Dollar DVD Review: Andy Milligan's "Carnage"
*Some sources cite a 1983 release date.
Starring: Leslie van Dooven, Michael Chiodo
Directed by: Andy Milligan
I used to consider myself a bad horror movie enthusiast. Over the past thirty-plus years, I have voluntarily exposed myself to such famed pieces of cinematic terror trash as Night of the Lepus, The Giant Gila Monster, The Killer Shrews, Squirm, and Sleepaway Camp, to name just a few, and after all that time, I thought I had witnessed the absolute worst that the world's film studios could throw at me.
...but that was before I discovered Andy Milligan.
I had never heard of Milligan till I bought a double-feature DVD at the dollar store some years back which featured his film Carnage paired with the late '70s Satanic slasher Class Reunion Massacre. (C.R.M. wasn't great either, by the way, but next to Carnage it was practically the Royal Shakespeare Company!)
I did some reading on IMDb before watching Carnage and learned that Andy Milligan was sort of like New York's answer to Ed Wood Jr. of Plan 9 From Outer Space fame -- a director of cheap, sleazy, so-bad-they're-almost-good-(but-not-quite) exploitation films aimed at the grindhouse circuit. During Milligan's most prolific filmmaking period in the late 1960s and early 1970s, he produced numerous no-budget gore fests with lurid titles like Bloodthirsty Butchers, The Rats are Coming! The Werewolves are Here! and Guru, the Mad Monk.
Carnage was one of Milligan's later films (he died in 1991) and it's basically a micro-budgeted ripoff of haunted house movies like The Amityville Horror or Poltergeist. The film's IMDb page claims that the budget for Carnage was a mere $32,500, which would've been a paltry sum even by '80s standards. It may have been filmed in the early 1980s, but it looks like a relic from the early '70s and features an annoying public-domain soundtrack that sounds like it came from the 1940s.
Two of Carnage's male cast members have the same gay-porn mustache and the female cast members are plain looking. None of them have much acting talent, but that's OK, because Mr. Milligan doesn't have much directing talent either. Seriously, check out the cast list for this movie on IMDb. Have you ever heard of any of these people? Me neither. Did any of them ever appear in another movie? Nope. Apparently working on an Andy Milligan production was a nice quick way to commit career suicide.
The Story (such as it is)
Carnage is set in a rundown old mansion (supposedly this was Milligan's own home in Staten Island, New York) which looks like it was decorated with castoffs from Liberace's yard sale -- garish antique furniture, candelabra and horrendously ugly curtains and linens. The film begins with a couple in wedding attire sharing an embrace in the mansion's living room ... before the groom puts a gun to the bride's head, pulls the trigger, then shoots himself. We then flash forward three years, as another newlywed couple begins moving into the house. Naturally, strange things soon begin to happen. The ancient Victrola record player spontaneously bursts into "Here Comes the Bride" in the middle of the night, objects move by themselves, things go missing, and odd screaming sounds emanate from nowhere. The wife thinks something strange is going on but her hubby is nonchalant. When a cleaning lady is hired to go through the leftover junk in the basement, she is attacked by the ghost of the murdered bride, who tells her "Get out of my house!" The woman is so terrorized that she goes straight home and... slashes her own throat with a straight razor? Um... yeah, OK. That makes sense.
Cheap scares and even cheaper gore...
The movie's video cover promised that I would see "Household appliances slice and dice ... PEOPLE," which conjured up images of unlucky humans being devoured by possessed refrigerators or washing machines. That would've been pretty damn cool, actually, but instead, we get flying meat cleavers and levitating pitch forks (whose strings are clearly visible) and a stove which turns on the gas by itself. Laaaaaaaaame!
The bulk of the film alternates between long, boring passages of hokey dialogue (much of which is barely audible due to its bad sound mix) and some quick blasts of ultra violent, ultra cheap gore. When a pair of unlucky burglars sneaks into the basement of the house, only to meet disembowelment at the hands of the Ghost Bride, the dude's "entrails" look like cole slaw!
In the final third of the film, the couple throws a housewarming party. Soon their friends are being tripped up by rugs pulling out from under their feet, glasses are flying around the room, and a guy is killed when the ghosts throw a radio into the bathtub with him. Wifey is FINALLY able to convince Hubby that that All Is Not Right with their new dream home, but is it too late for them to escape the horror? Will you even care? I sure didn't, though I did come up with a great idea for a drinking game based around this movie: every time the same outside shot of the house is shown and you hear the same annoying dog barking on the soundtrack, take a drink. This shot is repeated so often that you will be totally schnockered by the half hour mark.
"Carnage's" run time was just around 90 minutes but thanks to the relentlessly awful acting, lead footed pacing and atrocious dialogue, it felt like twice that long. When the end credits finally came up I breathed a sigh of relief and murmured, "Thank God! This steaming pile is over!"
Summing it up...
If Carnage had been a debut film by an inexperienced director, I might have said, "This guy has potential, but there's a lot of room for improvement." However, Carnage was made by someone who had been directing low budget films for nearly two freakln' decades, and the knowledge that it was actually released as a commercial prospect absolutely boggles my mind. Carnage has held the title of "Worst Movie I Have Ever Seen in My Life" for a number of years now, and I sincerely doubt I'll ever come across a film that will dethrone it. Yes, it's THAT bad.
As the self-proclaimed Dollar DVD Guy Of this web site, I hereby warn you all to avoid Carnage -- and anything else with Milligan's name on it -- like you would avoid a live hand grenade. If Andy Milligan were not already long dead by the time I saw this turkey, I swear I would've looked him up in person and demanded my dollar back!
© 2017 Keith Abt