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The Dark and Depraved: Films for the Halloween Season – Blood Shack

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One of my favorite exploitation directors is Ray Dennis Steckler. He was able to do so much with so little and build an exhuberant character out of his films. From his horror films to his comedies, they were all so charismatic. He had a keen eye on focus and his surroundings that filming in the Nevada landscape felt like he was filming from another world. The Thrill Killers, The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies to Rat Pfink a Boo Boo, the surreal nature of Cash Flagg, Carolyn Brandt (his wife), Atlas King, and the amateur cast of his films all shone brightly under Steckler’s eye. These films will forever be loved.

Blood Shack was released in 1971. One of Steckler’s later films, it’s a quick jaunt of horror, clocking in just under an hour. It took three days to make with a simple plot. A house in the middle of Death Valley is haunted by a killer (Ron Haydock), who plays the role of a mythological-like killer called The Chooper. Don’t go into the house or The Chooper will get ya! People who go into this abandoned house come out as corpses.

The film is unabashedly enriched by Steckler’s style. The way the photography is angled, the inconsistency in sound (sometimes the dialogue between two or more people are slightly awash with the technology and budget at the time), the glorious attention to soundtrack. It’s a great slasher flick that despite the imperfections is an attractive horror flick.

The people Steckler picked to star in the film are unique. Haydock who was also known for his music career as Ron Haydock and The Boppers helped write the script.

Brandt (more importantly her legs)

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makes a post-Mixed-Up Zombies appearance. Then there is Daniel (Jason Wayne)

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and his mustache. As far as I can deduce, he is the caretaker of the house. The one that warns people not to go inside. If they heed his warning, well, like Connie (Laurel Spring) did then too bad for you.

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The murder chase scene is brilliant, done so chaotically, Spring could have just been running back and forth but it turns that chicken shack into the size of a mansion with a death scene that’s excruciatingly prolonged.

The Stecklers (Laura and Linda), just children back then, are also in the film. And by far the most interesting role, Peanuts the Horse gets due credit.

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Back to Carolyn Brandt, those legs do some walking in this film. As the owner of the ranch, she makes an appearance after the first murder to make a decision whether to keep it or sell. The more she gets to know her real estate, the more she learns of its darkside.
Why Daniel can freely go in and out of this house with no worry that The Chooper will get him I believe it stems from a magical shield within that sweet stache of his. Or, a more logical conclusion is that they are both in cahoots to keep the property from being torn down. As for anyone else, it does not matter if they are inside or out, the beast with the one easy piece will hunt you down.

Brandt ushers spoken word like a series of LiveJournal entries as it was recited by Surrealist Joseph Cornell. As people come to investigate the house, they get branded by The Chooper. One instant, The Chooper jumps from the roof, murders while half grunting, half chuckling gets in the guys car and takes off for no . apparent . reason! Plot details, this movie has not.

But even mustache was not immune to The Chooper as the killer finally came after him. Possibly a case of mistaken identity, or tired of the way Daniel struts around shirtless, the noise caught Brandt’s attention. Not so quick to investigate, The Chooper went on a wild rampage and the climactic chase scene around the house ending with a climactic fight with The Chooper and Daniel. But in true Scooby Doo fashion, Daniel reveals that The Chooper was just Tim Foster, the guy who really and I mean REALLY wants to buy the ranch.

And just as Daniel is giving his last stache-stained breath, he tells Brandt, “Whatever you do, do not go into that old house or The Chooper really will get ya!”

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