Synopsis: A crew of young paranormal investigators and their dog struggle for cash until they land a job getting to the bottom of a series of gruesome deaths in an abandoned schoolhouse. Discounting stories of satanic practices, the team proceeds, desperately chasing cash and the opportunity to encounter their lives’ mission-to catch a real ghost.
eyelights: its gimmick. its tongue-in-cheek tone. its relative unpredictability.
eyesores: its limited plot. its thin mystery.
“What do you think this is? Some saturday morning cartoon show?”
If you’re like me, Saturday mornings were a cartoon smorgasbord. Inevitably, between 7 and 10am, some pretty awesome kiddie-oriented cartoons played on television, blasting us with indelible imagery and branding us with corporate messaging that compelled us to buy and consume all sorts of garbage.
They’re some of my favourite childhood memories.
The best scenario, for me, was when my mother dropped me off at my grandmother’s place on Friday nights (hmmm… why, I wonder?) because that meant I would wake up to cable TV, something which I didn’t have at home. And that meant that I would get to watch only the best cartoons, like ‘Scooby-Doo’.
Now, ‘Scooby-Doo’, in its many incarnations, wasn’t exactly a stellar show: it had an all-too-familiar formula that was repeated nearly verbatim from episode to episode; it wasn’t especially creative or clever. As an adult, it isn’t really stimulating enough to be appealing. But, as a kid, it was f-ing spectacular.
And nostalgia is a strong motivator.
Hence why ‘Saturday Morning Massacre’ (or ‘Saturday Morning Mystery’ in some markets) was of immediate appeal to me: the low-budget horror picture, which was released in 2012, takes its inspiration from ‘Scooby Doo’, down to the vaguely similar characters investigating spooks with their dog and van.
Except that it’s set in the real world.
With real threats.
And, unlike ‘Scooby Doo’, in ‘Saturday Morning Massacre’, people die.
They die nasty, grisly deaths.
So, basically, ‘Saturday Morning Massacre’ is ‘Scooby-Doo’ for mature audiences.
The picture, which is “based on actual televised events”, begins on some Thursday back in 1994. Nancy, Gwen, Chad, Floyd and his dog Hamlet, are scouring the halls of a spooky mansion. Of course. Though they’re faced with scary apparitions, they soon discover the culprits behind it: a child slavery ring.
You’d think that the gang would be considered heroes, but you’d guess wrong: the police are upset that they’re interfering with investigations they’d been labouring over. And to make matters worse, they’re broke – so broke, in fact, that Gwen’s credit card is declined at the diner they go to afterwards.
Thankfully, Nancy, their eager leader, gets a call for another case!
And so the gang heads on out to the Kyser mansion, which is believed to be haunted; the real estate salesman in charge of the property needs them to debunk it so that he can finally sell the damned thing. But little do they know that death awaits them and, unlike those Saturday morning cartoons, it’s very real.
By early Saturday morning, the Kyser mansion will be dripping in blood.
Unsurprisingly, given its inspiration and genre, there’s really not much plot to ‘Saturday Morning Massacre’. And that’s okay: by combining nostalgia and tongue-in-cheek humour at the onset, the picture reels its target audience in very neatly. And then it goes on a rampage through slasher horror territory.
I was kind of fond of this picture. For a movie that was made on the cheap and shot over a little more than ten days, it’s pretty decent. Granted, it would have benefitted from a greater satirical content and the third act could have been less conventional, but it was entertaining and it didn’t go down a safe route.
I very much like the cast, though none of them truly looked like the original cartoons that inspired their characters – the closest would be Jonny Mars, who plays Floyd, a burned out techie who is reminiscent of Shaggy to some degree (he doesn’t fit the bill nearly as much as Matthew Lillard did, but he’s good).
Really, to enjoy this picture, you have to bring your ‘Scooby-Doo’ fandom along and use your imagination a little bit: aside for Nancy’s introduction to the gang, in voice-over during the animated credits, the picture doesn’t quite emulate the original – partly since it’s not a cartoon, and likely for copyright reasons.
However, if you get in the spirit of things, Nancy and company will entertain you for all of 80 minutes. The gimmick is fun, the setting is spooky, and the bloody bits stick like corn syrup. So long as you don’t ask for anything more clever or cohesive, ‘Saturday Morning Massacre’ will find a way to amuse and chill you.
Just don’t expect a sequel.
Date of viewing: March 5, 2017