The Hook of Woodland Heights

The Hook of Woodland Heights (1990)

  • Straight to Video
  • Director: Michael Savino
  • Written by: Michael Savino, Mark Veau
  • Running Time: 40 minutes
  • Language: English
  • MPAA Rating: UNRATED
  • Cast: Christine McNamara, Robert W. Allen, Michael Elyanow, Justin Ballard, Mark Veau, Keeton Arnett, David Macwilliams, Jeff Deansmore

Hot on the surprise success of their shot-on-video releases, “Splatter Farm” and “Cannibal Campout”, Donna Michelle Productions, a small distribution house in Pennsylvania, was looking for any and all SOV titles to add to their ever-increasing movie inventory. Well, as luck would have it, in 1990 Michael Savino was shopping around a pair of films that he had just directed, “The Hook of Woodland Heights” and “Attack of the Killer Refrigerator”. Donna Michelle Productions bit, purchasing the rights and eventually releasing them as a two-movies-in-one deal. Sadly, it wasn’t long afterwards that Donna Michelle Productions folded up shop, and the various titles in their catalogue - about eight - simply disappeared into the obscure darkness of dusty video store bins. “The Hook of Woodland Heights” became just another in a long line of videos that faded from memory... until now. Cue evil-sounding laugh! 

"The Hook of Woodland Heights” isn’t particularly ground-breaking as a film, however, it’s quite impressive as a micro-budget movie. Utilizing real cops, some striking shooting locations and plenty of okay gore effects, all on a non-existent budget, you have to at least give Savino an A for diligence. Interestingly, according to a few comments on the imdb.com, none of the actors saw a dime for their effort, not even on the backend. This was truly a labour of love, and it shows.

Okay, so we have a by-the-numbers affair here, an extension of the Urban Legend we all know, as a pair of innocuous teens, Tommy (Michael Elyanow) and Katie (Christine McNamara), head off to the woods in Tommy’s broken down junker of a car for some alone time (what are the chances it'll break down?). Tommy wants to take the relationship to the next level (aka he wants to get laid), while Katie stands her ground on the matter, unwilling to give it up so easy. Now, with that bit of exposition out of the way, we move into a parallel story involving a Woodland Penitentiary mental patient/serial killer named Mason Crane (Robert W. Allen) who is in the process of being moved from one cell to another. Mason is a special sort, with only one hand and an obvious aversion to the sun, he’s the kind of crazy lunatic one doesn’t forget, simply because he’s so utterly ridiculous. Without missing a beat, pale-face Mason murders a trio of guards and quickly high tails it to the nearby forest, coincidentally in the exact same direction of our two pre-occupied teens. Who would’ve thought? Along the way, he finds a hook, conveniently, and attaches it to his stump, then, later, stops off at a local graveyard to lay waste to a group of children who are playing hide and seek in and amongst the headstones. The murder of a child might not sit well with some, but alas, the film isn’t to be taken seriously – as the across the board over-the-top performances of the actors will attest. This is being played for laughs, for sure, and by the time we move into the final act as first, Tommy, and, then, Katie, duke it out with the crazed hooked-hand killer, you’ll be laughing. “I’m gonna get laid for sure,” Tommy gleefully shouts after beating Crane unconscious.

If anything, this is a mildly entertaining film, one that doesn’t mess around with padding out its running time; settling instead on some creative kills and a breakneck pacing. Robert W. Allen, who narrates the story of the Hooked Psycho to a bunch of children sitting around a campfire, only to be revealed in a final shock moment, is surprisingly good as a killer with seemingly boundless energy and a taste for human flesh. Just watching him on screen is akin to taking speed. He’s practically bouncing off the walls at every second achieving menace more through manic unpredictability than the steel hook protruding from his arm. The kill set pieces, again, I have to say, are quite creative. That should be enough to keep you tuned in and watching, if anything does. Have you ever seen a man get killed with a clipboard? If you answered, "No!"... Well, then I suggest you get on "the internets" and pick yourself up a copy of this film from an online vendor.

Bit of innocent trivia for those who care: only one person attached to this project would ever go on to anything else. Michael Elyanow, who played Tommy, worked as a production assistant on the Cuba Gooding Jr. film “Gladiator” as well as Edward Norton’s debut movie “Primal Fear”. In 2005, he worked as a script consultant on “Movie Boy”, a film about a thirteen-year-old boy who eats, sleeps, and breathes movies. Doesn’t sound like anyone I know. If anything, it proves that if you have enough ambition and drive, you can go from cheap woodland hooks to Hollywood in a matter of five years.