Maybe it's because I just saw two very fine horror offerings* from Slamdance 2008 that I was expecting better things from Steven Goldmann's Trailer Park of Terror, but I can't lie: When the credits finally showed up, the first thing that ran through my mind was: "Damn, that's one schizophrenic little flick." And while that can sometimes be meant as a compliment, it's definitely not in this case. A pulpy and colorful -- but ultimately rather overbearing -- combination of comedy and horror, Trailer Park of Terror (which is based on the Imperium comic book of the same name) has a few solid chuckles, a bunch of gristly gore (especially near the end), and a handful of effective moments, but for the most part it's all the hell over the place.
At the outset, TPOT looks to be a story about lovely Norma, a sweet-natured (and stunningly sexy) young woman who is trapped in the hate-filled ether of a white-trash trailer park. So when Norma's beau gets killed and she comes back with a shotgun and a welcome affinity for bloodlust, the movie looks to be starting off on the right foot.
And then the real movie starts: A bunch of blandly one-dimensional teenagers (each of whom have precisely one character trait apiece: the druggie, the jerk, the goth, etc.) are on their way home from a camping retreat, but their pastor takes a wrong turns and ends up in (you guessed it) the trailer park (ahem) of terror. Seems that poor Norma is now a cursed being, and it's her job (along with a bunch of white-trash zombies) to devour anyone who chances upon the trailer park (yawn) of terror. Save for a few clunky flashbacks that detail Norma's unpleasant past, the movie is little more than "hack and slash, one by one, idiots get killed."
But then near Act III, since the movie hasn't covered enough well-traveled ground, Trailer Park of Terror turns into (yet another) homage / paean / rip-off of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, complete with rampant cannibalism, broad hayseed humor, and lots of oh-so-extreme geysers of gore. (To be fair, some of the nastier effects are actually quite effective -- and in another movie they'd probably be pretty scary.) But time and again, Trailer Park is undone by its seemingly random approach to comedy mixed with horror. Moments that look to be potentially scary are deflated by "yeee-haaaww!" humor and a few really terrible musical scenes. (Not musical numbers; just some zombie cowboy playing a guitar as we cut back to someone being skinned on a spit; weird filler material like that.)
Saved from outright dismissal thanks to sheer weirdness and enthusiasm, Trailer Park of Terror does have some strong assets in its favor. The gorgeous Nichole Hiltz does some solid work, a few of the "serious horror" moments are relatively effective, and there are just enough jumps and jokes to keep the experience from being a chore -- but the movie starts out as one thing before becoming two or three other things, which prevents it from working as a cohesive whole -- although a few isolated sections are really quite cool.
* Paranormal Activity and Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer, just so you know for the future.