Review: The Carpenter (DVD)

Scorpion Releasing gives this Wings Hauser starring Canadian nightmare The Carpenter its uncut DVD debut!

  • Director: David Wellington
  • Starring: Wings Hauser, Lynne Adams, Pierre Lenoir,
  • Year: 1987
  • Runtime: 88 Minutes
  • Company: Scorpion Releasing
  • Format: DVD
  • Discs: 1
  • Video: 1.78:1 - 16:9 - Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Audio: Dolby Digital Mono
  • Region: 0 - NTSC
  • Released: 11/15/2011

If you put the majority of 80's Lifetime films, maybe a gallon of blood and power tools into a teleportation pod, the mutated outcome of those ingredients would surely result in the creation of The Carpenter. This 1987 low budget horror is more of a drama thriller than a psycho slasher like the box art would have you assume. Take a glance at the above cover art. See that grinning crazed flannel wearing gentleman holding what looks like some sort of drill-tommy gun hybrid ready to tear some flesh? Not even in the film. Which isn't a farfetched practice since dozens of films relied on outlandish art that wasn't present in the film to draw the unsuspecting viewer in. A large drill isn't even unattainable but yet it isn't present in The Carpenter. It's far more interested in telling a psychological story that only women around and above the age of 40 would find shocking.
Middle aged housewife Alice (Lynne Adams) is having a bad day. After her husband Martin (Pierre Lenoir) witness her cutting up his work suits with scissors, he has her admitted to a hospital due to her illness. After being checked out, Alice discovers her husband has traded up their urban suburban house for a dingy rural country home that needs some serious fixing. While the rambunctious hired renovators slowly tend to the house, Alice is left by herself while Martin spends his time teaching and fucking one of his students. Late one night Alice hears banging in the basement, upon investigating she finds a gentleman carpenter (Wings Hauser, Rubber) working away. Alice guesses he must be part of the renovating group and enjoys his kind company, the only person who gives it. Alice passes the time by getting a local paint store job and receiving a visit from the crude local Sheriff who fills her in on the house's bad past, involving the previous owner who met his end from the electric chair after dispatching various repo men. After the carpenter shows his true colors by using his tools to bloody up intruders, Alice begins to drift further away as it becomes hard to decipher dreams and reality.
Credit has to be given for the ambitious plot The Carpenter has on display, the sheer ineptitude alone is worth the watch. For instance, Alice is whisked away to the hospital for CUTTING UP HER HUSBANDS SUIT WITH SCISSORS. Is this an illness I'm not aware of or a violation of fabric laws? Wings Hauser elevates the film to heights of hilarity with his Gary Busey-esque performance which includes a dream scene where it's implied that his dick is a spinning drill. The aforementioned crude Sheriff should have been billed as "Obligatory Exposition Extraordinaire" since his minimal screen time is solely used to eat donuts and give us enough back story to produce a prequel. What the filmmakers might have thought was "serious drama" comes off as bat shit lunacy that is oddly enjoyable.
Usually a film of this kinds saving grace would be the gory kills that occupy it's run-time. While there are a few that have their fun charm, it's a shame to say that the gory bits are never more than a couple of seconds and creative afterthoughts. The entertainment really comes from the unintentional laughs that at times leans towards actually being a dark comedy. Alice (and the actress) literally sleepwalks through the film, unappaled by the deaths met by the carpenters tools. At her paint store job, Alice just lets red paint splatter all over herself with zero remorse. It's supposed to show her psychological breakdown but it comes off as a comedic crisis. You know, since being hospitalized for CUTTING UP SUITS WITH SCISSORS is quite traumatizing.
Despite all of it's shortcomings (this is by all rights a bad film), The Carpenter is a worthy entry in the bizarre annals of Canadian low budget horror. During it's 87 minute run-time it boldly and stupidly goes places you'd never guess with events that seem to top the last resulting in a serious case of entertaining idiocracy. I love experiencing these low key no budget films that flew under the radar, banished to VHS awaiting any wide eyed renter to relish in it's ridiculousness since that was it's only intended market. In that regard, The Carpenter isn't disappointing in the slightest.

  • Video
The Carpenter looks quite good in this progressive and anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen transfer. There are the occasional print scratches and one or two noticeable reel changes but it hardly deters from the viewing. It's also presented uncut here but the quality of the gory bits have definitely been sourced from what looks like a tape master. You'll notice the change in quality once the inserts appear onscreen, although it's hardly anything to complain about after knowing the films low budget roots. Grain looks natural and on par with it's source material while detail and color look fine with some very nice black depth.
  • Audio
The original Mono track is included and sounds just as expected. Dialogue is clear with only a few pops, cracks and booms during the reel changeovers.

Bonus Features
  • Intro - "Katarina's Nightmare Theater"
TNA wrestling star Katarina Leigh Waters (who bares a striking resemblance to cult siren Caroline Munro) intros the film quite tongue-in-cheekily while preparing us for the feature film. A lot of uproar was heard throughout the online cult community about Ms. Waters involvement with these discs but it's nonsense, Katarina does a fine job with what she's given and respects these neglected films.
  • Trailers
Several trailers for current and upcoming titles in the Katarina's Nightmare Theater line are featured here, such as Final Exam, The Pyx, The Incubus, The House on Sorority Row & The Devil Within Her.