Corporate Cutthroat Massacre/The Corporate Cut Throat Massacre (2009) *½
I said in my review of Creep Creepersin’s Frankenstein that that movie was not at all what I was expecting given its creator’s background. Neither, for that matter, was He. However, with Corporate Cutthroat Massacre, I have at last seen a Creep Creepersin movie that delivers approximately the experience I figured I was in for when I first started watching his films. And that’s ironic, because Corporate Cutthroat Massacre wasn’t originally Creepersin’s work at all.
Creepersin, that is to say, stepped in to re-cut somebody else’s short horror film into a more marketable form, but ended up re-shooting it (with the original creator’s blessing and cooperation, naturally) at his idea of feature length instead. The original short was called The Late Shift. A fairly pedestrian slasher otherwise, it distinguished itself just a little with a commendably unusual setting and a Saw-like twist ending, complete with what felt like a whole second movie’s worth of flashbacks revealing that nothing we just saw happened quite the way we thought it did. As such things go, The Late Shift was a fairly competent production, but it didn’t take writer / director / producer / star Elina Madison very long to discover that no one was looking to buy a seventeen minute movie; features were fine, one-reelers were fine, but there simply was no market for anything in between. Madison had recently worked with Creepersin on Caged Lesbos a Go-Go, and the efficiency he displayed on that shoot convinced her that he was the one to salvage The Late Shift, whether by whittling it down (the initial plan) or by enlarging it (which is what ultimately happened). The irony there is that Madison’s original, unsaleable short is considerably better than Corporate Cutthroat Massacre. Creepersin may have won The Late Shift a paying audience by stretching it out from seventeen minutes to seventy, but in doing so, he turned Madison’s solid journeyman mini-slasher into a rambling and incoherent mess.
The obvious question at this point is, where did Creepersin find an additional 53 minutes in The Late Shift’s already slender premise? The answer is, he didn’t. Creepersin’s additions to the story have a different premise altogether, so that Corporate Cutthroat Massacre spends most of its running time as a clunky homage to “The Office,” turning into a slasher movie only at the denouement (although there are a few scattered hints of what’s coming earlier on). One of the newly added characters is even named Bernie Andrews (Charlie Vaughn, from Vampire Boys and Lake Dead). Bernie’s office is the call center for a company that… well, I’m sure they must do, make, or sell something, but it isn’t really important what for the purposes of this story, and it never really comes up. What is important is that the firm is in financial trouble, and that call center boss Brandi Babcock (Madison, whose non-Creepersin acting gigs have included Devil Girl and Curse of the Forty-Niner) has been told to cut two phone-jockey positions from her staff. That’s no trouble for Brandi, because she absolutely loves firing people. In fact, the first thing we see her do is to give her receptionist (Raye Robertson) the sack for taking an excessively long lunch, and later on, she fires her fawning personal assistant, Shelton (Dudley Beane, of Bad Reputation and Lovesick Captivity), for getting her dinner order wrong. Wait— dinner order? Well, layoffs are a different matter from disciplinary discharges, and Brandi wants to make sure she ditches her two very worst employees. So right at what would normally be quitting time on the Friday when the layoff order comes down, Brandi commands everyone to put together full reports of their productivity during the fiscal year to date— as in, tonight; as in, nobody goes home for the weekend until Brandi has their output numbers. Then she’ll be able to decide whom to cut on an informed basis.
Naturally, this edict does not go over well, and all of the disgruntled call center workers respond by shirking their way through the assignment in as slack and dilatory a manner as possible. Beth (Coffin’s Sunny Doench) gets drunk. Bryan (Chandler Maness, from Orgy of Blood and The Brides of Sodom) and Kim (Robbyn Leigh, of Devil’s Den and The Hanged Man) sneak away to have sex on top of the copy machine. Bernie gets even drunker than Beth after his scheme to mollify Brandi by hiring her a strip-o-gram goes awry. (“Awry” in this case meaning that he neglects to specify a male stripper.) Only John (Mostly Ghostly’s Derek Du Chesme) and Penny (Stephanie Jackson) do more or less what they’re told, which will make them look like a plausible Final Couple when Corporate Cutthroat Massacre remembers at last that it’s supposed to be a slasher movie. As for the slashing itself, we’ve got three seemingly credible suspects here. First, Shelton getting his pink slip just as he was working up the nerve to confess his love to the boss is the kind of thing that routinely turns better men than him into axe murderers in films of this sort. Secondly, there’s a new night janitor around the office, and Rusty (Frankie Ray, of Prison Planet and Blade) comes courtesy of the local penitentiary’s work release program. And finally, Brandi keeps saying that she’s going to go crazy if she doesn’t take her pills— and it seems she’s all out of pills.
There are a lot of ways to sort and categorize horror comedies, obviously, but I think the most fundamental and informative might be to draw a distinction between those that derive their humor organically from material already present within the premise, and those that attempt to graft on their laughs externally. Corporate Cutthroat Massacre is one of the rare films that don’t fit neatly into either box. Its humor proceeds organically from a premise that was itself an external graft. The clearest sign of this strange hybrid approach is the rigid segregation of horror from comedy. Throughout the entire first half, only the fate of the dawdling receptionist, waylaid en route to the elevators after cleaning out her desk, gives any indication that the massacre promised by the title might actually be forthcoming. Then, once the killings begin in earnest, the jokes stop completely, as if Creepersin’s cinematic fan letter to “The Office” had been some other movie altogether. There’s thus no mistaking the disparate origins of Corporate Cutthroat Massacre’s horror and comedy elements, and that’s the biggest single blunder Creepersin made in expanding The Late Shift to feature length. The cover of the DVD promises a cross between “The Office” and American Psycho, but the two don’t ever get around to intersecting. Whether you’re watching Corporate Cutthroat Massacre for the wacky white-collar high jinks or for the cube-farm stalk-and-slash, you can count on getting bored and cranky while it’s doing the other thing. And frankly, it isn’t effective enough in either mode to be much worth bothering with anyway.