Captives (1988)

Originally published in Bleeding Skull! A 1980s Trash-Horror Odyssey.

One dead dog, one knifed babysitter, and one almost-smothered baby. Welcome back to New Jersey.

Hot on the profit trail of Video Violence, Gary Cohen began production on Captives, his second SOV feature. Although shot in 1987, the film didn’t hit the streets until after Video Violence 2 was completed. And even then, Captives was re-edited and unceremoniously released by Majestic Video under the title Mama’s Home. For years, this film was one of the most obscure SOV features of all time. Cohen held the only true master copy and disowned the butchered Mama’s Home version. After seeing Captives complete and intact, as Cohen intended, we discover that it’s also one of the most accomplished.

A woman and her family (baby, mother-in-law) find their home under attack by a trio of siblings (butch girl, “crazy” guy, and, of course, a mentally challenged fat guy). The home is outfitted with Max Headroom posters and a gigantic wood-paneled entertainment center that blasts fifth-rate Journey rip-offs. The house-jackers are out for revenge against the woman’s husband (played by Cohen himself), who literally snorts cocaine off of a hooker during his lunch break. But why the revenge? As it turns out, the husband had a baby with the female killer. Subsequently, he set a house on fire, bastard kid included. The lady killer, who was blamed for the crime, says, “I’ve been waiting too friggin’ long to screw this up now!” People die.

Despite the obvious drawbacks inherent in SOV productions, Captives is sensibly plotted and unsettling in its gritty, real-time presentation. You’ll recognize most of the cast from Video Violence, and they’re a bit more convincing here. This was Cohen’s attempt at something legitimate. He traded in gore and comedy for sober ruminations on suburban living. By its SOV nature, Captives is a far cry from home invasion big shots like Fight For Your Life and House On The Edge Of The Park. But within his constraints, Cohen succeeded in elevating the potential of SOV across the board. In its original form, Captives remains one of the most distinctive SOV trash-horror films from the movement’s twilight years.

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