Welcome to Cult Corner where we dive through the bargain bins to determine if a movie is trash or treasure. Today’s pick… Richard Swindell’s Pelt.
Explaining the plot of Pelt would be a complete waste of time. This is one of the most formulaic and cliche-ridden horror films that I have ever seen. Pelt is Wrong Turn with only one killer. Pelt is The Hills Run Red without the cool mask and kills. Pelt is Cabin in the Woods without the irony and self-referential humor. Pelt is the slasher film that you think of when you think of bad slasher films, down to the unlikable characters camping, the drugs and sex, the gas station attendant warning them to stay away, and the killer picking them off one by one. You have seen this before.
Let’s start with the characters, because they’re the biggest problem with the movie. Right from the beginning they set these people up as the most awful pieces of human garbage ever to step foot in the woods. They check off every single box for horror cliches, but they’re also just unbelievably rude. When they stop at a gas station to ask for directions they proceed to berate the attendant for like ten straight minutes for absolutely no reason. It almost feels like director Richard Swindell saw Eli Roth’s films and said, “yeah those were okay, but the characters were waaay too likable.” On top of that the dialogue throughout the whole movie is just abysmal. They utter lines such as, “I love roofies.” They say things like, “It’s not cheating if you use the service entrance!” Post-coitus, one of the characters proclaims, “My stepdad taught me that.” Finally, while hiding from the killer our heroine feels the need to say, “I gotta take the biggest shit.” Classic.
Additionally, the acting is pretty bad. For the most part it’s just “bad horror movie bad,” but occasionally it dips into comically bad. The scene where two of them get stoned and the movie decides that it doesn’t have enough fart jokes is pretty amazing (and not for the fart jokes). It feels as if these actors have never been stoned before and took all of their information from propaganda to the degree of Reefer Madness. Every time somebody has to act scared, cry out, scream, or generally react to anything horrifying I got flashes of Troll 2. One of them being dragged away to their death sounds less like murder and more like they’re being woken up from a particularly good nap as they cry out “noooooo!”
When it comes to the killer they really drop the ball. He looks pretty similar to the one from Haute Tension, and if you’ve seen that film then you’ll know just how boring that is. He wears a baseball cap, over-alls, and carries an axe. You can’t see his face for most of the movie because he’s looking down. Yawn. With a premise this cliche and boring the killer absolutely needs to stand out. On top of that his kills are pretty standard and weighed down with bad CGI. They’re bloody but not particularly memorable. There’s a weird subplot about him making a skin-suit similar to The Silence of the Lambs, but it’s never really explained or brought up in any significant way. It really drags the whole film down that this aspect isn’t anything to write home about.
What I do sort of love about this film though is just how serious it takes everything. The dumb characters, the formulaic plot and structure, the grounded and gritty killer, and the dark and visceral tone all point towards the fact that these filmmakers really thought that they were making a disturbing and gory horror movie. The fact that it falls so hard on its face makes it absolutely hilarious. They play sad music when the most obnoxious character dies. It’s so sappy and over the top that I was fully expecting to start hearing “MMM whatcha sayyyy” blasting through the speakers a minute later. They even take a second to poke fun at a slasher trope when the idea of splitting up is brought up. Funny, they follow every trope in the book but this trope is just absurd for some reason.
Pelt is an anomaly. I honestly didn’t think that a movie this boring and unmemorable actually existed. It’s the horror cliche to end all horror cliches, and it’s a real actual movie. I love it. It’s not a good movie by any stretch of the imagination, and if you squint your eyes you’ll think that you’re watching Wrong Turn, but the fact that it’s just so shamelessly stock makes it kind of wonderful. The characters are absolutely abhorrent and the killer is as generic as they come, but watching something so unbelievably incompetent is kind of wonderful. Besides, it moves pretty quick. Pelt is worth your time, even if just as a case study on the most painfully generic slasher movie in existence. I laughed out loud at moments that were meant to be completely serious on multiple occasions. Make of that what you will.
Here at Cult Corner we cover the weird and obscure. Given the low budget that these movies often have we feel the need to recognize that entertainment value and quality aren’t always synonymous. That’s why we have opted for the “trash or treasure” approach in lieu of a typical rating system. After all, Troll 2 is incredibly entertaining but it’s no 8 out of 10.