'4/20 Massacre': Film Review

The real massacre will be at the box office.
4/20/2018

Dylan Reynolds' exploitation flick sets a silent killer loose in a wilderness littered with marijuana farms.

How can a film called 4/20 Massacre, billed as "the first stoner slasher film," not be a comedy? Dylan Reynolds' humorless slasher pic follows a quintet of women into the woods and doesn't even wait until sundown to start the carnage, presumably because once people go to bed, the pothead-baiting title will no longer apply. Prospective moviegoers looking to celebrate the unofficial cannabis holiday with an appropriate film should look elsewhere: It's boring enough while sober; only the heroic could stay focused on this film while high.

For her birthday, Jess (Jamie Bernadette) has planned a camping trip near a river she and lifelong friend Aubrey (Vanessa Rose Parker) used to visit as kids. The two are joined by Rachel (Justine Wachsberger), who brought along a co-worker she plans to seduce (Marissa Pistone's Michelle). A fifth woman, Donna (Stacey Danger) rounds out the group despite not seeming to be connected to any of the others; the weed in her bags is evidently all the companionship she needs.

En route to the campsite, they're stopped by a National Parks employee who calls himself Ranger Rick (Jim Storm). Condescendingly, Rick advises the gals that they should "stay outta them hills" in the distance: These lands, we learn, are home to "guerilla growers" — pot entrepreneurs who are deadly when they think someone's getting too close to their secret farms.

And indeed, there is a killer sneaking around these parts, hunting two hicks who found his plants and stole a backpack full of product. He doesn't just walk up and kill them the way a gangster would, though: The sneaky, faceless ghoul (James Gregory, whose character is identified in credits as The Shape) is covered in a foliage-mimicking bodysuit and wears gloves with talons; he's a bush that kills. The Shape gets one of the pot thieves right away, but the second lives just long enough to hand the backpack off to the unwitting women and flee in terror.

Donna, proving herself one of the big screen's least interesting stoner caricatures, sees this bounty as a gift from the gods of 4/20. She won't shut up about the holiday and how excited she is to light this stuff up once the clock strikes twenty minutes past four. She does give a little bud to a passing rabbit hunter, urging him to "puff puff, not bang bang." The Shape's not going to let Elmer Fudd finish his spliff in peace, though.

Writer-director Reynolds clearly has a fanboy-ish love for gore — before the day is through, we'll see several decapitations, some Oedipal eyeball removal, and a disembowelment in which the victim furiously tries to jam several feet of intestine back into his torso. (Gore connoisseurs will be unimpressed by the FX, though.) But he's much less sure of what's supposed to happen in between the killings. Before they know they're being hunted, the women split into three groups. Jess and Aubrey have a family-trauma conversation that comes out of nowhere and soon returns there; Rachel and Michelle threaten to skinny-dip but instead enjoy a sophomoric debate about ambition in the workplace; and Donna settles down with her bong, a long glass tube that will naturally become an instrument of death.

Some weirdly inappropriate pop songs fill the soundtrack during the long dull stretches when nobody's getting killed, and when the action arrives, it's unfulfilling. After the Shape's nature is finally revealed (in one of those nonsensical "I should kill you, but first I'd like to tell you why" sequences), the movie manages its most sustained bit of action. The cast does what it can with this thin material, but even at its best, 4/20 Massacre is duller than exploitation cinema has any right to be.

Distributor: Film Chest Media
Cast: Jamie Bernadette, Vanessa Rose Parker, Stacey Danger, Justine Wachsberger, Marissa Pistone, Jim Storm, James Gregory
Director/screenwriter/editor: Dylan Reynolds
Producer: Vanessa Rose Parker
Director of photography: Kyle Stryker
Composer: Angela Winter Defoe

84 minutes