Home Sweet Home (1981)
WRITER: Thomas Bush
DIRECTOR: Nettie Pena
STARRING: Jake Steinfeld as Jay/The Killer
Vinessa Shaw as Angel
Peter De Paula as Mistake
Don Edmunds as Bradley
Charles Hoyes as Wayne
David Mielke as Scott
Leira Naron as Gail
Lisa Rodriguez as Maria
Colette Trygg as Jennifer
Salee Young as Linda
SYNOPSIS: Guess who's coming to Thanksgiving dinner? A crazed, escaped mental patient homicidal maniac high on PCP!
Jay - What is there to say about Jay? He doesn't say much, he kills people for no aparrent reason, and he likes killing people. Did I mention he's a killer?
Scott - The main non crazy character, at least based on screen time. He's staying at an apartment addition to a friend's ranch house, and he brings his girlfriend up to celebrate Thanksgiving dinner. Your typical good guy, but he pusses out at the sign of danger.
Mistake - The only other character with any discernable character traits. And his trait is: Annoying. He runs around, annoys everyone, plays annoying music, does annoying magic, and he's painted up like a mime. A MIME.
Bradley - The man who's home everyone is converging on for Thanksgiving. It isn't entirely clear why. Only some of these people are family. He's also a bit of a jerk and a thief. Yet he welcomes in half a dozen random people to eat his turkey.
Jennifer - Scott's girlfriend, and that's about the extent of her characterisation. Her and the rest of the women in this movie don't get developed much more beyond girlfriend and cannon fodder.
The movie starts off pretty quietly, with a drunk in his car listening to the weather. He even offers the cameraman a drink! The weather man predicts this movie will be sunny with a chance of...HOLY CRAP GUY ATTACKING HIM OUT OF NOWHERE!
Not even 30 seconds in, and we're thrown into a jump scare, and a death. If I say nothing else nice about this movie, at least it knows how to grab your attention.
The drunk gets yanked through the car window and spills beer all over the camera as Big McLargehuge strangles him. He then gets dragged from his car, dropped on the curb, and Chunky grabs the car. You know, you could have just asked for a ride.
As the killer leans back in the car to shoot up, the radio handilly gives us an Infodump News Channel report, and tells us about an escaped mental patient prone to vioelnce. I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that the Jay Jones they're talking about is the drug fiend in the car. Although two drug crazed maniacs yanking people from cars and murdering them would make a cool film.
Once Jay shoots up, the credits roll over a casual car ride with wholly inappropriate music. The music is way too action packed for just a drive through suburbia. What do they think this is, Van Helsing?
While he's still driving, Jay catches up to the music when an old woman drops her groceries in the crosswalk. He starts cackling and has the look of a man getting the best blowjob of his existence as he mows her down.
The best part is when the video freezes on granny's shocked face, and slam cuts in closer and closer until we're almost staring at dots and film grain.
Once the bloodbath is done with, we cut to our future victims...er, heroes as they're visitng some friends for the big Turkeyday. At the house, one of the first things we see is a man playing guitar with the speaker carried on his back. And he's got mime makeup on.
We're in for a weird one, folks.
A guy runs out of the house demanding he stop playing, throws a can of beer at him (Alcohol abuse!) and chases the mime back inside. Where he continues to keep playing. I want to throw a beer at him now.
Scott and Jennifer arrive immediately afterwards, and Scott promises that at least they'll have an interesting evening. Oh buddy, you do not have even the slightest clue.
The beer throwing champion of Nowhere County comes inside where everyone else is contributing to get dinner ready, and demands that he needs a beer. Well, if you stopped throwing them at every guitar playing mime, maybe you wouldn't have this problem!
Before Jay arrives at the ranchhouse, he stops off just shy of the turn off and instead pulls up to another house. Fortunately there's a hose in a bucket that just happens to be on, and he hoses off the telltale bloodstain after driving all the way out here with a giant granny splotch on his windshield.
