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Original Title: Blackface Killer
The Minstrel Killer, set in 1978, is a controversial slasher, thriller that features a killer in black face who descends on a community rife with racism and dark secrets. This indie horror film has the feel of a vintage grindhouse exploitation film. When a series of haunting murders plagues a small Texas town, law officers Tex Holland and Pike McGraw lead the investigation. The murders turn out to be the most shocking and vile acts of sadism to ever hit the once peaceful community. With a dangerous killer on the loose re-enacting slave punishment on his victims, the cops must face their own personal demons as the murder spree throws them into a dangerous world of mercenary hillbillies and inbred cannibals.
When a series of haunting murders plagues a small Texas town, law officers Tex Holland and Pike McGraw lead the investigation. The murders turn out to be the most shocking and vile acts of sadism to ever hit the once peaceful community. With a dangerous killer on the loose re-enacting slave punishment on his victims, the cops must face their own personal demons as the murder spree throws them into a dangerous world of mercenary hillbillies and inbred cannibals.
The Minstrel Killer: Overall, this might be Fredianelli's best film. Technically, it definitely is. The pacing is much more brisk than the usual Wild Dogs offering, the cinematography successfully captures the feeling of the period, and the high concept premise is great, a complete distillation of the themes and obsessions of the entire Wild Dogs catalog. The setting also took a lot of balls, and while overall it gives the film a coherent feeling that the narrative lacks (more on that later) the execution ranges from brilliant (the cannibal sequence, the main character's home interior) to shoddy (I'm not going to pick out things like modern cars and microwaves *okay, I just did* but something about a 1970s hillbilly with a Celtic cross tattoo just don't seem right). The film really is a visual treat, the image of the Minstrel Killer is an iconic one, the deaths are *ahem* well executed (the hangings were particularly impressive, although the movie could have used more gore), the hillbilly cannibal sculptures gorgeous. It's also an aural treat. The sound mix is one of Wild Dog's best, with its overall lack of stock effects (like the infamous potato sack sounds of yesteryear) and the score by Aaron Stielstra which elevates the material so much it would be unthinkable as a film without it (it's like John Carpenter with some banjos).
However, I have two big problems with the film, and if it hadn't been so much fun overall they would likely sink the whole ship. Number 1: Tex, our main character. He's boring. A typically over-the-top Fredianelli beacon of hate, he's so much of a racist from the beginning that the revelations that come about at the end aren't shocking or interesting. When he bellows "I am not a racist!" in his final scene with his wife the audience I saw the film with couldn't help but laugh in a way I don't think was intended (especially the black people in the theater). A better bet, in my mind, would have been to start the character as someone who actually is repressing his racism so that when it blows up at the end it retains some shock and social relevance. Why watch a racist continue to be racist? There's no arc. This could have been the Straw Dogs for racists - a man convinces everyone he's not bigoted, including himself, but in the end his repression of it blows up in everyone's faces. I think that might have been the intention, but the character had too much of the Fredianelli anti-socialism to make it work. Number 2: The narrative. It needed a lot of ironing. The cannibal subplot is somewhat unnecessary but easily the highlight of the film (especially that bald fellow with the gout ridden leg) but other digressions don't add anything at all. The pig farm questioning was pointless (although I understand the temptation to keep the pig f-cking in the film), the redneck characters at the beginning were nigh unwatchable (I'm going to have to echo Stielstra's John Ford comparison. Dude, you have no place to talk about that one-eyed curmudgeon. I'm surprised the rednecks didn't break out in a round of Shall We Gather at the River before having a hilariously bloodless punch-up), and some of the exposition is repeated at greatly inappropriate times (I couldn't help but chuckle when our hero finds himself trapped in a house with the Minstrel Killer's next intended victim and he asks her if anyone would want to hurt her family and after a few seconds she goes into a long speech about how her family used to torture slaves
all while the killer is stalking them! Not only did it grind the film to a halt, all of the information was given in the previous scene!). I've also got to call out the dialogue. Sometimes it's great, other times repetitious and grating (almost everyone talks the same, I can't count how many different characters were calling each other goat cocks, hog cocks, dog cocks, cock cocks etc.) The film redeems itself nicely with the its whip-cracking climax and freeze frame ending, a great improvement on the original ending I read in an early draft of the script (which was shocking but unearned) and like I said, I can't fault the film on pure entertainment value, it just needed its kinks worked out to get its themes across, without any expense to the storyline. But as exploitation it works in spades and that's what I'm rating it on. 8.5 out of 10
"The Minstrel Killer" is a 2009 low-budget thriller which is an homage to 1970's low-budget thrillers. It is filled with bad acting, hideous dialogue, and ridiculous plot twists. In other words it's odd, campy, homemade fun. The story revolves around a series of gruesome murders in 1970's Texas. Director Michael Fredianelli (who with his moustache looks like porn actor Ron Jeremy) portrays police investigator Tex Holland, a racist with a chip on his shoulder and investigative techniques that make Barney Fife look like Sherlock Holmes. In the midst of Tex's murder investigation, he gets involved with a family of cannibals, attempts to reconcile with his unfaithful wife, and eventually comes face to face with the killer. This film has a lot of flaws but not being familiar with Fredianelli's previous work, it is sometimes difficult to know how serious this film takes itself. The cannibal scenes have some neat action sequences, but it is basically a subplot that goes nowhere. A scene with Tex and a black prostitute is somewhat weird but doesn't further the plot or tell us anything about Tex that we don't already know. The early murder scenes are extremely well done...very creepy and intense. The musical score is very original and effective in capturing and setting up the mood of the more suspenseful scenes. There is a great scene where we see the minstrel killer dancing for his eventual victim. This scene is the highlight of the movie and the use of the audio recording used to score this scene is nothing short of brilliant. The final scene with Tex verbally abusing the killer while the killer is physically abusing him is so far over the top that it works. The racial undertones in the film are unsettling for most of the movie, but the ending worked to finally justify it all. This film is no low-budget masterpiece by any means, but I recommend it if you are looking for some shlock/shock diy entertainment.
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