Welcome to Cult Corner where we dive through the bargain bins to determine if a movie is trash or treasure. Today’s pick… Billy Club.
Billy Club is a baseball-themed slasher movie, and just the fact that I got to write that sentence today makes my decision to get out of bed this morning totally worth it.
The film centers around a reunited little league team catching up and reminiscing on old times while a dude in a catcher’s mask picks off those unfortunate enough to cross his path, one by one. Add in a subplot about a horrible tragedy that happened many years prior and you have a pretty standard slasher picture. Trying to go any deeper than that would be a waste of time when I could have easily summed it up by saying “it’s like The Burning… but with baseball.”
That isn’t a knock against Billy Club, though. The film is obviously an homage to those old 80s movies that we love so much, even down to imitating the opening of A Nightmare on Elm Street by showing the killer crafting his signature weapon at the start of the film. Does it work? Well… yes and no.
There are parts of this film that are surprisingly well-done while others succumb to cliches and genre traps (not in a fun way). A lot of it has to do with pacing. This movie goes for a Friday the 13th: the Final Chapter kind of approach, where the killer picks off people that are introduced right before they’re killed so the audience can see bloodshed while still getting more time with the core group of characters. Unfortunately, where the aforementioned not-so-final chapter succeeded, this movie really dropped the ball. The random passers by that the killer offs aren’t particularly memorable and the movie doesn’t really take full advantage of the extra time spent with the main characters.
Part of this may have to do with the acting. It’s stiff, awkward, and often times painful to sit through. The movie works best when the characters aren’t speaking, and unfortunately there’s a lot of bad dialogue in the first half of the film. Billy Club falls into the unfortunate ‘every character is an asshole’ trope that so many slashers follow. It’s played for laughs, but doesn’t quite succeed at what the director was going for.
On the up side… the killer rules. Who knew that a catcher’s mask could be so intimidating? He’s the archetypal silent masked slasher and he reminded me of The Prowler in some ways. On top of that, everything that pertains to the killer is incredibly well-done. The kills are great, the stalking and chasing and slashing scenes are all on point, and his weapon is incredible. If only the movie ended with a longer chase scene and a more satisfying climax I’d be singing this guy’s praises for days.
Also worthy of mention is that this picture is surprisingly well-directed. There’s some pretty inventive camera-work peppered throughout and those scenes involving the killer are actually pretty tense, all things considered. This movie is billed as a “horror comedy,” but whenever it goes into the horror side of things it REALLY goes for it. I question their decision to set a good portion of this movie in the daylight instead of at night, but even with that it’s pretty effective.
That may be to the movie’s detriment as a whole, though. All of the horror stuff is played straight, while everything else is bizarre and over the top comedy. It doesn’t get into Scary Movie territory but there are certain scenes that just made me scratch my head. The scene with the traffic stop and a certain kiss in a car both caught my attention in that regard. What’s worse is that a lot of these moments don’t really connect to anything. I mentioned the bad pacing before and this is what I was talking about. This movie wanders through nonsense before getting to the point. If they had taken a few more passes at the script and trimmed out the fat then it would have made for something much more cohesive.
There’s also a series of flashbacks that don’t really amount to anything. They’re telling the story of why the killer is killing, but it’s incredibly predictable. There’s no twist or grand resolution so it doesn’t make sense to have that be some kind of mystery throughout the movie.
Overall, the movie is a mixed bag. There are things about it I really like and things about it that bored me to tears. Aside from the acting, the execution is all great. It’s a well-shot, well-directed film with a great killer and fun kills. Unfortunately, when the script is bad that doesn’t matter. I’m curious to see what these guys do next, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed by this one.
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.