Written by Dylan Reynolds
Directed by Dylan Reynolds
Uncle Creepy said, “We’ve got a movie for you to review. It looks right up your alley!” I don’t know what he’s talking about, but after I tightened my dreadlocks, cleaned my bong, and took a nap, I sat down with Dylan Reynolds’ 4/20 Massacre, arriving on Blu-ray/DVD and VOD beginning April 3rd.
Horror has given us some truly memorable stoners, like Marty from The Cabin in the Woods, Grim from Cabin Fever, and Chewie from 2009’s Friday the 13th, but they’re jokers employed for comic relief who usually meet the business end of a machete (as the “rules” of horror dictate drugs = death). Those who consume the Ganga are rarely leads, often satirized, and practically never portrayed as cunning, serious, or capable. Even Idle Hands, the greatest weed-centric horror movie ever made, is steeped in traditional stereotypes painting the stoner as a lazy, shiftless, and work-averse sub-human.
The entire stoner-horror subgenre is nearly inseparable from comedy, illustrated in the previously mentioned Idle Hands, not to mention Leprechaun in the Hood and the entire 8-part Evil Bong franchise. And this is what makes 4/20 Massacre an anomaly. Like most horror movies (especially slashers), comic relief in a calculated component used to calibrate a film’s scariest moments, but 4/20 Massacre, despite wearing its stoner sensibilities on its sleeve, is not a comedy. It’s funny for sure, but horror trumps comedy at every turn.
In fact, you could take all the marijuana out of 4/20 Massacre and it would still be a way above average 1980s-era retro slasher. The woods are utilized to perfection like the best of the Friday the 13th films, The Blair Witch Project, and the upcoming punk-horror The Ranger. 4/20 Massacre also manages to deliver all top-notch thrills in broad daylight, an achievement few genre offerings can boast. Many slasher movies just plop a motley crew into a dangerous scenario with no backstory or character-building, but this film is anything but vapid. We’re given believable human drama, a villain with depth, and an unexpected twist. If slashers are your forte, 4/20 Massacre is a must-see.
Of course, I’m not suggesting 4/20 Massacre would be better without Mary Jane in a supporting role; her presence is definitely appreciated. You know there’s a rule that you have to take a bong-hit whenever characters on screen light-up? It’s true. Keep this in mind and plan accordingly!
4/20 Massacre may lure viewers in with suggestions of gore mixed with giggles, but it’s a much deeper film than it initially lets on. It doesn’t necessarily reinvent any rules, but it revels in defying expectations. We’re given an all-female group of campers, some in same-sex relationships, but no lipstick-lesbian titillations. The affections are genuine and passionate without being salacious, with nary a nipple revealed. These aren’t needlessly catty, competitive, brainless bimbos running bra-less through the forest screaming for salvation. These believable characters make it possible to put ourselves in their shoes, creating an engrossing and harrowing experience.
4/20 Massacre doesn’t have 1 or 2 stoners like most horror movies—everyone in the movie smokes weed (eventually). But the film normalizes weed smokers and weed smoking. Sure, we’ve got the hippy-pixie chick blowing clouds nonstop, but people like that actually exist. The others are all average-Janes, occasional smokers more than happy to celebrate April 20th with some magic cabbage without dissolving into giggling, munchie-ravaged messes. But just as it doesn’t reinforce stoner stereotypes, it doesn’t shy away from counter-cultural subversions, illustrated when a glass bong becomes an implement of death.
There’s an aspect of 4/20 Massacre that’s more realistic than many moviegoers probably realize. While the idea of stumbling across a field of marijuana plants while out on a nature hike sounds like a fantasy, anyone doing so would be advised to turn tail and run like hell. Guerilla grow-camps like these are common in the Pacific Northwest, but these operations aren’t manned by happy hippies trimming plants while dancing to Grateful Dead bootlegs. In fact, you’ll be lucky if you don’t draw sniper-fire. Don’t ask me how I know these things—just trust me!
While embracing a retro, grindhouse aesthetic 4/20 Massacre is nonetheless a smart, modern, firecracker of an indie, one that uses marijuana culture as a springboard without becoming slap-stick or gimmicky.