50 Movies for 50 States Part Two: The `80s — #9 – Florida, Film – Killing Spree


#9 – Florida, Killing Spree

Killing Spree (1987), written and directed by Tim Ritter, with Asbestos Felt, Courtney Lercara, Raymond Carbone and Bruce Paquette, cinematography by Mark L. Pederson, original music by Perry Monroe, editing by Robert Williams, filmed in Jupiter, Florida

The plot: Tom, a despondent airplane mechanic living in suburban Florida, has an almost irrational phobia of his wife, Leeza, cheating on him. His worst fears are confirmed when he finds what he believes to be his wife’s diary, detailing a series of ongoing sexual encounters with everyone from his best friend to the television repairman. To “save” his wife, Tom decides to kill his wife’s suitors one-by-one. However, things may not be as they seem and, for all this killing, there’s a price to pay. Karma’s a bitch and she’s fixing to pay Tom a visit!

Ignore the picture of the woman on the cover of this VHS copy of Killing Spree — its inclusion is provocative but completely misleading. There’s no nudity at all in this film.

Instead, look into the face of the man, covered in blood, his wild eyes staring at you like a methhead at a monster truck rally.

His name is Asbestos Felt — the actor, not the character he plays in in the movie — although anyone who watches Killing Spree may be hard-pressed to decide where one ends and the other begins. We’ll get back to him later, Mr. Felt — the man who truly makes Killing Spree special.

First, let’s talk about love.

Any relationship expert will tell you that trust is one of the most important factors in a healthy relationship. Killing Spree is a film dealing with this very subject, touching on subjects like jealousy, infidelity, communication as well as homicidal delusions, extreme violence and serial murder.

Killing Spree is a slasher movie with a great premise – a man who believes his wife is having an affair systematically offs her suspected lovers. The added twist is that the killer believes he’s committing these acts in order to “save” his wife, refusing to hold his wife responsible for her infidelity and feeling the need to protect her from the corruption of other dirty, lecherous men. It’s a grimy little gorefest placed within the context of a reality (and setting) so believable that I can’t help but wonder how close writer/director Tim Ritter is to the source material.

Placed in the hands of a skilled filmmaker, even on a micro-budget – and believe me, this film is the very definition of “on the cheap” — Killing Spree could be something special.

However, this is not the case. What I mean is, it’s no horror classic. It’s special as in “special” needs and “special” education. Killing Spree‘s most serious detriment is that writer and director Tim Ritter – bless his overachieving soul – has no idea how to make a movie. Plain and simple. A simple task like accurately placing a microphone to pick up an actor or actresses dialogue is bungled spectacularly. The editing is horrendous. Shots linger for longer than they’re welcome or cutaway too soon.

That being said, with porno-level dialogue and direction, whether you find Killing Spree terribly entertaining or just plain terrible may depend on your exposure to bad movies in general or your sobriety. After three or four beers, Killing Spree can be the best movie ever. Then again, under the influence of alcohol, a dog rubbing its ass against a carpet might be considered hilarious. The first time I watched Killing Spree I thought I was watching a masterpiece. The second time, it seemed less special. By the third or fourth time, I was starting to worry whether I could find enough things to talk about to put together even a semi-comprehensive review.

At least I knew I could fill a paragraph or two talking about Killing Spree‘s most memorable aspect. He’s the guy staring at you from the VHS box cover. That bug-eyed vagrant-looking motherfucker is Asbestos Felt, who plays the part of serial killer Tom.

Yes. I said “Asbestos Felt.”

Tom/Felt “acts” and looks like a homeless crack addict with post-traumatic stress disorder and a touch of Napoleon Dynamites mannerisms. He’s perpetually angry about everything from his wife’s cooking to his shitty job. When he gets mad he kicks at the ground like a 3-year-old whose mother has refused to buy him the more expensive Lego set.

Is Felt acting? Is he really insane? I don’t have the answers to those questions. All I can tell you is that Felt is the best part of Killing Spree.

Without Felt, Killing Spree would probably be forgettable. With Felt, and his constant over-the-top speech and facial expressions, it’s quite the opposite. If you don’t believe me, watch the trailer below. Case in point: When Tom/Felt’s wife asks him if he wants more pork chops and he replies sarcastically “No … I’m full. THANKS.” – you can’t fake that type of reaction. Tim Ritter probably paid Felt in uppers to play the role of Tom. Tom’s insanity and unpredictability drives Killing Spree. Thanks to him, at no point is the film boring. You never know what he’s going to do next. Best scene: a montage after Tom first discovers his wife’s “journal” and goes for a walk by the beach and randomly punches some dude out. There’s no sound. The footage is shot from a distance. The punch comes out of nowhere and the recipient of the blow falls head over the heels over a railing. It’s hysterical.

No one else in the movie really seems to put much effort into their roles, like Courtney Lercara, who plays Tom’s wife Leeza, and has appeared in a few of Ritter’s other films. Maybe Felt’s acting drowns out everything around it. Maybe it doesn’t matter since Felt is so damn entertaining. Lercara is pretty, at least. Naturally pretty, in a way that is sometimes hard to recognize in the artificial 1980s with its big hair and loud clothes. What more can you ask for.

I’ve already mentioned that Ritter’s directing is nothing noteworthy. The script is hilariously bad, but in a good way. Then there’s the gore.

Killing Spree‘s gore is plentiful but cartoonish in an Hershell Gordon Lewis sort of way. Director Tim Ritter professes to be a huge H.G. Lewis fan as well as an avid reader of Fangoria magazine, the later causes me to wonder why Ritter wouldn’t gravitate more toward the realistic gore of someone like Tom Savini. But to each their own, I suppose. There’s plenty of one-liners to accompany the movie’s kill scenes, an important 1980s trope that Ritter emulates with mixed results. (One example: “You screwed my wife. I screwdrive your head!” Tom says before dropping a screwdriver point first onto one of Leeza’s suitors unprotected noggins.)

If you’ve read this whole post and are still on the fence about Killing Spree, check out some of the film’s “best” scenes below. You’ll also get a chance to sample some of the movie’s truly terrible synth score as well as a closing theme sung by Felt!

Even if you don’t walk away from Killing Spree a Ritter fan — and I’d be surprised if you do — Felt will make you a believer. Killing Spree is his show and he puts on the performance of a lifetime.

From the soundtrack: Ending theme from Killing Spree as performed by Asbestos Felt!

 Next week: Georgia


50 Movies for 50 States Contest Scoreboard

Congratulations to this week’s winner, @LCosgrove, aka Steve Carlson of Bad Idea Podcast. Check out Steve’s show here. He also talks movies on his blog, which you can find here.

Since this is the first week I’ve done any sort of “shot outs” for contest winners, check out these other blogs and/or podcasts: @DraconicVerses, aka Jim Phoel’s The Draconic Verses and @VicarOfVHS’s Mad Mad Mad Mad Movies

@iceybloop – 2

@ZeekZombieMan – 1

@DraconicVerses – 2

@VicarOfVHS – 2

@ghwalters – 2

@lowdudgeon – 2

@unclegeeky – 2

@LCosgrove – 2

Next week’s voting begins next Tuesday at 8 a.m. EST

Want to play? Follow Matt on Twitter at @CM_MattDunn.

Click here for the Instant Gratification archive.

Click here for the 50 Movies for 50 States archive

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