Mr. Throwsabeer takes his wife to the bedroom, which leads me to suspect her name is really Beer, since this is clearly what he really needs. While they're getting busy, Scott and Jen still in their car start making out and going horizontal as well. Really? Is this really the place for that? There's a kid in the house, and she's probably watching, especially once you knee the horn.
My point is proven as Mistake the Mime comes up with his guitar and his stupid face makes me want to punch him. He watches them for a few seconds before getting their attention with a few chords. Scott chases Mistake off, and the mime shows he sucks at everything by laughing as he runs away. Mime's are silent, you goon!
There's an entirely pointless chase seen between Scott and Mistake, that could have been used to at least establish geography, but it seems like the house only has three rooms as they keep running in circles. Weirdest of all, Mistake runs into one room with someone else playing guitar that we've never met. Hello, random encounter.
Scott chases Mistake right into the bedroom where Beer Thrower and Beer are making out, making for a hilariously awkward scene! Or maybe just awkward.
Anyways, Jennifer finally gathers up all the stuff from the car, since Scott was too busy chasing the mime. She meets Beer Thrower who is still half-undressed. For the record, Mistake has pretty much alienated or annoyed everyone in the movie, and the audience already. If someone from his own family doesn't bash his skull in with a bat, at least they've got Jay to do their dirty work just down the street.
The movie finally properly introduces the other guitar playing person, and she's the girlfriend of Scott's brother, Wayne. And she doesn't speak English. Great. They all complain about how bad she is, but I think she's a step up from Mistake. We follow that up with everyone plotting ways to murder Mistake while he's out of the room. Ahh, the love of your relatives.
Beer and her sister take Scott's car to get some wine, and they deliver the worst written, least believable patter I've heard in awhile. It probably wasn't written, and totally improvised, which makes it all the worse, and stilted. Blathering "peas and carrots" would have been better.
Oh yeah, this is a slasher movie, isn't it? We finally get back to Jay, still laughing madly after cleaning his car, and finding the height of amusement in his blood-soaked rag. I hope he says nothing more than crazed laughter the entire film.
Jay sees the girls driving down the hill and ducks behind his car, which isn't conspicuous at all. Once they're past, he drives up the hill to more overly serious music. Bradley Beerchucker complains about the neatest cupboard I've ever seen, and how he can never find anything. I would kill for a pantry as organised and uncluttered as that one, dude. In fact, hmm. The killer IS named Jay...
Speaking of, he arrives at the house and sneaks around. And to top it off, as Jay sneaks around the house, the music is something not entirely unlike the Jaws theme music. I think we're going to need a bigger script.
Jay flips the breakers sending the house into a blackout. They're not concerned by this oddity, because the power convenniently goes out for several hours at a time in these parts. Which, living in the middle of nowhere, I can vouch for.
Wayne bitches about losing the tv, showing just how far we've come in 30 years. Fortunately, Bradley has a generator that at least will get them lights. I'm going to assume they have a gas stove, since you would think losing Thanksgiving dinner would be a bigger concern.
Once Bradley gets the generator going, he decides to fragment the cast some more to make them easier to pick off. Or get more gas for the generator, just in case. I forget which it was. I love how the second biggest problem in this movie could have been fixed if someone simply checked the fuses.
So, Brad grabs a gas can and loads it into his jeep while Mistake watches ominously from a doorway. No particular reason, just to be weird. I never understood mimes, but this one baffles me all the more. If they wanted to build him up as a red herring, that doesn't work if we've already seen the maniac.
Jay lurks in the bushes like the worst camoflaged soldier ever, and Bradley comes across his stolen car in the middle of the road. Not that we saw him move it, but it's easy enough to piece together so I'll let it go.
What I won't let go though is Jay knowing someone would try to go get extra gas for the generator. He could have been laying in wait for the girls, but it sure seems like he's itching to get Bradley.
Brad can tell something is wrong with the abandoned car, and when no one comes at his calling, Bradley pulls out the gas can. Yes, he plans to siphon off the gas from the car. How big of a dick can you be?
