This is a film that's been on my radar for quite some time, mainly because of that silly cover, and also because Wings Hauser sticks primarily to action or action/thrillers, and the idea of him playing a deadly carpenter was something that always stuck with me. Never having an official DVD release, with the VHS being fairly easy to come by, I never really made much of an effort to get this when there are others that rate higher on my "want list". But a good friend of mine recently scored this, shockingly, at a local Goodwill and was kind enough to gift it to me. So let's dig in.
When an unhappy couple buys an old house and decides to renovate it, they soon discover that there may be more to the house and it's history than they bargained for as a mysterious and charming carpenter seems to appear out of nowhere at all hours of the day and night. Soon the woman starts becoming attracted to him, but is he just the figment of the imagination of a troubled woman, or is there something real and sinister happening?
I loved the concept, and the idea of Wings playing a killer carpenter. It's ridiculous for sure, but also very attractive in a cheesy way. So we went in with rather modest expectations, only to be a bit confused by the whole experience. For starters, it's not a horror film. I don't know what you would call it, but it's definitely not a horror film because it's not creepy, or scary, or even anything really. We struggled with how we would categorize it, but came up empty. It's almost as if they tried to make an undefinable film and actually succeeded. If it was meant to be horror, they sure didn't do much to steer it in that direction. The violence, of what little there was, was handled so poorly that it comes off as a bit comically surreal, with the first scene of violence making you chuckle rather than feel anything else.
The movie looks and plays out like a made-for-tv Lifetime movie, with a lot of emphasis being put into the dramatic relationship between the husband and wife, who are renovating a house, and their deteriorating relationship. Hauser, seems to randomly show up periodically, but it's never as cool as you hope it will be. In fact, his entry and exit in nearly every scene of his limited screen time is done with such little impact that each scene fizzles to an unsatisfying thud each time. Too bad too, because Hauser is clearly having a good time in the role, as he should. That character deserves a much better film than this, and for all of it's clever idea's, so much is never explained. * SPOILERS: Like, for example, why does his ghost stay attached to the house? Has he always been there, even with the previous owners? Why does he choose to kill some and not others?
I think one of our biggest complaints is that the film was pretty devoid of any real gore, or even blood. Even if the film was lacking in many area's (which it is), and even if it didn't feel like a horror film like it was supposed to (which it doesn't), had it at least been creative in the kills, or even just gory, that would have been something. But we don't get any of that, on top of it just being pretty dull for the most part.
While not memorable or even all that likable, it's not a total loss. Wings Hauser is brilliant in the role, and he's having a great time being weird and crazy with power tools. Too bad he's barely in it. And whether it was on purpose or not, The Carpenter is just a wholly weird experience. You just can't figure out what film it's trying to be, and why it's never as good or even entertaining as it should be. The tone shifts randomly, and the film as a whole just never flows well, resulting in a weirdly uneven film experience. Hauser saves the day, but not by much.
How to see it:
To this day it's never gotten any kind of release other than VHS and Laserdisc. After having finally seen it, I can understand why I guess. I can't imagine it being all that "in demand" for a new release. You can find bootleg rips on DVD fairly cheap online, as well as the VHS, which comes in the standard cut as well as an Uncut Version.