Featured: Top of Home Page

Horror, Hebrew Style: 'Hate's Haunted Slay Ride'

Because of its desire to stay true to form, Hate's Haunted Slay Ride is a lo-fi gem. The Jewish angle makes it even more meaningful...and memorable.

Hate's Haunted Slay Ride

Rated: R
Director: Warren F. Disbrow
Cast: Daniel Bartkewicz, Warren Disbrow Sr., Warren Hague, Jenny Hill, Paul Kellogg, Steve Lyon
Extras: 7
Studio: Visual Experience Productions
Year: 2010
US date: 2011-03-22 (General release)

Most horror films center on a basic eternal battle between good and evil. While the morality tale of avoiding temptation (sex, drugs, etc.) less you be punished for succumbing to same is often a subtext, the main thread offers a horrific entity (supernatural or serial) that preys upon the innocent in a never-ending war over existential supremacy. Sadly, said clash is almost always Christian in basis. Sure, Bollywood has brought us a couple of Hindi-oriented shockers and Pakistan's first horror film - Zibahkhana, aka Hell's Ground - wraps all of its splatter in a surreal combination of genre and Islam. But for the most part, the one 'God' constantly evoked against the sinister cinematic forces are almost always centered on a routine Roman Catholic ideal.

Now comes the latest from Warren F. Disbrow, New Jersey's own master of the (homemade) macabre. With a creative canon that includes schlock cult masterworks like Flesh Eaters from Outer Space, Invasion of Flesh and Blood, Scarlett Moon, and Haunted Hay Ride: The Movie, the aging auteur specializes in what can best be called epic dread. Sure, limited budgets and production value keep his films from being all out visual spectacles (though he does do some fine F/X work here and there), but where he really finds his scope is in the storytelling. Disbrow loves characters, settings, and the foul forces of darkness, as well as the nail-biting byplay between all three. This time around, however, the return of the metal masked marauder from Haunted Hay Ride takes a decidedly Jewish turn toward terror.

At the end of the first film, main menace Hate (a huge, hulking man-mass with long black hair and a steel skull faceplate) had slaughtered several dozen guests at a local Halloween attraction. It's now the next day and survivors such as Mary Ann Lorenzo and Mr. Brock are fighting for their lives. As the police try to piece together the events of that horrible night, our killer claims another victim - his long lost father. He then retrofits his headgear to be more manageable, grabs his machete and axe, and heads out into the coming Winter's night. As time moves on, Hate murders more people, the cops remain baffled, and only a local religious figure, Rabbi Simon Shaw believes that the deaths might have something to do with the Torah and demonic forces from Hell itself. Hoping to save his followers, as well as a few wayward family members, he grabs his Star of David, some lamb's blood, and prepares to match wits with the walking abomination once and for all.

At nearly two hours, Hate's Haunted Slay Ride doesn't skimp on the story. I winds the first film around its central core of non-Christian dogma and then throws in some slams on the commercialization of Christmas as well. Disbrow, who clearly believes in the fundamental formulas of terror, doesn't try to reinvent the narrative drive here. Instead, he produces a plethora of victim fodder, let's Hate has his way with said masses, and then lets the rest of the cast play clean-up. There are classic moments of mayhem here, as when our bad-ass behemoth confronts a store owner changing his holiday decorations from Halloween to Christmas. There's also a fun bit when Hate hunts down some bell ringing members of the Kris Kringle holiday hand-out squad. For the most part, the murders in this movie are simply part of the expectations. Disbrow knows he needs them, but isn't going to let them overwhelm his main ideas.

Using Judaism and the ways of said faith as a means of making a statement about conviction in general is genius here. It allows for the typical film fan to see the concept in a whole new and different light. While Bret Warshawsky is not the most compelling Rabbi in the history of said leader's onscreen depiction, he does make us see the compassion and the counterbalance within his character's teachings. There are differences, obviously, between Christians and Jews, but Hate's Haunted Slay Ride doesn't get into the nitpicky particulars. Instead, the film focuses on that most important of anti-evil elements - belief - and successfully argues that all wickedness can be dissuaded as long as you have God in your heart. The key here is that it doesn't just have to be Jesus. It can be Jehovah.

Even better, Disbrow turns Hate into one of those soon-to-be-beloved horror idols that the fans go crazy over. With his iconic look, mouth full of one liners, and a mythos that keeps getting better at every turn, this is one of the best fright fiends ever. Because he's more interested in a body count than a grand Satanic purpose, the last act switchover into religion does seem a bit strange and we really want more of the character's backstory. Disbrow hints at a childhood so horrible that it almost begs Hate's current career as a vile vivisectionist, but we long for more legacy. Perhaps it was part of the original film - who knows. It's been so long since we visited that bloody farm festival. Still, with the creation of such a character, Disbrow secures his future fright value. Devotees will clearly believe that in 'the more Hate, the better' approach.

As for the rest of the film, it's a mixed bag of low budget expectations. Some of the acting is excellent. Others are either over the top or lost in an aura of casual amateurism. As a director, though, Disbrow is always in command, keeping scenes short and sequences editorially sound. He employs his limited violence with great aplomb and never lets the movie meander over into spoof or farce. This is a filmmaker who takes his suspense as seriously as his splatter, employing just as many traditional techniques as sudden "gotcha" shocks. Sure, there will be some who believe that there's way too much here, that a movie of this sort needs to be 80 streamlined minutes of mindless corporeal cat and maniacal mouse. But that's not how Warren F. Disbrow works. He's looking at the big picture even within a standard slasher dynamic. Because of its desire to stay true to form, Hate's Haunted Slay Ride is a lo-fi gem. The Jewish angle makes it even more meaningful...and memorable.






A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.


Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.


PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.


'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.


Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.


Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.


Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.


The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.


Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.


Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.


Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.


'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.