Before Tobe Hoopers Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), before John Carpenters Halloween (1978), there was a little slasher of a film called Three On A Meathook (1973). Directed by William Girdler [Abby (1974), Grizzly (1976)], this was one of the earliest films influenced by infamous serial killer Ed Gein.
The story revolves around a young man, Billy (James Pickett), who lives with his father (Charles Kissinger) on the family farm. Billy is a loner but seemingly a nice guy. On his way back from fishing, Billy encounters four girls on the side of the road. Their car has broken down and Billy offers them a ride to the farm and a place to rest for the night. All seems well until Billy’s father shows up and chastises Billy for bringing the girls to the house. “You know what happens when you get around women!” Billy’s father warns. That night at the farm will be the last night the girls will spend alive.
Billy’s father scolds him for what he has done but Billy cannot remember anything happening. It seems Billy has a history for taking in pretty girls and murdering them. Billy feels convinced he is a killer until he meets Sherry, a waitress at a bar in the city. Quickly Billy falls in love and decides to invite her to the farm the next weekend. A power struggle ensues between Billy and his father. His father is very controlling. Since Billy’s mother died, he has controlled him in all that he has done. He even checks Billy’s hands for cleanliness before dinner time. Billy wants to be free. Free of his fathers control and free of the nightmares that plague his psyche. Sherry and one of her girlfriends come to the farm to spend the weekend. That night and the next day are one of violence, murder and a gruesome discovery that changes their lives forever.
What really does it for me about this film is the fact that Girdler is able to rise above the low budget and deliver a story that doesn’t revolve around cardboard characters being slain in various fashion every ten minutes. Within the first fifteen we have four very gory murders! Murders that are delivered viciously and cold. One that boasts a decapitation effect that was actually duplicated in Hell Night (1981). A good majority of the film is dedicated to developing Billy and his relationship with his father and with Sherry (Character development! Something you don’t see in many slashers). Through a flashback we see that Billy has had an episode where a girl was murdered and he is disciplined by his father. Of course the question is did Billy really commit murder? The closer we get to the end of the film, the more we see that Billy is quite possibly innocent and that someone else is behind the murders that have taken place on the farm for the past few years.
Girdler’s film isn’t flashy. It is very straight forward and the camera work very workmanlike. The story however seems to flow pretty good and keeps you interested. Then out of nowhere Girdler throws a monkey in the wrench and delivers an ending that you really didn’t see coming. Three On A Meathook is a solid slasher film and well recommended viewing.