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The Slayer (1982)
Blu-ray Disc Released: 8/29/2017
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/23/2017
The saying "You can't judge a book by its cover" is a very apt observation which is still true today. In the 1980s, that adage took a detour into the video stores and many of us learned that "You can't judge a movie by its video box cover art". I spent many an hour perusing video stores (both big chains and Mom & Pop), especially the horror section, and it was very clear that some boxes promises things which were too good to be true, while others barely promised anything. The Slayer certainly fell into that latter category, as the video box (that I recall) showed only a close up of a weird monster and nothing. I can remember seeing the film in several stores and never having any interest in renting it. Now, all these years later, I've finally watched The Slayer and I can tell you that younger me would not have liked it.
Kay (Sarah Kendall) and her husband, David (Alan McRae), along with her brother, Eric (Frederick Flynn), and his wife, Brooke (Carol Kottenbrook), decide to go on a weekend vacation to a secluded island which is only accessible by plane. After landing on the beach, the quartet hike to their holiday house. They settle in and begin to enjoy themselves, but their is some tension between Kay and Eric, as he's concerned that her career has taken a questionable turn. Kay is an artist whose work is becoming more and more surreal. Kay states that she just paints what she sees in her dreams and that she's had prophetic dreams since childhood. The relaxing weekend takes a turn when the vacationers begin to disappear. Will anyone escape the island alive?
Again, thirty-five years later, I'm finally seeing The Slayer for the first time. Until now, I knew very little about the film. The plot descriptions which I had read made it sound like another entry into the early 80s "slasher cycle", but, again, the video box showed a monster. So, is The Slayer a slasher film or a monster movie? The answer is...neither...I think.
An aside -- During the early 80s, I watched a lot, and I mean a lot of horror movies, many of which were part of the slasher sub-genre. At the time, I can recall finding something to like about most of these movies. However, when I viewed them again years later, through the eyes of an adult and not an adolescent, I found that most of these movies are incredibly boring, and that other than the brief murder scenes and the finale, nothing much happens save for awkward dialogue sequences and the inevitable T&A.
The Slayer falls squarely into that category. If you want to watch people walk on the beach, sit in a living room and drink, or sleep, then this is the movie for you. We also get some footage of them walking through old buildings or through fields when it comes time to look for a missing group member. These sort of scenes comprise about 90% of the movie. There are some murder scenes, which are somewhat elaborate, but they make promises which the rest of the movie can't keep. There is also what has to be considered a bonus murder, as a character who literally is not in this movie is killed on the beach.
So, for about 85 minutes, The Slayer is not a very good movie. Then, the ending arrives, and it becomes a truly bad movie. Again, we ask if The Slayer is a slasher film or a monster movie. Well, the ending does very little to clear this up. To put it mildly, the last minute of the movie is really up to interpretation. Even if you give the movie the benefit of the doubt and decide that it's a clever ending, it doesn't change the fact that most of the movie is incredibly uneventful. I love finding hidden gems from the past which I've overlooked, but, unfortunately, The Slayer doesn't fit that description. The best thing that I can say about the movie is that I've visited the island where it was shot.
The Slayer to not dress up when I'm going to be walking for miles on the beach on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Arrow Video. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 37 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing only mild grain at times. The Disc brings us a brand new restoration from a 4K scan of the original camera negative. It's clear that the good folks at Arrow did a fine job restoring the movie, as it looks pretty good. The colors look good, most notably the reds, and the image is never overly dark or bright -- which is truly a positive, as movies like this can get dark. The level of detail is fair, as the image is somewhat soft in some shots, but the depth works well. The Disc carries a Linear PCM Mono audio track which runs at 48 kHz and a constant 2.3 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. As one would imagine, we don't get any dynamic effects here, but the actors are always audible, and music and sound effects never drown out the dialogue.
The Slayer Blu-ray Disc contains several extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Writer/Director J.S. Cardone, Executive in Charge of Production Eric Weston and actress Carol Kottenbrook. This is followed by second COMMENTARY from The Hysteria Continues. The Disc also offers an isolated score track which contains an interview with Composer Robert Folk. "Nightmare Island: The Making of The Slayer" (53 minutes) offers interviews with Cardone, Ewing, Kottenbrook, Director of Photography Karen Grossman, Special Effects Makeup Creator Robert Short and Camera Operator Arledge Armenaki. In addition, we get some on-set photos. But, the bulk of this piece is comprised of the stories from the interviewees, who share their memories of the production. "Return to Tybee: The Locations of The Slayer" (13 minutes) is a modern-day piece in which Armenaki takes us on a tour Tybee, including the house from the film. (Hey! Where's the lighthouse?) "The Tybee Post Theater Experience" takes us inside the renovated theater for a special screener of The Slayer, including a recorded greeting from Cardone. From there, we can watch the movie and hear the audience's reactions. In addition, we get an 18-minute Q&A with Armenaki which occurred after the screening. The extras are rounded out by a STILL GALLERY and a TRAILER.
Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long