‘End Zone 2’ and ‘The Once and Future Smash’ Reviews – A Fascinating Pair of Meta-Slashers [Panic Fest 2023]

End Zone 2 and The Once and Future Smash

Sophia Cacciola and Michael J. Epstein’s The Once and Future Smash and End Zone 2, while billed as two distinct features, are inextricably bound to the other. It’s a bold, almost brazen, strategy, with neither working independently of the other. End Zone 2, a riff on lost slashers, opens with a faux text scroll detailing the damage of its 1969 composite negative and subsequent 2022 4K remaster. Running just over an hour long, the final 30 minutes were allegedly lost to time. The Once and Future Smash, a fake documentary with real horror stars and writers, including, but not limited to Laurene Landon (Maniac Cop), Mark Patton (A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge), Todd Farmer (Jason X), and Victor Miller (Friday the 13th), mostly details the Mad Monster Party horror convention and pending announcement of an End Zone remake.

Both are fake movies built on mythic proportions of lore, lore that is, of course, rooted in pantomime. End Zone 2 isn’t a real movie, but it is. The Once and Future Smash treats it as a relic of a bygone era, the guilty pleasure that brought Todd Farmer and Adam Marcus (Jason Goes to Hell) together. Collectively, they’re less than the sum of their parts, even if the undercurrent of genre lore and love shines through.

The Once and Future Smash

Independent of The Once and Future Smash, End Zone 2 offers little. I screened it before The Once and Future Smash, originally intending to review both separately before recognizing that, really, there wasn’t a way to do that in any meaningful way. The two features are symbiotic. Together they run a little over two-and-a-half hours, even if End Zone 2 feels like a throwaway companion. The gist is that Julie Kane’s Angela Smazmoth, years before, killed several of her son’s classmates after a bout of bullying left him terribly disfigured. Percy Wynne’s Nancy, the final girl, survived the ordeal. She reconnects with friends at a remote cabin 15 years later to grapple with their shared trauma. The early beats are a laudable recreation of gritty, grindhouse grain. End Zone 2, in fits, looks like a forgotten slasher. The uncanny valley performances and sense of aloofness strike the right tonal balance.

However, the script is never funny nor scary enough to really work. While it sufficiently apes old-school slaughter-thons, right down to the trauma ripples that reinvigorate a new killer, this time bullied boy Smashmouth (credited to two actors, more on that later), it’s not a real 70s slasher, and resultantly, could have been more than mere homage. There’s style, but no substance. A hard sell for a feature that springboards into a feature-length documentary.

The Once and Future Smash further reduces the need for End Zone 2, opening with several key clips, all but negating the former’s ambition. The Once and Future Smash gives enough context for its fake progenitor to render End Zone 2 strangely inert. Part horror con slice-of-life, part buddy comedy, the thrust of The Once and Future Smash sees Michael St. Michaels’ Mikey Smash contending with Bill Weeden’s William Mouth over credit for Smashmouth’s performance. Mikey is credited—a fact confirmed by the likes of Lloyd Kaufman—though William claims to have actually played Smashmouth. Both vie for a chance to reprise the role in the forthcoming remake.

The jokes come hard and fast, a combination of meta-comedy, including a deliciously funny jab at Italian horror movies being rebranded as domestic franchise sequels, and movie-with-a-movie pratfalls. Mikey Smash, for instance, is widely considered dead (he isn’t), and the scenes cut from one real celebrity to the next, all of whom recount different stories about Smash’s death (he died in a car crash/he died in a Ferris Wheel accident).

There’s a lot of fake history, an interesting conceit for a movie that’s both real and not. Every movie in some form asks the audience to suspend their disbelief. Few ask quite as much as The Once and Future Smash. Luckily, it mostly works, even if it wears itself thin by the time holograms arrive in the final act. Principally, The Once and Future Smash is a love letter to the genre and the creatives who made it possible.

Not just any creatives, though. This is a swan song for the unrecognized faces and names. The masked killers and early kills, the throwaway beats that nonetheless endure. Melanie Kinnaman, best known for playing Pam in Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, features heavily. She conceptualizes the profound appreciation for slashers writ large. Melanie Kinnaman’s final girl status in the fifth Friday the 13th movie matters, and The Once and Future Smash wants audiences to know that.

With its fake movies and fake performers, The Once and Future Smash engenders empathy and love. It’s not an entirely successful experiment, and End Zone 2 is an unnecessary addendum, but its intentions are admirable. There’s style, humor, and a worthwhile rotation of talking heads. You’ll recognize their value, excitedly shouting out, “I know that person” every time someone new appears. Sophia Cacciola and Michael J. Epstein, in crafting The Once and Future Smash, likely did the same thing. And, no doubt, they had a blast doing it.

End Zone 2 and The Once and Future Smash both screened as part of Panic Fest 2023.

  • The Once and Future Smash


An experiment in horror lore and appreciation, The Once and Future Smash and End Zone 2 aren’t entirely successful meta-exercises in slasher history, though there’s enough goodwill to warm the bloodied hearts of most horror fans.

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