Director: Marty Thomas
Writer: Jon Zuber
Producer: Michael Copon, Marty Thomas, Jon Zuber
Stars: Michael Copon, Rachel Lara, Alex Mandel, Julia Beth Stern, Rachel Wixom, David Namminga, Matt Calloway, Gabriel Olivera, Noah Gibbings, Rich Hoag, Randolph Mantooth
A road trip detour to an abandoned amusement park turns into a nightmare when a killer stalks eight friends on spring break.
Before making “Killer Holiday” as his second feature film, director Marty Thomas practiced his trade on an exhaustive list of music videos for varied performers ranging from Madonna to Tupac. Knowing that pedigree is a vital clue for solving the riddle of why the narrative sense behind “Killer Holiday” plays second fiddle to the film’s emphasis on hyper-stylized presentation values.
Taylor is a girl one year removed from a stint in juvenile detention played by an actress who was one year removed from her 26th birthday at the time of filming. Her teenaged pals, similarly played by actors who in reality have not seen the interior of a high school in quite some time, pile into an RV and hit Route 66 for a road trip spring break. Since none of them have seen an episode of Scooby-Doo before, an abandoned amusement park earns unanimous approval as an ideal detour. Unfortunately for best-laid plans, a psycho with an affinity for pointed objects has been stalking the friends for miles. And he has his own twisted ideas about how to turn their theme park getaway into an unforgettable adventure.
A press release from the production company touts its “chilling new villain” as being “in the iconic tradition of Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger.” It is an empty proclamation neglecting the fact that those three slashers are icons because of their signature silhouettes and memorable styles. Melvin ‘Spider’ Holiday, on the other hand, walks in straight from the pages of an Abercrombie and Fitch catalog with his pomade-slicked haircut and a pretty boy smile. If Spider had the look of the sinister clown from the promotional artwork instead, then maybe he could apply for memorable killer status. As is, his appearance is blandly generic, which only heightens the absent menace in his presence.
His teenaged victims match Spider in the dull department. Constant pranks and unending insults ensure that no one is cast in a likable light. The chubby goofball grates on his friends’ nerves, and the audience’s, by constantly commanding, “guys” every time he wants attention. The girls get catty over who should have dibs on hot stuff Dylan. The pals also strand each other in a maze and ditch one of their own behind a padlocked door for their own amusement. With friends like these...
The worst aspect of their behavior comes to light when the film collapses completely in the latter half. “Killer Holiday” sets the table with a hint of intrigue and a potentially fun dark carnival setting, and then it tumbles off a cliff of claptrap and clichés. Trespassing on the grounds of an abandoned theme park is one thing, but these teens further prove that they have no idea how to survive a horror movie when splitting up and searching in the dark sounds like a sensible plan.
The first friend is found dead and another injured, cluing everyone in to the fact that a killer is loose inside the park. Most people would pull out a phone or flee to safety and find some help. These scatterbrains decide to leave one girl to console another while two of the men investigate the unlit funhouse alone. Because that is a great idea. One of the girls smartens up and decides to join the boys. Too bad she has to leave the other girl alone in order to do so and by that time, the two males have already split up again.
Even before the characters start flatlining, “Killer Holiday” misses the mark for establishing a haunting mood. Several scenes linger about while the group treads lightly through a maze and creeps about a haunted house upon first arrival at the park. Except that these moments occur without seeing their stalker lurking in the shadows and without feeling a sense of impending danger. As a result, there is no suspense in watching anybody pace in the dark.
The filmmakers do their best to create atmosphere with visual flair, but it never seems as though “Killer Holiday” knows what it wants to accomplish with its look other than being visually intriguing. Familiar music video techniques of fast cuts and high contrast are on display. There are also random black and white slowdowns and shots of things like a snake slithering around a knife that achieve no reactions other than disorientation and confusion over their intention.
Beyond that, more minutes are devoted to scenes that simply do not fit. One lone sequence of an investigation into the serial murders introduces a detective with a noticeable to-do, only for none of the policemen to be seen again. Director Marty Thomas channels his best Brian Doyle Murray impersonation during an amusing roadside diversion segment, but it has no bearing on the plot. And the ending feels like “Killer Holiday” surrendering to convention with borderline comical plot twists.
Peeking hard between the lines, one can see good intentions in the movie’s DNA, but “Killer Holiday” lacks the follow-through to shock its monster to life. “Killer Holiday” may look more professionally polished than most independent horror movies, but it is ultimately another uninteresting slasher with as dead of a pulse as its less technically accomplished competition.
Review Score: 40