Slayer, The (1982)

Author: Brett H.
Submitted by: Brett H.   Date : 2008-10-08 07:39

Directed by: J.S. Cardone
Written by: J.S. Cardone & William R. Ewing
Starring: Sarah Kendall, Frederick Flynn, Alan McRea & Michael Holmes

Reviewed by: Brett H.

ďI feel like Iíve been here before.Ē
ďYou ainít the first Iíve heard say that. And you wonít be the last.Ē

Sleep is a terrifying thing. You lie in bed and you close your eyes and eventually drift away into a sea of nothing before your eyes open again and life resumes as usual. But, anything could happen while youíre asleep; a fireÖ or a cold blade reaching out of the dark signifying your last seconds. Itís no wonder Wes Craven used sleep as an antagonist alongside immortal icon Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street series. It doesnít matter who you are, every sleeping soul has all the threat of a two week-old child. When a horror movie hits it big, every other horror movie seems to aim to emulate it, and The Slayer is one such film. At least, thatís what every smarmy fan would be saying about it had it not actually come out two years prior to Wes Cravenís flagship film. So, would that make A Nightmare on Elm Street a Slayer rip? Not likely, but itís a cruel and unnecessary double standard all-too often imposed on lesser films that come out as a result of a boom in a specific subgenre. Horror ideas are passed on like a bottle around a campfire under the hot July moonlight and Iíve never been overly concerned about labelling most films a ďcopyĒ of this or that. Iím more interested in if the film is worth watching. So, is The Slayer any match for his partner in dream crime, Freddy Krueger? Dream onÖ

Kay (Sarah Kendall) and her old man David (Alan McRae) are in need of a vacation. They are joined by a couple of family members and head off to a deserted island where there is a mansion (fully stocked, of course) awaiting them for their pleasure. After arriving, Kay begins to have nightmares, well, a nightmare. Ever since she was a child, sheís had the same dream and it haunts the hell out of her. Her nightmare always consists of being tormented by the ghastly silhouette of a monster with sharp claws just aching to rip at her sweet flesh. Before getting off the plane, they are all warned that tropical storms hit the island hard and if they decided to stay there most likely will be no turning back. They decided not to pass up this opportunity and everyone is having a gay old time except for Kay, who is now not only haunted by the same old nightmare, but having her family members disappear in reality after being killed in her dreams. Is Kay crazy? Are these night terrors just all in her head? Or, are these restless visions of the night caused by something out of this world by a beast known only from video box covers everywhere as The Slayer?

The Slayer is some great comfort food for the slasher fan. While contributing little to nothing new to the genre and offering up just enough plot to trod along, it still conjures up a true identity because it does the average things quite well. Itís not a slasher that is mentioned with Halloween or even Terror Train, but one that likes to chill out with good buddies like Slaughter High and Prom Night. These films may not be exceptional and theyíre chock full of everything that is unhealthy for you, yet you still crave when the right mood strikes you. There are no characters that stand out from the pack and there are mistakes along the way. The Continental VHS print is dark, likely intended, and lacking perfection from dozens, perhaps hundreds of trips through VCR machines across the world spanning several decades. The scratches on the tape and tracking issues held within acting as little love-marks having been left behind by a generation of slasher devotees.

Upon its original release, The Slayer was a part of a double feature VHS along with Scalps, and the pairing is an absolute match made in Heaven. Cheap schlock shocks that nevertheless have major appeal in the sleazy aisles of your favorite mom & pop store that much like these types of films nowadays, are few and far between. What The Slayer does best is doesnít overstay its welcome, chiming in at a mere 74 minutes (6 minutes of talk were omitted from this release in particular to make room for Scalps on the tape, but all gore is in tact). With cheesy slashers like this, itís best to go for the get-in and get-out approach. Even at 74 minutes, there are still some pacing problems and a very strange absence of a catchy synth score and full-on topless scenes (see-through only, fellas). But, it does manage to get a lot of things right, in that cheapie sort of way.

Thereís the usual Crazy Ralph Friday the 13th inspired wacko issuing warnings to heed and of course, the characters pay him no attention. Unlike all too many of the shoddy slashers, there is a wide array of weapon variety including a hook on a chain and a pitchfork to please the gore-hounds. Itís nothing like its Continental brother-in-video, Nightmare, but for an American eighties slasher, it has some great kill scenes and the tropical storm plays marvellously into the picture as the rain is always pounding, thunder cackling and lightning streaming across your television screen. One negative point is the jaw dropping makeup of The Slayer is rarely seen. The film opens with an awesome silhouette of the monster amidst high winds and his claws ripping across a ladyís face, but we donít see that great monster makeup for quite some time in the film. Even then, it doesnít quite satisfy. A true shame because his appearance would have spruced up an already gratifying shrieker.

The climax of the film is much too short and for a moment you will no doubt let out a big groan before things take a turn for the better. The denouement is nothing spectacular, but it even offers up another small twist that closes out the story portion of the film after the deeds have been done (dirt cheap) in the slash department. Iíve always been a fan of the desperation from isolation slasher films and that aspect really helps the film to make up for what little suspense (besides a really cool pitchfork scene with a lot of screaming and the finale) the movie manages. It also should be noted that The Slayer was on the original Video Nasties list and for that reason alone makes it a film to be sought after for many fans. Itís too bad the film has never been released on North American DVD as there are pools of curious people whoíd like nothing more than to give it a spin, especially since its companion piece, Scalps saw the light of day from Retromedia. The Slayer is a truly underrated, gore soaked adventure into tool shed utensil terror that succeeds at its only real goal; entertainment. Buy it!

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