It might be a pretty niche school of cinema, but 4/20 Massacre is a more than competent addition to the “stoner slasher in the woods” sub-genre. When a group of female friends head off on a camping trip in the forest for a birthday celebration, they find themselves hunted by criminals determined to recover stolen cannabis and protect their illegal weed cultivating operations. With the body count rising, the surviving women flee for their lives, as the park ranger, who has alerted them to the risks, closes in on their location.
As one of the group helpfully explains, 4/20 (twenty minutes past four) has a particular meaning in international “pot culture”; as a time of day when all weed aficionados can fire up a pipe or joint in a virtual collective celebration and chill-out (assuming they’re not being chased through the trees by a murderous monster intent on their demise). Blind to the consequences of picking up the stolen hash, the friends only realise the jeopardy they are in as members of the group are mercilessly despatched by the spectre now on their trail.
Most of the killings that follow are staged with the trademark mix of the gruesome and the comical that the genre requires, and for a low-budget indie the make-up and effects are decent enough. The woodland settings are well used, although it looks a little on the chilly side to be camping and discussing (although not actually following through on) skinny-dipping. Of the ensemble cast, Jamie Bernadette stands out, as the strong but sympathetic birthday girl Jess, while James “Jim” Storm delivers the film’s best performance as the tightly wound and rough-around-the-edges forest ranger Harmon.
The film’s sexual politics are fairly opaque. Given its ensemble female cast, and its predominantly lesbian characters, it’s possible to see the movie as motivated by a desire to present a positive, rounded image of its far-from-derivative female protagonists. Before the killing spree kicks in, the film takes time to allow members of the group to pursue hooks-up on their own terms, enjoy hedonistic downtime, and agonise about the exquisite promise of unrequited love.
On the other hand, given the gruesome and bloody fate that many of the group meet, it’s possible to see the film’s message in less progressive terms: that it’s clean-living, straight, gym-frequenting women who rightly avoid the comeuppance awaiting those who make “alternative lifestyle choices.”
That might, however, be over-thinking the script motivations of a simple popcorn slasher. Either way, while it may not be “the dope”, 4/20 Massacre still delivers a decent buzz.
4/20 MASSACRE / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: DYLAN REYNOLDS / SCREENPLAY: DYLAN REYNOLDS / CAST: JAMIE BERNADETTE, VANESSA ROSE PARKER, STACEY DANGER, JUSTINE WACHSBERGER, MARISSA PISTONE, JIM STORM / RELEASE: OUT NOW (US), TBC (UK)