Judge Gordon Sullivan's movie, Killer Rowboat Picnic, didn't fare all that well.
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There's something like a holy trinity of horror movie setups: killer, location, victims. Get at least one of them right and there's potential for a good fright flick. Many of our more memorable slasher flicks went for a solid killer—Freddy, Jason, Michael—while others focus on some victim pool—high school cheerleaders, arctic scientists, campers. Killer Yacht Party (a.k.a. Dead in the Water) goes for location, stranding its targets on a ocean-bound boat with a nasty killer in the hopes of getting a few scares. Although it has a strong plot device, the film can't quite overcome a series of unlikeable characters and been-there, done-that kills to be more than average.
Jane is a Midwestern gal who's just moved to glitzy L.A., and her friend Lucy is intent on showing the sheltered young girl the city lights. The pair get invited to a party taking place on a yacht. Little do they know, however, that the yacht is the target of a killer bent on revenge. Once the boat leaves the dock, there's little to stop the mad killer from wrecking havoc on Jane and her companions.
Killer Yacht Party has a pretty sweet conceit with a booze-cruise turned bad. However, the film makes a few mistakes that keep it from being great:
• It's called Killer Yacht Party; get them on the *%ing yacht! I know it's important to set up your characters and the scenario, etc., but the faster a horror flick gets to the carnage, the better. KYP takes over 20 minutes (about a quarter of the run time) to get the girls firmly on the yacht. This is unacceptable. Before that we get the motivating prologue (where we sorta, kinda find out why the killer wants to kill), the introduction of our two heroines (amazingly, one is shy and the other is an outgoing partier!), their bonding, and some creepy shenanigans from the party staff. All of this (with the exception of the killer's motivation) could have been handled on the boat, which would have increased the tension and moved the story along. As it is, the film feels long despite its acceptable length because it takes too long getting to the party.
• The audience has to root for somebody. I wanted pretty much everybody on the yacht to die. With the exception of Jane, they're all pretty self-absorbed, annoying characters who are hard to care about. Jane, however, is a bit too cookie-cutter to really sympathize with; the whole "sweet Midwestern gal" thing has been done to death. On the flip side, I didn't really care about the murderer, either. Sure, revenge is a tried and true motivation for killing a bunch of people on a boat, but this character is missing that extra something that would make me care about all the killing.
On the plus side, Killer Yacht Party does feature a few clever kills, and the production values and cinematography show a great degree of competence than films at this budget are known for. Finally, fans will likely appreciate the number of ladies willing to go scantily clad and/or nude throughout the film. It might not be enough to make up for the film's slow pace, but at least it's there.
There was a good stretch there when everything Troma touched turned to utter crap in the digital realm. Whether made in house or acquired through licensing, Troma releases were filled with shoddy transfers and so-so extras. That era is past now, and Killer Yacht Party is solid proof of their commitment to releasing even obscure films in a decent fashion. With its 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer, KYP looks pretty solid for a low-budget film. Compression artifacts crop up a bit in the darker scenes, but otherwise this transfer has a good amount of detail and decent saturation. The stereo audio track is similarly strong for this kind of film. The dialogue, though sometimes lame, comes through loud and clear, balanced well with the score and sound effects.
The main extra is a commentary by director Piotr Uzarowicz and writer Alex Silver. It's a pretty lively track, with the pair discussing how they met and got started on the film, as well as its production and budget constraints. There's a "slideshow" that runs less than 30 seconds featuring stills from the production, and the rest of the extras are "Tromatic," including PSAs and trailers. Lloyd Kaufman and Debbie Rochon appear for a cheesy introduction.
Killer Yacht Party is a fairly generic take on the slasher genre that squanders a strong premise on with a slow pace and unlikeable characters. Fans of low-budget filmmaking may enjoy the commentary, but there's little else to recommend this film.
Guilty of being generic.
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