Director Spencer Parsons (I’ll Come Running) introduced Saturday Morning Massacre to a packed crowd of horror film enthusiasts late Tuesday night as something you would see if you stayed up all night watching B-horror films (while possibly indulging in some “Scooby snacks”) and now the sun is coming up, cartoons are on, you are eating a massive bowl of sugar (i.e. Count Chocula), and you find yourself starting to doze off. Massacre follows four paranormal activity detectives (plus their dog Hamlet) as they try and solve mysteries that seem to be due to ghosts or other mysterious activity, but (much like the Saturday morning cartoon they seem to emulate) these amateur detectives uncover more misdeeds than ghosts on their missions. A promising job (meaning they will actually get paid) comes in, and group leader Nancy (Ashley Spillers) has the crew pile into Frankie’s (Sean Ryan) van (which has yet to prove to be mysterious) and head to a mansion that appears to be haunted.
On their way to the mansion, the van starts to break down and as they try and to figure out what the problem is, Officer Lance (Paul Gordon) pulls over to check on the group. When he realizes their destination, he warns them against staying the night in the house and, clearly taken with Nancy, offers to come by after his shift to check on everyone. Nancy is confident that everything will be fine and is excited at the prospect of a paying job, but even more so, the possibility that they may encounter some real paranormal activity.
Upon arrival, the group spreads out to place video surveillance cameras throughout the house and we learn that Gwen (Josephine Decker) and Floyd (Jonny Mars), the defacto “Daphne” and “Fred” of the group, are a couple, while Nancy and Frankie, the “Velma” and “Shaggy,” also seem to have a history together. Despite their interpersonal relationships, the group quickly gets to work inspecting the house, listening for unusual noises, and monitoring dark corners. Just when it seems the film may be going the ol’ “Scooby-Doo route” of someone making it seem as though the house is haunted (when it really isn’t), axes begin to fly and heads begin to roll, proving that the group are dealing with something much more terrifying (and deadly) than restless spirits.
However, Saturday Morning Massacre is more than just a more gruesome, live-action Scooby-Doo movie; it combines various horror styles from B-movies to slasher films to found footage making this a must-see for horror fans. Despite touching on so many different genres, Parsons succeeds in keeping things consistent and not veering too far off course, bringing everything back together in the end and proving that everything you may have noticed throughout the film was for a reason. The relatively green (and unknown) cast is a bit clunky as they work to bring the story and their characters to life, but they commit to each scene which makes up for their lack of experience. Overall, Saturday Morning Massacre is a fun time at the movies with a story that will make you jump out of your seat as much as chuckle at Frankie seeming to turn into his cartoon counterpart.
The Upside: Parsons is clearly a horror fan and does a fantastic job of seamlessly combining the different genres he draws from while also throwing an unexpected (and hilarious) twist into the mix. Saturday Morning Massacre succeeds as a horror with touches of drama and comedy all while spoofing a Saturday morning cartoon and giving slight nods to films such as Carrie (think blood-soaked girl) and Scream (think doofy deputy).
The Downside: Spillers embodies wide-eyed, ghost-chasing optimist Nancy with skill, but when things begin to unravel and it becomes clear that their innocent ghost hunt has much deadlier consequences, Spillers fails to turn up the terror and deliver a decent horror movie scream.
On the Side: Saturday Morning Massacre marks Spillers’ first leading role in a feature and, if you were impressed with her work here, you will have many more opportunities to catch her in the upcoming films The Bystander Theory, Loves Her Gun, The Bounceback, and Dear Sidewalk. Pretty good for a girl who only recently got her start, back in 2009!