Saturday Morning Massacre: LAFF Review

Saturday Morning Massacre - P 2012

Saturday Morning Massacre - P 2012

This indie feature lifts a beloved cartoon template, but can’t hit the bar it sets.

Spencer Parsons' horror film follows a Scooby-Doo-like team of paranormal investigators and their devoted dog.

Taking weekend cartoon series as a dubious departure point, horror-comedy Saturday Morning Massacre hopes to channel the humor and thrills of some of the classics, but instead lacks the focus to adequately meld its genre references. Destined for an undistinguished turn as film festival midnight-movie material, it could also eventually find an audience online.

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When a nervous real estate agent hires a team of questionably competent paranormal investigators led by Nancy (Ashley Spillers) to check out a deserted mansion that’s up for sale, he hopes they’ll help dispel rumors of supernatural activity that bedevil the property. The quartet, which also includes hot-and-heavy couple Gwen (Josephine Decker) and Chad (Adam Tate), as well as tech expert Floyd (Jonny Mars) and his dog Hamlet, sets out to solve the mystery of pagan symbols and haunted house incidents that are scaring off workers hired to do the remodeling.

Warned off their quest by local police officer Lance (Paul Gordon), who describes the former religious school’s creepy and tragic history involving the death of a young couple and the disappearance of their two children, the group proceeds undaunted. Their initial investigation centers on debunking rumors of ghostly goings-on and initially turns up little beyond an amateurish pentagram and some spooky, empty rooms in the deserted structure, but that’s before all hell breaks loose in the form of some very determined and deadly assailants.

Imitating a cartoon classic like Scooby-Doo requires a commitment to a consistency of style and tone that’s largely missing here. Moving from early stages as a goofy ghost-hunting comedy more concerned with the self-conscious relationship dynamics between the two couples than the mystery they’ve come to investigate, later scenes move to full-on axe wielding horror that’s mostly devoid of humor, dark or otherwise.

With three credited screenwriters and story contributions from nearly as many others, the entire project has the appearance of messy, hasty planning. Although director Spencer Parsons demonstrates appropriate familiarity with horror-movie conventions, he’s practically incapable of creating suspense without resorting to cheap makeup and familiar props. Performances shade more toward awkward than knowing, while production quality is variable

Venue: Los Angeles Film Festival
Cast: Ashley Spillers, Paul Gordon, Jonny Mars, Adam Tate, Josephine Decker
Director: Spencer Parsons
Screenwriters: Jory Balsimo, Aaron Leggett, Jason Wehling
Producers: Jonny Mars, Jason Wehling, Jesse Lyda
Executive producers: Alan Berg, Kristin Johansen-Berg, Clark Lyda
Director of photography: Drew Daniels
Production designer: Caroline Karlen
Costume designer: Mirin Soliz
Editor: Don Swaynos
No rating, 83 minutes.