John Bruni reviews Blood Hook

Blood Hook 85 min., 1986
Written by Larry Edgerton/John Galligan/David Herbert/James Mallon/Gail Anderson/Douglas Rand
Directed by James Mallon
Language: English
My rating: ★★★

“Nice pole! I like it!”

* * *

If you were a b-movie director back in the day and heard that MST3K did a show on one of your films, the response would probably be either one of flattery or one of anger. How dare those guys make fun of my masterpiece! If they think they’re so smart, why don’t they try making a movie?

Well, one of them did. James Mallon, who eventually became Jim Mallon, co-wrote and directed a movie called BLOOD HOOK, about a muskie fishing competition that goes horribly wrong.

Yes, that’s right. A muskie fishing competition. To make matters even crazier, the villain kills people with a giant fish hook. So yeah, this movie was clearly not meant to be taken seriously, but does that mean that Mallon can simply throw a movie together without giving much of a shit?

No, and it seems that he has taken his job seriously, even though he wants to make you laugh. It turns out that he has an amazing eye for setting up a scene. The movie opens up with the image of a house so close to the edge of a lake that it looks like it’s floating on the surface. It looks very beautiful, and when it’s coupled with Mallon’s choice of music, it’s almost idyllic. There is also this weird transport thingie set up that runs on a track from up high down to the lake, and when the kid version of the protagonist rides down, it’s just perfectly shot.

The main weakness of this film is the story. Peter van Clease, as a child, saw his grandfather die under mysterious circumstances. Seventeen years later, he comes back home with his girlfriend and a few others to take part in Muskie Madness, the annual fishing contest. Even though Finner, one of his friends, is a master fisherman, the locals all hate this group of youngsters. Bev D., however, seems to have a crush on Finner, and they spend a good portion of the movie flirting, even though she should probably be watching her son, who she just leaves in a playpen in the front yard. Because, you know, who the fuck does that? In another scene, she lets him play down by the lake while she works out with some weights at a fair distance away.

Anyway, everyone pretty much hates Peter and his friends, from the weird, stiff caretaker to the Vietnam vet who is one tin foil hat away from being Alex Jones. As a result, it’s hard to suspect any one person when Peter’s friends start turning up dead. Or rather, not turning up dead. The bodies disappear, but there is plenty of blood left behind.

That’s the thing: even though there is no evidence of murder, everyone pretty much acts like their missing friends are already dead. None of them have hope of finding them alive. If only they’d thought to look under the pier, where the killer has left them all with rope run through their jawbones, kind of like what you do when you catch a bunch of fish. Because shit, no one would have ever noticed THAT, now would they?

Here’s another problem: the characters exist to do two things and two things only. Either they act in such a way to make the viewer suspect them as a killer (which happens a few times), or they do something to put themselves in a position to be conveniently killed. That’s it. Take, for example, the guy who goes out fishing at night. Why, exactly, would someone do that? Oh yeah, so the killer can nail him with the giant fish hook and not have anyone see it. Okay. And isn’t it nice that everyone who gets killed is listening to music when they die? That’s really helpful, considering how it’s a weird mixture of music and cicadas that drives the killer crazy in the first place . . . .

But the killer doesn’t always kill. No, even though he’s a crazed and dangerous murderer, he fails to kill the child hanging out by the side of the lake, neglected by his mother. And he also decides to kidnap Peter’s girlfriend, because if he killed her, Peter wouldn’t get to rescue her later in a very dramatic scene.

This might not be so bad if Mallon had gotten great actors. However, he really scraped the bottom of the barrel on this one. No one does a good job. NO ONE. Probably the worst was Patrick Danz, who plays Peter’s cool punk friend. His sneering disdain is just the same as his sneering mockery: awful. Even when he’s sneering gleefully, he comes off as a wooden douche.

Aside from Mallon’s ability to put together a beautiful scene, where does this movie shine? The effects, for one. All right, the giant fish hook is pretty laughable, but there is a scene where one of the characters gets his ear ripped off, and it looks pretty real while he’s holding it in his hand. Also, the scene where the killer put a hook through the bottom of a character’s jaw and pulled a rope through the wound and out the mouth was also amazing.

The comedy is also pretty strong. Peter tries to convince the sheriff to shut down the Muskie Madness competition because of the killer, and the sheriff goes on a rant about how it’s too big of a tourist attraction. It’s a very good parody of JAWS. Also, the town’s number one fisher gets busted cheating when he shoves a metal pipe down the throat of one of his “catches” to make it heavier for the weigh-in.

But for every moment of pure comic gold, there are too many moments of goofiness. Remember the guy who got his ear cut off? Peter recognizes him by his severed ear. Also, Peter takes casting lessons so he can beat the killer at his own game. That’s right, the final battle consists of him vs. the killer as they cast their hooks at each other.

Is this movie worthwhile? Only if you’re really drunk. It would be nice to see what Mallon could pull off with a better script and kick ass actors, but all in all, he fares pretty well. However, BLOOD HOOK is definitely MST3K-type material. It would be nice if Rifftrax made fun of it at some point . . . .

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About John Bruni

John Bruni is the author of DONG OF FRANKENSTEIN (New Kink), POOR BASTARDS AND RICH FUCKS and TALES OF QUESTIONABLE TASTE (StrangeHouse) and STRIP (Riot Forge). His short work has appeared in anthologies like A HACKED-UP HOLIDAY MASSACRE (Pill Hill), ZOMBIE! ZOMBIE! BRAIN BANG! (StrangeHouse) and the critically acclaimed VILE THINGS (Comet). He edited STRANGE SEX 3 for StrangeHouse, and he was the editor and publisher of TABARD INN: TALES OF QUESTIONABLE TASTE. Find out more at www.talesofquestionabletaste.com and www.talesofunspeakabletaste.blogspot.com.
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