Three On A Meat Hook (1973)

Three On A Meathook

Okay, admittedly, “Three on a Meathook” is a pretty damn terrible, god-awful film and most normal people will probably find it an unendurable cinematic experience to sit through. The production values are unimaginably poor, the supposedly shocking plot twists are laughably predictable, the acting performances are miserable, the photography and editing are hideously amateurish and, even with a running time of barely 80 minutes, at least half of the film is purely redundant padding footage. But still, regardless of all its shortcoming and stupidities, I can list numerous reasons why this sickly gem ranks amongst my all-time favorite early 70’s grindhouse flicks. So, in case you insist on reading an unbiased and twenty-four carat objective review, you should probably quit reading mine right now…

First and foremost, “Three on a Meathook” was the debut of devoted horror writer/director William Girdler. Girdler was clearly horror-obsessed at young age already and remained extremely busy during the next six years of his well-filled but painfully too short career. He was barely 25 years old when he debuted with this gritty “Psycho”-inspired shocker, but the film itself also inspired a whole series of grainy redneck-horrors, maybe even including Tobe Hooper’s classic “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”. Girdler then quickly specialized in cashing in on contemporary popular trends in the horror industry. He made his very own violent-cop-above-the-law flick (“The Zebra Killer”), as well as Blaxploitation films (“Sheba, Baby”, “Abby”) and a Satanic Cult movie (“Asylum of Satan”). His most famous films are the notorious Jaws-on-land classic “Grizzly” and his supremely demented imitation of “The Exorcist”, entitled “The Manitou”. William Girdler died at the tender age of 30, when his helicopter crashed whilst spotting locations for already another film. With NINE fine movies in just 6 years, imagine what he could have achieved if he hadn’t sat foot in that helicopter …

Back to “Three on a Meathook” specifically; this film is to me the purest embodiment of devoted early 70’s grindhouse film-making. Girdler didn’t have much of a budget to work with, but nearly every penny he did have went straight to the accomplishment of bloody make-up effects and scenery to make the film appear more grim & disturbing. This film is politically incorrect as hell, with uncompromising gore and gratuitous nudity aplenty, and the main characters are your average and stereotypical “dumb” countryside folks. Clumsily disguised as a tragic love-story, “Three on a Meathook” serves one deviant story twisted after another (although, admittedly, with some dreadful musical interludes and pointless “we’re falling in love” montages in between) and the wholesome works towards an indescribably frenzied climax.

The film opens with the clichéd premise of four young girls deciding to go camping in a remote woodsy area. One topless swimming party and multiple girlish chuckles later, their car breaks down in the middle of the night, but the simple-minded farmer’s boy Billy – who previously observed the girls as they were skinny dipping – comes to the rescue and invites them to spend the night at the farm with himself and pa. The father worriedly warns Billy about what happens when he gets “too close” to girls, but the next morning the girls are all reduced to lifeless corpses. When going into town to drink away his misery, Billy falls in love with a waitress and takes her and a friend back to the farm where the horror threatens to repeat itself. You don’t exactly have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out the truth behind the murders, but still the script provides an extra ingenious (and practically unpredictable) twist at the very end of the film. The narrative structure is wildly uneven and the padding footage is horrible, but the at least sequences that truly matter are morbidly atmospheric and misogynistic. If you’re into this type of questionable cinema, I can’t recommend “Three on a Meathook” wholeheartedly enough. That’s a guarantee, because I have yet to encounter a grindhouse fanatic who doesn’t appreciate hatchet murders, pick-axe horror, stabbing and nasty meat-cleavers.