“Listen, dink. Muskie fishing is mean and violent, and it makes you do crazy things.”
Those are the words of Finner (Christopher Whiting), one of the characters in James Mallon’s offbeat, fishing-themed slasher Blood Hook. And before the film is over, Finner will know that those words are much truer than he ever thought.
The 1986 horror/comedy, released by Troma Entertainment, is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year. But even after a lavish Blu-ray/DVD release from Vinegar Syndrome, Blood Hook still hasn’t gotten the appreciation it deserves. Instead, it sits with an insulting 4.3 rating on IMDb.
Admittedly, Blood Hook isn’t as polished as more appreciated gems of the ‘80s slasher era, such as The Mutilator, Blood Rage, The Burning, or Madman. It’s an absurd movie where the killer uses an oversized fishing lure that’s nearly the size of a missile to take out his victims. But I think it still ranks as a fun, off-kilter horror treat with its unique killer and colorful characters, making it a gem in the Troma library that is worthy of new appreciation.
In the film, our hero is Peter van Clease (Mark Jacobs), who was traumatized by the disappearance of his grandfather while fishing. Seventeen years later, he returns to his grandfather’s cabin in Wisconsin with a group that includes Finner, his judgmental girlfriend Ann (Lisa Todd), and punk Rodney (Patrick Danz, occasionally resembling Pete Davidson), who decides to wear a lure in his ear as an earring. Ouch.
But that’s nothing compared to the damage the killer does with his hook, which Mallon depicts with gobs of bright red movie blood. The slasher—who is often set off by the sound of cicadas and rock music—starts his campaign of mayhem just in time for the local Muskie Madness Fishing Contest, where fish aren’t the only things that end up getting hooked.
In fact, the killer even stores his victims under a dock with a long line connecting them through their jaws! Peter—who learns to face his fears and conquer his insecurities—ends up having a bloody castoff with the killer, using an equally oversized lure. From the sounds of this, you can tell that Blood Hook is all very, very silly.
With the involvement of Mallon—who filled many roles on Mystery Science Theater 3000—you might think Blood Hook would serve as good fodder for that show. I won’t lie—it probably would. But I still think it’s pretty good, junky fun under his direction, which creates the atmosphere of a fishing community where you start to feel like you know everybody in town.
Mallon also carefully walks the line between cartoonish humor and outright spoofery, while also giving us a great group of eccentric oddballs that would make Tobe Hooper proud. There’s the often-irritated Wayne Deurst (Paul Drake), who seems utterly disgusted by Peter and his friends; Wayne’s son, caretaker Evelyn Durst (Bill Lowrie), who rants and raves at the drop of a hat; and bait shopkeeper Leroy Leudke (Don Winters), whose kindly nature may be a facade.
But no film is perfect, and Blood Hook certainly isn’t. Jacobs’ Peter comes off as too much of a wet blanket during the course of the movie—and one decision he makes late in the film is utterly baffling. I won’t spoil it, but I think it would be a complete dealbreaker in his relationship with Ann.
There’s also the fact that the film runs too long, but that depends on which version you watch. If you watch Troma’s release, it runs a tighter 92 minutes, but Vinegar Syndrome’s set has the nearly 111-minute cut (ye gads!) which makes it feel like you’re watching an epic of schlock!
Blood Hook didn’t need that extra bloat. Having said that, I still treasure this longer version, and the film remains one of my favorite “comfort food” horror movies to watch. It may not be high art, but it’s an enjoyable, cheesy time capsule of the ‘80s slasher era that’s worth checking out and reassessing. So, if you’re interested in some carnage delivered with doses of absurdity, cast your line and catch Blood Hook.
Alan Dorich is a lifelong movie fan who has probably seen Blood Hook (and a host of other films) one too many times. Visit him at @whatalanwatches on Twitter.
[Image Credit: Above images courtesy of Vinegar Syndrome.]