It's the '70s and the disco scene is in full bloom. A young, quiet man who works at a diner in New York City is one day invited to a night out to a disco with a nice girl, but the music triggers a violent behavior in him due to a horrible memory involving music and his father. He ends the night with a murder on his conscience, and he takes the first plane in the morning from NYC heading to Montréal to start a new life. In 1980 he still hasn't been caught, and is working as a janitor at a Catholic school for girls and staying away from all sorts of music. But what happens when disco enters his ears again?
These days a large percentage of horror movies are tributes of some sort. Romero zombie tributes, giallo tributes, grindhouse tributes, etc. Everything is retro, and that's certainly the case with slashers as well. But just because a movie pays tribute to a genre and tries to mimic it, doesn't mean it will succeed in its execution. Most don't. Even "Gutterballs", which I enjoyed a great deal because it was so clearly paying tribute to the slashers of yesteryear and was a genuinely fun slasher, didn't win me over because of the tributing. My main concern going into "Discopath" was that the title makes it sound overly cheesy, and because of that I sat down expecting just another lame attempt at paying tribute. What I got was mostly very different from that. I say mostly because it snuck in a few lame comedic parts.
The movie starts out at a time when disco music was taking over the world. It's the wonderful '70s. But disco isn't for everyone, and that becomes clear as we meet Duane Lewis. Duane works at a diner in New York City, and he's a bit of a loner and dreamer. One day the sound of disco disturbs him while working and he can't seem to snap out of it, and his boss is tired of him and fires him on the spot. Duane ends up walking around and randomly meets a lovely girl at a skating park, and she's drawn to Duane's quiet personality and later that night they go to a disco together. As the rhythms of the disco is pounding into Duane's ears, he attacks the young woman. He brutally murders her and leaves her body under the glass dance floor while people are having the time of their lives on top. He wakes up in the morning covered in blood, and realizes what he did. In panic he takes the first plane to Montréal and never returns, while the cops are just starting their investigation. Jump to 1980, and Duane lives under a different name, and works as a janitor at a Catholic school for girls. He wears a hearing aid which essentially makes him deaf, only so that disc won't force him to take another life.
Where should I start? With the very strong positive aspects, or the very weak negative aspects? It's not an easy movie to judge when it has two things that are total opposites. On one end we have an amazing (yes, amazing) retro slasher that actually succeeds better than most attempts. It's somewhere between the more personal slasher portrayals like "Maniac" and "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer", and more classic campier slashers in the likes of "Silent Night, Deadly Night". Actually, it's very much like "Silent Night, Deadly Night" in that you follow him in the first half, and then switch to the standard slasher mode.
The murders are excellent too, with effects by Rémy Couture you're guaranteed to see some graphic stuff happening. The kills are very creative and though we're not entirely sure he has to go as far as he did at times. One scene in particular, in a kidnapping scene, the movie did push too much to try and be repulsive, but was mostly over-the-top silly compared to the rest. It's a scene you'd imagine to see in "Murder-Set-Pieces", just less sex focused. But in the end, the actual kills were so rock solid that I don't blame it for that one scene. Add to that the great visual style, cinematography and editing which all make the kills more glamorous and disco fever-y than your by-the-numbers retro slasher. It's all neatly packed in a believable '70-80s setting almost executed as well as in "House of the Devil" (an especially important aspect when you not only set the movie in a different era, but you also want to pay tribute to certain genres). What I am saying is that the slasher scenes are fantastic, I couldn't believe my luck because I had not expected that at all.
Then the problems started to show themselves. We started to see a much more ridiculous side to the movie with lame jokes that kept hitting the floor because they failed so hard. With a movie that has such a dark and serious tone in its murder sequences, I was greatly let down when one scene shows the killer dressed as a nun in a car, waiting for cops to go by, and then he turns around with a hysterious grin and puts the pedal to the metal. It's just extremely stupid and not at all funny, and it ruined a mood the the first half almost built up flawlessly. I'm not sure what happened, maybe they intended for it to be more comedic and it didn't work, but overall I wish they would have left all of that out. It hurt the movie a lot for me, and it became all the more clear when two scenes involve getting electric shocks that nearly belonged in a Chevy Chase movie.
Another thing would be that the cops investigation never really felt important. It was there because cops have to investigate murders, but I wish it wasn't focusing on it as much as it did. It would have worked better if they actually made it interesting by not showing what Duane was doing at the time and such, but when we in one scene has him dancing around naked with two decapitated heads in his hands, and you then cut to cops trying to find the killer, it kinda made both ends of that scene less important.
Slasher and gore fans should watch "Discopath" because the good scenes are fantastic. The other scenes are what will seperate the viewers - some people might find the comedy funny and have a good laugh at it, while I'm in the other camp for grumps where we would have wanted a purely dark, brutal and visually stimulating (albeit campy at times - campy is fine!) retro slasher. "Discopath" is made by a very talented group of people, which is proven with its authentic retro vibe, photography, lighting and effects. I pray that the filmmakers go out and make a retro horror without trying to be too fun at some point, because I think they'd be great at it. For now, you should check it out because even with the bad moments, the good retro heavy kill scenes are well worth seeing.