If you know who Tim Ritter is, you most likely know him as the director of the video store horror shelf staple, Truth or Dare?: A Critical Madness. In the late 80s, the movie really set the junior high schools (now called middle schools) abuzz with whispers of late night cable viewings of the crazy movie. There were half-believed ramblings of a man putting a grenade in his mouth, self-mutilation, boobs, etc. My pathological liar friend swore up and down that he was telling the truth (this time) about the insane shit that he witnessed in Truth or Dare?. Of course, I didn’t believe him. It was a fool-me-10,000-times type of scenario. Because of this, I never actually got around to watching the film. I will rectify that very soon. So, why am I writing about it then? Well, I’m just trying to give you a frame of reference here.
Ritter followed his surprisingly (relatively) successful film up with Killing Spree. It didn’t do as well as Truth or Dare? and it hasn’t gained the cult following that it deserves in the decades since its release. It most certainly should have. It delivers the cult horror goods – there are creatively gory kills, groan-worthy lines of dialogue, archetypical characters, shoestring budget effects, and delightfully what-the-shit? plot developments.
The film centers on husband and wife, Tom and Leeza Russo. He is an airplane mechanic struggling to make ends meet. Partly because he refuses to let his wife get a job. Tom needs to provide for her in order to feel worthy as a man, I guess. Whatever the reason, he is taking more hours at work to try to get out from under their financial strain. Fatigue and stress push him over the edge and he starts to have vivid paranoiac fantasies of his wife cheating on him during her long hours spent at home. He needs to work, but he’s compelled to stay home to keep an eye on her. This, of course, piles on even more stress. So, what does he do? He kills every dude who comes into contact with his wife. Natch! Problem is, they won’t stay dead. (OH SHIT!) Despite his violent insanity, Ritter manages to make the viewer sympathize with him. Sure, our protagonist’s jealous rage and outmoded idea of marriage might be backwards but his heart is in the right place, darn it!
THE FINAL CUT: The dreamy atmosphere (and literal dream sequences) of Killing Spree belies some artistic effort. This dirty little ode to Romero and various slashers stands out among the chaff of zero-budget eighties horror for its heart. It comes off as a fun labor of love that overcomes its scripting and budget shortfalls.