“Killing Spree” (1987)
Studio: Twisted Illusions
Starring: Asbestos Felt, Courtney Lercara, Raymond Carbone, Joel D. Wynkoop
Directed by: Tim Ritter
Running Time: 88 min.
Synopsis: A husband thinks that his wife is cheating on him so he goes on a killing spree and murders men he believes are having an affair with his wife.
Killing Spree is one of the last good low budget horror films to come out of the 1980’s. Before the dawn of the 1990’s, where most low budget horror movies were shot on video, in the 80’s plenty of films on a shoestring budget would shoot on super-8 or 16mm. Shooting in that film stock would give the film grittiness to it, which in my opinion helps the movie and gives it this dark realism to it. In some cases the lower budget the better the horror film. When filmmakers didn’t have many funds they would make up for it in cheap creative ways. That is certainly the case in Tim Ritter’s Killing Spree. It is not a masterpiece, but it is a good fun low budget horror film with an entertaining story, bizarre characters, and great special make-up effects.
The film is about a husband, Tom Russo (Asbestos Felt), who looks like a cross between a stoned out hippie and a skinny Hulk Hogan on crack. Tom is living paycheck to paycheck with a new wife and a new house to pay for. He is over worked at his job at a small airline and refuses to let his wife, Leeza (Courtney Lercara) work to help out with the bills and starts to think his wife is cheating on him while he is away at work. He decides to take matters into his own hands and starts murdering men who he believes are messing around with Leeza.
One of the things I liked about the film was the special make-up effects by Joel Harlow. A few that stand out are when an old lady’s jaw is ripped out by an end of a hammer, a burnt up corpse of one of Tom’s victims that comes back to life with a screwdriver stuck in his head, guts being ripped out of a TV repairman’s (Joel D. Wynkoop) stomach, and a decapitated head being thrown by Tom at his best friend Sam (Raymond Carbone) who he thinks is cheating with his wife. My favorite effect is in a nightmare sequence when Tom is dreaming about Leeza having an affair with Ben and in the dream Ben is laughing at Tom and saying to him his wife gives good head. After he says that, Leeza’s head turns into a giant set of lips and starts to suck on his head. It is a very bizarre and a memorable scene.
Joel Harlow went on to do make-up effects for films like, the Pirates of the Caribbean films, Star Trek, Green Lantern and many more. He also worked on such television series and mini-series as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Stand and The Shinning. Harlow has also won an Oscar for his special make-up effects work. Killing Spree was his first film he did special effects on.
Another stand out was Asbestos Felt playing the murdering jealous husband Tom. Even before Tom starts killing people he looks like a killer and looks pissed off all the time. Even in the opening scene where he talks with his nosey neighbor he looks as if he wants to chop her up with an ax, but he is very pleasant with her, but you can tell she annoys him.
There are some cool creative killing scenes in this movie, which include a ceiling fan that has machetes for the blades where the top of a man’s head is chopped off. Another scene has Tom burying a man in the backyard up to his head and he takes a lawn mower and mows over his head and also while Tom is on a ladder talking to another man he drops a screwdriver and it is impaled on the man’s head.
Killing Spree is like a mix between a Herschell Gordon Lewis and a Troma film. The film has that vibe to it that the films of Lewis and Troma capture. Ritter actually dedicates the film to H.G. Lewis, so it seems he was inspired by him and that shows in the movie. The film also features King of the B-Movies, Joel D. Wynkoop in a supporting role as the TV repairman. The team of Ritter and Wynkoop did a ton of movies in the 80’s and 90’s and ruled the independent horror scene. This was Wynkoop’s third film with Ritter, his first two were Twisted Illusions and Truth or Dare: A Critical Madness. Wynkoop ended up starring in all Ritter’s films in the 90’s such as Creep, Dirty Cop No Donut, and the Truth or Dare sequels, Wicked Games and Screaming for Sanity.
A final note about Killing Spree is when it was released on video it was a part of the I Will Dance on Your Grave series. Eden Entertainment Video released several movie titles under this banner even though these films had nothing to do with each other. Some of the other films under the I Will Dance on Your Grave banner are Cannibal Hookers, Lethal Victims, Savage Vengeance (which is one of the unofficial sequels to I Spit on Your Grave). So, if you like low budget campy horror from the 80’s, go check out Killing Spree.