Back at weirdness central, Wayne and his girl are trying to make out, and Mistake interupts his third couple of the night. They ask him to leave, and his response is pretty much a, "Yeah, sure." Thanks, pointless scene! Especially when he immediately runs back in, causing Wayne to throw a beer can at him. Must run in the family.
In the irony of all ironies, Bradley gets back into his Jeep after stealing Jay's gas, and the car won't start. He gets back out and pokes his head under the hood of the station wagon, and I think he is seriously considering hotwiring and stealing the entire car! But no, he's just going to steal the car's battery. Again, how big of a dick can you be??
Jay runs out of the forest, leaps into the air, and body slams the car hood down on top of Bradley's head. Ok, that...that was actually kinda awesome. No no, that was really awesome. And made all the better by me having no sympathy for Brad, so I'm rather cheering the leap into the air.
This movie could turn to shit right now, shittier shit than it is, but I'd still have that moment. Man.
Back in Strangeland, Mistake is talking to the little girl, and keeping her distracted with his magic balls. I suspect this scene was the sole reason Peter De Paula was hired for this movie.
Oh yeah, remember the girls who went out to get wine? Yeah, the movie finally does too, but they've gotten lost since they drove off. They complain about trying to call Bradley to find out what wine he wanted. Since we just saw Jay cut the phone lines, we know why. But they're already lost when we just saw the phones get cut. And this is before cellphones were in common use, so the scene doesn't make the most sense. They could have at least inserted something between the phone lines being severed and this scene so they don't seem immediately following.
Back at the house, the remaining family members are getting worried about Bradley not being back yet. Never mind the two girls who've been gone even longer, right? Scott points out that he was having trouble with his battery, so Brad probably took the time to replace that as well. Oh, did he ever.
Wayne asks for the location of the gas station, so he can...call and see if Brad is there? How does that work? He doesn't know where it is, asks, and that gives him the phone number? Asking where something is doesn't give you the phone number. I thought he'd go looking for Brad, and fragment the group all the more. But no, sense continues to leave the movie.
Finally, Jennifer remembers the other girls, and Scott remembers that his gas guage is faulty, so they've probably run out of gas as well. Don't worry, they can always just find a parked car and siphon it off, if Brad taught them anything.
And then, only then!, does Wayne decide to go look for everyone. Because it would have made too much sense to do so when he asked for the location of the ga station.
Having only driven a few feet down the road, and a hand reaches out of the shadows and kills Wayne. I have no idea what happened, because apparently when the house lost power, so did this movie, and they can't light for shit.
As everyone gets Thanksgiving dinner on the table, Mistake returns and says the fun can begin now that 'the redneck is gone and those other two assholes aren't back yet...'. Um, who is who? Four people have left, none of them returned. Two of them are women, neither of which has given me any reason to call them assholes.
Scott and Jennifer run off to their apartment, and the relationships are clarified as these are mostly groups of friends, and not all relatives. At least, Scott isn't related to them, and just needed the roof over his head in their room for rent. Doesn't explain Mistake, though. Or anyone else. Weird Thanksgiving gathering. Not that anything could explain Mistake.
The women get pulled over by the pointlessness police, ostensibly for speeding, but this scene only exists to pad the movie out to its whopping 80 minute run time, and so the cop can shine his flashlight down one of the girl's cleavage. They even let her go with a warning, proving how pointless the scene was.
And they reveal some point of this scene by having Scott's car not start up, so the girls have to walk back. Yes, the car ran out of gas while it was turned off. I'm sure I'll get a bunch of messages telling me this is actually possible, but c'mon. Even Murphy doesn't write this many Laws.
We are well and truly into the padding section of the second act, as Mistake and Maria waste time playing bad music, and Scott and Jennifer go at it with their pants on upstairs. With these three useless threads unraveling, the only thing keeping the plot ticking along is Jay lurking in the shadows and watching.
Even that is borderline unbearable, since the movie is so poorly shot, and so badly lit, that most of his staring is staring into darkness with a few dots of light. At least we can see the little girl clearly playing with knives on the dinner table. Since everyone forgot there's a child to feed, she took matters into her own hands.
