Posted by luisitojoaquin
The Backlot Murders 2002
Directed by: David DeFalco
Starring: Priscilla Barnes, Corey Haim, Charles Fleischer
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
I wonder if in the future there will still be Elvis and Beatles men? Who knows if people will remember that such styles of male characterisation even existed? Me, much like Clarence Worley from True Romance, I’m definitely an Elvis man and that’s why I jumped at the chance to purchase The Backlot Murders when it was released a few years back. A nut job in a mask of the king… I mean why the hell didn’t someone think of that earlier?
An extremely average rock group have a spot of luck when their singer hooks up with the daughter of a big time record producer. She begs her father to give the band a record deal and for their first single, they are offered the opportunity to shoot a music video on the Hollywood lot of some classic horror movies. Once they’re on location and night falls, it becomes apparent that a masked killer is sharing the set with them. Could it be the psychotic band member that they recently fired? Or has someone else got a grudge against the rockers?
This was another of the many titles released after the Scream rebirth that went for the tongue in cheek approach and played self-referential games with recognised trademarks. In the case of Backlot though, the target is silicone bimbos and drug addled rock stars as opposed to its category brethren and the comment here is a subtle dig at the shallow image-addicted nature of conceited youth. There’s a great line when one of the older characters speaks about Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho with his daughter and asks her if she’s seen it, to which she replies, ‘Sure! Isn’t that the one with Anne Heche?’ It’s moments such at these that give the script a smart hook. Much like Cherry Falls, it could be said that this was unfortunate not to get a cinematic outing as it seems far too polished to share a shelf with the other straight to video entries of this point in the period.
It’s easy to see that The Backlot Murders is a larger scale production without the usual bottom of the barrel financing that plagues DTV outings. The aerial photography of the Hollywood hills gives the film a stylish opening and the visuals are crisp and sharp. In the first twenty minutes, we are introduced to an abundance of characters and I felt concerned that the plot may get lost in the myriad of faces, but thankfully the main players soon get to grips with their roles and the frolics start flowing a lot smoother than I had initially expected. It takes a while for the killer to put in his first appearance, but from the moment that he arrives on screen, the bodies carry on dropping at a rapid rate and the runtime never ties itself in knots of tedium.
The producers had access after hours to classic sets from Universal studios and so they decided that rather than redecorate them so as to disguise their origins, they would incorporate them in to the feature. It’s great seeing the house from Psycho and even some of the killings are redone from classic slasher flicks. Look out for the spear through a love making couple from Friday the 13th part II and there’s a brief cameo from Ken Sagoes who was one of the most memorable characters from the A Nightmare on Elm Street series.
Although most of the youngsters are too clownish to be credible with their portrayals (it’s hard to tell if it’s intentional or not), Charles Fleischer was good as the camp and hilarious music video director. A lot of his one liners were improvised and he adds great energy to his dialogue. Priscilla Barnes is perfect as the super bitch producer and has a ball with a limitless characterisation that gives her the chance to chew the scenery and spit it out with a high intensity. Corey Haim’s here too, but he is hardly on screen for longer than a minute at a time.The girls were obviously hired for their lady lumps more than their dramatic strengths and anyone who has read at least one review on a SLASH above will know that there are few that appreciate the female form more than I. Although its easy to see that the inclusion of more boobies than a California beach in summer was a nod to the cleavage factor formula of modern entries such asI Know What You Did Last Summer , I just felt that these bimbos were a tad too shallow to be attractive. Still, T&A fans that are looking for some nice visual stimulants will be in heaven.
Whilst the story comes across well with its comedic tone, it fails in its attempts at horror. Director David DeFalco, who was behind forgotten eighties slasher Heavy Metal Massacre, doesn’t manage to muster any suspense at all and a film with such a great location and high production values deserved a more creative fluidity from its manager of visuals. It’s also worth noting that there’s no real final girl here, which was a strange choice. I’m not sure if it was deliberate, because there were a couple of possibles introduced, but one of them was killed, whilst the other – and most likely candidate – was written out of the script early on. I wonder if this was because of a disagreement or if it was actually the original intention? You’ll probably guess who it is under the Elvis mask and the motive is the only one that it could have been, but it manages to avoid mediocrity by maintaining an impressive pace.
Now make no mistake about it, The Backlot Murders is no Scream and it’s not even a Cherry Falls, either. But for an unseen and never mentioned flick, it has some pluses that set it far apart from the likes of Blood Reaper et al. Somewhat unfairly brushed aside, if you are realistic with your expectations, then there’s nothing here that will disappoint you.
Final Girl √