Color, 1981, 86m.
Directed by Bryan Quisenberry
Starring Pepper Martin, Hank Worden, Ethan Wayne, Ann Bronston
Media Blasters (US R1 NTSC)

For reasons never quite explained, a handful of river rafters decide to head downstream to an isolated Texas ghost town for some rest and relaxation. Soon their rafts have sabotaged, and one by one they’re being picked off by an unseen predator. Could it be the pair of helpful dirt bikers who show up out of nowhere? Or what about Woody Strode popping up on a horse to tell a weird story about sea captains? Or perhaps it’s one of the rafters themselves? Your guess is as good as the filmmaker’s.

Made at the height of the theatrical slasher boom, this flimsy attempt at a stalk-and-slash film (also known as The Outing) somehow became a VHS mainstay despite the absence of any notable gore or, more importantly, a compelling or even coherent storyline. The creators quite obviously fling their hands in the air and give up by the time the film limps to its conclusion, and aside from some mildly atmospheric location shots and a vaguely creepy opening, one-shot director Quisenberry shows little affinity for the horror genre, choosing to let his camera wander around at will while the murders happen mostly off-camera. The major point of interest here is the odd cast of character actors including Pepper Martin (Walking Tall, Superman II, Return to Horror High), Hank Worden (The Ice Pirates, Chisum), a young Ethan Wayne (son of John), and most surprisingly, bit parts for Alvy Moore (A Boy and His Dog, The Witchmaker) and action/western favorite Woody Strode. That said, there’s a certain homegrown charm at work here if you’re willing to coast along with the soporific pacing and oddball tangents.

Media Blasters’ DVD release retains the eye-catching sickle artwork from the tape release and might provoke a minor nostalgia rush among horror completists. Not surprisingly, the transfer is a huge improvement over the Vestron’s typically washed-out, sludgy presentation on tape, with the 16mm photography coming across about as well as it could given the cheap shooting conditions. Former stuntman Quisenberry pops up for the most notable extra here, an audio commentary moderated by Marc Edward Hueck (who can also be heard on Cheerleaders’ Wild Weekend). It’s a fun listen that goes some way to explaining the intentions behind the film, which was intended to be a more suggestive alternative to the boobs-and-blood offerings at the box office. The stories about the director’s other careers are much more interesting, though he has a few worthwhile anecdotes about how he roped in some familiar faces for the shoot on such short notice. Other extras include the theatrical trailer and TV spot, a stills gallery, and additional trailers for Just Before Dawn, Killing Birds, Cop Killers, and Evils of the Night.


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