Scott and Jess finally finish up and come back downstairs, looking for Angel, and finding the handiwork she made on the turkey. I was joking about the demonic rites, but damn she stabbed the hell out of that bird.
They find her sitting under the table munching on food, after making us think she was dead because Jay snuck up to her, and the first thing we see is her prone legs sticking out from under the tablecloth. If we cared about anyone in this dysfunctional group, that might have actually been a cause for conern, but no.
Meanwhile, Jay's actually lurking in the darkness, which I can only assume because I can hear him better than I can see him. He's somewhere stalking the girls on the roads, but all we see is dark, dark, and more dark. They find Wayne's car, but wouldn't they have found the station wagon and Brad's Jeep first? I guess Jay could have moved them, but why not move car #3? There's that pesky logic again.
Jay jumps out of the darkness and scoops one of the girls up over his head like a dumbell. He hurls her over the car, and her head gently lands against a rock, killing her.
Beer throws a bottle of wine at Jay and misses. She probably can't see anything either, I guess. Jay is not happy with the alcohol abuse, picks up the broke bottleneck, and chases after Beer. For the record, every line of dialogue has been maniacal laughter. He's worse than Six-Shooter.
I swear, every scene with Beer is just pointless padding. I'm not just calling her that as a joke, I seriously have yet to nail down her name. But she's contributed nothing to this movie aside from pointless diversions, and an added hash mark to the body count. It also doesn't help that this entire chase is filmed in the murky depths of squid ink, filled with screams and laughter. This scene could almost work, but goes on and on, and just needs some sense of geography and lighting. Not much, just some!
Finally, Jay catches her and stabs her bloody with the wine bottle, as the rest of the family sit down to dinner. Or whatever they are. And Mistake continues to do bad magic. His demise can't come quick enough.
After a mishap with some wine, or a deliberate occurance, Mistake helps Maria get cleaned up and looks for a shirt she can borrow as Jay draws closer to them. My fingers and toes are so crossed and hoping Mistake finally gets it. Jay reaches down and reveals a knife hidden in his boot, which I don't see why he was hiding it, it's not like we'd be surprised by his knife ownership. Especially since we've already seen him with one.
Maria pulls back the shower curtain and finds Beer's body laying there, and the walls sprayed with her blood. Which continues this movie's lack of sense, since she was killed in the woods. The shower shouldn't be that bloody, either from sprayage, or from her trying to scrawl IT on the walls. Just before Maria can scream, Jay grabs her and keeps her silent at knife point.
Mistake runs over with a clean shirt for his Latina lover, and Jay threatens to kill her if he makes a sound. No! NO! Just kill him, problem solved! Yours and mine!
As Maria is dragged off into the darkness, Mistake begs for her life. YES, please take him, Jay. I beg you too. Although if Mistake keeps offering to sing, or do magic in return for Maria's safety, I may just get my wish of his demise.
On the downside, Jay actually gets a few lines. Albeit misogynistic ones, but I don't exactly expect politness from a crazed, drugged up killer.
Not surprisingly, Jay stabs her in front of Mistake, and from the looks of it, he stabbed her right in the boob. I guess maybe he nicked the heart, but that doesn't seem exactly fatal.
Mistake runs into the woods, and I just have to wonder why he gets to enjoy a continued existence. The best thing is Jay's white painted face is actually working against him in the darkness. Even in the shadowy void this movie lives in for the second half, you can still see his face in the sea of black. And Jay can too.
Finally, at long last, justice is served and Jay finds the mime, and plugs his electric guitar into some high power lines, maybe the phone lines, and electrocutes the bastard. And thus the second most deserving character in this movie bites the dust.
With the power flickering inside thanks to Mistake's timely demise, Scott decides to make the group even smaller and go get some firewood. Thus seperating the last two adults in the movie. Pass the popcorn, we're in the home stretch.
At least they wonder where Mistake and Maria are, ever so briefly.
