Ed. note– Welcome back! If you’re a CDV… you won’t be around for long. Ohhh man.– P.F.
So we’re watching a slasher flick. We’re quickly introduced to Hillbilly Ed, who proves himself the slasher while the opening credits are still rolling, by axing his family to death, which also provides a kill count of four within that many minutes of film. The blood red title on the screen indicates not so subtly that it’s “TEN YEARS LATER” and we then see a van full of seven characters straight out of the Generic Stereotype Generator: there’s Slutty Suzy; Responsible Rob; Never Been Laid Ned; Good Girl Gail; James the Jock; Pom Pom Pam; and Rich Kid Trent, who’s so filthy rich, he can muck up the alliteration game I was playing with character names, and still burn money. These kids may as well be named Victim 1 through 7, but even the hack writer of this schlocky trash thought that would be a little too on the nose. They stop for gas, and despite the prophetic warnings of Crazy Ralph (who never should have died in FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2, let’s be honest), they head onward to Blood Mountain, which has a Death Curse. They’re about to settle in for a wild night of partying, drugs and sex (and let’s hope Never Been Laid Ned can drop that moniker), when we see a large shadow in the woods. Stepping forward… it’s Hillbilly Ed! Long thought dead, he’s alive, and ready to slaughter all the kids having sex on Mama’s kitchen table and snorting cocaine off Dad’s beloved rifle shelf. Responsible Rob steps out for some fresh air and a glimpse of the full moon, and he’s dead! James the Jock steps out to find the outhouse so he can relieve himself of that keg of beer, and he’s dead! We’re 25 minutes in, and the body count is already six.
Ed pulls the hedge trimmers out of James’ neck, stares at the blood in the pale moonlight and smiles. Cut to the next scene: a car. Inside it, Arguing Adele and Careless Driver Chris are in the middle of a spat. Chris has been driving carelessly; they’ve hit a squirrel, and the accident caused a blowout. Chris stands over the squirrel, smiling; he never liked those bushy tailed rodents to begin with. Adele is bitching about how Chris doesn’t know how to change a tire, there’s no cell service up here on Blood Mountain, and they’ll never make it to the cordial in time for punch and pie. Out steps Hillbilly Ed. He’s got a weed whacker, and he’s about to make sure they never make it to the cordial… at all! Whack, whack! 30 minutes in, and the body count is now eight.
But wait. Who the hell are Adele and Chris?
They’re not related to our group of party animals in Ed’s house (no “Hey, Adele and Bob never showed up with that punch and pie” from Slutty Suzy). We know nothing about them except they hit a squirrel, they were whiny, and they’re now deceased. Their lives, and their deaths, have absolutely no bearing on either the action of the story nor its outcome. So why are they in HILLBILLY ED’S BLOOD MOUNTAIN REVENGE? Upon further scrutiny, the reason for their appearance becomes obvious. They serve only one function: to add to the body count. They are Collateral Damage Victims.
Collateral Damage Victims (CDV’s) are The Screenwriter’s dilemma. He’s been given a mandate by the studio: one kill ever 8 minutes. He’s got seven main characters, and even though he’s got a degree in English lit he’s totally forgotten about, he once bought a Math for Morons book. 7×8= 56, so even if he kills off every character—including his beloved Final Girl—he’s got at least a half hour to fill with more kills. The studio is pleased so far with the blood drenched dailies—none of that PG-13 crap here, this his hard R territory—but they noticed he’s got seven pages without a kill, that are pushing into the eighth. Simple math again, every page of script = 1 minute screen time. The Screenwriter gets what amounts to his worst nightmare: a note from the execs. “Your script is starting to drag and you’re including way too much character development between Page This and Page That. Throw a kill in there somewhere, maybe two. If you can include a squirrel, that counts toward the body count technically.”
The Screenwriter is distraught. Slutty Suzy was just starting to develop some chemistry with Never Been Laid Ned. He’s brought her some punch, and she’s rubbed some pie between her melon heavy boobs and has offered to let him eat it off there and other body parts as well. If he kills either or both of them, he loses his nudity, and the studio also wants T&A every 12 minutes. This mandate sucks. They’re ruining his script. Is there any way out of this with so much as a shred of dignity?
Yes there is. The Screenwriter has an ace card in his back pocket. He hates squirrels.
Digging back into his own personal life, he recalls the incident. The Squirrel, The Bus and The Coconut. At a future point, once he’d become famous and rich and could write and direct a feature, it was going to be his most personal film, his magnum opus. Instead, he uses it for a scene in HILLBILLY ED’S BLOOD MOUNTAIN REVENGE. It fuels the eight lines of dialogue between the arguing couple. It’s the only time he’s gotten passionate writing this entire script. He even writes in the crushed coconut lying a few feet from the squashed squirrel. The director never films a prop coconut. The director lacks nuance.
What The Screenwriter never notices is that he’s just as complicit as the studio here. He signed off on the 8 Minutes per Body mandate when he took on the project. Instead of developing a multi-layered script with characterization, he wrote a typical slasher. He could have built toward every kill, made the audience empathize with every character. But that involves a lot of work, so he started throwing in throwaways, CDV’s so slight of any real humanity, he only had to power up his Generic Stereotype Generator to Low. He could have made this script a contender. Instead, he made it HILLBILLY ED’S BLOOD MOUNTAIN REVENGE.
So here we have Adele and Chris, dying right after we meet them. We have no investment in them, because they’re dead before we got to know them. They’ve upped the body count, but they’ve lowered the time we had with our core cast. On a basic, human level we should feel for them because they represent people. But this is only a movie, and a poor one at that. It’s trash, so we’ll discard Adele and Chris the second they die. Even if they have some really creative death, we’ll only remember them for what cool way Hillbilly Ed dispatched them. But hey, the director nixed The Screenwriter’s coconut kills. After all, they’re in the woods, not a jungle.
What nobody making this film realizes is that four can be more impactful than 14. In ALICE SWEET ALICE, only four characters die. The plot and mystery surrounding Alice and the murders are so oddball that they kept me on the edge of my seat. Anyone can die at any moment. Also, the characters have some depth, so when a key character gets it at the end, not only is the death shocking, but I’m invested in both the character’s demise and the film. Four deaths got me to invest. With its multitude of body bags, I never invested in FRIDAY THE 13TH PART V. I’ll take the lower body count in the better film every time.
Collateral Damage Victims cheat everybody. They cheat the audience, the rest of the characters, the other victims, and worst of all, the CDV’s themselves. They don’t even register as high as the waves of lookalike scrubs in a video game that I have to wade my way through before the level’s Big Boss Fight. They’re trash, and if you’re watching a horror flick in which they exist, it’s likely trash too. We should demand better of our flicks, even if the studio sends ridiculous demands to The Screenwriter. After all, when the dust clears and the CDV’s blood has been shed, we’ll still be around. Until that time, It’s Official! You Suck!