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Demented Death Farm Massacre: The Movie
(1986)
 

Director: Fred Olen Ray & Donn Davison            
Cast:
John Carradine, Ashley Brookes


Let's see...there's been Albert Pyun, Lorenzo Lamas, and Cynthia Rothrock. For each of these people, I have previously written about one of their typical movies for two reasons: To cover them at least once, and to warn people about any movies that have the names of these people in their credits. So I guess I should get to Fred Olen Ray, a director who is only slightly less awful than Albert Pyun. Freddie has had quite a career making awful cheap (awful in both senses of the word) movies, such as Star Slammer, Alienator, Evil Toons, Warlords, and Dinosaur Island. So in order to caution people about him, I decided to pick one of his movies and review it.

Actually, it picked me - I was actually given this movie as a present. Some present. Well, at least I didn't have to shell out any dollars to rent a Fred Olen Ray movie for this site. So what's there to say about this movie after watching it, except that it's bad? Well, there's a bit more, actually. It's certainly better than your average Pyun movie, and it's a lot better than other Fred Olen Ray movies - though that may be because Ray really didn't do much of anything in the making of this movie. I guess I better explain. What Ray did was to take a movie by Davison made 15 to 20 years earlier called either Shantytown Honeymoon or Moonshiner's Women (my sources differ on this, plus if the movie Ray used was finished, or even released), and added about two minutes of footage with a big name star, no doubt to help sell the finished sorry mess.

The big name star he picked was John Carradine, who was becoming pretty senile at this point of his life, enough so to be quickly forgetting the movies he was appearing in, sometimes while he was making them. In the case of Demented Death Farm Massacre: The Movie, let's hope he did quickly forget the day he starred in this movie. The opening scene shows him standing on a darkened backyard set, with a picket fence and bushes in front of him to hide his hands that had long been mangled by arthritis. "I am the judge of Hell," he begins. "I see the evil and wrong men do. Not everyone is lucky enough to get my special attention, but if you do, I don't believe you'll live to enjoy it. Look, there is (sic) some people, men and women, with blood on their hands. They think that they're getting away with murder. But are they? Let's see if Judge Death can help them on their way to hell..." We then fade into the movie, and occasionally we'll cut back to Carradine spouting out quick lines like, "He who lives by the sword shall perish by the sword!" or "The wages of sin is death!"

It sounds funny, like the kind of commentary that was done in Blood Freak. But this is Fred Olen Ray we are talking about here, and he makes this Carradine footage (which, of course, does not alter the events in the proper movie in any way) fall like a thud, and you actually feel sorry for the poor old guy. (Carradine, not Ray.)

The Donn Davison footage, which takes up the rest of the running length, is set in the hillbilly part of the Carolina mountains, with a story that is somewhat similar to Sunday In The Country. As a jeep with two men and two women drive through the countryside, Davison uses a quick and lazy way to cue the audience into the present situation. A radio is playing the jeep, and an extremely long  news report tells us that the police are looking for four New York thieves who robbed $1 million worth of gems and stole a helicopter and landed at an airport and stole an airplane at that airport  and crashed the airplane in the Carolina mountains and stole a jeep and took off. The four are headed to Florida, but soon the jeep stops. "It appears we are out of petrol," logically states Phillip, the ringleader who has an unexplained British accent and background and likes using words like "perchance" throughout the movie.

The four hide the jeep and hike through the countryside, soon coming across the home of moonshiner Harlan and his new and near jail bait bride. Not knowing the four are crooks, the two offer them a place to stay for the night. But soon complications start; Kurt, the other male thief, soon has his eye on the bride, and that in turn pisses off his girlfriend thief Karen when she finds out he made the big play. Then when Harlan deducts they are the thieves, he and his bride are overpowered, and the thieves soon decide they also want the fortune he has made in the moonshine business. Of course, it all means that the kind of hillbilly hospitality found in Baker County U.S.A. will need to be introduced.

Actually, that's what it seems to be building to, and what we expected in the first place, but the mayhem that subsequently happens is little better than a whimper. The actors aren't really terrible going through their very familiar characters, though they are pretty mediocre. Any blame for the failure of this movie shouldn't go to them, however; the screenplay is mostly talk, talk, talk - so much filled with talk, that it's hard to find anything else to discuss anything else about the movie, good or bad. The dialogue does not give any personality or insight to these clichéd characters, and it is frequently redundant. People talk about what they did, what they are going to do, Harlan keeps shouting to various women that he meets that they are whores - with all this talking going on, there almost seems to be a reluctance to do anything gritty.

This reluctance seems to not only extend into the dialogue itself (there's hardly a curse word to be heard), but also extend to when something does happen. In a sex scene that's half rape and half seduction, Davison does the amazing task of managing to show a topless woman in various poses for an extended period, yet to not show any actual nudity. For a long time afterwards, the biggest danger comes with a crook threatening someone with the lit end of a cigarette. And it's more like heck breaks out at the end, with long and boring chases on foot and in vehicles, and killings that are almost casual. The little blood shed is of the familiar "red paint" kind commonly found in movies around this period, so we don't feel shocked or titillated by the sight of it.

The photography and locations actually aren't that bad, and the only thing that seems to have been wrong with the editing in the original version were that some scenes were filmed both during times of low light and in the middle of the day, making it appear as if there are sudden leaps of time in the middle of a sequence. Some reediting was obviously done by Ray, and it's for the worse. A few action sequences are slowed down, and it's obvious that the slowing down was accomplished after the movie was transferred to a video master. He also added a new opening credits sequence, where cheesy video graphics are splashed onto the screen as we see Harlan making his deliveries - to classical (and royalty free) music! Maybe there's a little amusement in this new stuff and the Carradine footage, but I don't think a few smirks is worth watching 90 minutes of dreariness. If it would make Ray feel any better, then I'll say this 90 minutes of dreariness is some of the best work he's ever done.

Check for availability on Amazon (VHS)
Check for availability on Amazon (DVD)
Check Amazon for book "John Carradine: The Films"

See also: Blood Freak, Curse Of The Cannibal Confederates, Sunday In The Country

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