The Movie Waffler New Release Review (DVD/VOD) - 4/20 MASSACRE | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review (DVD/VOD) - 4/20 MASSACRE

4/20 massacre review
A gang of female stoners is targeted by a killer in the woods.

Review by Sue Finn

Directed by: Dylan Reynolds

Starring: Jamie Bernadette, Vanessa Rose Parker, Stacey Danger, Justine Wachsberger, Marissa Pistone, Jim Storm

4/20 massacre poster

Horror has a ‘proud’ tradition of appropriating recognised holidays and making them synonymous with terror, e.g. Friday the 13th, Halloween, Black Christmas etc. This is the first movie using the newly Christened 420 holiday and it’s done slasher style.

For those not in the know, 420 is a code term used in cannabis culture to help distinguish those that are happy to partake of the ganja. It originated with a group of high school kids in San Rafael, California circa early 1970s who would get stoned after school was out - at 4:20pm. An unofficial ‘holiday’ sprang up in support of the term, which is naturally celebrated on 4/20 (April 20th in the American way of writing dates), which encourages sparking up a doobie at 4:20pm to be precise.

Writer/director Dylan Reynolds4/20 Massacre sets out to combine horror with weed, and its quite a treat all round!

4/20 massacre

We begin with two stoners (Dug - Drew Talbot and Buddy - Mark Schroeder) who stumble upon the stash of the century, growing unattended and wild in the woods. They decide, naturally, to load up their backpacks with the stuff, but not before pausing for one giant Jay. They obviously didn’t get the memo that horror characters who indulge in any of the three ‘sins’ - sex, drugs or alcohol - are of course, marked for death; and so Dug dies right away, giving Buddy time to run off with his companion’s shrieks still echoing in the wilderness.

Later, five friends arrive in the woods and are setting off to go camping in honour of Jess (Jamie Bernadette), who is celebrating her birthday.

Each character is introduced effortlessly as they exit the four-wheel drive and unload it, personalities easy to read in the interactions.

One of them (Donna - Stacey Danger of the excellent The Neon Demon) is apparently a heavy smoker as she is last to leave the vehicle, content to sit in the trunk surrounded by pot paraphernalia as she marinates in the smoke.

Today, she explains, is the 420 holiday as well as Jess’ birthday, and she intends to fully embrace both celebrations.

They’ve only just begun on their journey when they run into the park ranger, who is concerned about them camping alone all weekend. He asks them to call him Ranger Rick (Jim Storm - chewing scenery at fantastical Nic Cage levels), cadges a beer and tells them to keep away from the hills as they have an issue with guerrilla growers who aren’t just your friendly neighbourhood hippie types but actual gangsters who will hurt them.

They send him off and then continue on their way to Higgins Creek, a former stomping ground for old friends Aubrey (Vanessa Rose Parker) and Jess.

4/20 massacre

Rachel (Justine Wachsberger) - she’s a romantic she claims, not a player - has brought her latest conquest, Michelle (Marissa Pistone), who is obviously out of her element in the great outdoors. There’s some get-to-know-you chit chat while they walk, some humour and some talk of plans; all natural dialogue that gives you a sense of who the five women are in relation to each other without a false note.

It's all smart and snappy dialogue accompanied by some trippy folk music until they run into Buddy, who is still freaked out over the death of Dug. He’s got a bag full of weed that he hands to the ladies before running off thinking that his problems are over now, but unfortunately for Buddy they’re not, as he is soon dispatched. His gutting is a graphic good time, however I have to admit to being somewhat distracted by the fact that intestines don’t generally have links like sausages. Hmmmmm.

The women settle in for their party picnic to a tent-building montage.

Aubrey, it eventuates, has a crush on birthday girl Jess and doesn’t know how to make a move, though Rachel is happy to impart her girl-getting wisdom in between preparing them a hotdog feast.

There’s much talk about Cannabis and its differing effects. Donna educates them all on the importance of the 420 holiday and in particular the date's macabre significance throughout history; such as it being Hitler’s birthday (Jess none to pleased to share her special day with that particular dictator), The Bay of Pigs, The Waco siege, Oklahoma City bombings, and Columbine. She says it’s an evil date and they are obligated to get high to ward off the dark forces and chill out.

They, of course, do just that.

It’s not long before the killer (known as ‘The Shape’, he’s all camouflage gear and long talons) finds them and gets to work.

4/20 massacre

There is much to enjoy here as 4/20 Massacre has all the hallmarks of an old-fashioned slasher movie - over the top deaths, a striking killer, remote wilderness, camping, and a hint of sexiness. The film’s tone has a great sense of levity but the murders are gruesome and dirty. There’s some campiness but it still manages to make you care about the characters (who are essentially and refreshingly cliché-free), and the relationships between them feel genuine and are handled with sensitivity. The acting is also well above expected with everyone bringing their A-game, and I really enjoyed the sun bleached look of the movie too.

The small ‘twist’ at the end was not entirely a surprise but it worked well, and this film has a great final moment that we’ve seen before but is always deeply satisfying.

Violent and nasty in all the right ways, with an unusually ethereal score by Angela Winter Defoe, and surprisingly all set in daylight.

High-ly recommended!

4/20 Massacre is on DVD/VOD April 3rd.