Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Staten Island Horror

Every now and then, I stumble upon a low budget horror film that I just want to hug. Not in the way that it’s so lovable I must squeeze or that it’s made of cashmere; more that I picture myself embracing the film, nodding my head over the shoulder of it while making eye contact with someone else in the room and mouthing “I know.”

Knock Knock is that kind of movie.

What I mean to say is that this hard-working little slasher is kind of adorable, but not actually good. We’re not quite in Haunted Boat territory, but filmed on Staten Island—and trust me, you’ll figure that out the first time a young character opens his or her mouth—with a script possibly written as the process went along, Knock Knock earns its merit badge.

Quick Plot: In the kind of fictional movie high school that only exists onscreen, a diverse little assortment of jocks, Goths, and stoners hang out while the man-child janitor who might as well be named Red Herring watches. One by one, the kids are murdered in brutal (and surprisingly well-executed) styles that seem to be inspired by their fathers’ professions. A ice distributor’s son is ice picked, a meathouse owner’s daughter is filleted, the mechanic’s daughter is…mechanic’s daughtered, you get the point.

See, WE get the point, but the investigating detective is a blond woman who apparently does not get any point ever. Hence, despite body after body turning up with a clear connection, she never really thinks to question the murdered kids’ parents. Thankfully, a grizzled retired cop trying to reconnect with his granddaughter (this will be important 5 minutes into the film and 5 minutes from the end, so put a reminder in your smart phone and continue) is happy to help out, primarily by pointing out the fact that the killer must be strong and right-handed. Together, they let a lot more spoiled teenagers die and eventually save the day.

Let me be frank about this film: it is terrible.

Let me be franker about this film: I loved it.

Written and directed by Joseph Ariola, Knock Knock is somewhat joyous in both its effort and incompetence. Ariola is clearly a tried and true slasher fan who understands the basic ingredients—boobs (see: his name), blood, prank-gone-wrong, masked villain (that sort of resembles a Tourist Trap look done via origami)—but somehow lost the actual recipe. Observe:

-The fact that our token final girl has about two lines a few minutes into the film, then disappears until the last scene

-That even though characters are clearly defined by their ‘thing’ (one even refers to another as “The Pothead”) we as the audience—or at least, me, who watched—still can’t remember them well enough to even know who’s dead and who’s about to be

-After the first murder, one character meets up with his friends in a diner to spoil their appetite with the news that seemingly only he knows. Except once he gives the media’s theory, one of the gang replies with “I heard the killer was after something else,” yet the scene seemed to be set up to have the party crasher REVEAL the fact that there was a murder. Oh, and everyone then proceeds to eat anyway because who doesn’t like a goat cheese sandwich?

-That the town sheriff looks like he snuck out of detention and got cast in a movie, or is possibly filling in for his dad and nobody thought to take in his uniform

-That the gratuitous nudity scene involves a pretty blond taking a shower in the manner no woman could fathom, i.e., turning on water, entering, and lightly splashing her hair. NO WOMAN WOULD MIST HER HAIR IN THE SHOWER I TELLS YA 

Now all of these things do not a good movie make, but when you add in a librarian dressed like a streetwalker, the fact that no female character owns a shirt that meets her waist, and a scene wherein Red Herring cuts out yearbook photos to put on Barbie dolls then has them hurt and kiss each other while his mother looks on adoringly, and you have a pretty satisfied customer.

High Points
It’s a nice surprise to see some pretty decent practical effects utilized for the kills

Low Points
Well, um, I suppose, the movie itself if you want to think of things like THAT. Take for example, the moment where, following the death of at least four stereoty—er, students, one of the characters mocks the fact that the town is trying to issue a curfew for its youth. At this point, I actually said out loud, “Guys, seriously: half of your prom limo is DEAD.” So I *suppose* one might fault the fact that no actual human being exists in this film as a sort of, how do you say, problem

Lessons Learned
Telling a few kids that their friends are dying based on their parents’ professions would take WAY too many man hours

A football team is a large group

Staten Island pep rallies get about the same size crowd as a screening of the Oogieloves

I can’t remember what brought Knock Knock to my instant queue, but I’m sure happy the universe deemed it there. Anyone looking for quality needs to hop back on the Staten Island ferry and head elsewhere, but if you’re in the mood for a dumb ol’ slasher with the kind of exposition laden script that STILL doesn’t make sense, this is the film for you. Despite its logic faults, there’s a real heart and positive energy to Knock Knock, coupled with some excellent gore and a clear understanding of the genre. I don’t predict a Rosemary’s Baby in Joseph Ariola’s future, but I certainly look forward to what he does next. 


  1. You have to appreciate the honesty of the review when they straight up tell you it is terrible. I love how some of the worst movies ever are some of the best at the same time.

  2. Were I ever to institute an official ratings system here, I'd have to give two numbers at all times: quality of the movie and my own enjoyment of it. I've seen bad films that are dull, good films that I never want to sit through again, and in this case, bad films that understand themselves well enough to put me in an excellent mood. 4/10 on quality, 9/10 on my enjoyment!