Savage Vows 1995 Review
Savage Vows 1995
Directed by: Robert Dennis
Starring: Armond Sposto, Mark Polonia, Kelly Ashton and Carol Dennis
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
So here we have a slasher so unknown that it’s not even listed on any movie encyclopaedias. The IMDB may not be the most accurate source of movie information on the web, but its good with its collation of titles. It even has Crossbone Territory on there!
I have to apologise also for the lack of any decent screen shots, but I have an old copy of this on VHS and when I moved house for the 100th time, it ended up in a garage for a while, so the quality of the picture is pretty poor; – and the cover even more so. I just about managed to watch it through for this review and will always keep this cassette as there are probably not many copies in existence.
Savage Vows was an early production from the Polonia brothers – the team behind Splatter Farm among others. They had worked in extremely low budget cinema for a long time, releasing almost thirty films (including three slashers) right up until John died in 2009. Mark has continued the Polonia Bros brand and is still releasing features at an impressive rate. The label always targets the horror and sci/fi markets, which makes him amongst the last of a dying breed. There’s not as much money to be made anymore in releasing discs or videotapes, because downloads have seriously affected the chance for independent filmmakers to make profit from their output on media format. Countless minor labels have fallen by the wayside. Keeping that in mind, its good to see that Polonia is still churning out titles and doing what he loves.
After Mark’s (Armond Sposto) wife was killed in a car accident, he invites over some friends to keep him company whilst he grieves. An unwanted guest in the form of an unseen killer turns up and begins picking off his colleagues one by one. Who could it be that’s killing off the guests?
Well its easy to see why this is so obscure. Digital slashers have become an ever-increasing trend in the modern-era, but Savage Vows seems to have been filmed using a camcorder on a budget below what other productions spend on their canteen. With that said, and keeping in mind that this is literally back-garden film-making, director Robert Dennis pulls off some relatively creepy scenes. There’s a bizarre nightmare opening that involves a girl kissing a decapitated head (no really) and amongst the various chase sequences there’s even the slightest smidgen of suspense. Savage Vows also plays host to the longest EVER POV stalking house shot, which drags on for like five-minutes but doesn’t really go anywhere. There’s one part that stood out to me as impressive, when Mark runs to the grave of his wife and breaks down crying after some arguments with his friends. Z-list slasher directors aren’t renowned for delivering drama, but the sequence was well-delivered and even added momentary pathos.
Much as was the case with Splatter Farm – and it’s the reason that I am not the biggest fan of the Polonias – the levels of vulgarity here are just too extreme. The language used is at times disgusting and trust me, I grew up in the slums of London, so it’s not that I haven’t heard it all. Everyone can swear and I don’t think it’s cool or ‘big’ to see this level of dire-louge in these pictures. I once read that foul words of the extremity used here are a sign of a lack of intelligence, because the speaker is not quick-witted enough to think of constructive criticism to deliver. Swear words lose their impact with repetition and should be used, like your best shirt, only when really necessary. It may be a weird way of seeing things (incredibly so considering the content) but the slasher genre has a type of innocence (similar to what fifties rock and roll had) that means repulsive speech just feels out of sync with the category.
Vows tries very hard, admirably so, but it never manages to transcend it’s backyard budget. The problem with character development in made-for-pennies films is that awful actors cannot carry a story and perhaps too much emphasise was placed on drama. At many times (especially during the long winded POV mentioned above) I was losing focus and even a compact runtime felt tiresome in places. The only thing that jolted me from my slumber was the numerous gore scenarios, which range from pretty impressive to embarrassingly bad. In one scene it’s obvious that the killer is using one of those plastic retractable blades that you can buy from a toy store for a handful of change and it was a bad idea to shoot the effect in close-up. I liked the machete through the chest though and there’s an incredibly cheesy scene where a guy gets his legs cut off that deserves praise for its exaggeration. The twist at the conclusion was hilariously OTT – but I kinda expected that, I mean where else could it go?
The characters here visit a VHS store to rent a few movies and its fun to look out for the numerous slasher films as the camera pans across the shelves. I spotted Monkey Boy, Mortuary and Halloween amongst others. I mention this because Savage Vows is obviously a film made by a fan for the fans. There’s some ok stuff here in a cheapskate kind of way, it’s just that I can’t see what audience would go for it. There are too many no-budget entries floating around and the majority of them are a lot better than this.
The problem is that its much easier to make a feature nowadays and the new breed of homemade slashers have left this one in the graveyard.