Slasher movies are, by their very nature, retrospective. Regardless of the year in which they were made slashers use the same character archetypes, the same narrative beats, the same broad strokes that they always have and, for me, that’s part of the charm. I know when I’m sitting down to watch one exactly what to expect; the enjoyment comes not from the body count but rather the creative ways in which we get to the expected final jump scare at the end. Post-modern slashers, like Wes Craven’s mostly-excellent ‘Scream’, gave us an extra layer of intertextuality; the narrative was comfortingly familiar and safe, the dialogue however showed a more obvious and knowing referencing of the genre. Cyclical as these things are, however, in recent years the slasher sub-genre has fallen out of favour with new offerings limited to the indie market; in actuality, this is probably how these films are best created, in the same abject financial conditions, by the same kind of passionate and creative people, who made the originals that we love.
‘Don’t Go To The Reunion’ tells the story of a group of friends who play a trick on a horror film-loving geek at high school that results in his expulsion from school just prior to graduation. After ten years pass, the friends are invited to attend a class reunion but, when they arrive, it becomes apparent that sinister forces are at work. When people start going missing at the hands of a faceless killer, the group must overcome their differences to survive the night.
The plot in ‘Reunion’ is fairly standard fare. Anyone who is familiar with the sub-genre (if you’re reading this review, it is likely that you are) will be able to plot out its direction and will very quickly have a suspect for the killer come the ending. So far, so predictable, and everything proceeds according to expectation; the body count rises, slasher logic is in full facepalm effect, and we arrive at the final act in due course. This is when the movie throws its curveball however and, as our villain narrates prior events, the movie takes on a different complexion and you realise just how clever some of the references are. ‘Reunion’ is a film that is made by horror fans for horror fans; some references are quite obvious (character names, a female version of the Krueger jumper, etc.) but some are very subtle and it is only when they are pointed out during the film’s conclusion that they become apparent. Whilst the plot is fairly predictable the constant referencing of slasher lore and history is where the fun is for aficionados.
This is director Steve Goltz’s debut feature-length movie although he has made some short films in the genre prior to this, including the very entertaining ‘Teddy’ in 2011. Whilst ‘Reunion’ is still very short – I timed it at around 65minutes plus credits – it feels like a complete and well-rounded piece, a proper feature film despite its brevity. He clearly has a good eye too and much of the film is shot in a voyeuristic style reminiscent of ‘Myers-cam’ from ‘Halloween’, giving it an early Eighties indie feel. This is further supported by surprisingly good use of sound and, although there are a couple of sections when the blaring-synth jump scare is employed, the cheesiness of this is playfully referenced part way through; once again, this is entirely in keeping with the retro nature of the production.
The film, by slasher standards at least, has quite a small body count and it is here that the mega-low budget nature of the production is most obvious. Goltz sticks to practical make-up effects and clever edits to give the impression that you have seen more than is onscreen; ‘Reunion’ is not particularly gory or graphic but I suspect that finances dictated toning down this aspect. The cast who fall victim to these deaths are a little uneven but generally solid although there are clear standouts. Our final girl, and the main focus of the story, is Erica played by Stephanie Leigh Rose who is likeable throughout and is easy to root for once things go south. The real highlight, however, is douchebag jock Joe played by Mike Goltz, who is very convincingly detestable and whose foul mouth gives us most of the film’s humour; he has a real future in genre films and is definitely someone for whom to keep an eye out.
I really enjoyed ‘Don’t Go To The Reunion’. If, like me, you are a true fan of the slasher niche there’s much here to like. It is true that it lacks the blood and gore that some would enjoy but that isn’t really the point of the movie. It is, in the purest sense, an old fashioned slasher; made on a tiny budget, with a hokey premise, but by people who love and respect the genre. The biggest compliment I can pay ‘Reunion’ is that its low budget, its sensibility, its limitations even, give it a rough, homemade, traditional feel; if you didn’t know it was made in 2013, you would easily believe it as a legitimate Eighties production. Slashers have given breaks to many talented actors and directors over the years; on the evidence here, Steve Goltz is one to watch.
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Note: ‘Don’t Go To The Reunion’ is not available through traditional outlets in the UK but it can be ordered direct from www.slasherstudios.com – the DVD is region-free.