First hearing the title 4/20 Massacre was nearly enough to induce a full-on whitey. Conditioned as we are to expect the lowest common denominator from both stoner films and slasher films, the thought of the two combined was enough to make us consider a pass. Images were conjured of the Bleeding Scream killer from Scary Movie, passing the bong, screaming “Whassuuuuuuup!”
Thankfully, director Dylan Reynolds shares similar sentiments and set out to treat the Horror slasher genre with with “respect and reverence.” Influenced by A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th, 4/20 Massacre has intriguing roots of the real life instances of Guerrilla Growers – weed farmers using the USA’s National Parks – and the lengths to which they’d go defending their crops.
Reynolds was also inspired by the the date itself; “I found that not only is the day the ‘official holiday for weed enthusiasts’ but the 20th and ‘late April’ have been host to some real world tragedies – ranging from the birth of Hitler to the Columbine mass shooting.”
So that’s where we find our heroes: on a celebratory camping trip which is cut short when they happen to come across a big-ass bag of green. Instead of a bevy of bare-breasted beauties, 4/20 Massacre spends its first third building it’s female cast into a believable group of friends, each of whom you give a shit about. Not at all what you expect from a Slasher, even if they do come across as a little twee at times.
However, the extent to which you care about the characters gives you guilt pangs when you catch yourself enjoying watching them being disembowelled, disembodied and dismembered by “The Shape” (the mysterious Guerrilla Grower that channels The Mighty Boosh‘s Old Greg). The Shape itself disappoints as the Big Bad, but is eventually justified by a believable motive.
Anyway, this is all about our heroes. Jamie Bernadette (Killing Joan, I Spit on your Grave: Deja Vu) is one to remember where you saw her first. The (amazingly-named) Stacey Danger (The Neon Demon) is the stoner-in-chief and light comic relief, whilst Vanessa Rose Parker gets you right in the feels with her arc of unrequited love. Justine Wachsberger (Divergent) brings the sass and James Storm (not the Impact wrestler – sorry about your damn luck!) gets your hackles up from the outset.
Director of Photography Kyle Stryker paints each scene in striking gold and bronze and it’s a joy to hear orchestral string stabs soundtracking intestinal gut stabs. The violence is equal parts shocks and laughs: off-colour blood, memorable offings and one eye-popping scene which caused this atheist to blaspheme. Not hard, to be fair, but still.
Reynolds set out to reclaim the slasher sub-genre from parodies, self-referentialism and being treated like “the “red-headed step child” of horrors” and on this front, deserves high praise indeed.
Y’know, high? ‘cos of the weed?
4/20 Massacre is out now and available from Amazon.