Stoners and horror are nothing new. Horror titles like Friday the 13th, Halloween, Cabin Fever, and many other films have killed off their comedy-driven stoner characters. Numerous stoner-driven horror films have also been made like, Idle Hands, Evil Bong, Class of Nuke Em’ High, and Hansel & Gretel Get Baked. With the coming stoner holiday, it’s only appropriate that a stoner-centric horror film has been released earlier this month, 4/20 Massacre.
Brought to the world by writer and director Dylan Reynolds, the premise is that five women go camping for their friend’s birthday which happens to fall on 4/20. But despite their fun, they unwittingly find themselves near an illegal grow op and a killer that seems to be bent on everyone who has touched the marijuana. It stars Jamie Bernadette (I Spit on Your Grave: Déjà Vu, Killing Joan), Vanessa Rose Parker (Samurai Cop 2), Justine Wachsberger (Divergent), Stacey Danger (‘’Jean-Claude Van Johnson’’), Marissa Pistone (Raze), Jim Storm (Dark Shadows), Mark Schroeder (‘’Pretty Little Liars’’) Jim Round, Drew Talbert and James Gregory.
I’ve had a lot of time to think about this film since the end of last month. What I find most attractive about 4/20 Massacre is that it’s compiled of mostly female characters that, while they take on very stereotypical slasher horror roles, actually feel somewhat realistic. With that said, there’s also some really clever things that this film does that I think, whether you’re into stoner horror films or not, are worth looking into.
It’s so hard to find new, independent or low-budget horror that has decent pacing without compromsing other qualities. There are only a few scenes that seem to linger for just a little too long (specifically the scene on the cliff with characters Jess and Aubrey), but things are really well balanced with dialogue and banter that feels authentic while still moving the story forward through the different character arcs and the glorious death scenes. As someone who is not a huge fan of the stoner horror subgenre, I expected that I might get pretty bored, but I found it really entertaining and clever (among other things) the longer I watched. Its cleverness, however, isn’t in silly jokes or one-liners, but more of setting up the viewer for self-identification during the group’s journey as their stereotypes start peeling away, revealing rounded and thoughtful characters. Their conversations as the journey takes place are rooted in self-exploration and the strength that lies in being who you are, and taking risks in the face of rejection and danger.
Death Scenes (Probably some spoilers…)
I cannot express enough that the death scenes in this movie are awesome. There’s some definite holy-shit-did-this-just-happen moments that were unapologetic in their gore and there are quite a few of them as (more spoilers) most of the cast does not survive. One of my favorite death scenes from this movie is with Donna even though when it happened, I was pretty upset to see her go. I’m sure that every stoner that watches this film will cringe when they see such a dedicated follower of the toking holiday skewered by her own impressive bong, but it was a scene well worth the effort.
Moral Messages (Definitely spoilers)
What made Donna’s character so likeable wasn’t just the humor she brought to a film that, even though the theme suggests it might be funny, isn’t something that will keep you giggling for the duration. Donna brought some light-hearted hopefulness in regards to marijuana usage, encouraging that its use is meant to bring people closer rather than divide them. A conversation she has early on when they are confronted by a hunter who loves his gun encourages him to “chill out” and gives him a few pointers on how to do so by way of a blunt.
However, one of the other things I would like to highlight, which is pretty much themes you get at the near end of the film is how the driving force behind the killer is a product of war and military-obsessed society who was left behind by the very institutions that traumatized him. Later in the film, creepy Park Ranger Rick turns out to be the killer’s father and arbiter of the illegal grow op that the two stoners in the beginning are headed for.
Rick’s son, who came back from his military service with a bad case of PTSD (among other things) utilized cannabis as treatment for PTSD symptoms after other medications didn’t work. Mistreatment of our veterans after they return from service is a problem not many are comfortable discussing or even recognizing. Even though it’s in a context that’s not exactly painting the issue in a positive light, horror has always been able to bring attention to conversations worth having.
To roll this up into a tight smokeable review, 4/20 Massacre is worth checking out and if you’re taking part in the holiday on Friday, you might want to wait on those bong rips or blunts before watching this. There’s one pretty good jump scare in the beginning, but once the killing starts to happen, the fun and games are over and the film takes itself more seriously as horror rather than stoner.
Check out the trailer below and links for where to find 420 Massacre before tomorrow!
You can find 4/20 Massacre here on Amazon Video for purchase or rental.