Scott comes across Maria's dead body by the generator, and asks what's going on around here. Aside from people just not returning, this is the first bit of weirdness he's come across, so the question rings a little hollow.
We then get to see just what a girl Scott is, and his chicken streak shows to be as wide as the yellow shirt he's wearing when he runs back to the house crying out for Jennifer.
The best part is, that Scott makes the assumption that Mistake killed Maria. Which is just perfect. He's dead and being accused of murder. It is a glorious day.
Scott goes around locking doors and windows, but Jay's already made his way inside, making that even more pointless, and probably just an excuse to get him in the line of stabbing.
I guess Scott finished his job quickly, because we next see him gathering weapons in the kitchen, just before the lights go out. The three survivors rush to the living room so they have light from the fireplace at least. Which is the most lighting this half of the movie gets.
Scott checks over the room like he should have done before, then leaves the girls alone so he can look for candles despite the nice bright fire, casting a lot of brightness from the off-camera standing lights.
Just as the trio are thinking they'll be ok, there's a loud creek that reminds Scott of a door he forgot to check in the back of the room. Why would you check the doors, but conveniently forget one? Oh right, for the sole purpose of future drama, as dictated by script.
So, Scott checks the doors AGAIN, making this the third time he's had to do a simple job, which means we get to watch even more scenes of a flashlight dot bobbing in the darkness. Oh fucking happy days.
Jennifer wonders if maybe Mistake isn't the killer. Now, why would she suspect that? She just met Mistake, she's even said he was weird. She might not think he's the type to go around stabbing people, but she doesn't really have any excuse to go blaming another person she doesn't know exists.
Angel complains about having to go to the bathroom, but Jen isn't about to leave the fire. Scott offers to take her, bravely leaving his girlfriend all alone in the otherwise dark house. Nice guy.
Our hero is busy telling the kid everything will be ok when Jay leaps out of the darkness screaming. I briefly wonder just how real Angel's scream is from that spook.
Jay wraps his meaty hands around Scott's throat and strangles him down to the ground. Seriously, this shouldn't be a long fight. Scott's a wiry guy, and Jay clearly works out. He could pop Scott's head like a zit.
Well, if Jennifer didn't start beating the killer with...something. Fucked if I can tell in the darkness what it is, though. Fireplace poker is what I'm going with.
That minor distraction at least enables Scott to claw at the killer's face, but not do much else. Jay's hands are soon back around the guy's throat and not going anywhere. Fortunately, Jennifer finds a handy knife kept on a convenient shelf and drives it into the cameraman's face. Or at least that's how it looked. Cool effect, at least.
Scott bravely runs away and takes his girlfriend with him once the killer is down, making good their escape. AND LEAVING THE CHILD BEHIND.
Jay's got your typical slasher stamina at least, and slowly gets back on his feet while Jennifer remembers their oversight. Scott runs back to look for Angel, but his rescue is cut short when Jay smashes through a window to grab the wuss.
With Scott pulled halfway back into the house, Jay uses the knife not lodged in his back and slashes Scott's throat. And then there were two.
Jay chases the girl up to her dead boyfriend's apartment, still with a knife in his back. And the music starts getting equal parts goofy and dramatic at this point, with weird notes and instruments intruding on the tension.
We get to see the killer wander through the apartment while Jennifer hides, and by see, I mean watch his shadowy form wander from shadow to shadow, while Jennifer hides in the shadows. It's not as bad as other parts of the movies, but I am tired of someone not wanting to throw a lightbulb on them.
The movie cuts leaving us wondering what happened, and it's suddenly daybreak. I know this, because the rooster told me so. The cops from earlier in the movie show up at Wayne's car, again making me ask why they didn't see Brad's or Jay's, or how they got around them, but at this point...sigh.
One of the cops finds the girl who fell asleep against the rock, and is sad he won't be getting any from her after all.
Back at the apartment, Jennifer opens up the hidey hole she squirreled away into and looks around. It would have been nice to show us earlier that Scott had a secret cavern to hide stuff in under his bed. And let the chanting for jump scares begin now.
