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There are certain weapons that have become trusty favorites of slasher movie killers. The machete, the chainsaw, the butcher knife, the glove with razor sharp fingernails…just to name a few. Things can get a bit tired, though, if we don’t have some originality every now and then. So, why use a meat cleaver when you can snag people with a fishing lure? That’s the weapon of choice in 1987’s Blood Hook.
The mayhem takes place in the backwoods of Wisconsin where the annual Muskie Madness festival is about to start. Folks come from all over to try and land the biggest catch, and see the giant fiberglass muskie (an actual landmark you can visit in Hayward, Wisconsin). We follow a group of college kids led by Tom “Finner” Finnegan (Christopher Whiting) who has his eye on winning the contest. His friends aren’t as keen on fishing, but are cool with spending some time at a secluded lake house. Even though some of the local fishermen are kind of jerks, Finner and his friends start to settle in, and get a bit friendly with the bubbly hostess of the contest, Bev D (Sandy Meuwissen).
It doesn’t take long, though, for the trouble to begin. It starts when Bev D’s young son is injured while playing by the lake; cut by a fishing hook of unknown origin. Things get more serious, though, when one of Finner’s buddies is hooked while lounging in a boat. He’s dragged into the lake, never to be heard from again. Gradually, more and more people begin to disappear. So our young heroes need to team up with some of the local oddballs to find out who is taking the idea of hooking the biggest fish to a new, bloody extreme.
Blood Hook was directed by Jim Mallon, who is most famous for his contributions to Mystery Science Theater 3000. He directed over 75 episodes of the show as well as Mystery Science 3000: The Movie, and was the original performer of the character Gypsy. So, it should come as no surprise that Blood Hook was not really intended as a straight up horror film. The filmmakers were clearly trying to go for laughs. Strangely, though, the comedy is the weakest part of the film. Most of the gags just don’t land, so as a comedy the film flops around like a fish on a pier.
On the other hand, I found the horror element of the film to be somewhat intriguing. The idea of a killer fisherman who hooks his victims is a bit silly, I’ll admit. Yet, it’s also a very original concept that is not without promise. The scenes in which the killer strikes, though crudely executed, do have some legitimate horror to them. The scenes aren’t overly bloody, but seeing someone snared by the stomach with a big ole fish hook sure looked like a horrible and painful experience. It may have helped that I’ve always had a certain nervousness about fishing hooks. When I was a kid I saw someone get caught with one by eyebrow when a nearby fisherman was less than accurate with his cast. Ouch!
When it comes to the horror element, this film does push the envelope a bit. After all, the first victim is a little kid! The tyke survives, and it’s not a graphic scene, but still, how many films start the mayhem with a toddler almost being the first casualty? The creepiest element of the film comes with the reveal that the killer keeps the bodies of his victims tied to a rope, hooked through their mouths, in the water under the pier…just like how a fisherman might keep the fish he snagged. It’s a bizarre and creepy image that really worked for me.
Unfortunately, I think the filmmakers misjudged what they had here. Even though the film’s killer uses a ridiculous weapon, they had a promising horror film on their hands. The attempts at comedy, though, seriously derail things. The worst is the joke that what drives the killer to commit his crimes is the screeching of the cicadas…those big bugs that only emerge from the ground once every seventeen years…causing a reaction with the metal plate in his head. That means that every kill scene (and several others) feature an incessant sound effect that is a bit like a baby rattle mixed with the tune of someone dragging their fingernails down a blackboard.
Blood Hook is a film that has its moments, but it is ultimately a misguided effort. As a horror film it has some definite creativity that isn’t allowed to reach its full potential. As a comedy, it’s a dead fish.