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Three on a Meathook (1973)

Director: William Girdler
Starring: James Carroll Pickett, Sherry Steiner, Charles Kissinger
Rated R 77 min.

William Girdler was well on his way to becoming a B-movie titan when he was tragically killed in a helicopter crash in 1978. This film, Girdler's second, is a riff on the Ed Gein case that predated THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE by a year. The story concerns Billy (James Carroll Pickett), a troubled young man who lives with his widowed Pa (Charles Kissinger) on the family farm. One night Billy meets up with some vacationing girls with car trouble and invites them back to his house. Not a good idea, warns Pa. The girls hang out for a bit and eat some of Pa's "mystery meat." In the middle of the night, somebody kills all four girls. In the morning, Pa tells a stunned Billy, "I told you so."

Trying to make sense out of things, Billy heads to a bar in the city. He watches a Gary Puckett-soundalike band called American Xpress, and meets a pretty waitress named Sherry (Sherry Steiner). Too many drinks later, Billy awakes in Sherry's bed. After some initial awkwardness, a romance begins to blossom between the two, and Billy has the bright idea to bring his new girl and one of her friends back to his home in the country. Predictably, this sets off a sequence of events that features more bloodshed and a completely out of left field ending you'll never see coming.

Technical gaffes and bad acting abounds, but THREE ON A MEATHOOK has the same creepy charm as many of its 70's brethren possessed. Slow moving and with a focus on characterization rather than gore, it will likely be an endurance test for modern viewers. However, if you like movies like DON'T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT or SCREAM BLOODY MURDER, you'll enjoy this one. There's a handful of mildly gory murders thanks to Pat (Dr. GORE) Patterson, including a nifty decapitation and some bodies hanging from meathooks. None of it is particularly realistic, but it is fun nonetheless. Knowing his audience, Girdler throws in nude scenes, as well.

I'm a sucker for low budget 70's horror films, especially the regional gems. While THREE ON A MEATHOOK is a little too ragged to qualify for "forgotten gem" status, it's still a nice, macabre little movie with a fantastically weird sucker punch ending. 

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