Well, from the title and the year, I’m assuming this is a slasher flick. Let’s find out.
We open on some bucolic wilderness shots, probably a national park. Boy, this will surely offer a stark contrast to the presumed horrors to come, eh? The film’s title, meanwhile, glides into view over a still shot and via obvious computer insertion (and I mean, 1988 computer insertion), so presumably this print originally bore one of the film’s other titles, Valley of Death or Memorial Day.*
[*Unlike most holiday themed slasher films, the holiday doesn’t really have much to do with anything. The film does take place on Memorial Day weekend, but there’s no background connection to the date, like in Halloween or the various Christmas slashers.]
The credits list the star as John Kerry, although (as amusing as that would be) I’m assuming it’s not Senator John Kerry. More promising, though, are the names of William “Big Bill” Smith and, inevitably, Cameron Mitchell. That’s about it cast-wise, however.
A convoy of RVs and vans and SUVs rolls past patently inserted stock shots of deer and raccoons and prairie dogs and stuff. Upon reaching their remote destination, however, everyone is pissed to discover that the park isn’t open. This is especially true of the park’s owner, (uh oh) real estate developer Allan Sangster (Mitchell). As you’d imagine, he’s a big greedy jerk who puts money ahead of human life. Let’s just say I won’t be betting he’ll still be around by the end of the picture.*
[*Future Ken: And he won’t be…but only because they only had enough money for him to appear in this one scene.]
Anyway, it’s Memorial Day weekend, and the park is due to open today, and Sangster won’t take no for an answer. This despite the roads not being finished, and even the camp’s water supply having been tainted by the body of a dead dog. (This must be a taxidermied real dead dog, but I’m not buying that being a prosthetic.) It’s pretty clear the dog was thrown in there as an act of intentional sabotage.
Also arriving is Sangster’s nice, Robby Benson-esque son David. He’s a college-trained naturalist and will be our hero. Unknown to his dad, he’s arranged to have a job here, meaning to start at the bottom and be his own man. Anyhoo, I think we’ve got the basic set-up down. Isolated camp newly opened in previously pristine wilderness, poorly staffed, etc.
The horror starts quickly thereafter. Although by ‘horror,’ I mean dreadful Wacky Comedy Music. This accompanies the sight of people setting up their tents and campgrounds in purportedly zany fashions, such as dropping stuff or backing an RV into over a sapling. Ho ho! However, terror then raises its companion head when we espy (music sting!) a feral, snaggle-toothed, be-mulleted dude hiding in the camp’s storage shed. Indeed, this guy looks like he wandered off the set of an Ator movie. He’s even dressed in animal skins. Seriously.
Meanwhile, there’s a pretty girl for David to woo, some *cough* bikers, some wild teens (more mullets and wife-beater t-shirts), some middle-aged city folks, a comical fat kid…you know, basically an assortment of characters that seem to have been purchased in a kit. For what it’s worth, most everyone is pretty obnoxious, and thus their presumed impending demises promise to be entertaining.
On the other hand, one camper is retired USMC Lt. Brigadier General Mintz,* played by Big Bill Smith. It’s always to a pleasure to see him on my TV screen. Even so, the movie’s going to be in for a chore if I’m to believe that he’ll be kacked by Feral Lad.
[*Uhm, there are Lt. Generals, and Brigadier Generals, but there ain’t no Lt. Brigadier Generals.]
Further ‘ominous’ events occur, like mounds of *ahem* poisonous snakes being thrown into one of the camper’s food supply. Then Fat Kid, who’s another jerk, illegally takes his ATV for a ride. Since Feral Lad is a nature lover, he chases Fat Kid down and bloodlessly snaps the guy’s neck. And none too soon, with the film thus providing the first real body half an hour into things. (Yes, the above fills half an hour. That gives you an idea of the film’s pacing.) We got a loooong way to go before we start calling this a massacre.
