Starring: Bill Oberst Jr., Katy Foley, Zach Silverman, Morgan Benoit, Greg Depetro, Suzanne Gutierrez, Kyle Morris, Pandie Suicide, Gabriel De Santi, and Lynn Lowry
Directed by: Joe Hendrick
Written by: Daniel P. Coughlin and Ryan Coughlin
Running time: 78 minutes
Rated: Unrated (for adult situations, drug use, nudity, graphic violence)
Reviewed by Michael Juvinall
When you were in high school, I’m sure at some point you probably thought about ditching class for the day to hang with your friends for some fun – hell, many of you probably did just that on more than one occasion. It’s part of a teenager’s rite of passage to sow your seeds of youth so to speak. The young protagonists of Ditch Day Massacre sow their seeds all over the place with deadly consequences.
In Ditch Day Massacre, Jenny (Katy Foley-I’ll Haunt You When I’m Dead) is a high school senior with a promising future. She is an excellent student with her eye on the prize. However, a year ago, she was in a terrible accident that she is just now getting past and moving forward from. Jenny unknowingly made a deadly mistake a year ago and her past is returning to seek his revenge.
Jenny’s father, played by Greg Depetro (13/13/13, Skinned Alive) is a police detective trying to protect his daughter from her concealed past and will stop at nothing to safeguard her future. Jenny’s parents go out of town for a couple days and her new boyfriend Mike (Zach Silverman-Gossip Girl) talks her into ditching school for the day to party with their friends at the house. Unbeknownst to the kids, they are all being watched by a mysterious stranger (Bill Oberst Jr.- Circus of the Dead, Children of Sorrow) with nefarious intentions. Ditching school might be the worst mistake these teenagers have ever made!
On the outside, Ditch Day Massacre promises to be another by-the-numbers slasher pic, but upon closer examination, the film is a pleasant surprise with a great story, wonderful acting, and some great gore. Typically, I like to avoid these ultra-low budget slasher pics, because 90% of them aren’t even worth the effort, but this film manages to squeeze into that 10% category of ones that are worth seeing, and a big reason for that is because of Bill Oberst Jr. The man who is known by many monikers such as “The hardest working man in horror” or “the new Karloff or Chaney” really lives up to his reputation here. His apple loving character Vic in the film is a man driven by grief, pushing him in directions that any ordinary man wouldn’t take. His character is believable enough, although his madness places him on the extreme end of the spectrum, I can still see this happening. While we may not agree with his actions, we can all relate to Vic and have sympathy for him. That’s what makes Oberst Jr. such a great actor. He is able to emote sympathy for his character with great ease, yet still making him a vengeance fueled madman. Some of the greatest monsters in the history of cinema are the ones we sympathize for the most.
The remainder of the cast is also admirable in their roles. The younger actors actually pull it off more than some of the adults do, with the exception of Oberst Jr., of course. The kids turned out some fine performances, while the adults were less than believable. Brad Potts who portrayed Detective Mann in the film was a little too much over the top and Tara Gerard along with Morgan Benoit were not believable as cops – are there no marked police cruisers in this city? I know, downfall of a low budget. Also, look for a cameo by cult actress Lynn Lowry (I Drink Your Blood, The Crazies, Cat People) as a sex hungry neighbor.
As I said previously, I was surprised by the writing in this film; the story was interesting and mostly believable. I did have a couple of problems with the script. There is a surprise twist in the final reel which most genre fans will see coming. Also, I was a little put off by Oberst Jr’s Vic wearing black leather gloves that scream “I’m a criminal” in front of people and them not caring or paying attention. If I live in LA and it’s not cold out and I’m talking with a dude wearing black leather gloves, then I’m calling the cops, but these petty squabbles didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the film. Hey, I’m a critic and it’s my job to nitpick. Also of note is an atypical finale that resonated with me.
I was truly surprised with the amount of gore on display in this film. There are some amazing makeup effects on display in this film. Josh and Sierra Russell do a wonderful job on the makeup and there are some really great gore set pieces in the film. Aside from the gore, there is some mature content with nudity that fanboys will love as well.
In the end, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by this film. Ditch Day Massacre is horror done right! It’s exciting, with a great story, great acting, and lots of blood! This is another damn fine performance by Bill Oberst Jr. While the film is not without its problems, it’s definitely heads, shoulders, and intestines above most others in the sub-genre. Be sure to give this one a go!
4 out of 5 Pentagrams!
Watch the trailer for Ditch Day Massacre here,