Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Blood Hook (1986)

... aka: Carnada (Bait)
... aka: Ihmiskalastaja (Human Fisherman)
... aka: Leichen an der Angel (Corpses on the Hook)
... aka: Muskie Madness
... aka: Pêche Humaine (Human Fishing)

Directed by:
James (Jim) Mallon

Mallon started as a production manager while Mystery Science Theater 3000 was still at KTMA in Minneapolis before moving up to become director, writer and / or producer of the series for all eleven seasons lasting from 1988 to its cancellation in 1999. I make no bones about my dislike for MST3K and what it stands for. Do I really need to see silhouettes at the bottom of my screen ridiculing cheap movies for a cheap laugh? Nope, not at all. I could do this with friends if I wanted and certainly don't need to be spoon fed scripted “witty” one-liners the entire time I'm trying to watch something. It also makes it damn near impossible to give a film a fair shot when it's being mocked the entire time you're watch it. For me, the MST3K format is nothing more than a distraction that completely takes all of the fun out of watching cheap / bad / weird / dated movies and strips many of these films of their charm. Mike and the robots are basically the equivalent of obnoxious, attention deficit teenagers in a theater who won't shut the hell up and can't put down their cell phones for 10 minutes. One's enjoyment of the show probably just boils down to personal taste, but it's just never worked for me. I've heard many fans say they couldn't make it through most of the movies featured on the show without the commentary. I think that says it all right there.

The fallout from MST3K, not necessarily the show itself, is probably the most annoying thing about it. Especially grating are many of the show's die-hard fans, who call themselves MSTies. Not to generalize, but I've encountered too many MSTies in my day who insist all of the movies featured on the show are awful or else they wouldn't be on there. They end that perception with a period as if it's not even up for debate. When they're not telling detractors the humor must be over their head if they don't find it funny, they're flocking to sites like Amazon and IMDb to down vote the features and prove they can't independently write reviews about movies without quoting one-liners from the show. To many of them, Devil Doll (1964) is on the same playing field as, say, the same year's The Creeping Terror. And PHASE IV (1974) is just another MONSTER A GO-GO (1965), right? Having to read countless moronic comments like "Mario Bava was a hack. His movies were even on Mystery Science Theater 3000!" is enough to have me put a period at the end of my STFU.

With hundreds of "turkeys" at their disposal, when the series decided to make a feature film version they selected This Island Earth (1955) of all things. To me, that shows a certain disdain for classic films instead of an appreciation of them. It also sets in motion a type of thinking that a film should be judged primarily on when it was made, how much it cost to make and all qualities superficial, with no real appreciation for the film's ideas, inventiveness or historical significance when applicable. Most of the people blasting everything featured on MST3K haven't actually watched the movies they insist on critiquing. Not really. They're not giving these films a chance and opting for a highly-altered form that tinkers with not only the original film but their perception of said film. Sometimes focusing entirely on where films go wrong keeps one from appreciating where they go right. Hey, you can point and laugh at the Venusian monster in IT CONQUERED THE WORLD (1956) or you can appreciate that the film deals sincerely with the importance of human emotion.

Unfortunately, once the series was finally canned, series alum like Kevin Murphy and Trace Beaulieu continued riding the gravy train with similar dreck like Cinematic Titanic and RiffTrax. Even more unfortunately, a lot of the films riffed on are harder to find in their original form than they are with the stupid commentary attached. There are still obviously legs on this concept, though, and plenty who enjoy this kind of stuff; something made crystal clear by a successful Kickstarter fundraiser held last year that raked in over 5,700,000 dollars (!) for MST3K to be revived with 14 new episodes. Blood Hook is what some of these guys (Mallon directed and co-wrote the original story along with his wife Gail Anderson and two others, and Murphy is credited as key grip) were up to before goofing on other people's movies. And I actually found this more entertaining than any episode of MST3K I've ever seen. This is a gimmicky, intentionally goofy, cheap, stupid little regional flick but it's more honest, sincere and genuine than what came later. For better or worse, it is its own entity, not one completely reliant on the work of others.

Seventeen years after his grandfather was yanked into a lake never to return, rich kid / wannabe musician Peter van Clease (Mark Jacobs) decides to make a return visit to his family's cabin in the small town of Hayward. Wisconsin. Coming along for the trip are his girlfriend Ann (Lisa Todd), “punk” friend Rodney (Patrick Danz), Rodney's snobby Valley Girl girlfriend Kiersten (Sara Hauser) and third-wheel Fenner (Christopher Whiting). Upon arrival, they meet crazed, always-ranting caretaker Wayne Duerst (Paul Drake), who chews out Rodney for playing his “headache machine” and thinks the world has gone to hell, and his equally-unhinged son Evelyn (Bill Lowrie), pronounced “Evil-In;” a beer-swilling, shell-shocked war vet who sits in the front yard polishing his machine guns and goes on and on about “vibrations.” An old 45 of a song called “Fishing For Your Love” starts triggering flashbacks in Peter about that fateful day his grandpa disappeared but his girlfriend can't understand why he won't just go to the police if he suspects foul play.

