Thursday, May 16, 2013

Cuz he kills families: Return of the Family Man (1988)

Return of The Family Man (South Africa, 1988)
rating: ***
starring: Ron Smerczak, Liam Cundill, Terence Reis

Last time I checked for an African released slasher flick I was left to watch a stripped-naked streaker running away from a loonie with a killer manicure in the atrociously hilarious The Demon and watch a band of teens get slaughtered in a barn for some reason in the mediocre yet watchable Slash. Now I indulge myself with another African release, again trying to look and sound American, called Return of the Family Man. (No relation to the movie Family Man starring Nicholas Cage...)

The film is crazy from beginning to end; we start off with an odd choice of an opening act, where we watch one of our leads, Alden, an unfortunate pizza man, get tangled in a mafia's drug base when one of their clients decided to shoot the living lights out of everyone on sight. Pizza dude survives, gets threatened by a gang member that he'll be hunted down like a dog, and a Hispanic maid who witnesses pizza guy leave had just stamped "suspect" all over him.

In order to avoid suspicion, Alden decided to crash into his ex's apartment, wherein Vickie and her boyfriend Brian was planning a weekend getaway together (alone) to a rented mansion deep into the woods. Much to Brian's annoyance, they let the poor soul tag along anyhow. Meanwhile, we also have an American tour guide named Libby chaperoning a quartre of multi-racial tourists to the great American soil and headed towards the same Mansion. These gang of misfits would include English punker Weasel, Indian comic Marty, French hot babe Sylvie and African prude Evelyn.

Both parties cross paths when they both found out they've been duped, and the so-called "Mansion" is a dilapidated, vine-ridden old house that was left in said state cuz no one would like to buy it due to some infamous reasons; A killer known as The Family Man (who kills families as his moniker suggests), who had fallen into urban legend territory, once lived there as a kid. For this reason alone, the house is as run down as an overused Packard  but the gang decided to do a more productive means for their vacation and decided to camp out and spend some time together. Good people, I like them already!

But, uh-oh! A prison transport bus carrying none other than Family Guy-- I mean Man among its other loonies just happens to have been attacked by said killer and crashed, leaving no survivors but one, insane, family massacring madman. He soon began to make his way back home, kill a few peeps along the way (including an unfortunate family on a barbecue weekend) and found his house littered with adults behaving like teenagers. That certainly won't do for him, so he does what he does best, little did he know these vacationers are more than willing to fight back...or so they try!

It's not a good movie in the sense it's groundbreaking; to be honest, I think it may have set slasher films back a year or two, but otherwise, Return of the Family Man is one of the funnier and more entertaining attempts to do a cheap run on an 80s slasher. The characters are stereotyped despite obviously a few years older than what they try act like, meaning there's a lot of incredibly inept dialogue scripted here, enough to squeeze some cheese out of them. Plus a lot of padding goes into these group being chums and having fun without anyone being a bitch to the other, so the light and comic tone kinda killed off some of the horror of the film, but it doesn't really stopped it from being nasty and tense every once in a while.

The kill count is sky high thanks to two massacres prior to the ones involving our heroes; the first being the one that happened during The Family Man's daring escape, which is honestly hard to count once all the guards are dead (but I managed thanks to freeze-frame), and the other being a mean-spirited family massacre, which could have been meaner and more disturbing if it was more focused (think the hostage scenes from Rob Zombie's The Devil's Rejects) but thanks to the film's budget, this scene was reduced to two offscreen kid-a-cide, dad being pushed to a fireplace (and cuts away before we could even see him get hurt) and mum beaten to death with a meat tenderizer, obscured by the camera. Frankly, almost all of the kills here are obscured or done away cheaply; there was a lot of chance for the film to do some real memorable gore scenes but instead, we're left to watch these murders done away through shadows, away from the camera or cut away before any organs even met the sharp ends of a blade. (there's a blender kill here I wanted to see uncut...)

What was missing in script, kills and some pacing, was thankfully made up with a definitely high camp value and some unexpected twists along the near end; by the time our group had found out that there's a killer living in their basement, and their cars sunk by the Family Man to make sure no one escapes, the group decided to go A-Team on us (with a bit of MacGuyver), putting together household items to create weapons to defend themselves against a killer. Though why go through all the trouble if they could just run away from this guy is beyond me, but entertainment-wise, this scene at least makes us root for these guys a bit more since they're actually try doing something to survive. Sadly, the inevitable happened, and some of them just had to wander off by themselves, knowing a killer's out to get them. (Which he did)

Speaking of killers, I'm not sure what to make out of the Family Man. Other than the fact that he turns out to be this one ordinary guy who gone crazy due to something about bad blood between his own family which ended up with him killing them, there's nothing much to follow after this. Instead, he became a toned down version of Psycho Cop, who rambles a lot of things that goes with his "theme". He did got this one badass moment; when he got torched alive by one of his victims, he spent a few seconds in pain before walking over to the kitchen counter to get a dry face towel and smothers it all over him. Note, he did this as if he's just wiping some sweat off his face. Not for long, he's burnt ala Fred Krueger, but not even them (fresh) third degree burns stopped him from putting an evil smile.

I managed to finish it from beginning to end, without pushing the fast-forward button and with my tongue pressed firmly on my cheek. Needless to say, for a bad film that tries so hardtop make it look and sound American (to the point of inserting them claims in the movie itself) I really had fun with this title! Not entirely recommendable to just anyone, but rather for those with a high tolerance for cheese.

4 males and 1 female killed in shoot-out
1 male shot with shotgun
1 male fingered on the eyes, shot on the head
1 male shot on the head
1 male shot on the face with shotgun
1 male shot on the face with shotgun
4 males killed in car crash
8 males shot
1 male strangled, pushed to a fire place
1 female beaten to death with meat hammer
2 boys killed offscreen
1 male eviscerated with broken bottle
1 female killed offscreen
4 skeletons found
1 male repeatedly stabbed on the face with broken mallet handle
1 female face shoved to blender blades, shredded
1 female strangled and hanged with fanny pack
1 male killed offcamera
1 male immolated with a rigged propane tank
total: 37


  1. The director would later bring us the grand old Christmas classic Santa... with Muscles.

    1. Now that you mention it... We now need Bill Goldberg Santa vs. Hulk Hogan Santa.

    2. I just looked it up and found that Santa...with Muscles. Yeah, pitting them two would be one funny horror-comedy!