Directed By: J.S. Cardone
“Dreams don’t drag men out of bed in the middle of the night!”
As I get older I like to go more and more into my movie experiences blind. There had been a time when I would read issues of Fangoria or your preferred magazine of choice and would know everything about a movie before it came out. These days I’m not so keen. Give me a one-line summary, a trailer which doesn’t show too much and I’ll be good with that.
I appreciate not everyone is the same (Look at the furore over mother! recently), but it really can work in your favour. Take this evening’s movie. Google just tells us this, “Something unseen stalks a haunted artist (Sarah Kendall), her husband and two others on an island.” Well alright. So when you look at the year it was made and the poster above and you probably think you have a pretty good handle on it.
And then you’re pleasantly surprised.
The Slayer starts dubiously enough with our heroine dreaming of an open doorway and a figure and a monstrous hand dragging her away into the dark. She wakes up and stares into the middle-distance, which is largely where she spends the majority of the movie. She has a husband, David, who you know is one of those movie husbands because he’s able to wave away her concerns by talking in exposition.
Kay: I had that dream again.
David: You know it’s because you have that big show coming up. You’re under a lot of stress.
It’s a recurring dream of hers and is something that she has been putting into her paintings. Kay, we’re informed, is indeed under a lot of stress but it doesn’t seem that way unless the movie’s idea of being stressed is just sitting wide-eyed and looking very pale. Cementing their whiteness, we learn that Sarah and David along with Sarah’s brother and his wife, are due to spend a week on “the island”.
See there’s something weird about Kay (Not just the impressive giant perm she rocks for the whole movie) in that she dreams bad things are happening and then bad things tend to happen. It’s all very A Nightmare On Elm Street but it doesn’t quite lean into the dream/death surrealism thing the same way. Though it does have a character fighting to stay awake for a lot of its running time, despite coming two years before that other, superior, movie.
Instead, the movie opts for ambiguity over everything else, preferring not to answer if Sarah is just psychic when she’s sleeping, or if she’s somehow responsible for the few deaths in the movie. Not to be a gorehound or anything, but that’s one of my issues with The Slayer. We get a grand total of five deaths in the movie and one of them is a character we’re introduced to solely to get killed off (In a lazy effort to get an early death in there). This wouldn’t usually be an issue if there were solid foundations to build from but the rest of the movie is Kay talking about how weird things are and all the other characters dismissing her. Naturally, the one character to believe her is the other woman in the group, so the message of the movie really is that you should listen to women otherwise a terrible death will befall you, which is something we could all stand to learn.
I liked The Slayer well enough and I appreciate that while we were in the glut of slasher movies at this time (3 deep into the Friday The 13th franchise by this point) this one not only doesn’t have a teen in sight but prefers to do something a little more than just having cast members picked off one by one. Depending on how you read the events of the movie there are three different ways this could’ve ended although for me one of them is very lazy and an ending too far (Think about how in School your teacher always told you how to never end a story). It’s just a shame that the movie doesn’t have anything more interesting going on during the downtime beyond people talking how Kay is definitely very stressed right now. You’d be forgiven for thinking that she was the only thing in their lives given how much they talk about her and sadly none of these actors are good enough, but then neither is the script, to make any of it interesting.
Where it does excel is in the atmosphere. The island appears nice and desolate (Not that I would holiday there, but it’s a good setting for a movie) and as you would expect a lot of it is set during a storm so automatically I’m all in with anything that has rain and lightning. For the people who care about that sort of thing, the kills are nicely handled too, with each one being different than the last with a good dollop of ketchup thrown on top (Including one shot that I can guarantee made it to the back of the VHS box).
Anyhow far as opening nights for this thing go, this one was a good start. Now if you don’t mind I have a big show to prepare for, so I’m going to sit here and stare into the distance…