Turn Right On Madness (Short Film) (2014)

21 Jan

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Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“Turn Right On Madness” is a short slasher film, and we can go through a checklist of certain elements for the subgenre.

Wrong turn: Check.

Wrong gas station: Check.

Psychotic killer in the middle of the woods: Check.

Death, death, death: Check.

One left alive: Check.

Obligatory scary ambiguous ending: Check.

Heavy blade involved: Check.

Dumb decisions made by characters: Check.

You come to expect these things in a slasher film, and “Turn Right On Madness” is no exception. Indeed, the film is about a group of three young people (that’s a change; usually it’s a group of five) who decide to go camping in the middle of nowhere, take a wrong turn, and get stalked and hunted by a psychotic killer with an axe.

Some of you may be thinking while reading this, “Sounds good! Keep talking!” The rest of you may be thinking this has already been done. And yes, it has already been done, but not entirely. For one thing, there’s something more ominous afoot, as if the characters (played by Geneva Galloway, Steve Helms, and Hannah Blackburn-Parish) were pawns in some sort of sinister game. Technology is involved (echoes of “The Cabin in the Woods”); people inform others through radio that their targets are moving, and what brings these people to danger (or “madness,” if you will) is actually their GPS, which has brought them to their doom. And a delightful touch is that the GPS voice is set to a scary-voice track. There is also where most of the film’s humor comes from—its sinister voice stating a new direction, followed by something along the lines of “if you dare,” followed by mechanized evil laughter. I’ve heard the rant of “technology is evil,” but…wow.

And yes, the GPS does bring them to the “wrong gas station.” Well, at least this one actually looks modern (despite what the Blackburn-Parish character thinks, as she packs a “pink tazer” with her).

Well OK, it does accept cash-only (originally spelt on a sign as “ownly,” being not-so-thoroughly scratched out) for gasoline, but what can you do?

Not too far from the gas station is where the GPS leads them to a remote area, and (in the film’s funniest moment) the car suddenly stops, leaving them stranded in the woods. As they look at the map (yes, there is actually a map), they realize they were led the wrong way, as two of them go into the woods looking for help. Big mistake.

By the way, I love this line by the character left behind while the others embark into the woods—“I would’ve taken the road instead of the woods, but that’s just me.”

Something that shouldn’t surprise me yet nevertheless does is that this film was written, edited, and directed by Sarah Jones, a graduate of the University of Central Arkansas Digital Filmmaking MFA program. The surprise is “Turn Right On Madness” is her first film since the effective 20-minute drama, “John Wayne’s Bed,” Jones’ graduate thesis film. But the more I think about it, this shouldn’t surprise me, as she was involved in shorts such as a vampire thriller and a zombie flick. I can tell she’s a fan of the horror genre, and I can tell those who helped her make the film (including producer Jennifer Mazzacane, who wrote/produced the short horror film, “Campout”) like the horror genre as well. It has a tense moment or two (being a film of 10 minutes in length, that’s about the best you can do, I guess), its blood and gore effects are nicely-done, it seems to have an affection for the slasher-film subgenre, it has some surprises, and of course, being the modern horror film, it can even be a little self-referential.

When all is said and done, “Turn Right On Madness” is a slasher film, and it all depends on whether you can tolerate this type of film and also appreciate the little touches thrown in to make it somewhat more original than the average. The idea of a GPS being the cause of the madness that befalls these three people is both original and funny. There are funny lines of dialogue at certain points in the first 4-5 minutes. The lead actors are fine, though not much range is required for a film like this (even though a certain amount of credible screams help). And I must admit there were a couple moments that did get to me: one was the first death, because it came out of nowhere, and another was the final appearance of the killer (played by Johnnie Brannon). So I’d say I enjoyed this short film. It is what it wants to be and you can tell the filmmakers had fun while making it…well, except for maybe that time when Jones apparently cut her foot with a sheet metal door. But what’s making a horror film without losing some blood in the process?

OK, that may have been a sick joke, and I apologize for that.

On a side-note, I asked Jones why she chose to make this film after something as serious as “John Wayne’s Bed.” She said she wanted to do something “campy and fun after JWB [“John Wayne’s Bed”].” Being a filmmaker myself, I can respect that.

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