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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Splatter Farm (1987)

Recently I’ve been feeling more than a little bit nostalgic. That combined with cleaning out an old storage locker had me digging thru some boxes of DVDs to see if they were worthy of keeping or if it was time to rehome them. One of those discs was the Camp Motion Pictures release of Splatter Farm. I still remember the old VHS box from the video store days and just seeing it put a smile on my face. Realizing that I hadn’t watched it since I first got this DVD maybe fifteen years ago, I thought it was about time to dive back in.

Our directors, twin brothers John and Mark Polonia, portray twin brothers Joseph and Alan. The pair are headed to their Aunt Lacey’s farm for their summer vacation because she is a lonely old woman. Really that seems to be the only reason for the trip. Also at the farm is handyman Jeremy, who we first meet as he is cutting up and eating bodies in the barn. Like people bodies so that is weird. Things get even weirder as we watch the brothers wander around after arriving. They find more body parts, one of the brothers is drugged and bedded by his Aunt (she was lonely…), and poop play happens. The Polonia brothers hold nothing back in this one my friends. We get some resolution and the story ends, though rather bleakly.  

I like the Polonia Brothers, just Mark now as John passed away very young, but was surprised by this movie. Again, I had seen Splatter Farm before but had forgotten about the content. While their later films are a bit more in the silly creature feature low budget vein this one plays like an exploitation movie. This flick revels in going places that normally you would never see. Perhaps this is a result of filmmakers who were in their late teens when shooting it? I’ve already mentioned the incestuous Aunt Lacey and the poop gag, but there is more. They have a subplot with the crazy handyman Jeremy actually being the son of Aunt Lacey by her brother! Yep we get even more incest… There is a bit of necrophilia as well when Jeremy decides to get “frisky” with the decapitated head of one of his victims. Are you getting the vibe that Splatter Farm is laying down?

The movie was shot on VHS with a consumer grade camera so there are some quality issues. There are some strange visual issues with halos around the characters and odd streaks of light that fans of shot on video will recognize. This is a quirk of the technology that gives these movies a unique visual look. The technology also doesn’t do well with interiors or night shots unless you really know how to light a scene specifically for video. Being inexperienced filmmakers, this movie ends up being very dark and hard to follow at times, though they are smart and limit those scenes by shooting mostly in the day. I was impressed with how they framed scenes and set up their shots. For as young as they were, they had a good eye.

For no budget the special effects work in Splatter Farm is decent. There aren’t a lot of kills, but we do get an axe to the head, a gunshot, and some dismemberment/disemboweling. The work is a bit on the cheesy side and is clearly latex, but for an eighties low budget production this is acceptable and even expected. There is a sense of joy in the effects work that I think you can only get with filmmakers that are having fun and pushing past the limitations imposed on them by budget and experience. I dig that. 

Things are about to get weird!
If I were to sum up the Polonia Brothers career to this point it would be “just go for it”. The story is twisted, the gore is plentiful, and while rough the acting is still fun in a low budget we don’t know what the heck we are doing sort of way. This is much different from what the other movies they would later make and continue to make. They never dipped back into this level of exploitation weirdness, but that is okay. I’m not sure if that would be sustainable and even something that an older more mature filmmaker would want to do.

I really like Splatter Farm. This might not be the best place to jump into the Polonia Brothers catalog since it is so different from the rest. But if you are interested in the weirdness of shot on video eighties flicks then here is a good place to start. Either way I think you should eventually get around to watching this one. I highly recommend it.

Ó Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

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