If you’re of the mind to believe George Romero, Staunton Hill is about as scary a movie as you’re apt to find. Then again, I suppose any father would provide a blurb to their son’s DVD case trying to convince you to buy it. Except for me. When I have a kid and he makes a bad movie, he can have a quote, which I will borrow from Jay Sherman: It stinks!
Staunton Hill is directed by Cameron Romero, son of George, and it takes the tried and true Texas Chainsaw Massacre formula, takes out the scares, the frightening villain, the brutality, and pretty much anything else that makes it good or interesting. Now, this film isn’t gouge your eyes out terrible, no, but it is fall asleep on the couch boring. Which is unfortunate because if you do, you’ll miss one good gore scene. But then you could go back to sleep. Any nuts, the basic plot is a bunch of young adults on their way to a Civil Rights rally in 1969 team up with a kindly stranger, who of course leads them to a backwoods family who work with an underground doctor to harvest body parts. We’ll get to that in the review.
Somewhere between four and six people are killed. There are four definite kills, one implied kill, and one probable kill off-screen.
There is a decent amount of blood in the film. One guy gets hit in the face with a shovel.* There is a broken nose, a few hammers to the head, a leg blown off, a body fed to bigs, someone gets scalped, a person gets staked in the shoulder, someone is electrocuted, and in the best gore scene someone is cut to bleed out, then chopped up and skinned. *- Everyone keeps saying he got hit in the face with a shovel, but in the scene IMMEDIATELY before he is hit, the striker is carrying a big hammer, pounding in a fence post. It’s like “Look that guy has a big hammer” SLAM “Oh I got hit in the face with a shovel.” WTF?
There are two hot girls in the film – Paula Rhodes as the cute blonde and Cristen Coppen as the athletic and super sexy Jordan. We see some bra action and some panty action, but they’re closer to the granny variety than they are the sexy variety. Also, the large mentally challenged fellow masturbates.
Backwoods strangers are never up to any good. Creepy slaughter/farm houses are always used to dismember lost young people.
I want to say “Like father, like son” somehow in this review, but George Romero made a couple of good films and this one doesn’t measure up. Like father, Cameron chooses a script that has a civil rights theme, presumably to make some sort of statement, though that doesn’t happen. Right away the black guy (Boone) is called a derogatory term by a local, then backs away only to start talking tough about Black Panthers a few minutes later. Boone comes off as a completely annoying character, the kind of guy you want to pop in the mouth sometimes, so there is no sympathy for him later. Also, the people who actually (spoiler you knew was coming) kill him, aren’t racist at all and treat him with as much respect as any of the others. But back to his annoying habits – his character switches from this laid back guy to this ultra-activist randomly. For example, he has no problem sitting down to breakfast on the farm and eating what looks to be an assortment of five kinds of meat with nothing else. Later, he comments that if “this really is a slaughterhouse” he’s going to have to get angry on someone for how they treat animals. So how does he get all animal-activists and their treatment when he just finished eating 4 different kinds of animals for breakfast? I’m not certain why the activist-race theme was added to the film if they weren’t going to make any sort of statement other than “this one activist is pretty much bipolar.”
Boone isn’t the only irritating character though. Quintin, the friendly stranger who gives them a ride, is also written very inconsistently. When we first meet him, he’s the kindest guy in the entire world, paying their bill ($4 in 1969 is roughly $25 today) and being a nice guy. Then, he calls the mentally challenged fellow a retard over and over again and switches from hot to cold at random. This may be an attempt to make the character seem torn or divided, but it comes across as strange, random writing.
A few things I had a problem with – first, when the group breaks down the first time, they look at the engine and declare it shot, despite the fact that we’re told it has a habit of breaking down and being fixed. Or friend Boone establishes himself as the car expert, of course, so it comes as no surprise later when the truck was easily returned to working order. That last bit aside, the group then set their sites on a fixing a busted down truck that “hasn’t run in 10 years.” So they can’t temporarily patch a radiator, but they expect to return a busted down car to perfect working order? Second thing – the whole medical angle. The entire premise is based on these backyard hillbillies harvesting skin and body parts to be used to repair other people. There are a half dozen things wrong with this. Number one, when you’ve got a big dumb idiot cutting the bodies up, you’re probably not going to get surgical precision. He’s just hacking off limbs wherever he feels like it. Second, none of the equipment is sterilized, which will lead to infection. Third, the operating room is just a dirty ass barn, again leading to infection. Fourth, they’re picking random strangers which presents tons of problems, like wrong blood type, organ incompatibility, wrong sex, wrong skin color, and any diseases which they may have. I could keep going, but by now you get it.
In the end, Staunton Hill is just a cheap, lackluster Texas Chainsaw Massacre ripoff. Creepy barn? Creepy family? Head of household in wheelchair? Big, lumbering mentally challenged killer prone to cutting up bodies? I mean, what else can you steal from it? I’m trashing this movie hard now, even though when it was initially over I just felt bored, bored, bored. Thinking about it more, I’m angered by this movie, it’s inconsistencies, and it’s lack of originality. Skip it.
On the Live Side: Cristen Coppen and Paula Rhodes are hot.
On the Dead Side: Unoriginal movie that is mostly boring. Also, in the dead of night the inside of the barn is bright as day. Ugh.
On the Other Side: George Romero is quoted on the DVD box saying this movie is scary, making him a liar.