And of course, that's when Jay jumps from out of frame where anyone could have seen him and pounces on the poor girl. STILL with the knife in his back!
Jay drags her and tosses her around, rather than just quickly finish the job. Like he did with everyone else. He needs to give the cops more than enough time to arrive so not everyone dies in this movie.
Which they promptly do, and one of them asks if the other's gun is loaded. The proper response is to check, not what the movie gives; "I hope so." Cops do not hope their guns are loaded, they know, or look and load if it's not. Especially when they've seen dead bodies, and a bloody guy playing hacky sack with a woman. WITH A KNIFE IN HIS BACK.
Fortunately, both cops guns were indeed loaded, and they put the guy down with three shots. One cop calms down Jennifer while the other pokes his shotgun in Jay's face.
Oh, and because the movie forgot about the little girl, the cop gives a quick infodump that they found her wandering the highway near the gas station. At least they bothered to say anything at all. I was beginning to have doubts.
While the girls get reaquainted, and Angel plots her future years of therapy, the cops look over Jay's dead body and his eyes shoot open.
And fuck me, that's the last shot of the movie?!
That is how we end? The cops standing over the crazed killer, and his eyes open? Did he kill the cops? Did they shoot him? Did Jay wipe out the last four people still living?
The ending doesn't just leave us with questions of what happens next, but what the fuck happened, period! Ok, Jay escaped. They glossed over that via a radio broadcast, I can roll with it, and dive into the *ahem* plot. But where was he going? Why did he go to that specific house? It wasn't exactly in his direct path. He took several turns to get there, so it was a deliberate choice. There is no reason behind anything in this movie, it all just happens. And it happens badly, and in total darkness.
Video: I'm actually really surprised at how good this movie looks. No really. It's not the best transfer, but the stock wasn't great to begin with. This is, arguably, how it is probably supposed to look. When the movie actually bothers to be lit, it looks passably ok. I've seen much worse. The darkness still pisses me off, but when you can see, you see something that's not too pixelated or overly softened.
Audio: Again, it's ok. Everything is clear enough in a simple stereo mix. Dialogue is clear, the laughter is solid. Could be improved, but it works for this z-grade slasher.
Best Line: "A little craziness never hurt anyone." Except for when it hurts EVERYone.
Blood Type - C: While there's some good kills in this, a few of my faves even, the movie is pretty bloodless. There's a few drops and gushes, but overall, clean.
Sex Appeal: Beer shows her breasts a few times, and that's it.
Movie Rating: Oh, holy hell. This movie is awful. #1 awful thing, you guessed it, the lighting. This movie has zero plot. The characters are worse than paper thin and two dimensional. No one has any motivation or characterisation, and any reason for anyone to be anwyhere, especially the killer! is never given or just given two or three words. I'm unclear on names, and for the first 30 minutes, I had Bradley and Wayne wrong. I may still have them wrong at times in the review. The only thing going for this movie is it has deaths. And you can find better, more visible ones in many other movies. One out of five thrown cans of beer.
Entertainment Rating: But for pure enjoyment and escapist fun? This movie is a little awesome. The car hood...brilliant. Jay grabbing the guy out of the car mere seconds into the movie? Great! The dialogue is so stilted and cheesy, the situation is so bizarre and bare bones, and there's Mistake. This is one glorious trainwreck you can not look away from, and you can't stop laughing at. This should have been on MST3K, but you and your friends can provide your own track. A four out of five hits of PCP.
Randon Fun Facts: After Angel got therapy for everyone she knew being killed when she was five, she grew up to be a very well rounded young woman. She would go on to medical school, and eventually work for one Gregory House. Her time under him was brief, and only lasted one case.
Jay Jones did indeed survive the attacks, and put on trial for the massacre at Bradley Ranch. He was found guilty on all counts and put back into psychiatric care. Over the years, he received the help he needed and was rehabilitated and reintegrated into society. He now works on the Daily Show and is happily married to Samantha Bee.