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July 2, 2012

Movie Review: The Turnpike Killer (2012)

There seems to be a lot of filmmakers these days making “throwback” films or movies that have nods to popular cult films from the 1980s and 1970s. The slasher sub-genre has seen many attempts to capture the greatness of many 70’s 80’s favorites. There are some solid ones that I’ve enjoyed, in particular – High Tension, Laid to Rest, and Hatchet. All three of the directors of those films had a firm grasp on what made nasty 80’s horror great, because they lived it like I did - perusing video stores for the goriest film they could find. The writing and directing team of Evan Makrogiannis and Brian Weaver aren’t much different; they just did the same thing successfully on a much smaller budget with their shocker The Turnpike Killer.

The Turnpike Killer doesn’t waste any time attempting to pull the audience in. Even if it’s dragging you as your nails snap off. If you happen make it past the grueling and outrageously bloody opening sequence in psycho-killer John Beest’s (Bill McLaughlin) basement, plenty more atrocities await you during The Turnpike Killers run-time. One thing that really stood out early on to compliment the savagery was the interior of his vile lair of horrors .You could practically smell the pungent oder of shit, puke and dry blood left from his victims coating the walls. If you like it splattery, The Turnpike Killer delivers very often.

The John Beest character is a loner who generally takes odd jobs to make ends meet. He doesn’t resemble the basic movie serial killer as most films portray, which is very refreshing. This isn’t the chubby, pockmark covered Frank Zito from Bill Lustig’s classic Maniac; he’s in shape, somewhat handsome and even charming in some instances with a few female characters. You just don’t wanna piss him off, because a mass of man at 6’5, 250 plus pounds and ready to gut you whenever he feels the urge. Beest, of course, is not playing with a full deck as he has voices that repeatedly talk to him, which in turn don’t help Beest or his victims.

The look of The Turnpike Killer really excels with its grimy New York backdrop. I really loved the dirty and very realistic atmosphere. It’s almost as if Henry Lee Lucas and Otis Toole did the set design. The acting is fine overall, not perfect. There are some instances of over-the-top and stiff acting but it didn’t take away from the intensity of what Makrogiannis and Weaver were trying to convey.

Besides The Turnpike Killer feature, the producers have put together a wealth of bonuses that include an autographed poster, a short film from director Evan Makrogiannis' son, Liam, called Devil’s Moon, a lengthy “making of" The Turnpike Killer put together by producer Nik Taneris. The documentary is very loose and quite fun. There are some enjoyable horror convention stories by the filmmakers as well as plenty of background on the film. The best bonus though is of a nifty VHS copy of the film.Collectors of VHS will love this! All this is packaged beautifully in a sweet retro big box from the 80’s similar to the Continental and Gorgon boxes that use to sit on video store walls back in the day.

There’s no doubt in my mind that The Turnpike Killer is one of the best horror releases of 2012. The packaging itself shows the producers and filmmakers really care and have some real love for the great slashers of the 80’s. Highly Recommended!

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