Even by the admittedly low standards of the slasher film, The Carpenter is goofy. Not just in premise, mind you, but in execution as well. Goofy, however, can also be fun which is absolutely the case with this low budget horror film directed by Dave Wellington in 1988.
The movie introduces us to Alice (Lynne Adams), a meek blonde housewife who has her share of mental problems though since getting out of the hospital she's none too keen on taking her medication, despite the insistence of her husband, Martin (Pierre Lenoir ). What was she locked up in the first place though? Well, she discovered that Martin, a professor, was screwing around with one of his students behind her back and so she took her favorite pair of scissors and cut up his favorite suit into a few hundred little pieces! Regardless, she's out of the nuthouse now and both Martin and her doctor agree that maybe relocating to a more relaxed environment might do poor old Alice some good.
Before you know it, Martin's whisked his waif of a wife off to an old house in the middle of nowhere that is, as the saying goes, a bit of a fixer upper. The house has a bit of a strange history to it though, you see according to the mini-donut munching sheriff (Ron Lea), the reason the house is in shambles is because it was never finished and the reason that it was never finished was because the guy who built it went into debt very quickly and wound up getting hounded by bill collectors who he murdered right there on the premises. At any rate, Martin has hired a work crew to pick up where the crazy guy who was put to death for his crimes left off. Once the settle in, Martin goes back to his philandering ways and Alice, after getting hit on by one of the work men, starts to pay visits to an odd carpenter (Wings Hauser) who seems to be working away in the basement at all hours of the night. The more she sees this guy, the more they start to like each other and wouldn't you know it, anyone who starts doing Alice wrong winds up murdered by power tools! Is Alice finally off her rocker for good or is the ghost of the man who tried to build the house still haunting this place years later?
So yeah, this is, as stated earlier, all pretty goofy stuff. Alice is locked up for wrecking a suit in retaliation for her husband screwing around on her? Seems pretty extreme, doesn't it? And a spectral carpenter turns out to be her knight in shining armor, defending her honor by cutting the arms off of would be rapists with his saw or taking out a guy with a power drill? It's all rather nonsensical and put together with such a bizarre lack of editing skill that it almost becomes sort of transcendental in its own surreal way. Front and center in all of this is Wings Hauser. Now let's get one thing straight - YES, Hauser was particularly awesome in Vice Squad but has he been awesome in anything else? You're hard pressed to think of something, right? Well he's... no, he's not awesome here but he's at least amusing and his performance definitely gets bonus points for the fact that it's just plain weird. Delivering his lines with a soft and gentlemanly southern accent and appearing nothing but ever so kind towards Alice and he's not in the least bit frightening here but he is, and here's that word again, definitely goofy.
The film has a few kill scenes involving those aforementioned power tools but don't got into this one expecting a gore fest, you'll walk away disappointed. No, see this because it's a movie that features a killer ghost carpenter, a woman whose worst crime is cutting up a suit, and because it features a sheriff who pops in the movie for the sole purpose of explaining the history of the house and to eat as many donuts as he can in as short a time as possible only to completely disappear from the film all together once his mission is accomplished.
The Carpenter looks pretty good in this 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that was obviously taken from elements that were in pretty good shape. Some minor print damage is evident throughout but it's never to the point where it's obnoxious or distracting nor does it ever interfere with detail. Colors look good, skin tones look natural and black levels are alright if not reference quality. For an older B-grade picture, there's not much room to complain, Scorpion have done a nice job in this regard.
The Dolby Digital Mono track, which is in the film's native English, sounds okay. Dialogue is clear and properly balanced and there are only occasional pops noticeable here and there. The track isn't going to blow you away, but it gets the job done.
As this is part of Scorpion's Katarina's Nightmare Theater line, you get an optional intro/outro with hostess and WWE Diva Katarina Leigh Waters - but aside from that there's not much here outside of some trailers for a few other releases from the line, menus and chapter stops. The cover art is reversible, so you can display it with or without the Katarina's Nightmare Theater banner across the top depending on your preference.
More than anything else, The Carpenter is goofy. It's not scary, it's not even particularly good, it's just goofy. If you're into goofy horror movies, check this one out, as it's entertaining enough but don't expect strong gore, much in the way of tension or a plot that winds up making a whole lot of sense. Nope, just sheer, unadulterated goofiness is what you'll find here, and Scorpion gets full marks for making it looks and sound quite good even if the extras are slim. Casually recommended for slasher fans, but yeah, it's goofy, Really, really goofy.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.