Thursday, November 27, 2014

Heinous for the Holidays: HOME SWEET HOME (1981)

As we all know, in the '80s, slasher movies were exploiting every possible angle to make their movie about a deranged, homicidal madman stand out from the pack. Since everybody loves holidays, let's make a holiday themed slasher movie. And, hey, fitness videos are all the rage, so let's get the BODY BY JAKE guy to play a psychotic, giggling loony on PCP. Genius!

When a schmoe in a Grand Marquis station wagon offers a burly dude a beer out of his car, the musclehead flips out and strangles the driver to death! Why would you kill a guy for that? He must be M.A.D.D.! (hey, quit throwing those eggs) In fact Jay Jones (Jake Steinfeld) is a homicidal maniac who has just escaped from an asylum where he had been locked away for the brutal murders of his parents. After jacking the stylin' ride, he shoots up some PCP under his tongue, runs down what appears to be Ruth Buzzi, and heads out to... well, a camper trailer in the California foothills to wash the blood off of the car that he will never touch again. Why? Who knows? Probably for the same reason he has "Home Sweet Home" tattooed on the back of his hand. He be crazy an' shit!

Meanwhile a couple of preppies, Scott (David Mielke) and Jennifer (Colette Trygg), are headed out to a hacienda-style ranch house to celebrate Thanksgiving with the people he rents his mother-in-law-style apartment from. This is what happens when you wear sweaters tied around your neck. Not only is this awkward enough, but he fills in his girl-friend on the people who they are going to be with. These folks apparently have a lot of nuts growing in the family tree. Says Scott, "I can promise you an interesting evening at least." Oh, thaaaank you. And why does this guy have no friends?

The family that they are visiting is comprised of Bradley (Don Edmonds, yes the Don Edmonds) who has serious anger management issues that he takes out on his stepson Mistake (Peter De Paula), who runs around in black on white face-paint, playing an electric guitar, doing magic tricks and generally annoying the hell out of everyone. Honestly though, any kid named "Mistake" with an abusive, alcoholic step-parent is going to be seeking negative attention. I blame the parents. Even worse, his mother Linda (Sallee Young) chases him around with a baseball bat after he interrupts his parents attempt at a bit of bedroom Thanksgetting.

Then we have Wayne (Charles Hoyes) and his "Latina" girlfriend Maria (Lisa Rodríguez), who because she is "Latina", cheerfully sings Mexican ballads off-key while badly playing an acoustic guitar. Clearly she is meant to be the most annoying idiot in the bunch. She isn't. While fumbling with simple Spanish phrases and squealing at the drop of a serape, Jennifer looks over at Scott with a smirk and says "She's so Latin, I can't believe it!" Same here Jennifer, I don't believe it either. All of this occurs while Wayne is freaking the out because the power went out and he won't be able to watch "The Game." What game this is, is not made clear. Perhaps championship pai-gow.

Also along for the straight-jacket festivities is Linda's far-too-hot-to-be-spending-any-holiday-with-these-assholes friend Gail (Leia Naron) and Mistake's little sister Angel (a very young Vinessa Shaw). Wait, wasn't there a psycho killer on the loose? Why yes there is, he is the cause of the power failure. What he has been doing this whole time is as obtuse as pretty much everything else in the movie. At this point screenwriter Thomas Bush decides that the group should be split up, presumably to be picked off one by one. Or to just allow him the opportunity to write more annoying scenes of the jackasses being idiots on their own, I'm not sure which. Brad stumbles across an abandoned station wagon and decides to siphon the gas for his generator and while he's at it, steal the battery because the one in his Jeep keeps dying while the car is running. This of course makes Jay jump out from behind a tree and squash Bradley with the hood of the car.

This brings up an important point. If you came to this party to see some fun slasher action, you are barking up the wrong video.  Jay is presumably off wandering around in a drug-fueled delirium until the end of the movie. He lurches into view every now and again to blurt out his (overdubbed) stuttering hyena laugh, but really doesn't do a whole hell of a lot. It's mostly a bunch of irritating idiots arguing and being pissed off about petty things. One character gets cranky in the kitchen because he can't find the peas while looking at the spice rack. Honestly, I want them all to die horribly, but they just don't. Deaths include, as I mentioned, Bradley getting a car hood slammed on him (the horror!), Gail's death by falling-down-on-a-small-rock, and the old dry ice / epileptic seizure electrocution gag. Most of the deaths are off-screen as well. One scene has our laughing boy stalking a character before swinging a broken bottle at the camera. That is literally all you see of this character's presumably gristly demise except for a reveal of the corpse later in the film (the only real prosthetic effect in the film). This is like watching hotel-room porn, all you have it the badly acted stuff without any of the bits everyone came to see in the first place.

Oddly, they do give Jay two lines of dialogue. While holding a knife to a girl's throat he says, in a laid-back surfer voice, "women are no good, they only cause you problems, man." A fair point on the latter half of the argument, but I think he may be overreacting a bit. It's moments like this that make HOME marginally enjoyable, as it has virtually nothing going on in the realm of horror. Well, unless you count family gatherings as "horror" or are scared by a full minute of people sitting by a fireplace before hearing a creaking sound, discovering it is nothing and going to sit back down again.

Made by the one-and-done Nettie Peña as part of a, this is the best part, Loyola Marymount internship project, this was made two years after Jake Steinfeld started his business as Trainer to the Stars and a year before his CNN "Fitness Break by Jake" TV debut. Apparently rubbing elbows with the entertainment industry gave him the acting bug and this movie actually followed appearances in AMERICATHON (1979) and CHEECH AND CHONG'S NEXT MOVIE (1980), the latter of which was a big Summer movie from Paramount. It's not really surprising that this didn't lead to bigger parts, simply because Steinfeld is a teeeeeerible actor. He genuinely makes me pine for the delicate subtlety of Lyle Alzado in DESTROYER (1988).

If you watch college basketball, you will know that Loyola Marymount is a mega-buck Christian college who actually refer to their home games as "Home Sweet Home" games. The irony there is probably my favorite thing about this drawn-out Thanksgiving turkey. My other favorite thing is that it's not a sequel to THANKSKILLING 3 (2012).

2 Reactions:

  1. Poor Blood Rage, it always gets overshadowed by Home Sweet Home whenever Thanksgiving rolls around.

    Granted, it has even LESS to do with the holiday...

  2. That actually is on the agenda, but I have to space them out to one a year or else I'm going to run out long before I get sick of writing about subversive holiday films.


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