Blood Hook 1986 Review
Blood Hook 1986
aka Muskie Madness
Directed by: Jim Mallon
Starring: Mark Jacobs, Lisa Jane Todd, Paul Drake
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
So we’ve had most possibilities by now, haven’t we? We’ve had killer priests, clowns and soldiers. There have been maniac cops, medicine men and miners. Every single date on the holiday calendar has been well and truly terrorised and most possible massacre locations have been stalked. We’ve had a couple of baseball themed killers, a wrestlemaniac and even a psycho Greenskeeper. Are you really ready for a maniacal fisherman?
Released in 1986, Blood Hook manages to make the most of its low budget and pull itself away from the rabble to achieve something that was becoming almost impossible during the late eighties. It’s a hard to come by genre entry that offers a slightly different tone and an alternative to the humdrum mediocrity that littered the category by this point.
Wisconsin is preparing for its most important event in recent history. The annual fishing competition sees the town filled with tonnes of ambitious anglers from all over the country trying to get their hands on the $5000 prize for the biggest muskie. Unbeknownst to the revellers, they are about to participate in something far more interesting. Hunters will become hunted as an unseen maniac with an inconceivably strong spool of line is casting in to the lake for human trophies. In such a close knit community, who could be behind the fishy goings-on?
Blood hook is a movie that has sat on my shelf gathering dust since I picked it up in a bargain bucket in the mid-nineties. I was put off by the fact that it was a Troma release and that it had been billed as a horror comedy. Now we all know what a horrific combination that usually turns out to be. Luckily, Hook is nowhere near as bad as I’d expected and offers the right blend of the two opposing styles and doesn’t only focus on cheap laughs. Director Mallon would find success later with his Mystery Science project and this is a healthy debut that proves that he has a dark sense of humour.
At first, Jim Mallon probably looked like the wrong choice for this splatter fest as he was always a much bigger fan of comedy than he was of horror. Even his first high-school feature – a parody of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, which aired on Public Access – was more in-line with the director’s ambitions than Blood Hook would ever be. In the end though, it’s a good thing that he took the reins, because it’s clear that he had researched the genre and enjoys poking fun at its trappings. His opus doesn’t only mock the psycho slashers of the time but also has a pop at the eighties in general and some of the dialogue about rock music, crazy fashions and popular habits proves that by ’86 the decade was already showing enough self-recognition for satire.
Thanks to some alluring characters and good feature pacing, the film never gets boring and there are enough red herrings to keep you guessing until the killer is revealed quite early in the runtime. Even though a set up involving a maniac catching unsuspecting victims with a treble hook sounds like it should be quite rightly awful, the director resists the temptation to fall in to the realms of stupidity and if you ignore the physical impossibilities, it’s even quite creepy at times.
There are a few themes running through the movie, which if further developed could have added exciting depths. The most prominent of these involved the numerous war veterans scattered amongst the story who all seem to have been affected (some more seriously than others) by their tours of duty in different wartime periods. There’s a point towards the revelation of the killer’s identity where things head towards a Jacob’s Ladder-like conspiracy, but they are never completely developed and they fall by the wayside in favour of cheesy thrills. It’s almost like there was enough here to build a decent and intriguing slasher film (much like Delirium, which had a similar structure but failed with development), but the director’s natural instinct led him more to towards the comedic slant. This is most evident in the final battle with the maniac (two anglers aiming rods at each other no less) and I love the classic line, “You wanna take him like he took the rest? You wanna take him with a treble hook at night, don’t ya?” Paul Drake’s campiness was brilliant throughout.
The performances are OK for this level, I quite liked most of the actors and they all had moments to shine. Some of the cinematography from Marsha Kahm was lush and the movie’s competently directed. There must’ve been a fairly decent budget for the filmmakers to work with and so I wonder why they accepted distribution by Troma? The film was initially titled Muskie Madness during production, which is perhaps a better suit than Blood Hook, but part of the agreement was the name change and I guess that they thought more of the Troma branding and global network.
Obviously a sense of humour is needed for this one. A nutjob with a rod and reel strong enough to catch screaming teens is nothing but tongue in cheek, but it’s actually a quirky little slasher with something different to offer. You won’t hate yourself after watching like I did with its cousin Blood Lake.
Just make sure that you have the right frame of mind.
Final Girl √√