director thinks she's doing something original here by tricking you into thinking something might happen, when it just about never does. I'm not even talking about the standard false scare scenario where a door creaks and there's nobody there, or say, when one character taps somebody on the shoulder when they think they're alone and it scares the tar out of 'em. Those've been done to death, but generally you only get that once or twice in a movie. Now, I don't wanna give away the ending, but where my review leaves off they're literally holed up in front of that fireplace for about ten minutes before Jake finally jumps them. This includes a lengthy scene where David Miekle has left his girlfriend and a small child alone, and neither he nor the girls get attacked while he's looking for candles. You can almost see where she was goin' with it, except that there's absolutely zero tension and the scene takes forever to yield nothing. It's like she was thinkin'; "yeah, I'll bet all you suckers out there think I'm actually goin' somewhere with this, well, I'm not! Ha! Bet you all feel stupid now, don'tcha?" And you're thinkin', well, yeah, I guess if you're this desperate to do something original it certainly worked, except that's not something to be proud of when the only reason it worked was because no other filmmaker in history has ever been so ignorant of how a film is supposed to be structured that they never thought to try it.
Okay, let's just forego the idea that this thing has a shot in Hell of passin' and cut to the chase. The general premise is alright, despite being a complete cliche with only a couple of minor tweaks to help separate it from the standard "nut escapes the quack shack" theme. Apparently, not being certifiably insane wasn't enough for the screenwriter, as they wanted to incorporate PCP into the mix as well. Incidentally, is it even possible to drive while high on PCP? Eh, forget that, that's nitpicking. Not surprisingly, though, this is the only screenplay this guy wrote that was ever used. Another question I've got about this is how in the Hell do all these people fit together, and why are they gathering for a holiday meal? We know about the children, they belong to Bradley. And you could say it's kinda weird that his tenant (Scott) would be invited to Thanksgiving dinner, but it's at least possible. The rest of the characters though? No idea who they are, if they're related, friends, or whether Bradley's just so lonely that he invites hobos over for company. And one more thing, a movie's supposed to have a point of view. Who the heck's point of view are we supposed to be seeing here? Sometimes it's Scott and Jennifer's point of view, sometimes it's Jake's point of view, seemed like maybe Bradley was gonna be the main character before Jake dropped a senton bomb on him while he was stealin' a car battery, so... for cryin' out loud what's going on here? Ugh, let's just forget it, I've already put more thought into it than the writer and the director combined.
The acting ranges from diarrhea sauce to vomit casserole, and the only character in the entire cast who seems to have even a shred of talent is Charles Hoyes. I really don't wanna pick on Jake Steinfeld, partly because he could pop my head like a zit, but also because I think a lot of the people givin' him heat on the IMDB seem to be forgetting that this is what the director asked him to do. Yeah, some of this needs to stick to him, although I thought he was far and away the most entertaining thing in the flick with that completely over the top hysterical laugh but, again, this is what the director wanted. She chose not to give him much in the way of dialog, she chose to not do additional takes when they looked the way they did, and she chose to make him a cackling buffoon, so let's cut Jake a little slack here. Speaking of that dialog, I wrote down a few of the more thought provoking lines just to give you an idea of what the actors were working with, so have a look at these before you pass judgment too harshly: "Jesus, you're horny!", "Wayne, you're a mercenary person!", "She's so Latin I don't believe it!", and "What could have happened to the others, why haven't they returned?" It's no wonder the acting stinks, you couldn't smooth that out with an entire fleet of jack planes. Here's... some people who appeared in other movies, but I make no guarantees that they in any way matter: Jake Steinfeld (The Invisible Woman), Don Edmonds (Ilse, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks), Charles Hoyes (Haunted Maze, A Brush with Death, Effects), Lisa Rodriguez (Terror on Tour), Sallee Young (Demented), Vinessa Shaw (The Hills Have Eyes 2006). Bizarrely, two of them overcame having this turdburger on their resumes to work on some projects that you could take a regular person to see, the first being Jake Steinfeld who portrayed Jake Rozzner on Big Brother Jake, and the second being Vinessa Shaw who played Domino in Eyes Wide Shut, Ann in Cold in July, Emma Nelson in 3:10 to Yuma, and Allison in Hocus Pocus. For what it's worth, Don Edmonds also directed the immortal Ilse: She Wolf of the SS and Ilse: Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks, but prolly shoulda stuck to directing.
The special effects are virtually non existent, or maybe they are existent, but the lighting is so pitiful that if they do exist, you can't see most of them. The lighting in this movie is some of the worst I've ever seen, too. It's difficult to say if it was intended to be this dark because of the limitations of their special effects, but if it was they went too far. I completely understand trying to hide a mediocre effect in any way that you can, because they will absolutely destroy a movie if they're bad enough. But when you reach the point of making the shot so dark it's literally impossible to see what's happening, maybe you should just rewrite the scene. I suspect none of this was an artistic choice, and that by the time it got to the editing room there was simply nothing that could be done about it. As far as effects you can see, you've got the blood splatter on the car's windshield early on (they don't show the impact of the woman/car at all, only the aftermath), which has good coloration but is way too runny. Then you've got Jake running around with a knife embedded in his back later on, which isn't too bad. Doesn't really flap around in the breeze the way you'd expect a prop to. The best one (low bar) would probably be the character of Gail impacting a rock with her head and spitting out blood. I suspect they did this in reverse, but I'm not entirely certain. So at the end of the day, the special effects are probably the second best aspect of the movie. The shooting locations are alright. Kinda liked the interiors of the house. However, despite being slightly brushy and secluded, the layout of this property suggests to me that there are a lot of fairly opulent houses just like this one up and down this road about every five acres or so, and for that reason, I never really bought the attempt at making the "family" appear isolated. In all fairness, I don't really know what the rest of the area looked like, but that's my impression of the layout and the road leading to it. Just didn't work for me in that regard. The soundtrack is honestly very good, and a hell of a lot better than this flick deserves. It's kinda got a Friday the 13th flavor in terms of the instruments used in its composition, but with a different style and arrangement. There're other times when it reminds me of the soundtrack from Troll, which is another flick with an exceptional score. Lot of seemingly random sound effects that play over it too, including some standard synthesized sounds, a tambourine, a noise maker, and a gong, of all things. Inexplicably, these things all come together to produce a soundtrack that would normally help to create a decent amount of atmosphere, if you weren't so preoccupied with how bad the acting is. Poor soundtrack tries its little heart out to make the movie better, but the screenplay and the director just weren't havin' it. Overall, this might be the worst slasher flick I've ever seen, dethroning the former champion: Trick or Treats from 1982. That's not an easy thing for me to say about an '80s slasher flick, but good grief this is one bad apple. It's too poorly paced to be enjoyed as a bad movie, and I can only recommend this to slasher completists who simply must see them all.