Plasterhead (DVD)

Plasterhead review!Starring Kathryn Merry, Ernest Dancy, Joshua Macuga, Raine Brown, Gerard Adimando and Brian Dixon

Written and Directed by Kevin Higgins

If there’s anything that horror movies have taught me about the state of West Virginia, it would be to stay away from it. Has there ever been a horror movie set in West Virginia where even the everyday citizens weren’t portrayed as being every bit as creepy and unwelcoming as their psycho hillbilly/backwoods slasher counterparts? Here’s Plasterhead, another slasher flick about young out-of-towners who end up out in the boondocks of West Virginia with some sort of homicidal maniac after them and even when they’re not contending with the psycho they’re contending with the locals who also happen to be weirdos.

For example, the main characters end up at a gas station asking for directions only to have stopped at a gas station with pumps straight out of the 1950’s that doesn’t even have any gas to pump yet there’s an oddball redneck running the place whose sole job appears to be to overact like an inhospitable loon whenever city slickers pass thru town. This attendant turns in the most nonsensically creepy for no particular reason other than to be creepy for the sake of being creepy performance since Jeffrey Combs in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer. I particularly enjoyed the moment when they asked him for gas and directions and he turned it into a brief tirade about how he’s not queer and doesn’t go for that sort of thing. I’m still trying to wrap my head around how this guy turned two simple questions about getting gas and looking for an address into something he deemed to be a potential threat of unwanted butt sex.

Know what else they hate in West Virginia? Blacks. The film has an ugly racial undertone that not only adds an extra layer of unpleasant stereotyping to the mix, it also leads to a sense that, in addition to being a retread of pretty much every slasher flick you’ve ever seen about high school/college types ending up in the middle of nowhere at an empty house being stalked by a homicidal maniac, there’s also a tinge of a Candyman rip-off at work here. Plasterhead is, ultimately, another seemingly inhuman slasher who started out as the victim of violent racists. Not to the least of which is the local sheriff, a short-fused fella with a violent temper and a disdain for skin color not his own. The one African-American character amongst the young victims will make an off-the-cuff comment about how people around these parts don’t take too kindly to people like him. This from a black man who minutes earlier found a woman’s lost purse and all he wanted to do was steal the money still in it. Yeah, way to help further stereotypes all around.

The whole scenario starts with a quartet of college students headed to spring break in Miami passing through West Virginia when they stop to let one of them step out to pee and, in the process, stumble upon a purse containing money, medicine, and an address. Who the purse belongs to is practically irrelevant; it exists as the excuse to get them to seek out the address in hopes of returning the purse that turns out to be the killer’s base of operations. Don’t think these four are entirely good Samaritans either; the two females want to return the purse in fear the owner may need their medication while the black guy wants to steal the money and, eventually, and the white guy decides they’ll try and return the purse and keep the money.

Their quest to return the purse will lead to numerous encounters with locals who behave in one of three ways: inhospitable to outsiders, pretending they know nothing about nothing, and those that cannot wait to recite the legend of the title killer. Once they get to the house in question, guess who turns out to be more than just the stuff of local legend?

Plasterhead is a monster of a man with a face so mangled that he covers his head with a plaster cast. He’s a man with a heart more barren than the deepest layers of the depths of hell, as someone explains. He’s the local boogeyman lurking somewhere in the woods of West Virginia, but to me he looked like he’d have made a great Dick Tracy villain or maybe even a foe on the old Japanese Tiger Mask cartoon. He’s just a tall black man dressed in burglar black attire with a near formless plaster cast mask over his head. He’s like a black Jason with wearing a melted hockey mask.

Plasterhead just starts showing up at random to kill people at random, often sneaking past other unheard like a cat burglar or something. At one point he’ll even walk unnoticed into town to kill some characters at a diner, which seemed especially odd since the movie went out of its way to establish that this killer only lurked in the woods near this particular home.

Though freshmen writer-director Kevin Higgins shows an eye that leaves hope that he could grow into a potentially good genre director, his debut feature is just a badly acted, highly predictable slasher story that we’ve all seen a zillion times before compounded by mundane death scenes and a serious sense that the film is constantly dragging its feet. Someone definitely needs to learn how to pace a movie, or for that matter, just learn that a movie is supposed to have pacing to begin with. This thing just sludges along to the point that it’s impossible not to want to yell, “Get on with it already!” About an hour in the whole thing finally just devolves into the standard characters splitting up and wandering through an empty house late at night. Most slashers go through those motions in act one; Plasterhead saves it for act three. Bad move. Bad movie.

It sure didn’t help that I saw this film within 24-hours of having finally seen Hatchet. Talk about the difference between night and day.

1 out of 5

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