By Richard Winters
My Rating: 3 out of 10
4-Word Review: Homicidal twin frames brother.
In the summer of 1974 while his mother (Louise Lasser) watches a movie with her new date at a drive-in 10-year-old Terry (Mark Soper) kills a young couple with a hatchet and then pins the murders on his brother Todd. Todd is sent away to an asylum while Terry goes on living with his mother. 10 years later Todd escapes from the mental hospital and Terry uses this as an excuse to murder people at the apartment complex that he and his mother live at while again trying to make it look as though Todd is the culprit.
The film was directed by John Grissmer who in the early 70’s produced The House that Cried Murder an interesting horror flick and a clip from that one gets shown here. He also later directed Scalpel and although that was not perfect it’s still better than this, which outside of some very gory special effects is about as routine and boring as a slasher film can get.
The identical twin/murder storyline, which has been done many times before, is a the biggest problem because even in the most extreme cases you can usually tell one twin from the other and therefore having a plot where people can easily mix the two up is just not realistic. What makes things worse is that one of the twins has curly hair while the other one’s hair is straight and combed back, so the fact that people can still somehow get the two confused is ridiculous.
The film also has too many unexplained plot holes like why is Terry so homicidal in the first place? Does mental illness run in his family, or is there something else that triggers it? And why does Todd so passively allow himself to put into an institution without protest and only after 10 years does he finally begin to profess his innocence?
The film was shot in Jacksonville, Florida, but the places used for the setting are deadly dull visually especially what was then known as the La Miranda apartment complex. This might’ve been done for budgetary reasons, but apartments are cramped places with unimaginative architecture so filming the majority of a movie inside one gives the film a flat, one-dimensional look and the exteriors, which were shot at the University of Northern Florida, were too limited and the action goes back several times to the same spots already used before like a nature bridge, which gives the film a redundant feel.
The acting is poor with the worst coming from Julie Gordon who plays Karen. I’ll admit the dialogue that she is given is pretty stupid anyways, but still watching her pathetic attempts at running or even screaming is so bad that you just wish the bad guy would kill her to put us the viewer out of our misery of having to watch her and the more she stays on the more unbearable the film gets.
The film’s only saving grace is Louise Lasser who helps bring some quirky depth into it. She’s unquestionably a unique talent that can sometimes give a brilliant performance if given the right material. Her neurotic persona and ad-libs add a terrific edge and just seeing her reactions is more fascinating than anything else in the movie. The film might’ve had a chance had she been in every scene and the stupid teen cast scrapped, but unfortunately she appears only sporadically, which just isn’t enough to mask the otherwise threadbare material.
My Rating: 3 out of 10
Alternate Title: Nightmare at Shadow Woods
Released: March 29, 1987 (Filmed in 1983)
Runtime: 1Hour 22Minutes
Director: John Grissmer
Studio: Film Limited Partnership
Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video, YouTube