Every once and awhile I feel like I’ve flashed back to the 80’s and just picked up a badass VHS that’s cover has stuck with me for a few months before I broke down and rented it. Or that I’ve finally seen enough sleaze and caught up to the point where I could rent it. Most often these are films from the era that have finally received a disc release after years of being neglected. This week that film was Evan Makrogiannis and Brian Weaver’s THE TURNPIKE KILLER but instead of being a product of that era it was lensed almost thirty years after the heyday of such films.
John Beest (Bill McLaughlin) is a hulking brute of a man. He’s a blue collar guy with an unpleasant streak as broad as his shoulders. The ogre stands about six and a half feet tall and weighs as much as a small car. It looks like he could move the car too. All of this makes this character one of the more brutal entries into the big book of slasher baddies. John has a problem. He hears the nagging voice of his father egging him on to punish the whores he encounters on his quest for the “one.” Punish them he does as the monster rains merciless blows with his fists, a monkey wrench, a fiancee’s liver…whatever he can find…on those unfortunate enough to cross him. He tries to come off nice enough at first but it’s a real stretch for him because he is an A-one creep. Not only does he struggle keeping a job and maintaining a relationship with his only friend, but if you happen to be an attractive young woman who is nice to him he generally decides to kill you.
The plot is straight forward. In a city of eight million people there are some depraved souls among the throng. These unsound minds seek out those they can pose a danger to and Beest is the danger that prowls the night in New York City. He selects his victims, stalks them, abducts them and then brutalizes them. He earns the moniker of the Turnpike Killer because the police have been finding his victims’ bodies dumped along the New Jersey Turnpike. The difficult task of tracking him down falls to Detective Lloyd (Edgar Moye). John stays a few steps ahead of the police because he dumps his victims away from the city and they have no idea who is carrying out these ultra violent crimes. A couple of slips allow the detective to close in on the killer but not until he has savaged more girls.
This film is a grimy and sleazy as any the 70’s or 80’s produced. John isn’t to be empathized or pitied, he is to be revolting and repugnant for who he is regardless of his upbringing. The red hues throughout the film instantly bring the William Lustig classick MANIAC to mind.and the locations also remind the viewer of MANIAC and NEW YORK RIPPER–both of which are key influences. Clever camerawork and a few key gags keep the gorehound happy and allow the filmmakers to get some bang for their buck as far as the budget goes. This film is capably shot and the actors acquit themselves well. THE TURNPIKE KILLER is well above average in the realm of indie horror. Check it out.
Included on the DVD is a full length docum-entary on the making of THE TURNPIKE KILLER called DONUTS AND A DOUBLE HOMICIDE and a short, DEVIL MOON. The doc is well done and features interviews with the cast and crew and also showing some of the locations used for shooting. Highlights include Evan and Brian showing off their collections of horror memorabilia and the Hell Gate Bridge location where Evan gets double birds thrown up at him by his own son. DEVIL MOON is a werewolf short that is written by Liam Makrogiannis and plays like a throwback to werewolf flicks from the 60’s.