When Fan Film and Fun Collide: Voorhees Night of the Beast

I still fondly recall the times when I thought I saw Bigfoot in the woods near Cicero swamp in North Syracuse, NY back in the mid seventies. To be precise, I believed I saw this elusive being twice. Following in the footprints of the infamous Patterson film, the cryptoid was all the rage. Bigfoot was in the movies, he had television cartoon shows, and guest appearances on The Six MIllion Dollar Man (played by pro wrestling legend Andre The Giant.). Bigfoot obsessed my life, and molded my nightmarish imagination, along with fellow simian tropes in Planet of the Apes and King Kong. So naturally it was only a matter of time before, I thought I saw Bigfoot.

That day came on September early in the school year of either 1975 or 1976. Shawn was old enough to talk, and he was born in spring of 1974, so it was likely late summer of ‘76.  On this day me and my friends were exploring the woods near our houses, and ahead of us on the trail I saw something. It was tall, and tan, and hairy. It turned its head to look at me and I swear to GOD it was Bigfoot. I ran screaming down the trail, scared to death. Adult me believes I actually saw a deer, but hindsight is 20/20. Terrified me went home and made no secret of what I believed I saw.  I made a stink about it at school, too.

About a week later, playing outside, my little brother and I saw something across the creek running by our house. We about shit ourselves. I swear to God. 

It was another Bigfoot… almost in our back fucking yard.

We ran inside and told our mother. She looked out the window and she saw it, too, across the creek, standing in the tree line, its arms in the air, menacing us  My mother called the cops. The neighborhood teenagers in the Halloween costume and shag rug combo were lucky the cops didn’t shoot them. Yep. I said Halloween costume and shag rug combo. They had heard my story of seeing Bigfoot, and decided to cash in on the practical joke. My mother, hysterical and none too pleased, ended any further Bigfoot entertainment in the household. 

Dial ahead to end of the decade, a few years later. My sister has been born, we’ve moved, and the Bigfoot phenomena is replaced by a new horror sub-genre, the slasher killer. Now, I’m not a big fan of teen slasher movies. Outside of the OG Halloween, the genre has never appealed to me. It’s not that I think they’re bad movies, I just don’t enjoy them. But add a Bigfoot to the mix, and who knows I might watch it! Enter VOORHEES: NIGHT OF THE BEAST. Jason vs. fucking Bigfoot.

I’ve been following indy filmmaker Jason Pitts’ career for sometime, from his start as a producer and writer for TCW wrestling, to his short films that are burning up the genre convention film festival circuit. Alone and Masquerade (the latter features one of the stand outs of VOORHEES: NIGHT OF THE BEAST, Ms. Alivea Disney). Jason has a future ahead of him in the horror film industry. His desire and drive to make quality motion pictures shows in his work. I’m impressed, frankly, with how quickly Pitts has grown. With each successive film he’s put out, he’s improved on his previous work, learning from the mistakes he may have made, and capitalizing on his strengths as both a screen writer and director. 

My biggest issue with this film is with its lack of suspense. The pacing is a mess, in fact, there is no pacing at all. And I suspect this all might be because of the score. The music in the movie is distracting and doesn’t contribute to anything other than distracting you. There’s no recognizable theme in the music and it hurts the final product. Movie scores help add to the thrill. John Williams and the JAWS theme, for example. Even the KILL MOMMY echoing chant so familiar with the Friday the 13th franchise rings true of this. And we don’t get it, or a copyright free knock-off, as often as we should. As a result, there is no suspense. I regret the full songs in the film, written and performed by regional band Primal Apathy, are forgettable, but they do give the movie some of that Eighties metal feel.

This isn’t to say the movie is bad. Because it’s not. Pointing out the weaknesses in a production isn’t by any means an indicator of my opinion of the film as a whole. When watching, you can see Jason’s intent with VOORHEES: NIGHT OF THE BEAST was to pay homage to Friday the 13th, a venerable franchise he adores. He succeeds, to some degree, but not in the manner he intended, I think. And it’s through a trio of thought out tropes:

The quirky, small town characters gracing the screen, the kills, and the monsters.

You see, whether or not Pitts intended it, this movie is laugh out loud, full on belly laugh hilarious. And it’s mostly because of the aforementioned supporting players and the creatures, not because of star in the making Disney or Jason’s eye. They’re both destined to do more than independent films, and the supporting cast is just as stellar. Pitts’ screenplay and the manner in which said supporting cast delivers their lines reminded me of Eli Roth’s CABIN FEVER and its bizarre cast of locals, including the legendary Kung Fu kid. 

The kills in the film are fantastic, and without spoiling any of them, they’ll be the talk of the horror community in the coming weeks, both good AND bad. It’s another Jason, Jason Mansfield, who gets this done. The man suffered a stroke during post production, but Pitts was still able to utilize sound and film editing to get the job done. It helped save on the special effects budget, I’m sure. But Pitts and Mansfield didn’t skimp on the blood. If you want gore, you will get it in buckets with mostly ingenious ways to spread it.

As good as the kills are, it’s the action captured during the inevitable final battle between Jason and fucking Bigfoot that brings me the most joy. PItts’ experience as a pro wrestling booker helped contribute to the final battle’s choreography, and its storytelling, which is some of the better storytelling in the film! It’s laugh out loud hilarious.

The Jason costume is dead on. James Stokes did a wonderful job of stepping into the jumpsuit and hockey mask ensemble. The Bigfoot costume on Jacob Southwick didn’t work for me. I hate to say it, the hybrid costume the teenagers scared me and my brother with back in the day was more realistic. But rather than distract, this actually adds to the campiness of the film. Southwick, playing dual roles in the movie, did a great job of hamming it up in the outfit. 

And this is what makes it work, the balance between an authentic looking Jason and the garage sale special Bigfoot. As a result, the climatic battle takes on a personality of its own. It’s simply fun to watch the two duke it out and almost surreal to watch. 

I wish Jason utilized a ring announcer: In this corner, weighing in at just over an Ikea carpet and macrame planter, an uncanny valley version of Bigfoot. And in this corner, the epitome of the teen slasher, complete with a Spirit Halloween Store machete. DING DING DING! The fight is on and it’s simply fun to watch the two duke it out.

You could replace the Primal Apathy song playing in the background with the Benny Hill theme, speed up the frame rate to match the hyperkentic fun of Yakety Sax (that’s the song’s name) and this final fight would be the match of the century.  

 Though flawed, VOORHEES: NIGHT OF THE BEAST is superior to many fan films you’ll see on YouTube. It won’t go down as one of the best fan films made, but it will be remembered for presenting a unique and fun approach in the manner it pays homage to a beloved film franchise. It’s worth the hour to give it your attention. To be honest, I believe it will gain a cult status because of its campiness, and I would call that a double win for the filmmaker. 

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