The entire town is filled with tourists for the annual “Muskie Madness” fishing tournament and we meet a handful of other strange, eccentric types who give Old Man Duerst and his son a run for their money in the red herring department. First, there's sinister German bait shop owner Leroy Leudke (Don Winters), who feeds mysterious chunks of meet to something in a tank. And then there's local fishing champion Denny Dobyns (Dale Dunham), self-proclaimed “Muskie Maniac,” who accuses others of cheating when he's planning on substituting a big fish he's raised at home for one he's caught. A jerk urologist, his loon / On Golden Pond-obsessed wife and their two bratty kids also roll into town. Perhaps most amusing of all is contest hostess Bev D. (Sandy Meuwissen), a single mother who is so exercise-obsessed she often forgets she has a toddler to raise. When asked whether she's worried if a bear will eat her son (who's kept in the front yard in a playpen while she's out jogging), she nonchalantly replies, “Well he might. I make sure he doesn't have any sweets before.”

Someone takes it upon themselves to start killing everyone they can sink their bobber into. The killing mechanism in this film is as unique as it is ridiculous, with the psycho fisherman casting a line, literally hooking the intended victim and then reeling them right into the water and into his clutches. When caught, people are treated just like normal fish would be: pierced through the chin and out the mouth with a metal rod and kept on a stringer under a dock. Bodies are then chopped and / or ground up. Everything's explained by some silliness involving a metal plate from a wartime injury, the sound of cicada's (?!) and certain musical notes in the theme song, which makes up something called “The Devil's Tritone.”

Aside from the novelty of having a fisherman killer who treats his prey as the catch of the day, what makes this film slightly more entertaining than your average low budget mid-80s slasher is its humor and colorful supporting characters. It's every bit as dumb as it sounds, but there are at least few laughs to be had here so it has that much going for it. Still, due to budgetary (and perhaps imagination) restraints, this doesn't seem to go as far as it should have. The kills are silly, repetitive and not as gory as most would like for this kind of film and the premise wears itself completely out after about an hour when the film runs out of steam. Even a potentially amusing cast-off between our hero and the killer at the very end seems dull and tired by that point.

Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz are listed in the opening credits as the executive producers but the film was first released on VHS here in American on the Prism label. Troma then handled the subsequent releases, including a (pretty substandard) DVD release on one of their “Troma Triple B-Header” sets. That release also comes with the killer lawnmower Jaws parody Blades (1989) and almost completely zombie-free ZOMBIE ISLAND MASSACRE (1984).



spookyx3 said...

yes. thank you! that's exactly how i feel about the odious MST3K. can't stand their inane prattle competing with the original soundtrack -- i have no patience for stuff like this. prepared, written material scarcely better than anything i could come up with off the cuff. worst, they perpetuate the idea that _all_ film over a certain age does not play to a modern audience (the remake argument). whole concept is just vomitable.

so, the makers' subsequent forays definitely colored my opinion of BLOOD HOOK. truly though, there's just not much here.

crow said...

Yeah, I watched this on the Troma triple header along with the other two films.

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

Nice that someone feels the same way! Seems that show has quite the following. I already got one nasty piece of hate mail over the negative MST3K comments and will probably be getting some more in due time. Doesn't take long for some people to sniff this stuff out.

crow... That is probably one of the better Troma sets, sad as that may be. lol

spookyx3 said...

anybody who needs these idiots in order to have fun with movies like THE CORPSE VANISHES or ROBOT MONSTER . . .

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

Not to mention they often cut chunks out of films to fit their "this sucks" narrative.

spookyx3 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BigGreg3000 said...

I happen to be a big fan of MST3K, but I respect your well-stated objections to the concept and format. In fact, I am in complete agreement with you about the MST Movie; "This Island Earth" is by no stretch of the imagination a "bad" anything. I guess I just admire the writing more than you; some of the source material for the jokes is quite sophisticated, (or just high concept a la Monty Python) and it is like a game for me to see how many of the jokes I can actually get.

Where you are less stable ground is your allegation that MST somehow maligns older films that have merit; while some fans regrettably indulge in this in their lame attempts to be hip, that's on them. I've seen every episode, and I think MST goes out of its way to not take cheap shots and to remember that real people made these films and without them, they wouldn't have a job.

Like you, I've enjoyed genre films since childhood and actively sought them out, and I don't have any problem watching SBIG movies without riffs; I actually bought a VHS copy of "Manos" from Sinister Cinema years before MST made it famous and set my VHS time to catch late night showings of "the Creeping Terror" and "They Saved Hitler's Brain". I just love strange films that take chances.

I guess what I'm trying to say is don't paint all MSTies as being the same; I think that's a cheap shot from someone who probably hasn't even seen too many episodes of the series anyway.

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

You're right. I shouldn't speak in absolutes about anything and sorry it came off that way. Everyone is different, everyone has a unique sense of humor, etc. etc. The show just doesn't work for me personally and I've had endless bad encounters with fans so that's clearly colored my perception to a degree. But to further my point a bit, I've received over 20 replies to this review from MST3K fans that I didn't publish here because they were nothing but slinging personal insults at me. I don't mind dissent and disagreement one bit but yours has been the first polite and respectable comment I *could* publish.

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