Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cinemasochism: 555 (1988)

As evidenced by our CANNIBAL CAMPOUT review, the shot-on-video projects are really the wild west of the horror genre – anything goes and it is usually going to get real ugly, real quick.  One of the most legendary and sought after SOV nightmares is a film called 555.  Its notoriety is thanks mostly to its rareness and an eye-catching cover.  I can remember first catching a glimpse of that decapitation in an quarter page ad inside an issue of Slaughterhouse magazine back in 1988 (posted at the end of the review).  It was burned into my brain and (foolishly) I knew I had to see this film.

Of course, elusiveness and superiority are two things that rarely meet in the SOV horror subgenre.  I was finally able to track down a copy in 2007 at a video store going out of business.  This place had an odd policy in that they didn’t have a set price and instead set the sale price based on the film’s rental history.  So I got up with my stack of videos, palms sweating at the prospect of hearing, “That’ll be $90 for 555.”  I tensed up when told the MCA VHS of DEATH VALLEY (1982) would be $22.  Surely 555 is going to cost me big time.  The girl at the register looks at that cover, probably judges me and types it in.  “555 will be $8,” she says. Obviously not a big renter, but I am giddy knowing I will be getting such a rare title for cheap.  As you might know already from this blog, I'm dumb.  One man’s garbage is another man’s gold as they say.

Well, if you pick up that trash can and dig about five-hundred-fifty-five feet into the ground, you might find this garbage. This actually makes SOV champ BLOOD CULT look sophisticated.  A killer in Chicago is preying on young couples having sex and the film opens with a bloody slaughter (a naked chick gets blood thrown on her) of a hot-n-heavy duo.  The only witness is retired Army Col. Wayne (Charles Fuller), who was walking on the beach and discovered the bodies after hearing the screams.  Hot-headed police sergeant Conner (Greg Kerouac) doesn’t buy Wayne’s detailed description of a killer dressed like a hippie.  “You gave us a description of the murderer, yet no description at all,” says by D.A. Ralph Kennedy (Greg Neilson) in a real head-scratcher piece of dialog.  Hey, isn't Wayne trying to help you?

Of course, since these are movie cops, Wayne immediately becomes top suspect and the cops begin harassing him.  After all, it is best to focus your investigation of several murders on just one guy because your gut tells you he is bad.  The go to his house and find out - gasp - this former Army guy has a collection of knives.  And his Army medical report says being in combat effected him.  This must be the "sicko son of a bitch who can only get it up once a night" as Conner eloquently puts it.  Exploiting Wayne is female reporter Susan Rather (Mara Lynn Bastian), who uses her female, uh, attributes to seduce him.  Did I mention Bastian isn’t the most attractive lady out there?  Argh, my eyes!

Meanwhile, more murders happen as another couple is killed in their van; a fornicating pair is killed in a warehouse; and aesthetically unpleasing lovers in a bedroom are murdered by this dirty hippie.  Our detectives – through no work of their own – find out this series of murders has happened before.  Twenty years ago in Springfield, Massachusetts.  Fifteen years ago in Buffalo, New York.  Ten years ago in St. Louis, Missouri.  Five years ago in Baltimore, Maryland. Every five years as series of five attacks spread over five nights. Five...Five...Five!!! Hey, this is also the fifth time it happens so shouldn’t the movie be called 5555?   Now what that all means or why the killer dresses as a hippie is anybody's guess.

This “film” is the handiwork of one Wally Koz.  His IMDb bio says he was a gold prospector and he probably had a better chance of striking it rich that way than making a good movie. You'll guess the killer in about 10 minutes because, frankly, the "film" only has five characters. Two are the detectives, one is the suspect, one is the reporter and the last one is never shown outside of his intro.  Gee, I wonder who it could be.  You have to love that the film is basically telling you the lead detective is also an idiot because he is completely wrong about everything.  Koz spends 80% of the time shooting in the police office as Conner rages about his top suspect.  He even reuses the distinctive bile green office set over for a victim’s bedroom.  And it is all captured in gross, porn-level videography.

Everyone in the cast is community theater level in terms of acting and, not surprisingly, they were all one-and-done.  Lead Kerouac looks like Elliot Spitzer on meth and I guess should be commended for keeping a straight face during the whole thing.  Roy Koz’s script is full of some real howlers, like inept Conner’s astute observation that “criminals are stupid fuckers.”  Even funnier are the bits trying to portray Susan Rather as a sexpot as actress Bastian looks like Rosanne Barr’s slightly more attractive sister.  Her beau Kennedy says “she has the morals of an alley cat, which makes her wonderful in bed” and she later says that no man would give up her fine piece of ass.  And, yes, she does supply nudity sadly.  As mentioned before, the mystery factor is nil and gets even more convoluted with a super-duper explanation that actually works to confuse audiences even more.  Amusingly, the end credits show this was a family affair with a Koz name popping up every other credit.  I checked the unemployment rate in the U.S. in 1988 and it was roughly 5.4%.  I can only assume Koz & co. are to thank.  Thankfully the threat of more Koz productions in the end credits never came to fruition.

The only thing going for 555 is the effects work, which is suitably gory. Of course, they are shot-on-video so they can't look that good. But it does offer the gore and nudity that are required so you can't accuse Koz of cheating the fans who desire this stuff.  No joke, the only entertainment I got out of this flick is when I sold it on eBay and went to mail it to the winner. My total at the post office?  $5.55!  *cue eerie music*  Believe it or not, I recently saw a copy of this sell on eBay for $121.50.  It is not even close to being worth that much. Trust me.  Hell, I paid $8 and felt ripped-off.  In fact, I’m going to save your $121.50 and show you the film’s highlight in GIF form.  Amazingly, this shot isn't in the actual killing but during a highlight section at the end during the killer's death.  Why?  Cuz Koz said so, kidz!  In fact, I think you owe me $121.50 for the pleasure of seeing that. You’ll thank me later.  Payments, donations and pity can be sent to


1 Reactions:

  1. Nice review---I saw this with CANNIBAL CAMPOUT sometime in the late 80s.


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