3.1/10
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The Catcher (1998)

Not Rated | | Horror, Sport | 1998 (USA)
In Taft, California, 1981, Johnny (Fred Meyers) is a unassuming baseball hopeful who turned against his stern and demanding father (Joe Estevez) and beat him to death with a baseball bat on... See full summary »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
... David J. Walker
... Terry Mitchell
... Father / Umpire
... Carl
Leslie Garret ... Beth (as Lesslie Garrett)
Paul Moncrief ... Billy Taylor
James Patterson ... Red Foster
Harley Harkins ... Anthony
Jeff Sorenson ... Wayne Futzner
Mike Kepple ... Howie
... Young Johnny
Wendy Crawford ... Phyllis
Nick Moore ... Tyrone Jackson
Denice Ramage ... Linda
Stephen T. Vanderbeck ... Frost
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Storyline

In Taft, California, 1981, Johnny (Fred Meyers) is a unassuming baseball hopeful who turned against his stern and demanding father (Joe Estevez) and beat him to death with a baseball bat on a baseball diamond field. 17 years later, Johnny is released from the local insane asylum and begins a killing spree, with his father's ghost as an umpire. Written by matt-282

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Three Strikes You're Dead.

Genres:

Horror | Sport

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

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Release Date:

1998 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El catcher  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

Strike one, two and three...

Since Black Christmas hit cinemas thirty years ago, the slasher genre has terrorised nearly every form of escapism that humankind has ever known. From holidays to carnivals, trains and houseboats and even ski resorts and building sites have become the stomping ground of an insane killer with some sort of deadly weapon(s) and animosity scalded into his or her heart. It came as a shocking surprise then, when I first discovered that no one had yet decided to put a deranged slasher at America's (second) favourite past time. That's right, surprisingly enough, not one psychopath had yet invaded a Baseball field, despite a glaring amount of victims and potential. Until now… Yes that's right, this authentic but somewhat obscure offering involves a twisted ex-ball player with murder on his mind and a deadly bat in his grip! Who needs a hockey mask when you can wear a helmet? Who needs summer camp, when you can stalk a stadium? And who needs a machete, when a baseball bat can do just as much damage? Guy Crawford and Yvette Hoffman obviously saw the possibilities, and so, here's The Catcher...

It begins in 1981, Taft California. The camera pans down on a boy and his dad playing catch in their front garden outside a neat little house in a bright and tidy street. The plump elder hurls the eager kiddie a fast ball, which he accidentally drops, much to the dislike of his grouchy father. `I thought you said you were gonna catch it' he shouts threateningly. He continues to holler abuse at the youngster until eventually the child looses his patience and beats him to death with a handy baseball bat. Next we head to the compounds of The Devils' stadium, presumably some time in the future. (We never find out for sure.) ‘The Devils' have been unable to recover from a slump that the players believe is down to the performance of David Walker (David Heavener), their one-time top hitter for the club. It's the last day of the season and Walker has already been thrown out of the game and whilst he's waiting to say good-bye to his teammates, his girlfriend enters the locker room to tell him that she's leaving him. As if that wasn't enough of an excuse to turn someone into a homicidal masked-maniac, next up he finds out that his new manager (Monique Parent) is about to sack him. (Well, we all get days like that, don't we!) Before long, a mysterious killer begins slaughtering the sportsmen one by one using various macabre methods. Is it Dave Walker getting revenge for being fired? Or has someone else got something against the players?

For a direct to video horror movie, The Catcher is fairly well financed. I noticed a couple of crane shots that must have cost quite a bit and the inclusion of cast members that have actually ‘acted' before, makes an impressive difference from the usual Film 2000 schlock. Even though none of them can qualify as ‘good' performers, David Heavener had the odd moment and Parent wasn't dreadful either. The only really obnoxious character was Joe Estevez, who certainly proves that Francis Ford Coppola chose the right brother to send up the Do Lung River to terminate Colonel Walter E. Kurtz! It's a real shame that he hasn't got the talent of his younger sibling, or perhaps he just wasn't inspired enough to give us his best, which is probably the more likely scenario.

Crawford and Hoffman direct fairly well for first timers and the use of dolly tracks and steady-cam means that they haven't scrimped on what's needed to make the right impression. There were various baseball themed killings that were convivial, from ‘death by pitching machine' to a bat up the bottom (!), which was rather cleverly staged to look as if the killer was raping the victim at first, just to add a little dark humour. A B-ball themed slasher wouldn't be much good if you didn't get a customarily cheesy first-person shot through a helmet, would it? Well, we get two; and they don't miss any of the other essential clichés either! Although the suspense is lamentable, some of the photography is moderately good and the mystery is interesting enough to prevent things from becoming too boring. They've included a few decent twists to keep you guessing, and although completists will have seen most of them before in previous efforts, there's the odd authentic touch that was commendable. One scene stuck in my mind, in which the killer and one of the players were dressed in the same garb and the surviving girl has to decide which one to stab with a broken bat. Without giving away the conclusion, let's just say that it works fairly well, without sticking to the conventional story directions.

There's no memorable gore that warrants a mention and most of the murders are either off screen or just involve a splash of corn syrup, which was disappointing. The script could have done with a few re-writes too, we never even found out where the killer came from - after his identity was revealed. Did he escape an asylum, or did he work on a Hot Dog stand? Who knows? The lighting also left a lot to be desired and Paul Amorosi's music was patently under-produced in places, leaving scenes that could have generated tension crying out for accompaniment. The editing and sound mixing was somewhat ‘chop-socky' as well, jumping like a drunk playing hopscotch on occasion. The apparition parts were laughable to say the least and the psycho's motives were never resolved, leaving an unavoidable feeling of half-heartedness. One of the chase sequences involves Monique Parent fleeing Walker through the corridors of the stadium. Although the pursuing shots weren't really that bad, it was obvious to see that she was ‘running' at the speed of a tortoise that was recovering from a leg operation, so as not to out sprint the dolly track!

The Catcher isn't a good film, by any means. But it at least manages to provide a few corny thrills that'll bring about the odd giggle. There are a couple of bright ideas on offer, but the bad ones usually ruin them and to be honest we could've done without Joe Estevez's unconvincing shouting fits. He died at the start of the movie, but makes a comeback later as an imaginary fiend in the killer's mind, which we really didn't need. But like I said, it wasn't all problems; there were certain bits and pieces that proved to be a whole lot of fun. I also go a free postcard with a picture of The Catcher's mask (complete with ‘glow in the dark' eyes) inside the cover! At least now we've had a baseball ground massacre to add to the other more frequently used locations. All we need next is an assassin at the Oscars! Now that I'd love to see...


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