4/20 Massacre (USA 2018) Dir: Dylan Reynolds
Jamie Bernadette, Vanessa Rose Parker, Jim Storm, James Gregory
For lovers of Mary Jane, the twentieth day of April has become the one day of the year marked for activities involving a certain plant related substance. Legend has it that the date was picked due to numerous malign events occurring on the 20th April, including the birthday of Adolf Hitler and the Columbine School massacre. Allegedly, the idea of making the date synonymous with marijuana culture was to associate it with the passive effects of smoking cannabis, thus supposedly restoring some measure of karmic balance to the world (or some such new age hippie nonsense!).
With his fourth feature 4/20 Massacre, director Dylan Reynolds has exploited these ideas behind the stoner holiday, and combined it with the phenomenon of ‘guerrilla growers’ to come up with a splendidly entertaining take on the well worn stalk and slash horror sub genre.
Part homage, part reinvention of those beloved VHS bottom shelfers of the 1980’s, 4/20 Massacre tells the story of five young women who set off to the California hills on the titular weekend to camp out and get stoned. They are warned by the local Park Ranger, Rick, not to stray too far from the trail due to reports of illegal cannabis farms operating. The women later encounter a seemingly crazed young man who warns them of a bloodthirsty killer who is pursuing him after he stumbled across just such a farm whilst hiking. The intrepid bunch of course ignore such ravings and proceed to set up camp, soon after which, said killer (James Gregory) begins to make his presence known.
So far, so slasher. But what really sets 4/20 Massacre apart are the performances by the actresses (Jamie Bernadette, Vanessa Rose Parker, Stacey Danger, Justine Wachsberger and Maria Pistone), which lend real depth and pathos to their relationships in what could so easily have been cookie cutter victim roles. Kudos is also due here to Dylan Reynolds who also wrote the script that gave the cast such rounded characters to work with. Jim Storm also seems to be having a whale of a time in his scenery chewing turn as Ranger Rick.
The quality of the cinematography is also striking, not least given that it is not an element usually associated with this genre, and the audience really gets a sense of place due to the level of attention given to it.
But what about the horror? Well, gore fans needn’t worry, there are several inventive kills here to satisfy afficionados. My favourites being the bong through the brain and the stogie in the eyeball, along with the de rigeur disembowellings and decapitations, all leading to a suitably grand guignol finale. Although the film features some elements of black comedy it wisely steers clear of the self referential approach that was much popularised by Scream and its many imitators. This may be a cut above your usual stalk ‘n’ slash but it’s still a balls out horror when the chips are down, and it’s clear that Reynolds has a love and reverence for the genre.
The writer/director has stated that he does have a sequel in mind, and The Stricken Land fervently hopes his labour of love gets a follow up!
You can get more on 4/20 Massacre from our friends over at the Horror of the Remake podcast where they also have an interview with Dylan Reynolds. Check it out here –
(Horror of the Remake is also available on iTunes and all good podcast apps).
We also hope to publish our own interview with the writer/director very soon, so watch this space!
4/20 Massacre is released on DVD, Blu-Ray and VOD on 3rd April 2018.