Horror fans are a forgiving lot. We’ll forsake decent acting, storytelling, direction, special effects (hopefully not all at once), all for a few good scares. But if you’re going to mock the genre that’s closest to our hearts it better be done right.
Horror movies with laughs are great (think Evil Dead or Re-Animator) but generally, horror comedies stink big-time and The Legend of the Psychotic Forest Ranger is no exception.
As Voltaire put it, “This agglomeration which was called and which still calls itself the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire.” Horror comedies are frequently not funny enough to be comedies and offer nothing much in terms of horror.
Legend takes the classic “partiers get lost in the woods motif” and makes a hash of it. Sure the plot is limiting. Horror is a limiting genre (consider that about three quarters of them feature someone trying to kill someone else for no apparent reason). But in the hands of craftsmen, magic can be made (think how many hundreds of songs are 3-chord blues in structure). In the hands of morons, it’s a mess.
A ditzy blonde, her worrywart brunette friend, a jock in a letter jacket and his virginal stoner friend head out for a camping trip only to run out of gas near a house, whose occupants are on vacation. A forest ranger (and yes, he does say “only you can prevent forest fires”) roams the backwoods, bitter at having lost his job and takes it out on unsuspecting kids. The dialogue is campy, but obviously and ironically so. The tone is simply unbearable.
And if you’re going to adopt 80s conventions at least go Jackson Pollock with the gore. But Legend is tame. No nudity, no gore, the sine qua non of 80s slasher films. In fact it only hints at a bear trap murder, which would’ve been splendid.
Truth be told it’s a pretty killer premise. As Canadians familiar with Ontario parks, the notion of a psychotic forest ranger sounds pretty great, especially if the filmmakers had toyed with the idea of a lunatic hunter, taxidermist or survivalist as possible red herrings.
Still, anything that takes authority figures and makes them psychos ups the horror ante – see Maniac Cop. Or at least, it should. A counterweight to campy kids would’ve been a really horrifying protagonist, not some lumpen Ralph Kramden.
*1/2 (out of 5)