Stephanie Leigh Rose - Erica Carpenter
Spencer Harlan - David Holland
Mike Goltz - Joe Wynorski
Brady Simenson - Scott Rantzen
Matty Dorschner - Brandon Kaufman
Nick Sommer - Christopher Lynch
Hayley San Fillippo - Kimberly Buechler
Tawnie Thompson - Megan Cunningham
Hannah Herdt - Jessica Thompson
J.R. Watkins - Jay Miner
Genre - Horror/Slasher
Running Time - 75 Minutes
This edition of Indie Horror Spotlight is for the independent slasher DON'T GO TO THE REUNION, brought to you by the two men who are in charge of the great Slasher Studios - Steve Goltz and Kevin Sommerfield. Steve and Kevin are great guys and I really wanted to check out their first feature film [they have done short films before - I hope to review those as well soon] which they've been promoting a whole lot on social media. Kevin sent me a private online screener so I can feast my slasher-lovin' eyes on the film he wrote and produced. And after watching it, I can say it's a good tribute to the slasher days of yore.
DON'T GO TO THE REUNION pretty much follows a similar template to 1986's SLAUGHTER HIGH. A small group of friends, who happen to be the popular ones, decide to pull a prank on a socially awkward horror geek. He's kicked out of school and is reputation is completely ruined.
Ten years later, these group of friends receive a special invitation for a reunion at a creepy house near their High School. Although some of the members of the group haven't changed all that much in terms of personality, all of them have pretty much moved on from the vicious prank they pulled years ago. However, there are clues that lead some in the group to believe that someone is trying to get revenge on them for that incident - making sure that not everyone will survive.
DON'T GO TO THE REUNION isn't perfect, but Kevin Sommerfield and Steve Goltz do a very good job capturing the essence of the slasher film boom of the 1980's. Sommerfield's screenplay doesn't hide his love for slasher movies. In fact, certain moments of pretty popular slashers are recreated as a great homage to movies' past. The set up is SLAUGHTER HIGH. The deaths are inspired by NIGHT SCHOOL, MADMAN, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME, and BAY OF BLOOD/FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2. We even get SCREAM moments here and there, especially when the characters are all aware of these horror films. While not original, at least these moments allow slasher fans to point out their origins with a smile on their faces. It's always great to see a horror film made by real fans of the genre. You can tell that both Sommerfield and Goltz are having fun making a movie similar to the ones they love to watch.
As for the rest of the screenplay, it's pretty good. The characters [most of them named after famous horror directors] are obviously stereotypical, following the rules of a slasher film. You get the Final Girl. You get the asshole Jock type. You get the Drunk asshole. You get the Smart One. You get the One Who Shouldn't Fit In But The Group Keeps Them Around Anyway type. We don't get much development for anyone in this film, but slasher films weren't known for that anyway. However, I do wish the characters were more likeable than they were. All of them were either perverted and/or mean to those around them. Sure, I laughed at some of the dialogue and their antics. The Jock was a total prick, but he had moments that entertained me. But I can't really root for characters I don't feel much sympathy for. They were the perpertrators of a terrible prank that ruined someone's life, and maybe two of them felt sort of bad about it afterwards. In my view, karma is a bitch and they had what was coming to them. Sometimes there are characters that are the exception to the rule, but I didn't really get that from DON'T GO TO THE REUNION. The characters really didn't change much within 10 years, which was an issue for me. Some growth, even if the personalities and stereotypes stay intact, would have helped a bit.
However, I did think the dialogue was handled well. All the characters had different voices and some great banter as well. The scene where the Drunk asshole guy [Christopher] is being tricked in believing he's possibly gay had me laughing, because it's something I can really see happening. The sex stuff between asshole Jock, Joe, and his wife had me chuckling as well due to their dysfunction. I also liked the reasoning for the murders and how it felt influenced by a certain slasher that I won't spoil.
I did think the ending was a bit rushed. It felt too abrupt and too easy, in my opinion. I think there should have been more to it, as I didn't feel it fully satisfied what the story was trying to tell beforehand.
The gore FX were pretty good for a low budget feature. I thought the car hood death scene was pretty cool. The poker through the mouth was done really well. And some of the other death scenes were either shot in a way where it was implied what happened. And for a low budget movie, I'm totally good with that. I don't need to see guts and gore throughout the entire film. As long as I know what went down, that's all that matters to me. It's obvious Slasher Studios didn't really have the budget to go all out, but they used their resources to the best of their ability and it worked out in the end.
The direction by Steve Goltz was very good. I loved the establishment shots he used to set up the isolated locations. I enjoyed how some shots seemed to pay tribute to previous slasher films, especially HALLOWEEN and FRIDAY THE 13TH. The editing was excellent. The picture quality looked pretty damn good. The pacing was well done. I really liked the look and tone of the film. The film felt a lot shorter than it was and visually told a good story.
The acting was pretty good as well. I thought Stephanie Leigh Rose, Spencer Harlan, Mike Goltz, and Matty Dorschner were the standouts. They all played their characters convincingly well, especially Rose and Goltz. I have a feeling there may have been some ad-libbing on their part as well, which made the forced moments feel a bit more natural. I liked the cast.
THE FINAL HOWL
DON'T GO TO THE REUNION is a good independent slasher by guys who love them. It has its issues and won't set the world on fire. But Kevin Sommerfield and Steve Goltz should be extremely proud to make their feature-length filmmaking aspirations come to life. I look forward to seeing more from Slasher Studios, as I'm sure they'll only get better and have more support from here.