April 5, 2018 Party Bus to Hell (Movie Review)
Between life and hunting down Bill Murray in 2017’s The Bill Murray Experience, Sadie Katz (Wrong Turn 6: Last Resort 2014, Blood Feast 2016) got to star in the vehicle known as Party Bus to Hell. Set for release in theaters and on VOD April 13th, written by Director Rolfe Kanefsky (Dead Scared 2004, Adventures into the Woods 2012), and based on a story by Producers Mike and Sonny Mahal (Last Day of School 2016, Art of the Dead 2018), Party Bus to Hell is, well, about a bus trip that goes wrong. It is Party Bus to Hell after all. Not Party Bus to Aberystwyth or wherever. Least Aberystwyth has a beach.
Getting back to business; Joan (Katz) is driving a bus of bright young things off to the Burning Man Festival. It starts off so well until they end up breaking down amidst some Satanists in the middle of the desert. Chaos ensues, leaving only seven survivors trapped aboard the bus, fighting for their lives as they begin to wonder if all is as it seems. Though, should potential viewers give it a go or a miss?
Well, it is not exactly a serious affair. If it had a mission statement, it would probably consist of the 3 B’s- Blood, Banter, and Boobs. The intro hints at the blood that is to come, followed by the banter (“I’m not that kind of girl” “What, you have a penis?”), and then the boobs as the party goes into full swing. It escalates from there, with grisly rituals, various topless women, and referential humour (“The hill haves eyes…ears, noses and throats…”). Anything beyond that seems to be there to keep it from being a mondo-style collage of bits.
The performances are okay for the most part. Tara Reid (American Pie 1999, Sharknado film series) gets top billing, but then so did Bryan Cranston in 2014’s Godzilla. She is not that great, though her moment stands out. It is a little harder picking out the Aaron Taylor-Johnson of the piece though. The survivors are played fine, but they are kind of bland beyond their quirks. Alan (Richard Hochman: Everyone Wants Theirs series, Tide Waters 2014) is the jerk who takes charge. Reese (ViDonna Michaels: The Beautiful Life series, Clean Break 2007) is the put-upon girlfriend of the cowardly Warren (Ben Stobber: The Immortal Wars series, Ten Violent Women Two 2017), Ivy (Shelby McCullough: Classacts 2018) is the lesbian, etc.
Though if anyone does stand out, it is likely to be Katz herself. She goes from sardonic to insane over the course of the film, and she is not bad at it either. In her documentary, she noted how she got fan mail over her role in Wrong Turn 6 where she goes crazy. It certainly looks like she brought that madness with her, as her wild eyes and gestures are rather effective. It is possible she manages to be more intimidating than the Satanists themselves.
Collectively, they are a force as creepy as they are deadly. When they are not groping each other, moaning or getting softcore like a Shannon Tweed film, they are eating or playing with bits of gore. Though they do not have much character beyond that. Their leader (John Molinaro: Pool Party Massacre 2017, Before the Dark 2017) and High Priestess (Nailya Shakirova: Betrothed 2016, Dirty Dealing 3D 2018) do what their roles demand, but they do not have a lot to do. One of the survivors compares them to Mad Max villains, but they are more like the gang in 1976’s Assault on Precinct 13; fearsome, but with little personality.
Additionally, the camerawork and editing could have been better, as there are a couple of odd shots and cuts, but it is not that bad. It pulls off some nice aerial shots of the desert, and the action is framed okay. But its inventive turns look odd, like having a character talk straight to the camera when she is supposed to be talking to someone locked behind a door. The sound is mostly okay too, with some nice if unremarkable hard rock tunes. That said, some of the dubbed-over stock screams may be a little too familiar to some. Pretty sure one of them has appeared in anything, if not everything vaguely spooky since the early 1990s. But one takes what they can get.
So, what can be said overall about Party Bus to Hell? The acting is fine but not great. Similarly, the gore effects and costumes work, though the brief bits of CG are rough. The camera and sound have some nice turns, but it has plenty of sticking moments. Then there is the script, which is dumb, but the writers know it and make it part of the fun. It has some charm in its Troma-like approach to cheap thrills, and it does it better than some but not as good as others. So, call this a cautious recommendation; watch it once or twice on VOD with like-minded friends. For these reasons, CrypticRock gives Party Bus to Hell 2.5 out of 5 stars.