Woodchipper Massacre (1988)
Robert Winter on April 30, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Camp Motion Pictures (USA). All Regions, NTSC. 4:3. English DD 2.0. 80 minutes
The Movie
Director: Jon McBride
Starring: Kim Bailey, Tom Casiello, Denice Edeal, Jon McBride, Patricia McBride, Screenplay: Jon McBride Music: Tony Diliberti, Michael O'Keefe, David Toy
Tagline: How much flesh would a Woodchipper chip, if a Woodchipper could chip flesh?
Country: USA
Original Tagline: How much flesh would a woodchipper chip, if a woodchipper could chip flesh?

But really, I'll have a go at a new tagline. What about: How much shit could a movie suck if a movie could suck shit?

When their father leaves on a work-related trip, his three abominations, squawky Denice, big-headed, bespectacled Tommy and geeky John are left in the care of their self-righteous Aunt Tess. But when Tess decides a hunting knife that little Tommy has received in the post is not something appropriate for a little brat, a tussle ensues and poor Aunt Tess is accidentally skewered on the kitchen floor. Worried they will get in trouble, the dumb-assed trio decide to carve up the body, freeze the parts then grind up the offal in ye olde woodchipper. But when their sleazy cousin comes looking for his mama they realise that another body might have to be fed through the woodchipper to cover their tracks.

After receiving a level of cult notoriety for his gut-munching Cannibal Campout, John (or Jon depending on which source you choose to adopt) McBride picked up his video camera again, pointed it in the direction of his family and friends - who seemingly lack any dignity whatsoever - and gave them a godawful script, then yelled action.

Shouting their lines as if they were all deaf, Denice, Tommy, John, Aunt Tess and later cousin Kim are possibly the most irritating characters ever committed to video tape. Denice has a voice as about endearing as cat claws sliding down a chalkboard, while Tommy has a smart-alecky manner that makes you want to pick up his scrawny, over-sized red-headed body and push it face first into the woodchipper. John is about as effectual as a kick in the nuts and Aunt Tess (John McBride's mother, Patricia McBride) is thoughtfully redeemed when her body parts are ground into splintery bits. Oh…and Cousin Kim. He spits when he talks and you just know he has skid marks in his boxer shorts.

The point-and-shoot camera angles, press-pause-on-the-camera editing and overly long fade-outs are true bargain-basement stuff. But as diabolical as the film sounds, it does have a smirky, redneck quality that will raise a chuckle in those amused by intellectually challenged people who crap their pants in public and clap and speak at the same time.

Shot at John McBride's house in Ridgefield, Connecticut on an alleged $400 budget, Woodchipper Massacre is a minor triumph of marketing over mediocrity. The original VHS (and now DVD) cover art promises a brutal film drenched in blood-spattered nastiness, but what it actually delivers is an unfunny, half-baked allegory about the disintegration of a white-trash, suburban family.
As expected, the full-frame transfer is rough. Ghosting, softness, colour bleed and a tape tracking wrinkle across the bottom of the screen are all symptomatic of the print being sourced from a worn VHS master.
The shrieking, tinny mono mix is headache-inducing. If that wasn't bad enough, during the many quiet moments loud audio hiss can be heard gushing out through the front channels.

Dialogue is easy to understand, but every now and again onscreen ambient noises like the woodchipper itself, overwhelms the spoken word.
Extra Features
Commentary with moderator Mike Polonia and Director John McBride - Here's one for the books – a commentary done over the telephone with both participants watching the film in different locations. Mike Polonia extracts a ton of useful/useless information about the making of and distribution of the film, which McBride describes as his "Brady Bunch meets the Texas Chainsaw Massacre." An interesting listen for anyone wondering what it was like to create and distribute a low-budget film in the late 80s.

Making of documentary – Into the Chipper (13:32) - In this mini-doco made in 2006, the original cast members are tracked down and given their day in the sun. Ironically, Denice Edeal is studying for her Masters degree in Speech and Language Pathology and has had no roles since playing the vocally challenged Denice. It's great to see Tom Casiello has grown into his head and is currently a scriptwriter. He even scored an Emmy for Outstanding Writer for the daytime soap As the World Turns in 2002. Perren Page (Generic father) explains the story was born out of a real incident in Newtown, Connecticut where an airline pilot killed his wife and disposed of her body via a woodchipper. We even get to meet a strange horror fan who bought the original VHS of Woodchipper and claimed it to be the best low budget film he had ever seen.

Jon McBride interview with Video Bob Moseley (12:54) - According to McBride most of the $400 budget was spent on the cost of renting the woodchipper for the weekend. However, most of what he has to say we've already heard in the commentary track. McBride seems like such a genuine guy, in a preppy schoolboy kind of way, I think I'll dub him the Ed Wood of kitchen-sink horror.

Stills gallery (4:15) - A plethora of behind-the-scenes and publicity stills streamed over the title track.

Camp Video vault - Trailer-trash treasures for Cannibal Campout, Woodchipper Massacre, GhoulSchool, Video Violence and Video Violence 2. So where is Gore-Met Zombie Chef from Hell?
The Verdict
Receiving wide distribution in the US during a time in horror history when every corner of every town had a video outlet, Woodchipper Massacre, like a host of other backyard productions, supposedly hooked in an audience of rebellious youth looking for a cheap thrill. Those young people are in their 30s now, perhaps married with kids, so will most likely add this DVD to their collection to remind themselves how they were suckered in by a film that promised a massacre but really delivered a tragedy.
Movie Score
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