Tuesday, December 18, 2018

December to Dismember: MASSACRE ON AISLE 12 (2016)

Dang, it was starting to look like a black Christmas as we were 0 for 4 in terms of recent holiday horrors. Straight trash like ELVES and MOTHER KRAMPUS 2: SLAY RIDE had us curled up in the corner of our respective homes, frantically rocking and repeating over and over “it’s only a terrible movie...it’s only a terrible movie…” But these digital potholes actually served a purpose. Much like a car needs recalibration and alignment after rough roads, these films helped us course correct and see the road more clearly. Sure we were still swerving all over the place, but we at least could now appreciate a section of the road where the folks actually put some effort. And so the low budget horror-comedy MASSACRE ON AISLE 12 shines in our glazed eyes by actually giving a damn.

The film opens with affable Dave (Michael Buonomo) showing up for his first day at Mr. Beaver's Hardware Store. As he enters the break room, Dave sees a report on the television about an armored car robbery that was done by the Santa’s Hat bandits. Obviously this will be important information. Dave is shown the ropes by assistant manager Jack (Chad Ridgely), who is introduced smashing a baseball bat against a vending machine to get his beloved fritter. “This vending machine is like my ex-wife. Took all my money and didn’t give me any pie,” Jack remarks. That will let you know the level this film is playing at. Dave is quickly introduced to a cavalcade of goofy characters that include pill popping Tara (Melissa Saint-Amand); Black Jack (Aikido Burgess), the surly black guy always writing in his notebook; Otto (Jim Klock), the nutzo war veteran; Mr. Kipper (Doug Burch), the manager who always wants to measure Dave’s inseam; Pharms (Mike Capozzi), the resident drug dealer who creates marijuana strain in the attic; and the store Santa (William Mark McCullough) and his scantily-clad assistant Barbie (Amber Jean).

It is Christmas Eve so things are pretty dead...and they are about to get deader. While four guys are trying to move a rather heavy box, they unlock it and find a dead guy inside. Not only is he dead, but he is holding onto bag filled with tens of thousands of dollars. Obviously he is one of the robbers, but no one knows how he got in there. Or do they? With lots of dollars at stake, the situation devolves into chaos rather quickly. Jack thinks they should keep and split the money, while Black Jack thinks they should notify the authorities. The disagreement ends with Black Jack punching White Jack, which pushes the latter over the edge. He breaks all of their cell phones (in a nice move by the writers they have the manager demand they are in his office while working), smokes some of Pharms’ tainted stash, and barricades all of the doors.

The events go south (souther?) almost immediately while the group is voting about what to do with the money. Jack returns with a crossbow and accidentally shoots Otto with it. This starts of a funny recurring gag where everyone accidentally smashes, beats, stabs and maims the helpless Otto throughout the film. Proving he is on the naughty list, Santa grabs the crossbow and orders Barbie to grab the loot. Unfortunately for him, a dye pack explodes in his face and sends him back to get impaled on some gardening equipment. Others start dropping like flies as Barbie gets electrocuted and Pharms gets shot dead after Mr. Kipper absconds with the bag and tries to escape through the ventilation shafts. Dave, Tara and Black Jack reluctantly team up to find and stop Mr. Kipper all the while the deranged Jack is stalking everyone because he wants the money and his revenge too.

Jeez, why is it easier for me to write 2000 words about a film I hated versus one I enjoyed? Shot in Georgia, MASSACRE ON AISLE 12 was a pleasant surprise. Now let me preface that by saying this is a low budget feature, so anyone expecting something on the technical level of a Hollywood Will Ferrell comedy will be sorely disappointed. Actually, this is quite different than a Ferrell comedy because it is actually funny. The credited writers are co-lead Ridgely and A.J. Via and they fill the script with funny, if often crude, jokes. I’m sure they watched BAD SANTA (2003) a bit as there are lots of “fucks” thrown about and nearly every stereotype is thrown out there. The funniest joke, however, for me was probably the cleanest one. It arrived toward the end where Mr. Kipper is about to be crushed by an elevator by Jack.

Jack: Bye, Mr. Kipper. Merry Christmas!
Mr. Kipper (whispering): There’s something you should know.
Jack: Yes?
Mr. Kipper: Corporate prefers you say “Happy holidays!”

So, yeah, that gag alone gets a thumbs up from me. Yeah, I’m easy, but it is hard not to be after the previous films you reviewed had people who couldn’t even remember their lines to deliver properly. The cast here is game and I can’t think of a bad one in the bunch. My personal favorites were Aikido Burgess as Black Jack and Ridgely as Psycho Jack. Ridgely reminds me of a combo of Bill Moseley and Mark Metcalf and is actually really funny in the role. I also appreciate that Ridgely and Via actually put some clever twists in their screenplay. The film resolves the “how did this dead guy get here” mystery rather easily and has a clever bit at the end showing the events might happen to a new group. If the film has any flaw, it is that co-directors Jim Klock and William Mark McCullough didn’t have a proper budget to pull it off fully. The hardware location is far from the antiseptic aisle presented on the DVD cover. I imagined how cool this would have been if the location looked like one of those sprawling big chain stores after hours. Also, the filmmaking style isn’t as zany as it could have been. If it had the wild early Sam Raimi/Peter Jackson/Alex Winter style, it could have been a hands down Christmas classic. In the end though MASSACRE ON AISLE 12 was amusing enough to be the lone (so far) light on our 2018 journey through Christmas films. The cast and filmmakers were game and you can appreciate the effort. Sometimes all it takes are the little things like a fun plot and a camera operator who knows how to keep things in focus. Like I said, I’m easy.

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