Director – Alex Pucci, Screenplay – Draven Gonzalez, Story – Draven Gonzalez & Alex Pucci, Producers – Alex Esber & Alex Pucci, Photography – Alex Esber, Music – Claudio Simonetti, Special Effects Supervisor/Makeup Effects Supervisor – Matt Corrigan, Production Design – Ben Miller. Production Company – Screamkings Productions
Rane Jameson (Bobby Brennan), Jon Fleming (Mark), Niki Notarile (Diane), Lisa DiCicco (Erica), Georgia Gladden (Olivia), Andrew Giordano (Tim), Michael Galante (Michael), Chris Prangley (Sean Brennan), Ryan Ross (Drater), Bethany Taylor (Wendy), Adam Simon (Moose), Jim Ford (Rabbit), Justin Hogan (Karl), Tyler Barnes (Will), Mark Zella (L.A. Rick), Bryan Webb (Slick), Jaclyn Marfuggi (Janie), Allyson Sereboff (Monica)
It is 1978. Brothers Bobby and Sean Brennan have been raised by Miss Olivia since the deaths of their parents. She is making a dinner for their graduation but Bobby instead wants to go to the lake with his friends. Later that night they are informed that Bobby has been caught in an accident. Afterwards, with Bobby in a coma, Sean leaves home to enrol at Newcomb College where he is accepted into the Delta Iota Epsilon fraternity. The fraternity is headed by the cruel Mark who delights in pushing hazing beyond the usual humiliations into sadism and murder with the bodies of dead pledges being fed to the pigs. As Mark’s games of cruelty continue, a mystery figure starts eliminating the members of the fraternity.
Frat House Massacre is a film from Alex Pucci, a new name on the genre scene. Pucci heads Screamkings Productions, which advertises itself as offering “horror and thrillers with a modern edge and a retro sensibility.” In a similar vein (that is to say films that seem to homage the style of the 1980s slasher film), Alex Pucci has also directed Camp Daze (2005), Lurker (2009), Survival Camp (2010), Indiscretion (2013) and Violence of the Mind (2013), while Screamkings has produced other works like Beef: You Are What You Eat (2007), Only Go There at Night (2008), The Green Monster (2009), Sculpture (2009) and Road Hell (2011).
While one is surprised to find that the title was not one used by an actual 1980s slasher film, Frat House Massacre seems less a slasher film than it does of a revenge of the underdog film like Massacre at Central High (1976), which had Derrel Maury brutally slaughtering his way through a social clique that had done him wrong. The film’s dvd cover and the Screamkings website make the claim that Frat House Massacre is based on a true incident that occurred in 1979, although offers no further details to corroborate this, leaving one no choice to put this in the category of films making dubious claims to be based on real-life. The film does feature the novelty of a score from Claudio Simonetti, one of the members of the Italian rock group Goblin, known for their cult scores for Dario Argento films like Deep Red (1976) and Suspiria (1977).
When it comes to the modern edge, what the Screamkings motto clearly means is the plentiful provision of gore effects. Alex Pucci takes great delight in depicting the hazing rituals – with scenes where guys are stripped and painted, hosed down and then spanked with a paddle; where others are stripped to their underwear and locked in a shower with a water-activated chemical asphyxiant; or where Andrew Giordano has a shirtless guy tied to a bed and uses his chest as a dartboard. The film reaches an undeniably gory climax where almost every character we meet throughout the film is bloodily despatched, involving disembowellings, slit throats, eye gougings and a much gorier replay of the body strung between two vehicles scene out of The Hitcher (1986). There is also an undeniable homoerotic edge to some of these scenes – though there is a more than reasonable degree of female nudity throughout, the film seems to overflow to brimming point with good- guys walking around bare-chested to the point that you wonder if you have not started watching a David DeCoteau film by mistake. The point is made with some crashingly obvious Freudian symbolism at times – like the scene where the stripped guy is hosed down by another shirtless guy with the hose being held at crotch height.
Frat House Massacre starts off with some passable sociological relevance in its claims to be based on fact and showing the dark side of fraternity hazing rituals. The relevance of this soon dissipates when the slasher/revenge aspect kicks in and Alex Pucci shows the shot of a masked figure stabbing Allyson Sereboff through the mouth with a knife in blood-drenched detail, followed by a fight in which Adam Simon is thrown against a radiator and has his head impaled on a spike and a chunk of his brain torn out. At precisely this point, the focus of the film goes from a quasi-acceptable depiction of outrage at the cruelty of the fraternity to what is clearly a pornographically detailed focus on the sadism of victims being despatched – just the same way we get in a slasher film. Thereafter, the film goes for broke.
Alex Pucci gives the film the feel of a 1970s slasher/exploitation film – there is a credible eye for recreating the period and Frat House Massacre could with no effort at all have acted as a genuine genre film from the era. On the other hand, in terms of a modern film looking back at the genre through the eyes of homage, it does nothing to either deconstruct or portray the era’s quirks through an ironic eye – it is simply a 1980s slasher film that has been made in the 2000s. Moreover, most slasher films were made for quickie theatrical exploitation, whereas Frat House Massacre drags its proceedings out for nearly two hours (116 minutes in the director’s cut seen here), far longer than the usual slasher film, which only gives it a certain self-importance that is not particularly justified by the product on hand.
Frat House Massacre works reasonably well in terms of showing first the cruelty of the fraternity and then as a progressive series of despatches but becomes entirely confusing in trying to show who is behind the killings. [PLOT SPOILERS]. It is not clear which of the brothers is the one that went to college – in the early scenes, it is Chris Prangley but halfway through we inexplicably notice that the enrolled student has become younger brother Rane Jameson. There is an extremely confusing scene where Rane Jameson is lying in bed in a coma and appears to make a recovery and we next see him wandering about the college looking for his brother’s ex. Later during a phone call it becomes doubly confusing when the stepmother (Georgia Gladden) suddenly accuses Rane Jameson of being Sean – although he hangs up before we get any clear answer. This leaves one wondering if the film is heading towards some twist ending out of The Other (1972) or The Absent (2011) where we have one brother imagining he is the other or existing as a split personality in his head. The ending clarifies nothing, leaving us still not knowing why we have Sean pretending to be Bobby, what happened to Sean and how come some people who know one or other brother (like the girlfriend Erica and those in the fraternity) don’t seem to notice the difference. The ending also confusingly reveals, despite building up the backstory that alludes to such, that neither of the brothers slaughtered the members of the fraternity but this was in fact Niki Notarile.