It’s here we learn that the valley has been almost completely isolated up until now, just in case we hadn’t gotten the ‘revenge of nature’ thing. Admittedly, nature as represented by a redneck cousin of Tarzan, but still. Meanwhile, Feral Lad (who lives in a cave) goes nuts when he hears the tune from the pocket watch of Ranger George, David’s boss. So when we learn that George had a young son that was kidnapped right in this area but was never found….
Let’s condense this, shall we:
• Slutty Teen Girl does a wet t-shirt thing, briefly providing some visible nipplage if not actual boobage.
• The who-give-a-damn romance between the sensitive David and, er, Cheryl progresses oddly fast. Indeed, she goes from ‘buzz off’ to ‘clothes off’ without overmuch in between. As many readers know, I’m no gorehound, but yeesh, this protracted romance stuff indicates somebody didn’t get who the audience was for this sort of thing. And the ‘barely racy for a Lifetime TV movie’ sex scene probably didn’t pay the bills either.
• OK, there’s a bear! I love bears. The movie has satisfied me for a while.
• Not a long while, though, so get on with it.
• Feral Lad leaves Fat Kid in the area, so everyone thinks he was killed by the bear.
• Remember when Quint in Jaws wrecked the radio rather than call for help? Ranger George does the same thing with the camp’s only phone. (This being before cellular phones, of course.) Why would he do this? IITS.
• Oh, wait, then he DOES call the police via his shortwave radio. So….OK, I don’t know what the hell that was about.
• Anyway, then the cops leave again, so I guess they still won’t be a factor. See, the valley is even more cut off because of the big storm that night.
• So some people (the ones with half a brain) leave the camp the next day. However, the others stay behind to hunt the bear, despite the fact that any further storms would wash out the roads and leave them stranded there. I should note that I found all this UTTERLY CONVINCING.
• Really? They’re giving guns to the moron teen punk kids? Whatever.
• Hey, is Cameron Mitchell coming back? If not, he was in the movie for about three whole minutes.
• Two biker dudes head into the woods to look for the Fat Kid’s ATV. Ranger George, David, Punk Kids, General Fritz, and Expendable Black Dude hunt the bear.
• Oh, just in case I’ve failed to mention, Feral Lad is good at setting traps and stuff.
• Wow, we’re just about at the one hour mark, with half an hour left, and there’s still only been one death. LAME!
• Dammit, this disc is starting to seize up. Let’s see if it will continue to play on my computer instead of my DVD player.
• OK, it does. Still kind of a pain in the ass, though.
• Biker dudes find Feral Lad’s cave. Small valley, I guess. There they find a skeleton. Brrr. (I’m assuming it’s the kidnapper who took Ranger George’s kid all those years ago. But wait, that means….bum, bum, bum!)
• Uh, fleshless human skulls don’t have attached jaws. Just sayin’.
• Wow, Feral Lad pops up and dispatches one of them with an axe! (Let’s just say that Tom Savini isn’t going to lose any sleep over the film’s PG ‘gore’ effects.) It’s almost like action or something. And look, the film is racking up an entire body every half hour!
• Meanwhile, the Mullet Twins (basically the poor man’s Corey and Corey) head out again, leaving Skank Girl behind. Yawn.
• Man, nobody involved in this film knew much about gun safety.
• Hmm, Feral Lad is chasing Other Biker Dude. Is the film actually going to kill two people in five minutes?
• Yep, via Ye Old Spiked Pit. Well, that was handily placed.
• Superfluous Gun Racking!
• Having found Biker Number 1, George sends Brunette Mullet Lad back to camp alone to warn the others. Yes, the traditional splitting of the forces. Always a wise move.
• And Brunette Mullet Lad falls into the exact same spiked pit as Biker Number 2. Man, that really IS handily placed. Still, at least the bodies are starting to pile up.
• By the way, isn’t Ranger George and Sangster going to get their asses sued off?
• Now they’re trying to milk the Tragedy that Murderous Feral Lad is George’s Long Lost Son thing. Not very well, though.
