** Out of 5
Tagline- This Year It’s Not Just the Turkey Being Carved for Thanksgiving
Release Date- 1981
Running Time- 83-Minutes
Screenplay- Thomas Bush
Director- Nettie Pena
Starring- Jake Steinfeld, Peter De Paula, Don Edmonds, David Mielke Colette Trygg
When it comes to the horror genre in the 1980s its best remembered for the seemingly never ending releases of slasher films as it seemed like every week a new one was opening. The height of the slasher craze was 1980-1981 and even now many fans consider the best slasher films released in those years. As the 80s went on the slasher film started to get stale, but there were still enough solid films to keep them going as the mid 80s rolled around even if the majority weren’t as successful, but by the time 1989 came around these films were pretty much dead with the exceptions of the franchises, but even they were pulling in less money than they once did. But never knowing when to stop filmmakers of the 80s continued to try and squeeze out one last buck. Home Sweet Home was released in 1981 and it shows not every slasher film of the very early 80s was good. Home Sweet Home, which also goes under the title Slasher in the House is mostly forgotten as it got a VHS release than was long OOP and apparently in 2006 there was a DVD released, but there isn’t much info on it and the few that own it say its basically VHS quality and is now long OOP. 1981 was perhaps the biggest year for slasher films with such releases as Halloween II, Friday the 13th Part 2, The Burning, My Bloody Valentine and the Prowler. Those films are by many seen as the best slasher films of the 80s and also in 1981 Final Exam was released and while not as popular as the films I mentioned has still built a cult following. With 1981 being such a big year for slashers and with so many produced in the 80s many of these films will be lost and forgotten like Home Sweet Home and even ignoring the films I mentioned Home Sweet Home would probably still be mostly forgotten outside of the most hardcore of slasher fans.
The only thing that slightly keeps this film from completely fading into oblivion is Jake Steinfeld best known for Body by Jake (and I’m sure even he’d like to forget this). And perhaps the only other thing it might having going for it is a very young Vinessa Shaw who was either 4 or 5-years old when Home Sweet Home was shot and lucky for her being so young she probably won’t remember much about the film. The most interesting aspect of the film is the fact it was directed by a woman. There weren’t many female filmmakers at this time (and some feel there still aren’t enough). Horror films though have always been dominated by men at least in writing, directing and producing as the films themselves would often focus on female characters (at least in slashers). Really with the exception of Debra Hill at the time Home Sweet Home was released (and even afterwards with a couple of exceptions) a female director for a horror film was mostly unheard of outside of Roger Corman productions where he would hire female filmmakers from time to time (Humanoids from the Deep, Slumber Party Massacre trilogy).
Back in the 80s no holiday or event was safe; New Years, Valentine’s Day, April Fools Day, Halloween, Christmas, Graduation and Prom were all covered. Thanksgiving however was the one holiday that never really didn’t get represented. Outside of Home Sweet Home the only other film with a thanksgiving setting I can think of was Blood Rage and I guess Madman as well. Madman was set the weekend before thanksgiving so I guess it’s close enough. In Home Sweet Home I don’t think it’s ever stated its thanksgiving. If not for the turkey and a bunch of people coming together (their relation for the most part is never made clear) Home Sweet Home can be any day I suppose. But Home Sweet Home would be the first thanksgiving themed slasher film.
Jay Jones ( Steinfeld) was locked in an insane asylum for the murder of his parents. One night he escapes and sets his sights on a group of people celebrating thanksgiving.
The screenplay by Thomas Bush is rather poor filled with faceless victims who are mostly inter-changeable. While I don’t think anyone goes into a slasher film for great writing, but even by slasher standards this one is quite weak despite the best efforts by Thomas Bush. The dialogue often repeats itself and sort of feels made up as it went along. However there are some entertaining moments since when a script is this poor it can at times be fun.
Director Nettie Pena delivers a poor, but at the same time a fun film. Certain parts of the film are meant to be light, but other times its funny due to how bad it is. Pacing is quite sluggish at times more around the middle as the film while fun early on becomes tiresome after a while. There is zero suspense and while there are some decent kill scenes, Pena handles them so poorly they become quite funny. The only other directing credit for Nettie Pena is a documentary from 2009 and I can’t say I’m shocked she never had much of a career. Home Sweet Home is pretty much a hack job and like I said early on it works in the films favor, but by the middle the pace slows down and the fun begins to fade. As bad as this film was its not the worst slasher film of the 80s, but its easily a contender. But with that said the pure idiocy of the production also helps make it fairly entertaining stuff as its such a hack job it’s hard to fully hate it.
What this film features is hands down the most annoying character in a slasher film. No strike that most annoying in a horror film. Wait strike that as well the most annoying character in cinematic history. Mistake (De Paula) yes that’s actually his name. Mistake has his face painted white, which probably is a homage to Kiss, but he looks more like a mime only sadly he isn’t silent. He goes around with his guitar grating on everybody’s nerves including the audience. Though oddly enough as annoying as Mistake is he’s also sort of entertaining. Peter De Paula who played Mistake, a couple of years earlier appeared on an episode of Wonder Woman playing a mime. Holy typecasting Batman! Though again I assume it was meant to be a homage to Kiss, but who knows.
Jake Steinfeld is absolutely hilarious as the killer. He laughs like an idiot while he’s killing someone and the breathing can be so hysterically over the top. Jake’s performance is simply hysterical and sort of helped me from losing complete interest around the middle.
Home Sweet Home had the right idea; escaped mental patient, unsuspecting victims, isolated setting, characters splitting up. But everything is handled so poorly it can be quite funny at times. Overall Home Sweet Home is a really bad film, but does have some really funny moments even if they weren’t meant to be. From a poor script and even weaker directing and a hysterical performance from Steinfeld and with Mistake perhaps the most annoying character in cinematic history does sort of help Home Sweet Home become a so bad it’s almost good. Also Lisa Rodriguez as Maria is quite fun to watch in perhaps a slightly offensive role.
With the film OOP and copies for the film being highly expensive I was able to see Home Sweet Home on YouTube and while it was taken from an old VHS print it was however watchable, though at times it was so dark it was hard to make anything out. If I could come across a better copy I would actually watch this again despite my 2-star rating.
Home Sweet Home was produced by Sandy Cobe who had a brief stint as a producer with such films as Open House and the 1980 slasher To All a Goodnight. And speaking of To All a Goodnight it was the directorial debut for David Hess and was written by Alex Rebar who starred in the Incredible Melting Man and Rebar was an executive producer on Home Sweet Home.