• Victims!

    Released by: Slasher // Video
    Released on: June 27th, 2017.
    Director: Jeff Hathcock
    Cast: Ava Kauffman, Robert Axelrod, Lonny Withers
    Year: 1985
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    Jeff Hathcock’s 1985 feature film directorial debut was shot on 16mm over a two week period and released in 1985. Although the film did get a home video release during the boom years of VHS via Simitar, it was looked over for a DVD release until now (and a Blu-ray release too). Unfortunately, the elements for the film appear to be long gone, leaving only a tape master for this release to be transferred from. But more on that in a few paragraphs, first let’s talk about the movie itself.

    The picture starts off with a few fairly insane minutes of complete mayhem - a woman entering her apartment is whacked in the face with an axe! Then a naked woman gets chopped with a cleaver and after that a third woman is taken out by an assailant in drag. This doesn’t really have much to do with the rest of the movie, though it does at least setup the basic premise – there’s someone running around killing women.

    From there, we learn that two nogoodniks, Eric (Lonny Withers) and Peter (Robert Axelrod, who would go on to appear in The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and star in the 1988 version of The Blob), kill a guy and steal his car. Elsewhere, a man and a woman head into the brush to make out on a blanket. As they go at it, the two bad guys show up. Buddy gets killed and the poor girl gets raped. While all of this is going on, a quartet of nubile young women – Susan, Debbie, Janet and Lisa - are preparing to head into the desert to ‘study rock formations’ but not before Susan’s mom gives her shit for not wearing a bra and Janet gets naked and showers for a fairly long time. With that out of the way, the girls pile into a car and get on with their studies.

    Except not really. They drive around for a while and then stop at a gas station, because every movie about people being killed out in the desert needs a gas station scene. Here the girls prove to be eye candy for every one of the surprisingly many dudes hanging out there. Two of these dudes get riled up enough that they get into their dune buggy and chase the girls down the road, but eventually they give these guys the split. With no further distractions, the girls get down to… looking at rocks. Yep, those sure are some rocks. All of this rock looking is suddenly interrupted, however, when the two car thief/rapist guys show up, heavily armed and looking for some more… victims! Before you know it, their camp site has been trashed, their car doesn’t work and the guys with guns are forcing the girls to put on a little Sapphic show for them.

    This is more like a Last House On The Left inspired mix of horror and sleaze than an actual slasher film as there really isn’t much in the way of actual slashing going on outside of the first few minutes. The film is fairly depraved, however, with some nasty rapes and the forced lesbian scene standing out. The characters aren’t really ever given sufficient motivation (one of the killers might be up to no good due to his experiences in Vietnam – we see a flashback at one point where he, of course, rapes a native girl) but some of the desert locations are pretty cool. Unfortunately the film is plagued by some pretty obvious pacing problems. It starts off strong. The opening sequence is pretty great, actually, and the ending at least builds things up a bit, but in between all of those surprisingly mean spirited moments things are pretty slow. It’s cheap, tawdry, not particularly well-acted at all and it suffers from an inexperienced director seemingly learning as he goes, but it’s definitely trashy enough that some might appreciate it on its more base qualities.


    The back of the packaging for this release states the following:

    “Disclaimer: Victims is presented using the best available elements provided by Slasher // Video. Not sourced from an HD Master; remastered from Beta SP and upconverted to Blu-ray and DVD specifications.”

    Presented on a 25GB disc in 1080p upscaled from the aforementioned tape source, the image quality here isn’t pretty. Given that this would appear to be the only source available then it’s hard to expect things to be any better than they are, but yeah, this is rough. The picture soft, colors are faded and there isn’t much in the way of fine detail to note at all. The screen caps below give you a pretty accurate idea of what to expect.

    Audio quality doesn’t fare much better. The DTS-HD Mono track is muffled and flat, there are spots where the dialogue is almost unintelligible. The score sounds better than the dialogue does in spots, which is a plus if you can appreciate the movie’s seriously wonky soundtrack. Thankfully Slasher // Video were savvy enough to put optional English subtitles on the disc – otherwise it’d be pretty tough to follow what’s being said.

    Extras start off with an audio commentary featuring director Jeff Hathcock and Slasher Video's Jesus Terán. There’s a few too many stretches where the track goes silent, but when Hathcock is involved there are some interesting stories here about how he managed to get the picture made. He also talks about casting the film using some stunt men he knew from his work at Knott’s Berry Farm, the locations used for the picture, some of the cars that turn up in the film, which cast members were difficult to work with and who (in his opinion at least) had a nice ass and who didn’t. He talks about coming up with the idea for the story, staging some of the fight and stunt scenes and offers up his general thoughts on what he feels works in the picture.

    More concise is the twenty-three minute long interview with Hathcock where he sits at a table behind a VHS copy of the movie and is much more focused in his talk. This covers a lot of the same ground as the commentary, including using his connections at Knott’s Berry Farm but also covering how he made the movie during a two week vacation, how he managed to feed the crew and put them up in a hotel with no money, writing the script, and other films he’s worked on including a new project about a flapper who goes after a Cobra Cult and doesn’t like to wear underwear.

    Outside of that, we get a decent sized still gallery, a trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    Victims! Is sleazy and gory and occasionally inspired but it also tends to lack forward momentum and drag in places where it shouldn’t. Regardless, those slasher movie devotees that need to see the most obscure entries out there will appreciate having it available. If the Blu-ray presentation looks and sounds more like an ex-rental tape, at least it’s priced well and contains some decent extra featues.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!