Thursday, February 21, 2013

PRESIDENT'S DAY (2010) movie review

President’s Day
d. LaMartina, Chris (USA)

It’s election time at Lincoln High, with candidates dropping out of the race not from peer pressure but rather lack of a pulse. Yep, someone wants to win so badly they’ve donned a wrinkly pale latex mask with a crepe hair beard, grabbed their trusty top hat, shouldered an axe and started four-scoring their fellow future politicians right out of existence.

With suspects legion and gore score high, the race is on for nice guy slacker Barry (Bennie Mack McCoy IV) to uncover the psycho before there’s no one left to vote. Is it mysterious new girl Joanna (Lizzy Denning), snobby beyotch Chelsea (Nicolette le Fay), school mascot Dennis (Shawn C. Philips) or goth gal Michelle (Ruby Larocca)? Or could it be one of the faculty members, such as security officer Kennedy (Ryan Thomas) or stuffy civics teacher Mr. Wright (cult staple George Stover)? The competition is fierce and no polling curtain will save you from the madman’s sharp blade…

Enthusiasm is the fuel that powers many a microbudget horror feature, and in the case of Baltimore filmmaker Chris LaMartina (following in the noble footsteps of John Waters and Don Dohler), the kid’s got it in spades. While some fans might be tired of the endless tribute paid to the slasher flicks of yesteryear, LaMartina and fellow co-producer/co-screenwriter Jimmy George have tapped into the DNA of high school horror flicks like Student Bodies and Slaughter High, setting up an enjoyably outlandish and ridiculous scenario that stays in its own universe without needless winking at the audience.

From the opening sequence where a comely lass ends up with more head than she bargained for after Ol’ Rail Splitter lops off her servicing partner’s noggin, the giddy splattery tone is set and stays on course for its swift, well-paced 81-minute running time. With a body count in the double-digits and several doses of busty top-popping, this is a tasty beer n’ chips programmer with a barrel of blood and a whole lotta heart.

Speaking of which, kudos must go out to Tom Savini School of Makeup grad Kaleigh Brown, who dishes out an impressive array of creative kills from her presumably limited resources. With faces seared on stovetops or mashed in mop bucket wringers, basketball trophies and bass guitars jammed down victims’ gullets, noses nipped, eyeballs speared, and severed limbs flying like mortarboards on graduation day, there’s much to enjoy here.

Sure, you can see a few latex seams here and there, but the DIY spirit is in full flower, reminding us why we love our silly, cheap, tawdry slashers in the first place: BECAUSE THEY’RE FUN. (Spy Video’s DVD cover art may in fact be too serious in tone, its sinister, shadowed, stovepiped slayer seems to court a different crowd.)

There’s no faulting the DVD’s special features, which contain a lively and informative commentary by LaMartina and George where they reveal the similarities between onscreen characters and the candidates in 2008’s U.S. Presidential election, as well as the standard occasion-specific trials and tribulations of making a low-budget feature (losing their primary location weeks before principal photography, hiring a non-skateboarding actor to play a character whose primary source of locomotion is betcha-can’t-guess-what, dueling with neighborhood basketball teams over the use of the school gym, etc.).

These stories and the duo’s never-say-die spirit are both inspiring and relatable to anyone who’s ever thought about getting behind the camera. Mistakes and compromises were made, but the ultimate result is a dynamite labor of love that aims only to entertain and hits the mark time and again. There’s also a fine making-of featurette “Blood on the Campaign Trail” and a so-so blooper reel alongside an enjoyable “grindhouse” (i.e. digitally distressed) version of the trailer.

Bottom line, this is a skillfully executed example of homespun horror. I look forward to seeing what else these Charm City lads have got up their bloody sleeves.


*Midnight Crew Studios in association with Nice Guys Productions (not to be confused with Mick Garris’ Nice Guy Productions)
*Shot in 21 days for a budget of $5,000 in the Baltimore area
*Sheldon Lawrence, who plays our bass-playing Principal, for some reason is not listed in the film’s IMDb credits.
*That “Ghost of Abraham Lincoln” song by the Skeptics played over the end credits is pretty catchy.
*Our lambskin sporting heavyweight Shawn C. Philips has racked up an impressive number of horror acting credits – over 50 listed on IMDb since 2008!
*That’s our director’s dad Ron as the no-nonsense chemistry teacher Mr. Roemer.
*Ryan Thomas, in addition to playing Officer Kennedy, served as the film’s casting director.
*Chris LaMartina also served as editor and composed much of the musical score.
*No, those are not Jesse Layne’s (Ms. Heath) real boobs. But you knew that already.

PRESIDENT'S DAY will be released on April 9, 2013, and is now available for pre-order on Amazon, or you can get it here on Movie Stop.


  1. Wow, I agree in spades!!! While I was jonesing for a holiday horror, I was completely enthralled by this little gem. Great kills, game cast. Resurrect Dishonest Abe!

    1. Glad you dug it, Anon! I was most pleasantly surprised as well. LaMartina is also responsible for the uber-awesome WNUF Halloween Special, which just got released to DVD after a very successful limited VHS run. Check it out.