Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Terror on the Menu (1972)

...aka: Club Dead
...aka: Folks at Red Wolf Inn, The
...aka: Terror at Red Wolf Inn
...aka: Terror House

Directed by:
Bud Townsend

Fans of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE take note. I'm a big fan of Hooper's influential 1974 horror classic. In fact, I list it as one of my five favorite horror films of all time. But I'm still almost convinced that the director saw this little-known film, then took the basic plot and blew the idea out of proportion. Both movies feature warped cannibal families, quirky black humor and isolated locations; plus here the celebrated Marilyn Burns freak-out scene from Chainsaw (you know where the camera gets extremely close-ups on her eyes and such) is predated to even similar-sounding music and quick-cut editing! See it for yourself if you don't believe me. Though this one doesn't come anywhere close to reaching the same level of intense, claustrophobic horror that TCM does, it's still stands up pretty well as campy 70s horror-comedy laced with black humor and is worth seeing.
College co-ed Regina (the delightful Linda Gillen), along with two other women (a pre-COLOR PURPLE Margaret Avery and glamorous model Janet Wood), "win" a trip to the secluded island home of an extremely sweet elderly couple (great film vets Arthur Space and Mary Jackson) and their uber-weird grandson (John Nielson, who really looks a lot like Brad Pitt in some shots). The women are all treated to extravagant, high-calorie feasts several times a day, but Regina starts becoming suspicious when other guests disappear promptly after a party is thrown and becomes even more suspicious when her hosts claim their phone is out of order and try to prevent her from leaving. She eventually discovers the entire family are murderous cannibals who cut-up their victims and store the body parts in a large walk-in freezer. This sometimes tries a little too hard to be funny (and thus loses focus on the horror), but it has its moments, the cast is very good, some of the dialogue is amusing and there's a standout shock scene featuring the grandson suddenly freaking out and killing a shark!
Produced by Michael Macready (the son of actor George Macready), who also produced the COUNT YORGA films and appears here as a deputy. It was originally released to theaters with an R-rating under the title THE FOLKS AT RED WOLF INN, the film has unfortunately gone public domain since then, with predictable results. The most widely circulated print is a shorter PG-rated cut that was edited down for network television and is missing several scenes, including one where the cannibal lady makes human soup and feeds ladyfingers to her husband. It seems the most complete cut currently available (which still seems to be missing footage) is under either the Folks or TERROR AT RED WOLF INN title, while the prints missing the most footage are under the TERROR HOUSE title. The version titled TERROR ON THE MENU apparently goes either way, depending on whether it's the American or Canadian VHS release. I've seen run-times listed as being anywhere from 72 to 98 minutes, so it's really difficult to tell.


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