Killer Waves (2016)
Written and directed by James Balsamo
I’ve reviewed several of James Balsamo’s films in the past. Everything I’ve seen from him has been a blast to watch and I’ve been consistently interested in what he has on the horizon. Because of this, I was excited to check out one of his newest films Killer Waves. Did it hold up to his others? Absolutely it did, so allow me to explain why.
Killer Waves centers on a highly anticipated surf competition that is just around the corner. The film jumps right in with a classic slasher opening but with Balsamo’s unique flair. The movie then shows a series of interviews with fans, Judges and competitors alike who are getting pumped about the upcoming battle of skill, pitting surfer against surfer. These scenes display the feeling and vibe of the film overall as well as establishing the scenario. Everyone involved is clearly having fun with laying down the surfer slang and immersing themselves in the culture, but in a totally hilarious over-the-top way.
It’s not all fun and games for our characters; however, as a pun-spewing murderer in a diver’s outfit is going after locals in the area. Competitors and judges alike are getting taken out of the competition in all sorts of wacky and often beach-based ways and people are starting to become concerned that they may be next. One primary focus of the film centers around writer/director James Balsamo’s character Axel; a famous surfboard carver, and his friends. They’re not about to let a few murders spoil their partying and they live it up, all while getting cut down.
The movie as whole is largely about the colorful array of entertaining characters paired with the creative slicing and dicing. Our diving-helmet wearing villain is clearly having a grand ‘ol time, making quips about each murder and reveling in the excitement of it all. A distorted voice is used and it adds not only to the anonymity to the character, but aides the personality as well. All the while, cops in the area are hellbent on finding the troublesome slasher and are suspicious of everyone.
In classic Balsamo style, Killer Waves is packed with cameos from all sorts of talented people and there’s no shortage of familiar faces. These cameos include Pantera frontman/legend Phil Anselmo, cult perennials such as Edward X Young and Shawn C. Phillips, cult director Joel M. Reed, all-around fantastic actor Chris Mulkey and those are just a few examples. Along with these talented people is a wonderful soundtrack featuring the likes of Cropsy Maniac, Contemplating Murder and Immortal Suffering along with many others. The music keeps up with the lively pace of the film and the visual to song dynamic is effective.
One thing about Killer Waves that I especially took note of is how it manages to be two different things at once. On one hand, it’s a simple story with an even pacing. It’s not difficult to get on board with and the running time going by smoothly. But on the other hand, it’s a ball of energy that never takes a moment to slow down too much. Two characters simply having a conversation is fun to watch as its all heightened emotion with every player just going for it with their performance.
The film knows just what its audience wants and delivers. It’s wall-to-wall with wacky quips, plentiful nudity and a multitude of inventive kills. From electric eels to chainsaws, the victims meet their end in often unexpected ways. None of the kills are repetitive and the film knows how to ride the line between playfully oddball and gory.
Little by little we get more insight into the killer’s motives and while I certainly won’t spoil the ending, I thought it was perfect for the film. It ends on the right note accompanied by twists and turns along the way. The whole experience goes by quickly, but in a good way. Nothing in the film felt dull or unnecessarily slow to me. It’s vibrant and colorful and I had a great time with it.
All in all, I recommend the film to anyone that loves campy flicks that are all about the fun. It’s packed with people who give it their all and through the cheesy puns and tongue-and-cheek gore is a film that I was glad I saw. It knows exactly what it is and I dug it. So surf’s up and check it out!
Review by P.J. Griffin