Slash Dance (1989)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2013-08-03 08:49

Written and Directed by: James Shyman
Starring: Cindy Ferda, James Carroll Jordan and J. Buzz Von Ornsteiner

Reviewed by: Brett G.

ďI got beat up by a pair of tits!"

If you were a teenager or young adult in an 80s movie, you mostly did one of two things: you either danced your ass off, or your ass got offed by some machete-wielding maniac. In Slash Dance, you did both, or at least thatís what the title would lead you to believe ("It's like Flashdance but more stabby!" was probably the 3 second pitch that got this greenlit). The opening scene even complies with these expectations, as a ditzy girl shows up for an audition at a decrepit, empty auditorium, and gets limbered up even though nobody answers her. Meanwhile, a shadow creeps along the wall, Phantom of the Opera style, before sneaking up behind the girl and sawing her neck wide open.

Youíve probably seen the variation on that sequence dozens of times, but, hey, at least this scene has some neat, otherworldly lighting and a decent (if not somewhat dry) gore gag payoff. Unfortunately, itís a huge tease since the movie soon reveals its true status as a daft and clunky police procedural that follows the exploits of Tori Raines (former GLOW Cindy Ferda), who eventually goes undercover (albeit with her real name, badge, and gun in tow) as a dancer to figure out why these girls keep getting slaughtered at this old theater. It was once one of the finest houses in all of Hollywood, but itís fallen into disrepair under the command of a couple of brothers, so they call in an old acquaintance to put on a show to restore it to its former glory.

Thatíll be a tough task considering girls occasionally drop like flies along the way. Iíd say these murder sequences make Slash Dance a tolerable slog, but none of them are as memorable as the opening number, with the exception of a moment that involves a cruel knife switch-a-roo that lets one of the killerís victims do his work for him (imagine a dramatic Shakespearian suicide, only more brain-damaged). When blood isnít being spilled, weíre watching Tori go about her daily life, which is more hectic than youíd expect even though she is a (scantily-clad) cop. As if solving a murder mystery wasnít enough, she also has to contend with her asshole boss (who probably smells of cheap cologne and date rape), fend off the advances of her partner (who should be named Captain Desperate), bust rape-happy thugs, and brood upon her own tragic past. Sometimes (such as when sheís driving), she zones off and flashes back to her sisterís death at the hands of a drug fiend, an event that fuelled her own desire to be a cop. They never caught the guy, and, for a second, you almost think that Slash Dance will be stupid enough to intertwine all of this into her current case, but, alas, maybe they were saving that for the further adventures of Tori Raines (which never happened, for obvious reasons).

Ferda is expectedly much more believable as a dancer than she is a cop (even though her gun-training is established by the same insert shot thatís repeated a half dozen times). Of course, nobody is particularly believable as actual human beings in Slash Dance. Everyone is practically a cartoon, from the catty dancers (Slash Dance is probably what Suspiria would have looked like had Argento directed it 20 years after he did) to the gravelly-voiced female muscle-heads (also a couple of GLOW cast-offs) that Torie busts for steroids early in the movie. And, for some reason, they show back up as her buddies assisting her on the case later on because they have a cousin whoís gone missing near the theater. Anyway, for a movie stuffed with so many broadly sketched caricatures, Slash Dance manages to be a horrible bore that sets up a few murder suspects that youíd wish just out themselves prematurely so the movie could end. When the actual reveal is made, itís an obvious thud that no amount of wacky exposition can compensate for, though I do think you can jokingly read Slash Dance as a reaction against the seedy underbelly of a Hollywood system thatís full of scumbags and predators.

To do that is difficult, though, especially when Slash Dance is so clearly in love with its setting. Los Angeles is mercilessly established at every turn (the Hollywood PD exterior shot is recycled at least 4 times), so, if nothing else, Slash Dance serves as a time capsule for late 80s Hollywood--the big hair, the vibrant fashions, the neon-clad Me Generation spilling through its streets. Itís just too bad that the whole thing is filtered through this low-grade slasher that resembles a made-for-TV movie, right down to the opening credits that are overlaid onto shots of a local beach. One almost expects this to be an episode of Empty Nest, only it has an old man who likes to flash his junk on the beach. He also returns later in the film as a stagehand, presumably to up the suspect quota and because they just couldnít afford another actor for the part.

I could describe Slash Dance as ďPhantom of the Opera meets aerobic porn,Ē but thatíd be overselling it; I mean, there is a masked maniac stalking girls at a theater, and there certainly are interminable sequences of those girls dancing in spandex, but youíd be better off dusting off one of your momís Richard Simmons workout videos from the 80s. If you donít believe me, check out Brentwoodís Night Chills set, which has this and nine other features. Slash Danceís quality is fine and perhaps a step above VHS quality, which is all it really needs to be; itís hard to say if the full frame aspect ratio is correct, but it feels right considering the TV-movie vibe. But Slash Dance is very bad, and I donít really think itís even much of a curiosity for slasher fans unless you really want to see shoot guns on a firing range, deliver dropkicks, and show off her high-heel throwing prowess. No matter how cool that sounds, it really isnít. Trash it!

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