Your Preconceived Opinions Will Be Chooped to Bits the Minute You Step Foot in Ray Dennis Steckler’s “Blood Shack” (1971)

Directed by Wolfgang Schmidt

Synopsis
The setting sun reflects off a zooming camera lens, a kaleidoscopic effect. A character we’re introduced to later on breathes a few lines of voiceover narration, setting the stage for this I-guess-supernatural slasher. “There is a legend about this valley, a tale carried across the winds of time. A legend strange and sinister. The legend of the Chooper.” And no, that’s not a typo on my part, nor is it a mispronunciation.

Three youths, two guys and a girl in a striped Freddy Krueger shirt, pull up to an old, abandoned shack on a barren stretch of desert. Off to the side, a bare-chested desertbilly named Daniel, self-proclaimed caretaker of the property, looks on, propped against a shovel. The girl in the striped shirt explains to her friends that an “old Indian ghost”, the aforementioned “Chooper”, haunts the run-down dump before them. She makes it clear she intends to spend the night, viewing the act as a “challenge”. Hearing this, her guy friends take off. Alone but undeterred, the girl approaches the building’s doorless entranceway.

Daniel the desertbilly caretaker runs up. “Hey! What are you doing here?” he demands to know. “This is private property. Now get out.”

“Hey man, I’m gonna spend the night here…” the girl in the striped shirt replies. “I heard about your ghost and how it kills people. Well, I ain’t a chicken, not like my friends. I DARE it to come get me.”

“Go ahead and stay, but if the Chooper comes to get ya, well, you just deserve it!” Daniel fires back. “…I warned you, the Chooper will get ya, and I know it.

And that’s precisely what happens. That night, a figure dressed in black with a tightly-fitting hood concealing its face materializes out of the shadows. “Rrraaawwrr, rraawr!” it grunts and growls, chasing the girl around the house with a flimsy dueling sword comically raised over its head, its free arm outstretched like a zombie’s. The girl is cornered. A series of stiff, over-pronounced stabbing motions. Her body writhes. A dollop of blood.

Daniel returns the next day, finds the girl lifeless, buries her body and takes her money. “I sure am glad the Chooper couldn’t use this money, cos I sure can.” Then, rebuking the corpse, “I warned ya. I told you that Chooper would get you. This is exactly what you deserve.”

Later, a Carol shows up to assess the property, having inherited it from her father some time ago. We’re also introduced to a Tim, who’s almost obsessed, it seems, with buying the land in question. Tim won’t take no for an answer. Will Carol ever sell? Who can survive the savagery of the Chooper? Is the Chooper even all it’s cracked up to be, or is someone exploiting its legend for personal gain?

Review (SPOILERS)
Asked what he thought his appeal was in an episode of a TV show fittingly named after his most well-known movie (that show being The Incredibly Strange Film Show, that movie being — get ready, it’s a mouthful — The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!?), cult crap director Steckler, credited here as “Wolfgang Schmidt”, replied, “I hope it’s originality. I hope when they see my movies they can say only one thing — that they’ve never seen one like it by anybody else, or anything even close.”

Rest assured, Mr. Steckler, in all my years on this earth, I’ve never seen anything quite like

Blood Shack 1

Reportedly shot on “short ends” (partial rolls of film leftover from what was undoubtedly a bigger production) for a total of $500, with zero effects, so little story the whole thing was padded with largely irrelevant rodeo footage and still clocks in at less than an hour, a laughably bad villain whose dollar store ninja costume and sheer frenetic energy will bewilder, then/or leave you in stitches, and probably the most poorly choreographed, rib-ticklin’-est kill scenes ever committed to celluloid, including one of its blundering bedlamite “thundering off” a roof at a sheriff (as a fellow lover of this here movie, Dr. Humpp, put it), the graceless, cheapoid incompetence of this bad boy never ends.

One of director Steckler’s trademarks, and he admitted this, was shooting his movies without writing scripts. He preferred to show up and just let things happen organically. Because of this, several of his movies shift considerably in tone, even genre (see Rat Pfink a Boo Boo), from one act to the next. While this unorthodox approach was just one of many to make Steckler’s no-budget home brews so deliciously psychotronic, it also had obvious drawbacks, like making it difficult to ascertain just what in the blue Hell was going on. Blood Shack, I’m guessing, is narrated by its main character for this very reason. Steckler probably realized in the editing room that, you know, having not written anything beforehand, he’d failed to film enough dialogue to explain things. Luckily, voiceover narration was an easy fix for that, and his wife was good at providing it. But Steckler never learned, and over the course of his career, his wife would dutifully return to narrate at least nine more of his films.

Another of Steckler’s trademarks was casting his family and friends. His lead here, as mentioned above, was his then-wife, Caroline Brandt, the musical chair (no “s”, there was only one chair)-playing neighbor girls were his daughters, the unrelenting Tim was played by an old friend and regular, Ron Haydock (who’s also credited with co-writing the nonexistent script) — heck, the Steck even used his air conditioner repairman fifteen years later in The Las Vegas Serial Killer. With budgets like his, it was nepotism out of necessity, folks!

