I love holiday horror films. To me, they demonstrate the genre's ongoing commitment to ruining even the happiest of occasions with visions of nightmarish terror. There was a time when Halloween was the only holiday associated with evil and darkness and that set it apart as the isolated capsule of fear. But then, one by one, the other, more joyful holidays became targets for horror interpretations. It's gotten to the point that no festive celebration is without its own signature slasher or identifiable bloodbath.
For today's seasonal slaughtering, we gather 'round the table to celebrate Thanksgiving with 'Home Sweet Home.'
Remember how amazing those faux trailers were that played during the intermission of 2007's 'Grindhouse?' Remember Eli Roth's entry entitled 'Thanksgiving?' It caused a stir as so many people mused about how Thanksgiving is a holiday untouched by the horror genre and how it would be great to finally see a slasher film carve up the last Thursday in November. Too bad Eli was beaten to the punch nearly 30 years ago by a completely forgotten flick called 'Home Sweet Home.' Basic premise is that an escaped mental patient crashes a family's Thanksgiving get-together. As one might expect, he proceeds to mash, stuff, and cream them one by one.
It's hard to fathom how terrible this film is without seeing it, and frankly even after having seen it, its myriad failures are difficult to put into words. The best way I can describe it overall is that it feels like an exceptionally awful Troma film. It has much of the same neglience for basic film making mechanics, a similar misunderstanding of anything resembling comedy, and a crassness that smacks of that miserable excuse for a film company. It features actors who serve to forever elevate the artistic merit of community theater troupes...if only by comparison. It also looks like it was filmed on someone's home video camera that they had let languish for a year in a dank basement.
Movies like this sprouted up like weeds after the success of John Carpenter's 'Halloween'; aiming to capitalize on all remaining holidays. This is amusing to me as 'Halloween' was, itself, a loving ripoff of Bob Clark's seminal 'Black Christmas,' but that is neither here nor there. But where 'Halloween' works to eloquently craft a terrifying story by establishing both its central boogeyman's origins and his connection with the town to which he later returns, 'Home Sweet Home' makes the bold choice of throwing the killer at the screen in the first frame with a near incomprehensible kill and a shot of him injecting himself in the tongue with PCP to prove his evil. What?! I like the way they ape the POV shot from 'Halloween' as if someone had told them about it but without ever having actually seen it. But at least our psycho kills his victims in incredibly uninspired ways and looks just like Lou Ferrigno, right? You won't like him when he's...on screen.
This is a film that takes incompetent lighting and horrendous sound to new heights. I wouldn't begrudge an 80s horror film a few cheesy or hackneyed lines of dialogue as that is often part of their charm. But the folly of what the characters are saying and the flatness with which they deliver the words are but a drop in the bucket. Nearly every line delivered while the characters are outdoors were recorded in post-production and therefore do not line up with the movements of their mouths. But even this would be forgivable if the ADR wasn't then completely improvised seemingly by people that were in no way involved with the film. The conversations feel like the random firing of brain synapses and serve to make you want to stab your own eardrums with a meat thermometer. And then of course one can't forget the endless scenes of the killer stalking his victims in the woods while being lit by one failing Maglite. It makes it seem like the madman is searching not for his prey, but for the light switch.
All in all, 'Home Sweet Home' is epic in its ineptitude. The one saving grace is the crazy, prankster son of the family. He spends the whole film in mime makeup,and not only does he speak, but he plays rock guitar and is charged with providing the "comic relief." His very existence in this film prompts enough astonished laughter to make the whole film almost worth your time. So as you gorge yourself on turkey and dressing today, remember that there are only 29 shopping days until Christmas. Might I highly suggest never buying this film for anyone on your list no matter how much you may hate them.