Lumberjack Man (2015) - Dread Central
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Lumberjack Man (2015)



Starring Michael Madsen, Ciara Flynn, Jarrett KingLumberjack Man

Directed by Josh Bear

With the revival of After Dark Films’ “8 Films to Die For” bringing along a new crop of films from up-and-coming filmmakers in the genre, many long-time fans of the fest and its films have been treated to an expectedly mixed bag of cross-genre fare. Historically, some of the fest’s entries have proven to be great, quality surprises in the genre, while we have also been subjected to many forgettable duds and misfires. This year the selection of films offers a broad spectrum of horror as usual — from zombies to demons to serial killers — but director Josh Bear’s first full-length genre effort here is a nutty little beast all on its own.

From its synopsis alone, Lumberjack Man is the kind of film that sets up immediate expectations for anyone familiar with the type of comedy-horror that could come from a film with this title. Decades ago, a lumberjack was murdered (drowning by syrup, of course) for a famed pancake recipe. Now existing as a vengeful demon spirit who trudges around with a wagon of oversized hotcakes in tow, the Lumberjack Man stalks the woods near Good Friends Church Camp in search of the next victims for his decennial killing spree.

Faith (Flynn) and a host of other unsuspecting teenage counselors arrive to the campgrounds to get ready for the new crop of kids who will be coming to celebrate some good, clean “Fun Under the Son.” We come to find, however, that under the Lord’s supervision or not, these teens are just your average raging bags of hormones not unlike our favorite counselors at Camp Crystal Lake or Camp Blackfoot. Before we know it, the lot of them begin sneaking off for sexual escapades, stealing away to get drunk and high, and being all around very un-Christian — which is just what the Lumberjack Man loves in his victims! Can Faith survive the massacre, or will the Lumberjack Man drizzle his last flapjack with her blood?

In case you aren’t familiar with movies like this, the proper answer to that question is: Who gives a shit?! Let’s see some more booooobs!

It’s assumed from the moment we are introduced to many foul-mouthed, horny teens on the bus heading to a Christian camp that Lumberjack Man is looking to be the kind of crazy inappropriate and over-the-top romp that recent films like Zombeavers and Tucker & Dale vs. Evil were for many of us. Upon closer inspection, though, it ultimately has more in common with low-budget, home video schlock like ThanksKilling or Jersey Shore Massacre, lacking in many aspects that might legitimize it as a more significant entry in the comedy-horror field. Where the former films treated us to camp and hilarity amidst a gorefest, they still did so in a way that maintained an air of competency on the screenwriting, directorial, and acting fronts, and the laughs they inspired came organically, not at the expense of any of the talent involved in the project. I cannot necessarily say the same for Lumberjack Man, which admittedly is entertaining to watch, but probably not for the reasons Bear intended… or did he? Honestly, it’s hard to tell at this point, but the fact remains that Lumberjack Man is best when accepted as an amateur slasher parody filtered heavily through a softcore porn lens. The degree to which something like this will entertain you depends entirely on your state of mind, tolerance for sheer nonsense and bad acting, or undying love for Michael Madsen.

Truth be told, you will likely never care about anyone in Lumberjack Man enough to fear for their lives. Save for the camp chef, Reggie (King), there are few likable characters at Good Friends Church Camp to root for; even our final girl is notably dull here next to the other obnoxious camp counselor stereotypes that are turned up to a deafening 11 — all who are admittedly more fun to watch. Additionally, the film features some performances that come across as very odd riffs of recognizable roles from other films. Over-zealous camp director Doug (Adam Sessler) is played like an ad-libbed impersonation of Michael Showalter’s Coop from Wet Hot American Summer, while the angry bus driver feels like an R-rated homage to Chris Farley’s cameo in Billy Madison. Some of these folks simply feel very out of place performance-wise, but, again, we can’t be quite sure if this is Bear’s intention. For those who would argue not, there are still some up-front saving graces on the character front: The aforementioned Reggie is a likable partner for Faith, LuAnn Potts (Brina Palencia) is an effectively dimwitted “Reno 911”-inspired sheriff, and Madsen’s Dr. Peter Shirtcliff brings the right amount of seasoned comedic timing to the screen when the film needs it most. Madsen, playing an inexplicable, ludicrous riff on the Dr. Loomis role, particularly appears to enjoy riding the wave of the haphazard script and is truly a great sport here.

On the topic of the script, it’s an expectedly messy crapshoot featuring some genuinely clever lines drenched in camp, a handful of “so bad it’s funny” moments, and otherwise downright awful segments of dialogue. It’s especially tough to sit through the worst of these moment here, as they drag on in the way really bad improv actors tend to do when they run out of steam. It appears that the writers tried very hard to channel David Wain with some of the out-of-left-field exchanges that tend to keep going on and on in the film, but only occasionally do these play to the right effect. (The best of these is an exchange between the token douchebag guys who compare themselves to the 1993 Chicago Bulls team while talking about the girls they want to sleep with over a joint.) Some stale fratboy humor also takes the script to amateur night territory at points, even by crappy comedy-horror standards. Luckily though, golden lines like “Lonely is the woman who only has flat cakes to bring to the banquet.” and “Rule #2: No laughing like a liberated woman…” are delivered with the killer kind of poker face that makes you second guess whether this film is indeed pure dreck or actually in on a very brilliant and very dry joke.

The kills in Lumberjack Man do a decent job of mixing the gratuitous with the wacky for the most part, although I personally could have used more outright insane scenes like one in which a girl is beat to death by a comedically oversized flapjack. Bear surprisingly pulls a few punches here, cutting away from a handful of kill shots at the last minute for no other apparent reason than perhaps to account for a meager effects budget. In such instances, I would have loved to see the director revel in the cheapest and most ridiculous kind of practical effect work instead (think mannequins, crudely constructed gore, etc.). This may have helped Lumberjack Man realize its self-satirical nature just a bit more in a way that you would hope a movie that features a villain gorging himself on oversized pancakes covered in blood could.

While many of the above critiques may come across as if I thought the movie was utter garbage, the truth is that Lumberjack Man is still a hell of a lot of fun to watch if you go in with the right mindset. Sure, it is just plain bad in its intended execution a times, but Lumberjack Man still works gleefully through its myriad of faults; as much as I found myself wincing, I more often than not found myself still laughing, a testament to some kind of success for a film like this. Whether these laughs were aimed at the film or were right along with the film is of little importance, because the guffaws kept coming either way. I can see Lumberjack Man quickly garnering a curious little cult following, or at least becoming the source for many a drinking game in the horror community. There are definitely better horror send-ups out there and more successfully executed entries heavy on absurdity and camp, but as far as low-budget, bargain bin horror goes, you could do far worse than Lumberjack Man, a film that gets major points for sticking to its unique little blood-soaked guns, off-putting quirks and all.

  • Film
User Rating 3.71 (14 votes)




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