4/20 Massacre, written and directed by Dylan Reynolds
A group of five women head out on a camping trip to celebrate their friend’s birthday, which just happens to fall on April 20, otherwise known as 4/20, the day pot-smokers around the world have adopted as their official, um, holiday.
As luck would have it, the women have, purely by accident, chosen to make their camp in an area where marijuana farmers grow their carefully-hidden crops. The campers are warned off by a rather disreputable-looking Park Ranger, but they ignore his warnings – which, given the movie’s title, is a really, really bad idea.
As low-budget slasher flicks go, this is an exceptionally good one. The script is well executed, and allows the characters to have real, meaty conversations about things that people would actually talk about (one of the movie’s themes – yes, this slasher movie has actual themes – is the fragility of our beliefs about who we are); the performances are natural, engaging, and occasionally moving; the outdoor setting is lovely; the music is cleverly integrated into the story; and the violence – of course there’s violence – is startling and appropriately bloody.
Full credit to writer/director Reynolds, too, for the imaginative use of the stalker-slasher’s means of concealment. The bad guy wears a ghilli suit – a camouflage suit designed to mimic the wearer’s environment, in this case foliage – and Reynolds exploits the gimmick in a lot of clever ways, choreographing scenes so the killer just sort of appears out of nowhere, frightening not just his victims but us as well. The movie’s sense of lurking terror, of murderous evil hiding in plain sight, is relentless.
With a nail-on-the-head title like 4/20 Massacre, the movie doesn’t feel like it’s going to be much to write home about. I certainly wasn’t expecting a rewarding study of human nature – not to mention a rather touching exploration of the nature of love — hidden beneath the surface of a well-staged slasher flick. Well done.