• Memorial Valley Massacre (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: September 29th, 2020.
    Director: Robert C. Hughes
    Cast: John Kerry, Cameron Mitchell, Karen Russell, William Smith, Mark Mears, Mark Caso
    Year: 1988
    Purchase From Amazon

    Memorial Valley Massacre – Movie Review:

    When this 1988 picture begins, The Memorial Valley Campground is set to open for the first time, right on Memorial day! The line of cars outside the gate indicates to land developer Allen Sangster (Cameron Mitchell) that things are going to be a big success, and he’s got plans. First a campground, then a shopping mall! He gets a little grouchy when his environmentalist son, David (Mark Mears), takes him up on a job offer made some time ago and signs on to work with the park ranger, a hard-drinking grouch named George Webster (John Kerry) and handyman Deke (Jimmy Justice). George’s son has been missing for twenty-years or so and he’s really not quite over it. Regardless, no one seems to pay too much mind to the fact that a dead dog was found in the well or the fact that a contractor was killed the day before. There might not be any running water, as the body contaminated things, but the show must go on and the gates are opened. Allen Sangster is kind of like the mayor in Jaws.

    From here, we meet a few groups of campers. There’s the goofy suburban family with the bratty man-child and his ATV. There’s the two horny teenaged dudes with bad hair, hanging out with a bra-less tease named Wendy. A few biker couples are around for good measure, and then there’s the former military guy named Mintz (William Smith) and his bubbly blonde wife. There’s also a love interest for David here in the form of a woman named Cheryl (Lesa Lee) and the dialogue between the two of them when they hook up is amazingly terrible. Oh, and snakes appear on a picnic table!

    When the bratty man-child is warned not to ride his ATV in the area and does it anyway, he’s killed by a young man who lives in a cave, feeds grapes to a mouse and dresses like a caveman (played by Mark Caso, credited as John Caso, who would play Leonardo in the second and third Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies!), speaking only in grunts. Word gets out about the murder, first believed to be a bear attack, and most of the campers leave, but not the core group (save for bratty man-child’s folks, who hit the road with the rest). It isn’t long before another body is found and David and George find themselves having to arm the remaining campers and lead the charge to try and figure out who’s really behind the killings and why.

    Shot under the title ‘Memorial Day’ (which is the title that appears on screen in this edition) and directed by Robert C. Hughes, this puppy is pretty disjointed but it’s also pretty entertaining. No one would argue that it’s particularly scary as it never manages to build much suspense, but it is populated by some amusing and sometimes likably dopey characters. There are a few decent murder set pieces in here as well, though gorehounds may be disappointed that the carnage isn’t as ramped up as better known slasher style pictures from the same period. The movie is brisk enough in its pacing that it never feels dull, and it benefits from a seriously dated but equally awesome synth soundtrack that’s hard not to love.

    The whole thing winds up being pretty predictable and you won’t have to strain your eyes to see where it’s going, but hey, you get an amusing cameo from Cameron Mitchell in the opening scene and a few great moments with an extra salty William Smith, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. Caso is fun to watch as the killer in the film, running like a gazelle and leaping like a cat as he boogies his way through the woods, and John Kerry (who played Mitchell in the first Dolemite film!) is plenty entertaining as the usually grumpy and occasionally shitfaced park ranger. If this isn’t a stone cold classic, there’s definitely enough here to appease those with an affinity for goofy eighties horror and there’s a kinda-sorta environmental message running through all of this as well that is kind of admirable. If that’s not enough, keep your eyes open for oddly painted Milwaukee’s Best beer cans and some great Busch Baked Beans product placement.

    Memorial Valley Massacre – Blu-ray Review:

    Memorial Valley Massacre arrives on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1.85.1 widescreen transfer taking up 27.3GBs of space on the 50GB disc. Presented “newly scanned & restored in 4k from its 35mm original negative,” the picture quality here is excellent. There is a little bit of print damage here and there, but it’s faint and infrequent when it is noticeable. Colors are handled very well, the transfer is typically bright and colorful, while black levels are appropriately deep. Skin tones look good, contrast is fine and the picture always looks nice and filmic. There are no noticeable issues with any noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression artifact related problems – all in all, it’s hard to find anything to complain about here at all.

    Audio is handled by a 24-bit English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track that sounds quite good. The track is nicely balanced, the dialogue is clear and there’s pretty decent range here as well. The synth-heavy score is clean and has a good bit of power behind it. Optional subtitles are provided in English only and an English language Dolby Digital Mono option is also included.

    Welcome To Memorial Valley is a fourteen-minute interview with director Robert C. Hughes who speaks about how he came to direct this picture after working with Roger Corman. He talks about the locations used in the film, the importance of having a couple of name stars attached to the picture, casting the film, his own cameo in the picture, the appeal of feral child stories, response to the picture he’s received over the years and making the film with the direct to video market in mind.

    A second interview, entitled Ranger Danger, sees actor John Kerry get in front of the camera for ten-minutes to discuss how he got his start in the acting business after serving his country in the Marine Corps, landing the role in this picture, what inspired his performance and how he really enjoyed working on the film.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc is a promotional still gallery, menus and chapter selection.

    We also get some absolutely nice reversible cover sleeve art. The first 3,000 units purchased directly from Vinegar Syndrome get a very nice limited edition, matte finish slip cover (designed by Earl Kessler Jr.) with some cool spot varnish embossment on, which is a nice touch.

    Memorial Valley Massacre – The Final Word:

    Memorial Valley Massacre never manages to build much tension but it entertains regardless, even if sometimes it might be for all the wrong reasons. Vinegar Syndrome has done a fine job bringing this picture to Blu-ray with a few interesting interviews and a very nice presentation for the feature itself.

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