SHELLMONT COUNTY MASSACRE (a.k.a. Shellmont) *** USA 2018 Dir: Gus Trapani. 92 mins
In the God-fearing town of Shellmont, the Sheriff and his deputy capture a notorious city drug dealer, only for the townsfolk to be terrorised by a grinning, bald, psychopathic henchman, initiating the massacre of the title by shooting dead a local mom and her fat son. This starts out like a slightly edgy small-town drama, rife with corny soap opera dialogue (“You’re in Hell right now, we all are. We gotta make it through to the other side…”) and domestic scenes with the Sheriff’s shrill, nagging wife. When the giggling maniac shows up, however, it delivers a succession of hyper-violent set pieces, including a show stopping family dinner scene involving a chainsaw-enhanced game of spin the bottle.
The narrative is satisfyingly unpredictable, making an admirable attempt at serious dramatic sequences in the second half involving grieving brothers, husbands and wives. The mundane nature of these scenes serves to enhance the shock value of the full-tilt, sometimes outrageous brutality and terrific practical gore FX. It nods to the “small town violence” cycle of 1970’s American exploitation, complete with a sequence featuring a naked woman and an iron. The climax showcases power tools, dental torture and escalating madness with the relentlessly shrieking antagonist – suggesting (along with the discordant sound design) a prominent TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE influence. The nihilistic denouement, meanwhile, also nods heavily toward SE7EN and bows out with one final gore money shot.
Review by Steven West