There are tons of slasher movies that range the gamut from great to god-awful, and most horror aficionados appreciate them all in some way. Memorial Valley Massacre (sometimes known as just Memorial Day or Son of Sleepaway Camp for some reason) is one of those late-period slasher films that attempts to capitalize on the most generic elements from the best of the bunch – outdoor camping scenario, lots of unlikable character fodder, a killer with a traumatic past, and all set on a holiday. The result is a hodgepodge of cheesy moments that certainly shows that one can’t just copy an idea and hope for a successful movie.
The opening explains the scenario in an exposition dump: Cameron Mitchell’s character wants to open his Memorial Valley campground to campers on Memorial Day weekend but it’s not finished and there’s been a run of bad events; and of course, they defy all better judgment and do it anyway, with no running water or bathrooms and a host of “pranks” that eventually become life-or-death scenarios for the characters.
It takes Memorial Valley Massacre quite a while to get to its main idea, but besides the whole “campers in danger” element, the villain of the film is a primitive young adult who has run wild throughout the valley after he was kidnapped and lost in the area. Again, this is another exposition dump between characters, attempting to explain the head ranger’s (John Kerry) obsession with tracking footprints through the valley. Robert Hughes’ direction is… interesting; he doesn’t spend much time on developing the characters besides what others tell us, and for the most part, the backstory on our killer is so ridiculous that it almost defies logic.
And that’s what makes Memorial Valley Massacre successful, too, because the film is at its best when it is at its cheesiest. Is there an emotional meeting between father and killer? Absolutely! Are there generic bikers partying at the campsite in their leather jackets? You bet! Is there a forced sex scene where our main characters David (Mark Mears) and Cheryl (Lesa Lee) act like junior-highers interacting for the first time? Definitely! Memorial Valley Massacre is frequently hilarious with its stilted dialogue and long list of cinema sins, and it’s hard to take any of its kills seriously when they’re committed by a parkouring man in caveman attire.
When it’s not accidentally funny, though, Memorial Valley Massacre has too many pockets with nothing happening. There are long periods of time without kills, especially the middle portion of the film, which is more focused on a party in the rain and a bear attack rather than spending quality time with its killer. The pacing is way off, and Hughes misses a lot of chances for kill sequences considering the huge cast of characters. It’s not until the end of the film that the body count rises, but by then the movie has worn out its welcome.
While there is definitely a market for this type of slasher film, Memorial Valley Massacre is definitely not a standout entry in the genre. It’s too slowly paced, with an over-the-top killer that simply can’t be taken seriously. But it should definitely be fuel for a drunken movie night getting laughs at the unintentional comedy, and genre fans should appreciate seeing both Cameron Mitchell and William Smith in the same film.
Full uncompressed screenshots from this Blu-ray.
Vinegar Syndrome have done their part to make sure Memorial Valley Massacre is well-preserved in the future with a new Blu-ray featuring a new 4K scan of the original 35mm negative. The video results are excellent; while there are a couple of lines on the image here and there, for the most part the source is in great shape and detail is crystal-clear. Skin, clothing, and environment textures all present with great detail; background elements like signs are also readable. Light management is very good, with dark scenes increasing the grain scale just a tad. This is a really good-looking transfer that should be universally pleasing for connoisseurs.
Audio is a DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo track that sounds strong with clear audible dialogue and good soundtrack mixing. There is a secondary Dolby Digital 2.0 track included as well that is not listed on the menus. English subtitles are also available.
For extras, Vinegar Syndrome has included two new interviews. The first is with director Robert Hughes, talking about the inspiration for the film and the production as well as the inclusion of both Mitchell and Bill Smith. The other new offering is an interview with actor John Kerry, who goes into detail about his character work as ranger George and a pretty fleeting scene that he put a lot of forethought into. In total, about 30 minutes of new features. Also on the disc is a promotional still gallery. The box comes with reversible cover artwork too.
Region A Blu-ray (studio restriction)
NEW scanned & restored in 4k from its 35mm original negative
NEW “Welcome to Memorial Valley” – an interview with director Robert C. Hughes (HD; 13:43)
NEW “Ranger Danger” – an interview with actor John Kerry (HD; 10:07)
Promotional still gallery (no chapter breaks; 0:40)
NEW Reversible cover artwork
SDH English subtitles
While many would find it hard to say Memorial Valley Massacre is a particularly good film, Vinegar Syndrome has given it VIP treatment with an excellent transfer and a couple of new extras to sate those wondering about the film’s production. Unfortunately, it doesn’t contain the Son of Sleepaway Camp cut (I’m talking about the hardcore one!), but that’s certainly understandable.
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