In 1983, Joel (Evan Marsh) – ‘assistant reviews editor’ for Fangoria-styled horror magazine Vicious Fanatics – is hung up on his flatmate Sarah (Alexa Rose Steele, and jealous enough to tail her latest date, Bob (Ari Millen), to a bar/Chinese restaurant and get drunk with the guy while trying to record him being an obnoxious ass as part of a cracked scheme to get Sarah to see him as boyfriend material. However, Joel gets drunk and passes out in a storeroom, then wanders into an after-hours meeting for serial killers, which isn’t so much about overcoming their addiction to murder as exchanging shop talk. Joel tumbles to what the others – ex-CIA government massacre specialist Zachary (David Koechner), hulking masked Jason Voorhees/Michael Myers type Mike (Robert Maillet), vigilante serial stabber Carrie (Amber Goldfarb), cannibal chef Hideo (Sean Baek) and barely-human accountant/clown Fritz (Julian Richings) – are talking about and tries to pass himself off as ‘the taxicab killer’. He almost earns the respect of the gang, then their final alpha member – a Patrick Bateman-esque misogynist yuppie disguise pick-up artist – turns out to be the sleazy, slimy Bob, who shreds his cover story.
Director Cody Calahan, who also co-wrote with James Villeneuve, has been turning out interesting, smart genre fare through the Black Fawn label (Antisocial, The Oak Room, Let Her Out), often stressing performances/characterisation and using claustrophobic settings. This has three main locations, as if it were an entire run of a slasher franchise – after the restaurant, we get to a police station and a hospital – and is obviously self-aware as it pits its genre journo loser protagonist (I remember horror mag writers from the early ‘80s and they were to a man not like Joel at all … oh, who am I kidding, this is pretty much exactly on the money) against archetypal villains who’d each be worth a couple of sequels, with great work especially from Millen (The Oak Room) as the weaselly Bob, and genre regulars Maillet and Richings as wielders of machete and hypodermic. It has a vivid colour scheme and ‘80s style music, making this yet another trip back to the heady days of Betamax and blood, stirring nostalgia into the mix. The horror business is mostly played for gruesome laughs – one killer is throttled with a victim’s intestines – but there’s a solid spine in the way the wholly useless Joel is transformed by the evening’s experience.
It even leaves a mystery on the plate for a possible Vicious Fun 2 – Mr Midnight.