We’ve all had bad days at work, but few could lay claim to a day as truly horrendous as the one new hire Dave experiences in Massacre in Aisle 12, a pitch black horror comedy set to have it’s premier at this year’s edition of the Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival.
With an opening shot that pays homage to Evil Dead 2, the film starts with a bang which sets the table nicely for the next 90 minutes of heightened workplace absurdity which calls to mind a bizarre extended version of The Office (U.S or U.K, it matters not) on LSD.
Christmas Eve is an inauspicious night to start a new job, but then again, Mr. Beaver’s is quite the inauspicious place to work – a rundown, grungy hardware store with a colorful coterie of employees all (barely) toiling under the watchful eyes of manager Mr. Kipper and (certifiably insane) assistant manager Jack.
Lest one think that Massacre on Aisle 12 is going to be a variation of Silent Night, Deadly Night, or any of of it’s myriad Santa Slasher ilk, think again, for although there is a store Santa (complete with a scantily-clad assistant who would look more at home at the local strip club than assisting Kris Kringle), Massacre defies expectations when a dead body is found clutching a duffel bag full of money. As the staff assemble and face off while figuring out what to do, high-as-a-kite Jack locks them in the store and then the real fun begins. The situation is tense, emotions are amped, and everyone has access to deadly tools. Not a good combination for any sort of peaceful resolution.
Since Massacre on Aisle 12 is a film with a small cast set primarily in a single location, for it to succeed, the characters have to work and the acting has to be top notch, and on that front Massacre delivers in (no pun intended) spades. The film’s ensemble perform like a well-oiled sketch comedy troupe, bouncing jokes and insults off each other (most the complete antithesis of politically incorrect) with impeccable comedic timing. Aikido Burgess is a standout as store maintenance man Jackson, aka Black Jack, the recipient of many off-color comments and insults who’s able to give as good as he gets. He would have stolen the show if it weren’t for co-director Jim Klock as ultra-right wing, PTSD afflicted war-vet Otto, whose ability to both sustain yet survive the most grievous of injuries serves as a terrific, Monty Python-esque running gag.
The characters in Massacre are uniformly hilarious and pretty much all nuts, with the exception of every man Dave who’s thrown into this maelstrom of WTF weirdness and serves as the audience surrogate as the night wears on and the situations become ever more outlandish. And that it does, for as true intentions are revealed and people’s allegiances and opinions shift, the ratio of those still respiring vs. those who are not alters, and the gore goes into overdrive.
Massacre on Aisle 12 is a hoot; a perfect festival film for a like-minded audience to assemble and have a good, gory time laughing at the absurdity of all. Horror-comedies don’t always work, but when they do, it’s always a pleasure. This is one of the good ones.
*** 3/4 (out of 5)