Studio: Brain Damage Films
Director: Jason Sherman
Writer: Elliot Hoffman, Dan Kellmer, Jim Scannell, Jason Sherman
Producer: Jason Sherman
Stars: Nikki Bell, Zackary Kresser, Adam Chylinski, JaQuinley Kerr, Tereza Hakobyan, Dave Sarrafian, Brian Anthony Wilson
A remote cabin in Bucks County, Pennsylvania becomes a crime scene when an unknown attacker stalks a birthday party.
There is such a thing as a slow burn. There is such a thing as gradual buildup. There is such a thing as escalating tension. And then there is “Bucks County Massacre,” an exercise in extraneous exposition meandering so long that it misses the turnoff to exit its never-ending first act.
Low-budget horror films routinely exploit “found footage” since it is the most natural format for a cheap production. It also allows for shooting to begin without a full script, or without one entirely, relying on actor improvisation to put meat on a loose concept’s bones. “Bucks County Massacre” has an even lower starting point. Along with an absent screenplay, although four different writers are credited, the movie is also missing any demonstration of knowing how to cinematically tell a story.
Putting the audience into the premise with 221 words of opening text is the first misstep on the “Bucks County Massacre” filmmaking path of explaining rather than showing. Fewer words preceded this sentence and look how long it took to get here.
Will is celebrating his 25th birthday at a remote cabin in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and his videographer buddy Steve is there to catch the event on camera. Joining them in the festivities are two dozen of their closest friends.
The first person does not go missing in the surrounding forest until the movie reaches its halfway mark. The forty-five minutes until that point are an overlong party scene packed with the noisy cheering, random woot-woots, and unintelligible banter of 20 people loudly talking over one another. Two different men serenade the birthday boy with original songs. Two different rounds of Guitar Hero are played. And characters whose names are not remembered if they are even heard offer testimonials about how much they value Will’s friendship.
It is a terrific sentiment. It is also one that is impossible to share when the only things known about Will are the anecdotes told by his friends. Rather than create an emotional bond through a visual story on the screen, one that might let the audience witness an experience firsthand, “Bucks County Massacre” throws empathy to the wolves. The flat hope is for the viewer to trust the cast at their word and care about characters based solely on what everyone has to say.
Even that flaccid attempt is a failure. When not tearing up over Will’s supposed greatness, his buddies are tearing him down with gay jokes and “eff you” ribbing. This is not even a fun party to be at and the movie spends most of its time there.
Expect no help from the narrative in determining which of these 20+ partygoers need to be remembered or paid attention to as main players. People come and go, tell stories, come back, disappear, play beer pong, and mill about without rhyme or reason. It takes too long to even see where the idea is going. Are they going to be haunted by a ghost? A monster? A serial killer? In the meantime, “Bucks County Massacre” bloats with confusion about where its story intends to focus.
Struggling to generate sympathy are “two years later” interviews with family members of the deceased. These segments are inexplicably shot with the same handheld style as the rest of the movie. Framed on a two shot, the documentary camera repeatedly zooms jerkily in and out mid-interview, but not enough to single out one of the talking heads. Only enough to make a poor attempt at creating a realistic feel for a film desperately clinging to a “true story” illusion that never materializes.
When the attack finally begins, and bodies start falling one by one, “Bucks County Massacre” degenerates into a dark and blurry scream-fest of overacted hysterics and nonstop sobbing. Incessant shrieking destroys the second half of the movie as much as nonstop nonsense dulls the first.
“Bucks County Massacre” is everything hated most about the “found footage” sub-genre. Too much of nothing happening followed by a climax too poorly shot to inspire any interest. “Bucks County Massacre” takes these drawbacks to an extreme while winding up as a film assembled almost entirely from pointless material that belongs on an editing room floor.
Review Score: 20