Horror filmmakers have become trendsetters in the distribution category recently. Films like Skinamarink, Terrifier 2, Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey, and Mad Heidi, were all released through slightly different models and have all been hugely successful in finding audiences for their brand of horror. Skinamarink went through the festival circuit first, then after highly positive reviews, earned itself a theatrical release. Terrifier 2 went nuts at the box office and set the stage for the micro-budgeted Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey to follow in its footsteps too. On the other hand, Mad Heidi distributed their film through pay-per-view over their website, creating a shop for its bonkers concept filled with bottles of absinthe, movie posters, and t-shirts catering to the movie’s biggest fans, and advertised like crazy over social media. That was how I stumbled onto Kickstarter film Kill Her Goats, who marketed the film to horror lovers over Facebook and Instagram with one immutable component: the legendary Kane Hodder.
Kill her Goats sells itself mainly on the promise of 80’s style horror of girls, gore, and… goats, I guess. With a shot on location, all practical effects film that features three Playboy playmates and promises a “slow burn home invasion thriller with a slasher twist,” and Hodder playing a slasher known as “Goatface,” My curiosity was not immune. I received my limited edition steel book last week, as promised for early pre-orders, knowing full well what I was getting myself into with the director of 2015’s Muck.
After an overlong introduction of several text panels establishing the importance of the Tupp house, we’re whisked to a woodsy tent scene where a topless woman is being proposed to by her boyfriend before grisly violence involving a goat-masked maniac with a hedge trimmer inevitably breaks out. This tells you almost all you need to know and expect from Steve Wolsh’s Kill Her Goats. Wolsh, the creator of Muck, a notoriously muddy horror movie, from the perspective of both the actors and the audience, doesn’t convey its story well at all because Muck was also supposed to be the middle movie in a planned trilogy. Does Kill Her Goats fit into that supposed trilogy? Well, that’s hard to tell, but informally, maybe. Both take place on Cape Cod, feature playmates, feature Hodder as the killer, and Kill Her Goats is releasing the week of St. Patrick’s Day when Muck took place. However, there are also the meta moments of watching the girls watch Muck on tv, right after a fashion show where Muck merchandise is displayed as Audra struggles to find appropriate eveningwear. So, if nothing else, Kill Her Goats is at least a spiritual successor.
Cinematographically, when Kill Her Goats sets up its shots, it looks great. Full wide shots of the “Tupp house” on Cape Cod look serene in the fading daylight and propose a sense of patience. There are even some time-lapsed moments of a sprawling sunset giving way to darkness that elicits phenomenal atmosphere. But these sequences are fleeting. Most of the film is a mishmash of fast-moving edits, wobbly handheld camera work, micro zooms that look like they made it into the edit while setting up establishing shots, and closeups on the girls’ physical features. However, if you’ve seen Kill Her Goats’ trailer, you’re probably not jumping into the film for its cinematic achievements. Elongated back-to-back shower scenes provide proof of that.
So, what is Kill Her Goats about? I watched it, and honestly, I’m still unsure. As far as I can tell, Audra (Arielle Raycene) moves back to West Craven, MA (a nod to the prolific director and another Muck reference), and into Tupp house, the area’s fictional local haunted house with a foreboding history. Audra invites her two friends, Reese (Monica Sims) and Missy (Ellie Gonsalvever) to celebrate by partaking in a wine-soaked weekend by the water. Meanwhile, there’s a subplot about a jealous ex-boyfriend (Skyler Seymour) and his current girlfriend (Amberleigh West) trying to get back at Audra for dumping him, and he’s also kind of mad that she moved into the Tupp house.
Almost immediately, there is confusion, and I think the filmmaker knows it. Character titles begin appearing, putting attributes and plot points under displayed character names because Wolsh knows the audience would be lost without the designation or references. The story is thin, underdeveloped, and unclear. For ninety-nine minutes, topless women and women in nothing more than their underwear are chased around by machete-wielding goat-masked killers, which, in some regard, sounds like it could be fun. It’s reminiscent of, but not nearly as good as, Slumber Party Massacre, which serves as a satirical movie about the genre, versus playing it straight, which Kill Her Goats seems to do here. Hodder deserves a lot of credit for creating Kill Her Goats’ most tense moments via stunt work and heavily sells the audience on his non-verbal acting skills. On the flip side, the pinups-turned-actresses acting are exactly as you’d think they would, speaking lines their body language isn’t always aligned with.
There is a lot wrong with Kill Her Goats. The story contains a lot of setup about a haunted place, but there’s not really anything supernatural happening except for a dream sequence that otherwise cannot be explained. Meanwhile, the rest of the film takes place in reality with a pair of intruders. Then a catfight with axes breaks out between Audra and her sister Haley (Danielle Mathers), and I don’t really know why. I rewound the scene, which involves them attacking their attacker and turning on each other. Some of the kills are fun, but besides a double hedge trimmer with sparks flying out of it and a knife that looks like it belonged to Worf on Star Trek, there’s not a ton of practical effects work worth talking about. Furthermore, the lighting in some scenes will take you out of any tension the film sets up, with dead-of-night scenes catching the sunset skyline and a sequence in a boathouse that appears to have been shot in the middle of the day or Haley running away from the lights and the crew’s shadows appearing on the grass behind her.
Ultimately, Kill Her Goats isn’t an outstanding second film from Steve Wolsh. Some will find the appeal of attractive women defending themselves in tight shirts and underwear from a masked killer appealing, albeit it’s the kind of stereotypical slasher ideology most people think of when horror fans talk about the genre. It’s best summarised by a line in Scream when the killer asks Neve Campbell’s Sidney Prescott if she likes scary movies, and she comments, “What’s the point? They’re all the same. Some stupid killer stalking some big-breasted girl who can’t act and is always running up the stairs when she should be running out the front door. It’s insulting.” That is the unfortunate place Wolsh’s Kill Her Goats lives.
Kill Her Goats can be purchased on Blu-Ray through the film’s website.