By David Dent
So who says horror films can’t be educational?
Question – what connects Adolph Hitler with wacky baccy? Answer – 20th April. Apparently in the American calendar this is the ‘official day for weed enthusiasts’ – it’s also, we learn, the date of Hitler’s birth. So it stands to reason that director Dylan Reynolds – whose last directed movie was 2012’s Nipples & Palm Trees – should make a movie using this date as a vehicle.
We join a group of girlfriends on a birthday jaunt for one of their number, Jess (Jamie Bernadette), in the Californian woods. Among the group is consummate stoner Donna (Stacey Danger) whose is very keen to observe the holiday and almost constantly extolls the virtues of ‘blazing up.’
We’re also given some information that the date has been associated with many historical atrocities like the Columbine massacre, but Donna feels that if her group would only ‘just chill the fuck out’ then the act of being loaded will in itself protect them from harm. Stoner logic – don’t you just love it?
Imagine her delight when they hit upon a secret marijuana farm in the middle of their hike. But we know that the farm is defended by a crazed ex vet in dirty camouflage fatigues, as we’ve seen him take out a couple of interlopers who stumbled across the stash at the beginning of the film. So it’s only going to be so long before he catches up with the girls. But can they be rescued by park ranger Rick, if he puts his booze down long enough to save them?
Reynolds has used the rather trending film setup of a group of girls menaced in the woods (indeed Bernadette, a bit of a scream queen in the making, has already appeared in a similar movie, 2016’s All Girls Weekend) and he packs a lot in: the first hour is pretty much an extended sequence of the girls bonding (with some equally ‘now’ Sapphic themes thrown into the mix) before the despatching gets going.
The director’s stalk and slash influences are very much in evidence (in the press statement he admits growing up on a diet of VHS horror flicks) and the kills are well staged and (groan) executed. Death by bong pipe anyone?
4/20 Massacre doesn’t take itself too seriously but the last half hour creates a lot more tension that I expected. Early on in the film Jess shows off her martial arts techniques – she also refuses to toke – and you just know who the smart money is on in terms of final girl stakes.
This is a movie that knows what it’s doing. It’s not overambitious but it is very watchable and manages to generate some real excitement. I liked it a lot.