Horror fans can't get enough of the cabin the woods. Long before Joss Whedon used the phrase as a title for his 2011 cult hit, the rural homestead had been a mainstay of horror. In Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), an isolated farm becomes the setting for some horrific goings-on. The Friday the 13th series turned the summer camp experience into a journey to the darkest part of the forest. Sam Raimi's Evil Dead I and II, made the cabin in the woods a synonym for "the place you go to get killed."
On Aug. 2, Charleston horror aficionados can revisit these primal fears with the premier of director Tommy Faircloth's Dorchester's Revenge: The Return of Crinoline Head. This new feature is a sequel to his 1996 film, Crinoline Head that introduced indie horror fans to Dorchester Stewart, a.k.a. Crinoline Head, a murderous maniac with serious mommy issues. In the original film, a group of college students go to party at a secluded lake house. One of the students, Paul Donner, discovers that the cabin has a gruesome history intertwined with Stewart and his doll-maker mother. Much hacking and slashing ensues.
Faircloth's new film tells the story of a group of history students who discover that their professor, Paul Donner from the first film, survived a weekend massacre back in the '90s. They decide to reenact the weekend. Guess who's back for more murderous mayhem.
A few jaded movie-goers might see this story as the same old slasher formula, now appearing with crinoline — or the material petticoats were made out of in the hoop skirt days around his neck — and a broken baby doll face instead of a hockey mask. But Faircloth is likely to add more than a little parody into the mix.
"There's a serious and creepy tone," Faircloth says of his film, "and then boom — crazy out of nowhere." Although self-parody has itself become formulaic in the slasher genre since Wes Craven's Scream, Faircloth's inspirations are a bit further afield. The horror movies of the '80s employed plenty of campy humor (Return of the Living Dead, April Fool's Day), and Faircloth's love of the genre grew out of over-the-top '80s flicks like the Sleepaway Camp series.
Faircloth has spent a lot of time thinking about the lurking horror of the backwoods. He wrote and directed the award-winning short The Cabin (2013) before seeking funding for this feature-length sequel to his earlier work. Fan demand for a sequel to the original Crinoline Head helped drive Faircloth's latest project. "It's been 19 years since the first film and fans of the original have asked about another film for years" Faircloth says.
Faircloth shot the bulk of Crinoline Head in Charleston, and it features a number of local actors, including Kirsten Ray of Mt. Pleasant and Elizabeth Mears of Summerville. Local drag performers Ava Clear and Vega Vega have cameos. The leads are Jason Vail (a character actor with a small part in the recent film Tammy) and Debbie Rochon, an indie horror icon who has appeared in an incredible number of scare flicks over two decades and >writes a regular column for Fangoria, the flagship magazine for horror fans since the '70s.
Dorchester's Revenge will premiere Sat. Aug. 2 at Sterett Hall on the Navy Yard. Tickets are $20. For more information, visit horsecreekproductions.net