When the Trash Man Knocks (2023) Review
When the Trash Man Knocks is a bit of a rarity. While there are the occasional films like Derelicts and Amityville Thanksgiving, there really aren’t that many films set on the busiest time for travel and family gatherings in the US. Writer/director/star Christopher Wesley Moore (A Stranger Among the Living, Children of Sin) hopes to use it to leave his mark on the holiday horror calendar with a mix of psychological horror and bloody slasher stylings.
In 1993 young Crispin Callaway (Luke Mayronne, Triggered) hacked up his father and the student he was having an affair with and stuffed their remains into trash bags. Ten years later, just before he was transferred to a maximum security facility, he escaped. He left a dozen dead bodies in his wake and then seemingly vanished. But, like an urban myth, they still say if you hear three knocks on your door, don’t answer it.
Caroline (Jo-Ann Robinson, Scalps, We Have A Ghost) lost her husband and oldest son in that rampage, something she and her other son Justin (Christopher Wesley Moore) have never recovered from. She’s an agoraphobic who hasn’t left the house in years and stashes knives around the house, just in case. He’s a barely functional alcoholic who is hiding an affair with Leo (David Moncrief, Impact Earth, Blessed are the Children), whom he works with at a local restaurant.
This is all done skillfully and never feels like padding or exposition, and Caroline and Justin feel like real people who have been left broken by the effects of violence. Unfortunately, a subplot concerning Caroline’s friend Marita (Keni Bounds, Blessed are the Children, Triggered) whose daughter Hope (Ana-Claire Henley, Vlog 1225, Blue Girl) and a friend are coming to visit for the holiday isn’t handled as well.
The two girls really come across as extremely unlikely friends, even by genre film standards. Hope is in the mould of Carpenter’s iconic final girl Laurie Strode, while her friend Paige (Meredith Mohler, Queen Dracula, Molly Nettle) boasts about getting her married boyfriend to leave his family alone for Thanksgiving to be with her. Add in a friend of that friend who we see waking up with a guy whose name she doesn’t know and who coincidentally lives in the killer’s old home, and it feels like an excuse to pad When the Trash Man Knocks’ kill count with some nearly random victims.
Thankfully once The Trash Man (Derek Robert Hull Bond, Broad Daylight, The 12 Sacred Moons) makes his inevitable return that does pay off as, no surprise, those two are his first victims with one of them meeting their fate in a scene that pays an impressive homage not just to Halloween but to Argento’s Tenebrae as well. But, When the Trash Man Knocks would still have been better off if the characters in this subplot had been a bit better fleshed out and connected to the main story.
When it comes to the effects that go with its deaths, they’re simple but effective. When the Trash Man Knocks was shot for $20,000, which means there wasn’t the budget for elaborate effects. And while a part of me would have liked for the film to have been a bit more gruesome, that would have distracted from the story and the ideas Moore was trying to get across.
Moore’s previous films have dealt with traumatic and controversial issues such as abortion, school shootings, and conversion therapy, but with When the Trash Man Knocks he turns his attention to more personal trauma as characters must confront the ghosts of their past. That includes the acid-tongued and vaguely seen ghost, or memory, of Caroline’s mother and The Trash Man, who is in effect the deadliest of those ghosts.
All of this boils down to a final few minutes that does not play out at all like I was expecting as characters make unexpected exits, and it becomes impossible to guess who will die next and who, if anyone, will be left standing at the end. And in its final images, When the Trash Man Knocks is both beautiful and chilling.
CWM Entertainment will release When The Trash Man Knocks to Digital Platforms on November 10th. You can check their Facebook page for more information. And if you still hunger for horror, FilmTagger can suggest a few more titles to feast on.