Alex Pucci’s interest / obsession with eighties slasher films progresses to almost epic length in this Director Cut via Synapse’s DVD, which features a nearly 2-hour long version, and while it does work at that length – mostly due to Draven Gonzalez’ clean & lean characters – it’s a weird fusion of slasher gore, primordial torture porn (somewhat akin to Blood Sucking Freaks), and borderline softcore, given there are several fairly graphic sex and rape scenes.
Pucci’s direction is fairly assured, and he gives the film important production values via authentic university locations, and sticking with a young cast, but the suffering and murder of the pledges do go on for quite a while before the film’s revenge story really kicks in.
After Bobby (Rane Jameson) is rendered comatose due to a drunk driver, older brother Sean (Chris Prangley) decides to continue with his life and return to college, but his objections to the fraternity’s brutal hazing rituals headed by “bi-polar” monster Mark (Jon Fleming) get him killed… except in taking a supernatural turn (perhaps inspired by Italian slasher hybrids), Sean’s spirit re-enters Bobby’s sleeping body, and when he reawakens, Sean has a new vessel to wreak brutal revenge on the fraternity’s boys and their sleazy girlfriends.
Under cover as “Bobby,” Sean infiltrates the fraternity and sets up his victims, culminating in a disco bloodbath that leaves only one person standing with an axe. The maiming is nasty, the blood-letting is over-the-top, and Frat House Massacre is a black comedy that has some tonal similarities with Chris Sivertson’s The Lost (2006), where a sociopathic gang leader similarly manipulates others into committing crimes until a finale bloodbath. Both films also share a strong streak of sadism, but Pucci’s film is set in 1979.
The costume design, set décor and music score by Claudio Simonetti (!) are very evocative, and Frat was shot on 35mm film to ensure an authentic grain texture. Synapse’s DVD features a clean transfer, and the colours are very rich, with reds almost reaching into the vintage Eastmancolor red that dominated Herschel Gordon Lewis’ Blood Trilogy.
Like The Lost, the cast of relative newcomers (most stem from daytime soaps, while Niki Rubin appeared / debuted in Jesus Christ Serial Rapist) is quiet strong, and any weak bits tend to enhance the wide-eyed and lost nature of oversexed coeds surrounded by bloody peer pressure. Pucci may be riding the wave of retro slashers, but it’s pretty surprising the plot and character arcs are neatly designed – more so than more vintage offerings like The Dorm That Dripped Blood [M] (1982), or more recent attempts to revisit the genre in meh efforts like Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet [M] (2009).
Only qualms: at the rate pledges are killed, the fraternity is bound to run dry, and there’s simply no way the steady stream of killings wouldn’t alert the police, with families inundating the local sheriff with reams of missing persons reports.
Synapse’s DVD includes dual commentary tracks separating writer & writer from cast & crew, plus a making-of featurette where most of cast was wrestled into doing Q&As with each other. The deleted scenes include alternate sequences, but there’s nothing missed.
Draven and Pucci’s prior collaboration, Camp Slaughter / Camp Daze (2005) is also available on home video.
© 2012 Mark R. Hasan