Psycho Holocaust (2009)

Description (from the DVD insert):
Eager for one final vacation before their lives change forever, six friends embark upon a camping trip to a remote mountainous area.  By nightfall, their lives WILL change forever… in ways too horrific to imagine.  For in the shadows awaits a pack of the most evil, vicious rejects of humanity, addicted to violence and thirst for blood!  This is Psycho Holocaust…

Major Cast:
Raine Brown as Talina, Trent Haaga as Buddy, Vanelle as Laura, Billy Garberina as Mark, Nicole Blessing as Sara, Ash Bowen as PillowFace, Jarrod Crooks as Jeff, Steve Golla as Scotty, Don Prentiss as Carp

Special Features:
Feature Length Commentary, Behind the Scenes, Making Cheesy Movies in Wisconsin, On Set Interviews, At Home with Billy Garberina, Outtakes, Trailers

Written and Directed by Krist Rufty

PSYCHO HOLOCAUST was brutal.  Not just the images on the screen, not just the characters in the movie, but the entire experience.  Yes, the experience; after finishing PH I felt beat up, run down, and ready for a nap, but did not want to go to sleep for fear that my dreams would put me directly into the horrible things I just watched!

Watching PH is basically like getting schooled in 70’s and 80’s classic horror.  There’s the obvious references: PillowFace with a chainsaw is nearly Leatherface in THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, the woods and lake location could be right out of FRIDAY THE 13TH or THE BURNING, the kidnap and torture vibe is reminiscent of THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT or the original MOTHER’S DAY, I could go on and on.  What makes PH especially gratifying for the educated horror fan is the references to lesser-known cinema, like the giallo-esque feel to the P.O.V. shots, opening credits, and the incredibly excellent score by The Giallo’s Flame.  The washed-out, grainy video feels like watching a 16mm film exported to videotape, which cements the “classic slasher” feel of PH.

While a loving homage to older slasher films, PH also does its due diligence and ups the ante for the new millennium.  This is one of the most brutal, dark, and depraved films I’ve seen in a very long time.  The killers are (mostly) unremorseful nightmare caricatures of human beings, and exist just to inflict pain on others, in the most horrible ways they can.  The gore, while not big budget, is very effective, and overall is very well done.  There are occasions where what is shown is not as “real” as could be, but for a low-budget horror PH’s effects are leaps and bounds above average.

The acting varies from decent to good, with a few standout performances.  It seems that the better actor you are, the longer you get to live in PH, with the very best of the bunch making it to the end, or very close.  Billy Garberina and Raine Brown both are extremely effective as a lovingly married couple, looking forward to life, but being shown death.  Don Prentiss and Ash Bowen are both scary in their own ways; PillowFace is the automatically scary trope of the hulking, masked, unspeaking killer, and Carp’s lack of remorse or morality chills to the bone.  The standout in the film is the always-great Trent Haaga, able to effortlessly sell both the good and the evil, and good goddamn is he evil!

While it could be seen as just an exercise in gore, PH is much more than this.  There is a morality tale wrapped up in the buckets of blood presented here.  The killers are war veterans; both trained to and required to kill, then sent home and told to be normal.  Their experiences, and their learned bloodlust have overwhelmed their psyches, and though they are no longer in a war zone, they are still at war.  They are at war with the world that wants to pave over the wilderness and make it into just another parking lot, they are at war with the wicked ways of normal people and their own inherit evil, they are at war with the society that trains them to kill and they demonizes them for doing what they were trained to do.

PH could also be seen as your average “six people in the woods getting killed” slasher film, but the interactions of the characters (not to mention that entire paragraph of explanation above) make PH more.  The reason the friends are going to the middle of nowhere is a last getaway before Talina becomes too involved with her pregnancy.  She and her husband are two months along, and want a last fun time before she gets too sick, and before they have a newborn to take care of.  Talina’s best friend is afraid of losing her to her child; unbeknownst to her she won’t have that chance.  This also gives Talina an extra motivation to escape the horrors – she’s not just fighting for herself, but for her unborn child.

Video wise, PH is hard to define.  It is obviously digital, but made to look much older.  Much of the color is washed out, many scenes look over-exposed, and it overall has that grimy grindhouse feel.  The lighting is decent; much of the film is shot outdoors with natural light, and what is shot indoors is easy to see.  The sound quality varies… at times it is crisp and easy to understand, at times the dialogue is hard to hear over the background music or sound, and at times I just couldn’t understand it at all.  The composition was good, and the camera placement and movement were well chosen and help add to the mood of the film.

Overall, PH is a sick, twisted, nasty slasher film that pushes the boundaries of what the slasher film is, while still playing within the established rules of the genre and repeatedly throwing out references to where it comes from.  The brutality shown (and it’s all shown, no off-screen violence here) is extreme, and horrifying.  PH made me want to wash my eyeballs once I was done watching it, but I knew that the horror I had just seen was burned much deeper, and there was no way I could scour it out of my brain.  If you like hardcore horror that does not shy away from, well, anything, then PH needs to be on your list.

Overall 8.5 / 10




(I included both the poster and the DVD cover because both are so well done for this film!)


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