After a long hiatus, chill champion Code Red breaks its vow of silence with a goofy but loveable Slasher from yester-fear. By the early 1980s the Slasher had already began to see its day. Wallowing in severed heads, hanging entrails, and lingering POV shots, nary a holiday or revenge motif remained untapped by producers eager to hop on the profit train. This much loved and maligned sub-genre would still be capable of producing more than a few minor classics, but the creative kill formula was running short on sense (if not on gratuitous nudity, unconvincing characters, and increasingly ridiculous storylines). Both a celebration and parody of the sub-genre, Boarding House is a mess in the best possible way. Admittedly more concerned with spectacle and savoring the carnage of past Body Count fare than crafting a serious story, this fun and freaky little sleeper is notable for many reasons despite its unevenness. Bloody and brainless, this gleefully gory hybrid of the Slasher and supernaturalism was one of the first horror movies to be filmed on video. While this doesn't add any polish or integrity to the picture, it is a historically significant footnote. Long regulated to the dusty shelves of forgotten 'Mom and Pop' video stores, this marks the film's DVD debut, and it has never looked or sounded better. If you watch this picture in the right spirit, forewarned that you're entering a house . . . "where the rent won't kill you but something else will!" . . . and if you're a devotee of both the Slasher and the dubious art of 'so good its bad' filmmaking, you're bound to appreciate Code Red's efforts.

Directed by John Wintergate, Boarding House is a weird and wonderful mesh of genre ideas, achieving spectacle and mood if not coherence. Several influences are notable in the general story and plotline, including salutes to the traditional haunted house picture, grim exploitation, and the occult thrillers that populated movie screens in the 70s. When an alienated, tortured man with telekinetic powers opens his home for borders, gorgeous women (for some inexplicable reason) decide to stay there. Resonating with an evil, tragic past, it isn't long before the malignant influence of the home awakens to wreak havoc on these dames. Of particular delight is the protagonist, who cheeses it up as the sex crazed, occult obsessed 'landlord' with gusto, and the murders, while not as enthusiastic or technically sophisticated as fans were already used to, are satisfying in a carnival barker sense.

Wintergate knew his Slasher formula and chose to parody it with gusto. Naked female flesh is provided, as are the expected spectacles of sexually motivated and fetishistic violence that has had so many self professed 'cultural warriors' champing at the bits for so many years. Nay a girl takes her clothes off or heads for the pool and she isn't murdered. Or in the shower or the bed or . . . Well, you get it. And that's okay. This wasn't created as a tragedy or drama but good old down and dirty exploitation . . . With a hearty chuckle. Crew and cast achieve maximum of results with a minimal budget and inferior equipment. A 1930s horror pulp novel transferred to video, Wintergate succeeded in making a movie exciting and appealingly sleazy. Not as stylish as such truly inspired Slasher flicks as Black Christmas or as disturbing as Don't go In The House, neither does this confused entry in the "gut 'em" sweepstakes offer the atmosphere and nihilistic savagery essential to such truly disturbing works as William Lustig's Maniac. It wasn't trying for them. Boarding House compliments the illogic and 'let's make a show!' scare tactics of less pretentious yet entertaining flicks as Evil Laugh and Final Exam. Showmanship on a budget, kudos must be given for Waterhouse despite the skewered plot logic and technical flaws. For daring. For determination. For energetic directing. And for making his vision look as good as it does on video -- a medium that may have helped revolutionized the genre, and sparked a do-it-yourself movement that itself inspired creativity, but whose final product is never as enchanting or atmospheric as 'film.' The story, while lacking coherency or any true characterization, is also notable for livening up the slasher antics with an occult angle, which evokes some tension into the stalk scenes, and lends greater brooding to the atmosphere. A sex and gore buffet-line, Wintergate's enthusiasm is infectious. In no way a great or even good movie in the normal sense, neither is Boarding House going to be listed in the pantheon of 'guilty favorites.' However, the very flaws that work against it are its greatest merits. If appreciated for what it is -- an unpretentious horror movie intended to entertain at a minimalist, simple manner -- Boarding House is worth at least a look, particularly for fans who remember seeing it in the 80s. Slasher junkies will certainly see reason to celebrate, as this has been one of the rarer titles to see new life on DVD. For that alone Code Red should be congratulated. Somehow, despite all the marks against it, Boarding House is great bloody fun! You may not want to stay there but at least spend the night . . .

Despite some unfathomable flack that the company has received by some of the lesser websites (and critics with their own egos to stroke), Code Red has done a consistently good job brining back to life some genre favorites both obscure and notable. While many of their releases lack mainstream popularity, and still more are so rare as to be unknown by modern fans, this has been a great part of their appeal. Where else would you have found such lovingly restored fear finds as Devil Times Five or The Forest? One of this company's chief selling points has been their ability to find the illusive talent behind and in-front of the camera for supplements. This puppy is no exception, filled with informative interviews that sets up the cultural and creative context. Most impressive is the Audio Commentary with John Wintergate and Star Kalassu. Moderated by Lee Christian and Jeff McCay, this track is good natured and often humorous, with all involved understanding that they are discussing entertainment, not high art. This lack of pretension and honesty is refreshing, as are the many areas of production covered. Wintergate emphasizes that the video was intended as a spoof, not serious horror, but that the distributor demanded some of the campier laughs be removed. This is why it is often uneven. The couple also discuss their friends, editing equipment used to cut the movie, the time and effort the project took, and how willing the girls were too take off their clothes for the camera. Individual interviews are also conducted with Wintergate and Kalassu, who cover some of the same information as the Commentary, but each have enough personality that their insights are worth listening to. Theatrical Trailers for the feature are up next, followed by Trailers for upcoming Coed Red releases.

Review by William Simmons

Released by Code Red
Region 1 - NTSC
Not Rated
Extras :
see main review