It’s been a while since I’ve down a Daily Grindhouse review here on the Shattered Lens and shame on me for that! Fortunately, I recently saw a film called The Lashman, a film that may have been released in 2014 but which serves as a tribute to the low-budget, wilderness slasher spectaculars that played at so many grindhouse and drive-in theaters in the 70s and 80s. After watching the film, I knew that I had seen the perfect film with which to relaunch this feature.
The Lashman was directed by Cameron McCasland and filmed in Kentucky. As I’ve said many times in the past, I love local horror films. These are films that are made on location, outside of Hollywood and which often utilize local talent, both behind and in front of the camera. Along with reminding us that no one location has a monopoly on American filmmaking talent, these locally made horror films also feel a lot more authentic than the slick, “mainstream” films coming out of Hollywood. This is horror taking place in the real world, as opposed to on a sound stage. “Authenticity,” that belief that what you’re watching could happen just as easily to you as it could to the people onscreen, is one of the keys of effective horror cinema. If you can’t relate to the fear of the characters or believe that the film’s threat — no matter how outlandish — might just happen to be waiting for you in the shadows, then the film is not going to work. Grindhouse horror films, with their rough edges and their cast of often unfamiliar faces, worked precisely because they felt authentic.
I think this especially true for slasher films. As unfairly critically reviled as they may be, the slasher film is based on a horror that we can all relate to. We all know that there are disturbed people out there. We all secretly suspect that we’re more vulnerable, both mentally and physically, than we like to pretend we are. And, as much as we like to shout back at the screen and complain about how slasher movie victims are always doing something stupid, we all know that we have no idea how we would react if we ever found ourselves in the same situation. Most of us secretly know that we’d never survive a slasher film. I know I wouldn’t. I’d be the girl wandering around outside in her underwear, saying, “This isn’t funny!,” and then spraining my ankle as soon as I tried to run away.
The Lashman is a throwback to those old grindhouse slasher films, a loving homage to films that may have never been critically embraced but which remain undeniably effective. The film’s story is simple. Five students spend the weekend at a cabin in the woods. Lashman, who is rumored to be the malevolent spirit of a man killed over 100 years before, shows up. People die.
Our five students are all traditional slasher movie victims. In fact, they share the same basic relationships as the five victims from the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. There’s two couples, Stacy (Stacy Dixon) and Billy (David Vaughn) and Daniel (Jeremy Jones) and Jan (Kaylee Williams) and then there’s Stacy’s awkward misfit of a brother, Bobby (Shawn C. Phillips). (Much like poor wheelchair-bound Franklin from Texas Chainsaw, Bobby spends a lot of time complaining.)
Out of the cast, Shawn Phillips is the one who I immediately recognized because he’s appeared in several low-budget and undeniably fun horror films, with Ghost Shark being a personal favorite. However, all five of the main cast members do a good job. I’m jealous of the screaming abilities of Stacy Dixon and Kaylee Williams and David Vaughn made for a good “nice guy” hero. However, special mention has to be made of Jeremy Jones. One of the unwritten rules of the slasher genre is that one of your main victims has to be a totally obnoxious jerk and Jeremy Jones deserves a lot of credit for the total commitment that he shows to that role.
The Lashman is a film that will best be appreciated by those who know their horror movies and who can appreciate that McCasland has essentially crafted this film to be a valentine to the entire genre. Everything about the film — from the beautifully shot opening where two anonymous teens fall victim while the moon beautifully glows down on a lake to the final chase through the woods between the Lashman and his suddenly partially undressed final prey — feels like a tribute to the classic grindhouse horror films of the past.
Finally, as I wrap up this review, allow me to share just a few more thoughts:
This film was produced by Red Headed Revolution Pictures. As a redhead, I appreciated that. It was also co-produced by Lee Vervoort, who was one of the directors on Volumes of Blood.
The token crazy old man character (every slasher film has one and nobody ever listens to him when he attempts to warn them) is played by an actor named Larry Underwood, who is a horror host (under the name Dr. Gangrene) and a Rondo-winning horror blogger. (That said, I should admit that the main reason that I initially smiled when I saw his name in the credits is because I just started reading Stephen King’s The Stand.)
Director Cameron McCasland has a cameo appearance in the film and is credited as playing Handsome Bartender.
The end credits declare, “A good cast is worth repeating!” If you’ve seen any the great Universal films from the 30s and 40s, you will immediately recognize the phrase. When I was a kid and I would watch any of the old monster movies, I always loved seeing that “a good cast is worth repeating!” In a weird way, it always made me feel happy for the cast.