Follow me here: Slaughterhouse of the Rising Sun is being advertised (quite cleverly, I might add) as a "lost film," a legendary 1972 exploitation film that was seized as evidence after the director killed his producer over the flick's final cut. And only now, 33 years later, is it being released for the world to see.
This is, of course, all hogwash. It's just a kooky marketing technique used to support a cheesy little psycho-thriller that was intentionally created to look like a horror film from the early 1970s. So that's all well and good, but let's talk about...
Sitting back and soaking in the sights of Slaughterhouse, it's easy to appreciate director Vin Crease's (aka D.C. Mann's) style. The guy clearly wanted to make this project look like something that was lensed in the hazy, hippie, halcyon days of 1971, and the movie sure looks it. The lighting is bleachy and bright; there are lots of scratches on the print, as well as several noticeably awful editorial snips; the color is garish and tacky; and the cast members all look and sound the part.
So as far as imitation is concerned, Slaughterhouse earns a high grade indeed. It must be tough to make a flick look this grainy on purpose, but there you go. Fans of flicks like Helter Skelter, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Last House on the Left will most likely enjoy what they're seeing here. (Notice I said: seeing.)
The problem seems to be that Mr. Crease's plot (a girl recently released from a mental hospital hooks up with a potentially bloodthirsty gang of van-drivin' hippie freaks) seems to rely too much on the gimmick, and not nearly enough on the meat of the matter. One can only appreciate the genre-style tackiness of Crease's horror-lovin' gimmickry before they grow a little weary of the trick, and begins hoping for a plot worth biting in to.
The cast is generally quite good, and the director does a dandy job of balancing dream sequences, freakish flashbacks, underlit gloom parades, and a few nasty dispatches in Act III, but when the flick's over and you try to remember what it was actually about -- all you'll be able to remember is that "it really did look and sound like a 70s flick!"
More of a mild disappointment, all things considered, than an outright time-waster, Slaughterhouse of the Rising Sun is absolutely worthy of a rental to horror fans old enough to have seen The Hills Have Eyes during its original theatrical run. And to its credit, the DVD does offer a solid handful of clever goodies that exist to support the "lost movie" trickery. All in all, a fairly fun curiosity for the hardcore horror hounds; they'll appreciate what Crease is attempting here ... even if they're not likely to walk away in love with the final result.
Video: The Widescreen Anamorphic presentation looks precisely as good as it should, when you consider the sort of experiment we're talking about. The grungy photography and frequent flaws are all by design, which means the transfer is just dandy.
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0, which serves the film just fine.
My advice would be to take in the 15-minute Losing the Light featurette -- but only if you're planning to jump into Crease's ploy with both feet. Allegedly filmed in 1975, this series of cast & crew interviews plays along with the plot just perfectly. All the subjects claim to have never seen the film, while several share their feelings on Crease, his movie, and the murder that prevented its release.
Also included are a collection of deleted scenes called Cuttings. The movie preceded by the "Light" featurette should give you precisely the experience that Crease intended, and if it's not anything brilliant, it makes for a strangely entertaining concoction nonetheless.
If Slaughterhouse has one major problem, it's that it hopes you'll forgive its narrative flaws by dismissing them as part of the "lost movie" gimmick. But the simple truth is that much of Slaughterhouse's first hour drags by at a somewhat speedy snail's pace ... but those hippie girls are gorgeous creatures indeed, so you'll have enough 70s era kitsch and curvaceous eye-candy to keep you entertained until the spooky stuff shows up.