Color, 1987, 87 mins. 57 secs. / 106 mins. 47 secs.
Directed by Tim Ritter
Starring Asbestos Felt, Courtney Lercara
Terror Vision (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD),SRS Cinema (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 NTSC)
Back in the early days of homemade horror (circa 1985 to 1990), the game was small with only a few significant players. Brave video explorers could thrill to the zero-budget, hazy delights of 16mm and shot-on-video cardboard terror thanks to The Ripper, Boardinghouse, and Gore-Met, Zombie Chef from Hell, to name but a few. Among such disreputable company, Tim Ritter earned a small but loyal cult reputation thanks to his unorthodox insistence on including such elements as plot, identifiable locations, dark humor, and outrageous gore. For those who have never sampled his homemade dementia, his second opus, Killing Spree offers an appropriately insane introduction.
After losing much of his paycheck at work, sad sack Tom (the creatively named Asbestos Felt) suffers from a nasty inferiority complex that extends to his half-year marriage to Leeza (Courtney Lercara). When he finds her diary filled with sexual fantasies involving all of the men in her life, Tom finally snaps and, after indulging in an outrageous fantasy in which his wife's head turns into a giant, rubbery pair of lips perfect for "giving head," he hunts down each of the possible cuckolders (with a few other innocent parties mowed down - literally - along the way) on the way to a wacko, zombie-filled finale.
Unmistakably a product of the gorehound era, Killing Spree is packed with cartoonish, splatter-packed murder scenes involving a spinning-blade ceiling fan, an old woman's face pounded to mush, a simultaneous disemboweling/electrocution, and many more, all designed for an FX artist's greatest hits reel. The acting is all stylized and over the top, which will either delight viewers or grate on their nerves depending on their mood. Felt spends much of his time leering into the camera and pulling faces as he eviscerates the cast, with some deliberately groan-worthy one-liners tossed in for good measure. Featuring an ambiance similar to the early efforts H.G. Lewis (who gets a nod in the closing credits), the film's Florida locales have a seedy, realistic quality that makes the film all the more unique and effective, with some startling mood lighting thrown to keep the visuals interesting. If you want glossy, sophisticated thrills, forget it; if you want an evening of unapologetic splatter and bargain-basement fun, slip on your hip boots and get ready to wade.
Looking about as good as it could possibly get, Killing Spree was shot on scrappy 16mm with a video history detailed on the 2003 disc from SRS (then Sub Rosa) by director Tim Ritter in the first of two audio commentaries. Ritter exhaustively covers everything you could possibly want to know about the film, including stories behind the cast members, details about the make-up creations, and much, much more. The second track features actors Felt, Joel D Wynkoop and R.M. Hoopes, all of whom jokingly recall making the film and offer alternate stories to the Ritter track. The most astonishing extra is a making-of compilation/feature that runs longer than the film itself, packing in tons of behind the scenes footage and cast interviews, with an intro by horror starlet Debbie Rochon. If you're a Ritter fan, you certainly get your money's worth.
The film was later reissued on DVD in 2007 from Camp Motion Pictures with the same extras, but a weird wrinkle turned up when it hit Blu-ray in 2019 from SRS (as an actual pressed disc instead of their usual BD-R format) featuring the usual version we know and love (along with both commentaries) as well a new "director's cut" running 106 minutes, nearly 20 minutes longer than the release version. However, it's basically just lots of padding (Ritter now refers to it more accurately as a "rough cut") with various chunks of footage deleted during post-production. It's interesting to see once, but the standard cut is the one that plays a lot tighter and makes for a better introduction. The extended cut also comes with its own Ritter commentary, too, talking about some of the stuff he put back in and more stories from the set. The archival "Blinded by the Blood" (62m1s) was created during the film's promotion as an homage of sorts to Document of the Dead, with Ritter narrating the whole saga of how it came together. Also from 1994 is a Ritter appearance at radio station WFTL with Herschell Gordon Lewis (43m26s), a great and cheerful meeting of the goremeisters from very different eras captured here for posterity. Also included are a photo gallery (22m1s) and a selection of 16 tracks from the soundtrack, which has since been released separately.
In 2022, Terror Vision issued a far more elaborate Blu-ray special edition featuring a new upscale of the original master tape. Obviously it's still very constrained by the original source, but this is likely as good as it's ever going to get with more vivid color than before and, obviously, better compression. The DTS-HD MA English 2.0 mono track also sounds fine for what it is, with optional English SDH subtitles. The 2005 commentary with Felt and company is retained here, but the original Ritter track is replaced here with a new one recorded in 2021 that obviously touches on some of the same stories but does so in a more organized fashion, with tons of anecdotes about the shoot (including an explanation for a very obvious aural nod to Creepshow). Felt turns up for a Zoom interview for Brains on Film (58m33s) along with Ritter that's virtually a bonus commentary in itself as he goes through his own experiences in DIY filmmaking and Ritter in particular, and don't miss Felt's gloriously psychedelic background, too. "Peeling Back the Felt" (82m6s) is an exhaustive new video documentary about the film's making, complete with a fun opener featuring a very young Ritter repeatedly trying to film a making-of intro for Killing Spree. Producer Al Nicolosi, actor-producer-director Joel Wyncoop, and Kathy Ritter are also on hand for a thorough chronicle of the film including the bum deal on Truth or Dare? before it, the material they had to tone down to find cast members, the audition process (complete with samples), and a few cameos along the way including Donald Farmer, Draculina's Hugh Gallagher, podcaster Brandon "Toolbox" Owens, and actor Shelby Mullins. "Blinded by the Blood" is also included here in its entirety along with the WFTL interview, followed by a vintage trailer reel for the Twisted Illusions company (16m27s) featuring Day of the Reaper, Twisted Illusions, Truth or Dare?, and two for Killing Spree. Finally the disc wraps up with a new 2021 Killing Spree trailer and a photo gallery (20m51s) with Ritter commentary over a massive selection of poster art and production photos.
Terror Vision (Blu-ray)
SRS Cinema (Blu-ray)
Updated review on January 25, 2022.