I have not watched BLOOD SHACK since I was about 15 and the reason for that is because I have always regarded it as the worst film I had ever seen in my life. Remarkably, not even 2009’s THE UNBORN could alter that opinion. The other night though while perusing free viewing opportunities on CRACKLE I noticed it there, staring at me like an orphaned injured kitten and I had to see it again. Could it really be as wretched as my brain recalled? After all, my brain usually doesn’t know what it’s talking about. Well, it turns out it is as bad as my brain said but not nearly as painful. I’ve either lowered my standards considerably or developed a sense of humor. It’s a terrible movie no doubt, but watching it fully prepared for the awfulness makes a big difference. What once filled me with rage now elicits only sympathy. It may be the worst movie ever made but that doesn’t mean it’s the least entertaining.
BLOOD SHACK is hardly a movie. It’s more like a swept together pile of footage. When it first snuck its way into my life, it was wearing a nifty VHS box that made it look like a current eighties slasher flick even though the old coot had been lingering about for more than a decade. Strangely, it seems less dated now than it did back then. For instance, the weird seventies wardrobes which were so alien to my then neon MTV eyes look like standard hipster-wear now. The overall dusty drab feel of the film has benefited with age too. Back then it just read as ratty but now that gritty dustbowl esthetic is pretty much au currant. I hate to admit it but I kind of now dig the near constant horizon line and the off-putting minimalism. Really, the sun flare happy playing field here is not so far off from THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. Of course that movie had an actual story to tell and didn’t pad its running time with rodeo footage. Yes, rodeo footage.
So my problem with this film is no longer that it is scrap heap cheap and alarmingly barebones, my issue is with the fact that it is an unstructured blob of random pointlessness. It’s pretty clear that there was no script involved and that the director allowed the actors to wing it and wing it poorly. One character wants to buy the shack and that’s all he talks about, one character doesn’t want to sell the shack and that’s all she talks about and one character warns folks to stay away from the shack ad nauseam. The only break from that pattern is provided by a our wispy narrator who sounds like she is breaking out of an eleven-year coma and offers little worthwhile information, unless you felt the need to know that the pony’s name at the rodeo was “Peanuts.” Truth told Peanuts the pony is the lone convincing presence in the movie and I was happy to see that her or his name found its way into the end credits.(Peanuts’ IMDb page HERE.)
The theoretical scares of BLOOD SHACK are provided by “The Chooper” an Indian spirit who protects the title shack with a sword and black pajamas. Chooper tends to yell as if he’s stubbed his toe and is partial to flamboyant arm flailing daytime attacks. My horror starved teenage self found “The Chooper” to be unbearably lame but now I see he’s pretty hilarious. In the same vein, the movie itself is not the whirlpool of depressive ineptness I once thought; it’s actually somewhat lovably maladroit. It made me laugh out loud which is more than I can say for DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS.
BLOOD SHACK was directed by RAY DENNIS STECKLER who has acquired a cult following thanks to B-grade goofs like THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES (who stopped living and became mixed up zombies) but even his most devoted followers can be forgiven for drawing a line in the sand against Chooper’s lackadaisical exploits. As lousy as this movie is though, I think STECKLER should be given some credit for stumbling early upon a few elements that would later prove to be highly effective in future better films by other people.
The good news is that I finally after all these years found out what was going on with all that pesky rodeo footage. STECKLER’s original cut of the film was only a merciful 60 minutes long and he was required to add ten minutes more to play the film in drive-ins and theaters. I guess I can forgive that. This is a hyper low budget movie that just barely scrambled itself into existence so no harm, no foul. It’s terribly done in every possible way but somewhat endearingly so and at least it did not cost millions of dollars to make this mess. (What’s your excuse THE UNBORN?).
There’s no way I could recommend BLOOD SHACK and realistically expect anyone to ever take my advise again, so I won’t but I will say that there are tiny sparkles of pure quaintness to behold amongst the sub par, brain numbing wreckage. It’s an annoying fiasco mostly but it doesn’t have a cynical bone in its body and now I find I’ve grown slightly and embarrassingly fond of this crappy movie that I once hated with a passion. I was warned that “The Chooper” would get me and I guess the bastard eventually did. Really, I blame Peanuts.