• Things I Learned: Feral Guys who have lived in caves and the wilderness all their lives are really good at disabling cars and both short wave and CB radios. (Too bad George himself wrecked the phone, huh?)
• I know the lack of the radio is supposed to isolate everyone, but really, I can’t believe the police wouldn’t come back out to see how everyone’s doing.
• OK, that’s a whole mess of collectively bad acting right there.
• The General decides not to join the others. Given what morons they are, I can’t really blame him. However, I’m sure he and his wife will pay the Ultimate Price for his macho hubris. (That would be a good band name, Macho Hubris.)
• Feral Lad kacks Mullet Lad 2. I have to say, we’re now quickly approaching actual Massacre status. However, Feral Lad’s ingenuity at disabling motor vehicles remains a tad hard to swallow. In fact, I think he’s supposed to be booby trapping the natural gas feed in the General’s RV. I guess he’s Caveman meets MacGyver, which is TOTALLY BELIEVEABLE.
• Mrs. General asks him how he wants his steak. “Well done!” he replies. Oh, the irony.
• Wow, smoking WILL kill you. Two more kills. Still, the film is fiercely hanging on it it’s PG-esque level of violence.
• OK, that might be the Most Unmotivated Walking Off Alone Incident in horror movie history.
• Skank Girl bites it. (After getting her boobs groped at length by Feral Lad! Yuck!!) Man, they really are popping ‘em off now.
• Apparently it’s about as hard to kill people as it is to break China plates.
• You know, this whole movie really sort of reinforces that “everyone staying together” thing.
• Wow, that Evils of Capitalism speech really makes you think. Thanks, movie!
• Wandered Off For No Reason Biker Girl? Kacked. Wow, Psycho Killers always know EXACTLY where to hide, huh?
• Those are some bad acoustics, I tell you what.
• Hmm, Expendable Black Guy runs off on his own! What could possibly happen now?
• OK, where the f*ck did he get that torch (!), how did he light it at night without it being noticed, and how did he know EBG would spill gas all around? Wait, was that Body Falling Out of the Tree supposed to be part of an elaborate trap, meant to startle him and make him spill the gasoline? Good grief, this is absolutely retarded.
• And of course the Black Guy dies easily the most agonizing death. Nice.
• OK, now Feral Lad knows how to start and operate a bulldozer?! WHAT…THE…HOLY…F*(&#@$…. Seriously, I’m starting to get a little pissed off here.
• You know, it’s really not that hard to run to the side of a bulldozer, from which vantage point you could easily shoot the driver. But no, keep firing into the blade. That will work fine.
• So…George is more upset at seeing his shack knocked down than he’s been about the like dozen murders?
• I can only assume they all wanted to die, right? I mean, otherwise they wouldn’t have all just stood there.
• OK, for those keeping track, only George, David and Cheryl are left. And since George kind of is responsible for all this, you know he ain’t making it out of here.
• David and Cheryl split, leaving George to chase after his boy. Man, I really hope this movie ends some day.
Anyway, George tracks Feral Lad through the woods, avoiding various deadly traps the guy has set. Finally he corners Feral Lad, but talks to him instead of shooting him. Feral Lad produces George’s old watch with the signature tune (he got this earlier), proving that he is George’s son and that moreover he understands that this is so. George is so overcome, however, that he impulsively steps forward and trips a spring-loaded tree truck loaded with spikes. George dies (somewhat) gorily and Feral Lad screams in sorrow. OH, THE IRONY.
Cut back to the campgrounds where David is telling the cops that they’ll never catch Feral Lad. Meanwhile, he assures them that the camp will be closed down, and the valley allowed to return to wilderness. We last espy Feral Lad up on a hill, waiting to see if a sequel is required (yeah, right) Man again dares to contaminate his home.
This was the second film in the 50 movie set Chilling Classics. For the record, it wasn’t very chilling and it weren’t no classic. The presentation was decent enough and looked like exactly what you’d expect; it was ported over from a zoomboxed VHS copy.