Blood Shack 2

One thing that surprised me about this: the acting as a whole is ok. I expected it to be uniformly bad. As noted already, the Chooper turns in a riveting, powerhouse performance, followed closely by Tim’s and the sheriff’s. The rest of the cast does a decent-enough job. The only real exception is the shirtless man-meat that played Daniel. His delivery is clunky and loud, like he angrily adlibbed the majority of his lines, and he couldn’t for the life of him hold onto his hat, which hilariously blows off his head at least three times throughout the movie. What a goofus.

I was also pleasantly surprised by how well the titular shack works. It’s ominous, iconic; there’s a definite, heavy atmosphere to it. For me, it ranks up there with the death house from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the cabin in the woods from The Evil Dead.

But that’s where comparing this schlock to fan favorites — masterpieces, even — like those must come to an end. Blood Shack just ain’t a good movie. Now, if you can look past that, really embrace it, you’re in for a lot of fun. I assumed I would hate this. I loved it. Check it out.

A Few Questions
•What the Hell is a “Chooper” anyway?
•5:05 — Where’d Daniel get that shirt?

The Verdict
The Shack is on YouTube (link above). Enter it if you dare. It’s some of the best fun I’ve had with a movie in recent memory.

FURTHER READING
Dr. Humpp’s Curious Collection

Recommendations
Scooby Doo, Where Are You! (TV, 1969)
The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

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15 Responses to “Your Preconceived Opinions Will Be Chooped to Bits the Minute You Step Foot in Ray Dennis Steckler’s “Blood Shack” (1971)”

  1. Looks kinda’ interesting for a bad b-flick! BTW love the Fringevoid logo banner 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. HA! Chooped to bits is right. I love this review – you really capture what makes this movie so loveable.

    Reading this has got the “I am the Chooperman” song stuck in my head again though. Not cool.

    Also, thanks for the shout out. I love your stuff here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Why thank you, sir. I try.

      Wait, what song?! Did I miss something awesome during all that laughing I did?

      Like

      • Ron Haydock, the guy that played Tim sings a song I Am The Chooperman, but I believe it only plays in the longer version of the movie called The Chooper (which I would have rented right away). This one is about 15 minutes longer and is on the Shriek Show release. This is the one I’m more familiar with because of the Joe Bob commentary that plays over it. I looked online but couldn’t find it. If it turns up, I will let you know!

        Like

        • My God, that sounds amazing. I’ve heard good things about the Shriek Show DVD. I’ll have to pick it up and rip the song to a new CD with some other epic horror movie songs for my car.

          Like

          • On Amazon US, the DVD is $5 or less than $2 on the marketplace.

            That CD sounds like a good idea. I would add the song that plays at the end of My Bloody Valentine and the theme from Don’t Go Into the Woods…Alone! as well

            Like

          • Cool. I’m curious to see the longer version and hear “I am the Chooperman” now. I’ll definitely be buying a copy.

            Ha, good theme song choices. I’d forgotten about those. I don’t think I own either of those movies, though. Wait, I might own My Bloody Valentine. I’ll have to check. My favorite horror movie theme song to blast while I’m driving is the one from Body Melt. It’s probably not on YouTube, so I’ll upload it later tonight.

            Somewhat related: if you ever randomly have time to waste, you should take my theme quizzes or quotes quizzes: https://fringevoid.wordpress.com/video-quizzes/

            I think they’re harder than I intended them to be. My bad.

            Like

          • I went through the first one. That’s a lot of fun. I consider myself a pretty well rounded horror fan and I didn’t know several of them, even from movies I had seen. I didn’t remember any music from Leprechaun!

            The Puppet Master theme always makes me smile. Since I think I’ll be updating bi-weekly now, I’ll be posting something on Puppet Master in 3 weeks.

            I will go through the rest later and get back to you!

            Like

          • Thanks! I look forward to your thoughts on Puppet Master, it’s a childhood favorite of mine. Here’s this from earlier, when you get the chance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8V3ZcBzs5RE

            Liked by 1 person

          • I’ve never actually seen Body Melt. The title makes me think of Street Trash and Screaming Mad George. How does it compare with Bad Taste and the other Peter Jackson splatstick movies?

            As for scores, one of my favorites is Manuel DeSica’s for Cemetery Man. It even works separate from the movie.

            Like

          • You’re not that far off. Conceptually, it’s pretty similar to Street Trash — a pharmaceutical company starts testing vitamins on people that end up melting them, just a lot of melting — and the effects are about on par with Peter Jackson’s early work.

            You’re right, the score from Cemetery Man is a work of brilliance. But talk about a mind fuck. I’m still trying to figure that movie out.

            Liked by 1 person

          • The clip you posted is a little more perverse than I expected. I mean that in a good way. The most memorable part was the girl rubbing the guy’s stomach and extracting that phalic looking thing.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. The Knitting Cinephile Says:

    God bless Ray Dennis Steckler. He made ’em bad and on a half-a-shoestring budget because he couldn’t afford a whole shoestring but they were great.

    Liked by 1 person

two cents here

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