It was someone’s bright idea to give batty Wings Hauser deadly power tools in the 1980s Canadian horror film THE CARPENTER, now on DVD in its uncut, unrated version from Scorpion Releasing and Katarina’s Nightmare Theater.
Cuckolded housewife Alice (Lynne Adams, BLOOD RELATIONS) has a habit of cutting up her husband Martin’s (Pierre Lenoir, HAWK’S VENGEANCE) suits. This is not unusual among women with unfaithful husbands, but it’s apparently enough to get her hospitalized. When she gets out, she finds that her husband has sold their suburban house and purchased an isolated fixer-upper in the country. Martin would rather Alice dope herself up with her medications rather than have any input into the renovations, since he’s already cut a cheap deal with construction manager Farnsworth (Bob Pot). While Martin spends his days in the city teaching (and his evenings banging student Laura [Louise-Marie Mennier]), Alice takes a job at a painting supply store in the nearby town. Although Alice has been prescribed sleeping pills for her nightmares, she decides to forgo them (her husband, on the other hand, takes them nightly). One night, Alice wakes up to the sounds of hammering in the basement and finds a lone carpenter (Wings Hauser, STREET ASYLUM). Strangely, she doesn’t see anything odd in his dedication to the job (then again, she doesn’t see anything odd when he dismembers a would-be rapist with an electric saw; then again, neither does his stumpy victim). Is Alice hallucinating? The construction crew is short one guy, but that’s apparently not unusual; however, the ahead-of-schedule progress on the renovation has the workers suspecting Farnsworth of hiring scab workers or students to work at night (two laid-off workers discover that not to be the case when they break into steal tools and find themselves on the business end of the carpenter’s belt sander and power drill). Alice finds herself falling for the charming, gore-drenched carpenter, who may or may not be the ghost of the house’s previous owner (who became obsessed with completing the house and got the chair for polishing off visiting repo men). Her visiting sister Rachel (Barbara Jones, CRIMINAL LAW) is convinced that Alice’s dream carpenter is a figment of her imagination born out of frustration with her husband. When Alice herself begins to do her own late night renovations on the house, Martin is convinced that she is going off the deep end again. When Laura shows up on Alice’s doorstep to tell her that she is pregnant with Martin’s child, Alice takes a age from the carpenter’s book and picks up a nail gun.
For a late 1980s Canadian horror film, THE CARPENTER is fairly ambitious story-wise. The carpenter’s back-story is alluded to through Martin’s lectures about Paul Bunyon and the threat to his masculinity by modern technology. Although Bunyon appears to be Martin’s ideal of masculinity, he favors the quick and cheap work of Farnsworth over the pride of hard work and genuine craftsmanship shared by Alice and the carpenter. The killings are outrageous not so much for the glimpsed gore as the power tool motif. Hauser’s carpenter has some lame one-liners during the early kills, but the actor generally leans towards the more subtle (fans of a nutso Wings Hauser may also want to check out Nico Mastorakis’ THE WIND, in which he stalks Meg Foster around a deserted Greek village with a sickle). The victims and their deaths are almost afterthoughts, as if they were cardboard concessions to the genre into which a potentially classier psychological project had been shoehorned. The climax, however, is rushed, abrupt, and unsatisfying. It also doesn’t help that Adams is a rather enervating lead; Lenoir, on the other hand, is appropriately vile and pathetic.
Director David Wellington helmed a handful more low budget Canadian films before graduating for television with direction of episodes the Canadian sketch show KIDS IN THE HALL, the news show drama BURY THE LEAD, the Canada-shot QUEER AS FOLK, and more recently the ABC cop drama ROOKIE BLUE. Executive producer Jack Bravman had some memorable credits under his belt including Michael Findlay’s THE SLAUGHTER – which was deemed unreleasable and was eventually reworked by distributor Allan Shackleton into the successful SNUFF – and some other soft and hardcore collaborations with Findlay (and his wife Roberta), as well as John Amero (EVERYTHING FOR EVERYBODY), and is also credited with the direction of the adult film ALL IN THE SEX FAMILY, and the obscure horror film JANIE. Besides producing THE CARPENTER, Bravman also directed the Canadian horror pics ZOMBIE NIGHTMARE with Jon Mikl Thor (and written by THE CARPENTER director Wellington) and the truly dire slasher comedy NIGHT OF THE DRIBBLER. Bravman’s last credit as a producer was VOODOO DOLLS, a low budget Canadian adaptation of “The School” by Findlay collaborators Ed Kelleher and Henriette Vidal (who penned a number of horror paperbacks for the Leisure Books imprint in the 1980s and 1990s). More interestingly, producer Pierre Grise – who also produced ZOMBIE NIGHTMARE – went on to more prolific and respectable work in France including all of Jacques Rivette’s films from GANG OF FOUR to his most recent AROUND A SMALL MOUNTAIN. Writer Doug Taylor more recently scripted well-received SPLICE with CUBE director Vincenzo Natali, and THEY WAIT – in which an American family faces off against Chinese “hungry ghosts”; however, he is also partly responsible for Uwe Boll’s IN THE NAME OF THE KING: A DUNGEON SIEGE TALE, so…
First released in the U.S. by Republic Pictures Home Video in both R-rated and unrated versions – and laserdisc in the unrated version – THE CARPENTER arrives on DVD in a progressive, anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer. Grain looks natural, and detail is mostly good. It also appears that the cut bits of gore have been inserted from a lesser source (more likely a video master rather than a VHS tape). There are faint scratches and one or two bumpy reel changes, but the print source is likely the only game in town since this one went straight to video. The mono audio is fairly clean, only evincing noticeable damage at those changeovers. Extras are nil for this film, and the optional Katarina Leigh Waters intro and closing remarks are not as entertaining as the ones for FINAL EXAM and THE PYX, but that’s no reason to skip any release. The disc features trailers for the dreadful Joan Collins possession picture THE DEVIL WITHIN HER (not to be confused with the international title for BEYOND THE DOOR), FINAL EXAM, THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW, and fellow Canuxploitation entries HUMONGOUS, INCUBUS, and THE PYX. The cover is reversible (the flipside lacks the “Katarina’s Nightmare Theater” banners). (Eric Cotenas)
BACK TO REVIEWS