FrightFest review – The Once and Future Smash + End Zone 2

The Once and Future Smash + End Zone 2

The premise of this mock-doc by Sophia Cacciola and Michael J. Epstein is that an almost-unseen drive-in curiosity, End Zone (1965), somehow inspired a somewhat more elaborate sequel, End Zone 2 (1970), which was purportedly one of the lesser entries in a cycle of American football-themed slasher movies (no one mentions Pretty Maids All in a Row, which would sort of fit in) but also a trail-blazing precedent for later slashers like The Last House on the Left and Friday the 13th.  Victor Milan, screenwriter of Friday the 13th, admits he was impressed by the End Zone twist that the mother was the killer – which reminded me of the bit in Pauly Shore is Dead where Ben Stiller admits that Meet the Parents is a ripoff of Son-in-Law.  Cacciola and Epstein have fun filling in the history of the franchise, which runs to two competing 1980s bogus sequels – one the retitling of an Italian imitation made by the Troll 2 team of Claudio Fragasso and Rosella Druidi (gamely sending themselves up) and one called End Zone 3D.

The present-day hook is that a hustler is trying to get a series reboot off the ground and has arranged for Mikey Smash (Michael St Michaels) and William Mouth (Bill Weeden) to make a joint appearance at a genre convention for a reunion panel which doesn’t stir much interest (the influence of the Troll 2 documentary Best Worst Movie is evident).  It emerges that in 1970, Smash – originally cast as the franchise fiend, a battered-to-gruesomeness vengeance-seeking football player known as Smashmouth – was such a diva on set he was replaced by Mouth (who has changed his name from Matheson, but not legally) … but mysteriously all prints of End Zone 2 are curtailed after an hour, so that Mouth’s work is missing.  Given that several of the actors who played Leatherface in TCM sequels appear in interview snippets — alongside cult luminaries like Laurene Landon, Mark Patton, Richard Elfman and the inevitable Lloyd Kaufman – we could venture a guess at the backstage gossip that has inspired this (though I seem to recall an early instance of this sort of semi-feud was between Noel Neill and Phyllis Coates, who both played Lois Lane).  Caught between the two shambling, aged, variously embittered Smashmouths is AJ (AJ Cutler), son of the actor who played Smashmouth’s sidekick, who has put his astrophysics ambitions on hold to fulfil a childhood promise to take on the mantle of helping the monster (whoever he is).

As the weekend grinds on, with fans flocking to events relating to a comic book franchise (Man-Spider, not to be confused with …) but generally not springing for autographs or photos of either Smashmouth, the feuding actors are drawn together by shared adversity, especially when the possibility of someone else getting the role in the reboot arises – and the last reel gets fairly wild.  There’s an insider look at a scam involving signed blenders and auction site listings that should serve as a warning to unwary would-be profiteers.

St Michaels is best-known for his turn in The Greasy Strangler, but he has some 80s cred thanks to The Video Dead, while Weeden was in Troma’s Sgt Kabukiman NYPD – they both commit wholeheartedly to the roles, with Weeden going further than you’d think in laying himself emotionally and physically bare (and running his catch-phrase ‘touchdown’ into the ground).  Throughout, we also get snippets from End Zone 2 – and the second feature on this bill is the full hour-long version of this pastiche, which relates to Shriek of the Mutilated or Invasion of the Blood Farmers the way Lost Skeleton of Cadavra does to Giant From the Unknown or The Neanderthal Man.  The inference is that the missing last half hour was jokier and schlockier than what we see, which is sincere, awkward and almost arty in the way many of the films covered in Stephen Thrower’s Nightmare USA are – it’s done well enough to suggest Cacciola and Epstein could do well by a more conventional fiction feature.


Here’s the FrightFest listing.


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