Killing Spree (1987)

Killing Spree (1987)

Killing Spree (1987)

Killing Spree was written and directed by Tim Ritter and was released in 1987.

At its core, Killing Spree is a low-budget slasher film, where the zombies appear as the re-animated corpses of the victims.

Killing Spree director Tim Ritter once appeared on a radio show with legendary gore movie maestro Herschel Gordon-Lewis, only to have his hero comprehensively trash the film. This seems a little like the pot calling the kettle black because Killing Spree is undeniably reminiscent of Gordon-Lewis, for better and worse.

In the first place, there’s no denying that from a gore point of view, Killing Spree delivers. Stressed airplane mechanic Tom is increasingly worried that his wife, Leeza, is having an affair behind his back, worries that seem confirmed when he finds her diary and reads a description of a sexual encounter with Tom’s best friend. Tom responds by killing both his friend and the man’s girlfriend. But it doesn’t end there as Tom reads of yet more sexual exploits and sets out to kill all his wife’s apparently endless list of lovers. Some get off lightly with the top of their head sliced off by a fan with machete blades, another Tom opens up with a chainsaw and runs power through his intestines to electrocute him! He may be a psycho, but Tom is imaginative.

Killing Spree (1987)

Killing Spree (1987)

Also in common with Gordon-Lewis, Killing Spree has a strong sexual storyline but without every really showing anything. The plot is straight out of a soft-core porn film as Tom imagines Leeza seducing every repair man who comes to the house. Tom does have the common-sense to wonder ‘Why is she writing all this down’, but unfortunately for his victims that common-sense does not stretch to talking to his wife. In fact Leeza is writing stories for a dirty magazine, using visitors to the house as a convenient jumping off point.

Again, following the pattern of classic Gordon-Lewis, Killing Spree plays with reality and fantasy crossing over. The dream sequence early on in which Tom imagines Leeza with giant lips is certainly bizarre, but the real weirdness sets in when Tom’s victims rise from the dead to get their revenge. This leads to Tom being bitten in the crotch by a severed head and to a scene of the zombies bickering petulantly over who gets to actually kill Tom.

Killing Spree (1987)

Killing Spree (1987)

Herschel Gordon-Lewis’s films also often featured a ‘serious’ point. In Color Me Blood Red (1965), the idea of an artist actually needing blood to create a masterpiece is a powerful one, in The Wizard of Gore (1970) Gordon-Lewis tries to infer that time is somehow cyclical. These pseudo-intellectual points are usually lost in the blood and bad acting but they’re there. For all it’s over the top sex and death plotline, Killing Spree tries to portray Tom as a man whose masculinity is at threat. The instigating factor for all this carnage is that Tom does not want his wife to work; he is the bread winner, and his inability to make ends meet financially leads to his sexual insecurity and gradual descent into insanity.

Killing Spree (1987)

Killing Spree (1987)

Killing Spree is a very bad film. The acting is appalling (although the improbably named Asbestos Felt as Tom gives good insane), the settings are ridiculously fake, the effects are terrible and the script is worse. But you can say all those things about Herschel Gordon-Lewis. And that’s rather the point; Ritter didn’t set out to make a horror masterpiece, he set out to make a tribute to his favourite film-maker, and while Gordon-Lewis may not have appreciated it, Ritter undoubtedly succeeded. The reason Gordon-Lewis’s films, bad though they are, survive and have acquired cult status, is that they are compelling viewing; you want to know what will happen next and how much blood will be involved. Killing Spree succeeds on those same terms, and since that was what it set out to do you can only call it a success. Bloody, bonkers, twisted and terrible, but never boring.

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Written by: Robin Bailes