“Lumberjack Man” (2015) Directed by Josh Bear. Starring Micheal Madsen, Ciara Flynn and Jarrett King. Church campers run into mysterious killer lumberjack in this crazy pancake themed slasher flick. Yes, you read that correctly. Pancakes. He uses pancakes to kill people. You can’t make this stuff up!
It’s pretty hard to hate a slasher flick where a victim is beaten to death with a three-foot wide slightly overcooked pancake. This fun horror comedy parodies slasher film clichés while creating a killer icon of terror in its own right.
After rising from his fiery sap boiler in the opening scene, “Lumberjack Man” gets right down to business, sharpening up his axe collection and mixing up some batter for flapjacks. As he pours the batter onto a massive griddle, it forms two large circles, which fade into the breasts of a church camp counselor named Faith, who is being ogled by two idiots on board the Good Friends Church Camp bus.
“Check out the flapjacks on her.”
After verbally humiliating a female bully, Faith befriends the innocent and clueless Jacqueline.
We meet oddball camp director Doug, played by “Attack Of The Show” host Adam Sessler, who unveils his camp rules:
1. No masturbating.
2. No laughing like a liberated woman.
He also introduces an empty glass jar. For every good thing someone does, he puts a marble in. For every bad act, a marble is removed. If the jar is full in a week, there will be a camp pizza party.
“Reservoir Dogs” star Michael Madsen, known for playing taciturn badasses, climbs out of an extremely small smart car near a mountain general store in the town of Big Timber. He’s Dr. Peter Shirtcliff, a doctor of…actually, we never learn. He pulls out a smart phone and waits by the side of the road until the Good Friends bus cruises by. Two girls on board flash their boobs and he snaps photos, grinning.
After the bus passes, Shirtcliff shows the photos to the general store clerk and inquires where the bus was headed. It seems the old Church Camp has been reopened. At this news, Peter begins stocking up on ammo. And flapjack batter mix made by J.T. Jeppson.
“You enjoy that, mister. That there is the best breakfast in a box money can buy.”
Shirtcliff pauses at the door, turns and delivers this gem in his husky voice.
“You don’t know what breakfast is.”
Nothing like a Dr. Sam Loomis reference to make me like a movie. Loomis famously uttered “You don’t know what death is!” early on in Halloween 2.
When the church campers arrive at the camp, their bus driver Leon inexplicably screams:
“Everybody, get the FUCK out!”
We meet assistant camp director Theresa and the camp cook, Reggie. He’s making pancakes for dinner. I’m sensing a theme here.
Leon, speeding away in his bus, snorts cocaine off the steering wheel and picks up two hookers on the country road. In a secluded spot in the woods, Leon has a threesome. One girl files her nails while the other checks her phone during sex. If they looked out of the vehicle’s many windows, they might’ve noticed Lumberjack Man approaching with a creaky wooden griddle cart full of gigantic flapjacks and a pat of butter the size of a phone book.
Both women lose their heads, and Leon is impaled on a sharp spike. Their blood pours out of the bus and onto the flapjack pile. Looks like our Lumberjack has something against maple syrup.
Faith and Jacqueline are assigned to clean up the camp volleyball court, where they meet Ernie, an overweight peeping tom. In his birdwatching sketchbook, he has made several drawings of the two girls nude and being very friendly with one another. Boys!
Assigned to muck out the horse stables, Stanley and Jeff instead smoke weed until they’re caught by Alberto, the local ranch hand. The boys get him high and construct detailed replicas of themselves made of horse dung, so they can sneak away and hook up with camp hotties by the lake. Instead, the two party bros wind up spying on Theresa, who gets out of the shower in her cabin and rubs her body down with moisturizer lotion. They are caught by Doug, who deducts marbles from his jar.
Oh no, bro!
Alberto, meanwhile, gets a deadly visit from old Lumber. We get our first glimpse of the killer’s tree bark visage with glowing crimson eye-holes. Long, dirty grey hair and a bushy beard stick out from the edges of the mask.
Dr. Peter Shirtcliff presents park rangers with news clippings of past murders and asks them to evacuate the woods to stop the evil lurking within. It seems every 30 years since 1892, there’s been a mass murder spree in Big Timber. The rangers want nothing to do with it, so Peter sets off on his own.
Meanwhile, Ernie watches two counselors skinny dip at the lake in broad daylight and gets excited until he meets Lumber and becomes blood syrup. As the killer’s creaky old griddle wagon is rolled all over camp, somebody finally says what we’ve all been thinking:
“Those are some big fucking pancakes.”
During an attack on the ranger station, the one weakness of the demonic Lumberjack is revealed.
Though I won’t spoil it here, it should be pretty obvious at this point.
What is the dark tale of 1892 that gave rise to the Lumberjack? Only Dr. Shirtcliff knows for sure, and he arrives at the camp to warn the others. It seems that back in the day there was a reclusive lumberjack named Nehemiah Easterday, who made the best flapjacks for miles.
Easterday was cooking up a new batch in honor of Shrovetide, the last Tuesday before Lent, when J.T. Jeppson, the ether addicted heir to a fortune, stumbled across his secluded cabin. They ate together, and Jeppson demanded the recipe, sensing money to be made. Nehemiah had vowed to take that family secret to the grave, and then he did. Jeppson stuffed the lumberjack’s body in a vat of boiling syrup and searched the cabin until he found the secret he desired.
Easterday rose from the dead again and again every 30 years on a Shrove Tuesday before Lent, slaughtering dozens and dragging his griddle cart all around town.
Nobody at the camp believes Shirtcliff either and he is banished, just prior to Doug being served Ernie’s severed face as a pancake. The door to the mess hall crashes in and the Good Friends Church Camp meets Nehemiah Easterday.
Cue the bloodbath.
While “Lumberjack Man” was sadly passed over for Best Picture at the Oscars, it’s nothing if not entertaining and intentionally funny. The killer’s look is well designed, and all your campground shenanigans are here; frequent female nudity, weed and booze, an innocent food fight that gets WAY out of hand, a seduction scene in which a party bro uses wine coolers and a Jesus costume to get with the ladies, and many methods of murder on display–hatchets, axes, a falling tree, spears, kitchen knives, sap taps, decapitation by hand, the aforementioned flapjack beating, etc.
It’s very well shot with style to spare and the film has a nice polish to it that other low-budget horror comedies sometimes lack. When Lumberjack Man pulls a screaming woman’s breast implants out through her back and knocks out another victim with them, we should be groaning and rolling our eyes. But the storyline is so charmingly daft that it works.
On the bad side, I could’ve done without the CGI bloodsplurts. Some of the murders look practical and some computerized. Doug’s death in particular is so inventive as a sight gag that it feels cheapened by bad digital effects.
The film’s final fight, which comedically embraces the bad decisions and absence of logic that make slasher films so great, is fantastic. I love the scene where the characters discuss escaping the camp in Shirtcliff’s smart car, which is deemed too small to hold any of them. Michael Madsen goes for it with one of his funniest performances ever, and Faith steps up with a radial saw and nerves of steel.
She ends up battling Easterday with another very unconventional weapon in one of the more unusual Final Girl showdowns in recent memory.
There’s a lot that’s good to say about “Lumberjack Man.” It’s an original story in a sea of huge budget remakes, though it obviously owes a great debt to what came before. It reminds me a bit of the slasher parody “Blood Hook,” in which a killer fisherman with a giant hook slaughtered vacationers at a lake. Both films had tongue firmly in cheek.
I wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel to “Lumberjack Man.” Bring on more tasty flapjacks!