Horror movies have managed to put vampires just about everywhere. Mario Bava put them in space way back in the sixties but we've seen them in the country side, in the side, we've seen them from Mexico and even from Pakistan and India and all the way to Asia with bloodsucking exports like Lake Of Dracula and the Mr. Vampire series finding strong cult followings. With all that said, is it possible that Kevin Van Hook is the first man to put vampires in a jungle? It doesn't really matter, as Slayer stinks no matter how you slice it.
Things begin when Hawk (Casper Van Dien of Starship Troopers) and his gang of merry mercenaries are trudging through a jungle somewhere in South America. After throwing insults back and forth for a few minutes, they come across some old ruins and when they explore, they're set upon by a horde of fast moving vampires who are apparently oblivious to the effects of daylight. They open fire and are pretty confident that they killed each and every last one of the monsters and they head back to the United States assuming their mission was accomplished.
Shortly after their return, they get word that several small villages in and around the jungle where they encountered the vampires have since been attacked by more bloodsucking fiends. After Colonel Jessica Weaver (Lynda Carter of Wonder Woman fame) gives him the news, he and a new team of tough guy soldier types fly back to the jungle to take care of business for good this time. If this weren't bad enough for poor Hawk, his ex-wife (Jennifer O'Dell), who he still carries a bit of a torch for, is doing some sort of work in and around the jungle where all of this is going down and if he doesn't act fast she could find herself a vampire's next meal.
While the movie starts off with a decent enough premise (think Predator except with vampires instead of alien warrior vagina face monsters) the concept ultimately fails thanks to some horrible, horrible writing. There are plot holes in here the likes of which you could land a plane in and the dialogue, my God, the dialogue sounds like it was written by a fourteen year old boy with a Half Life addiction. While this does provide more than a few moments of unintentional hilarity, it isn't enough to save this turkey, which is a shame as it could have ended up being a fun B-movie.
As bad as Slayer is, it does have a few interesting things going for it. Look for a nasty impalement or two and the odd throat ripping and blood sucking scenes to gore up the screen. First and foremost, however, is the casting. Van Dien is pretty hokey but it's always fun to see the immortally sexy Lynda Carter pop up and hey wow, Darth Maul himself plays a duel role as a pair of vampire twins – that explains why they hop around and are so gosh-darned acrobatic. The problem is, even with the interesting cast, the dialogue is just so absolutely piss-poor that it really wouldn't have mattered who was in front of the camera, it still would have come off sounding dumb. The film has a few entertaining moments and for a low budget picture the effects and the sets aren't half bad, but unfortunately it just isn't very well written and none of the characters are interesting enough for us to really care.
The 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is sharp and colorful with more detail present in the image than you might expect from a modestly budgeted DV production. From the opening scene that takes in a jungle to the later, darker scenes that take place inside various buildings things do look pretty good. There are no problems to report with mpeg compression artifacts and while there is some moderate aliasing to look for here and there, it's not overpowering nor is it omnipresent. Black levels stay pretty deep even if there are a few scenes where the really fine detail gets a little lost in the shadows, and there's no color bleeding to note.
Audio options come in your choice of a strong Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound mix or a less impressive but still decent stereo mix, both in the film's native English language with an English closed captioning option available. The 5.1 track sounds better mainly because of the effects placement and the way that the score is used in the rears – you'll really notice this during the opening attack scene and the other more action oriented parts of the movie. Other than that, both tracks sound nice and clean and neither has any problem with hiss or distortion worth noting. For the most part, this movie sounds very good on DVD.
The main extra feature on this release is an audio commentary track with director Kevin Van Hook and star Casper Van Diem. This is a reasonably interesting talk even if the two participants seem to think they've made a much better movie than they have. Kevin has the most to say, talking about the casting of the movie and some of the locations where portions were shot. He also talks about the effects work and some of the ideas that they play around with in the film. Van Diem gives us the actor's side of things, talking about his experiences in front of the camera and what it was like collaborating with the cast and the crew on this project.
Aside from that, we get a still gallery and the script in PDF format alongside trailers for other Anchor Bay DVD releases, animated menus and chapter selection. An insert inside the case contains the chapter listings on one side and some poster art on the other and the keepcase is housed inside a slipcase cover that reproduces the exact same cover art.
While Anchor Bay has done a fine job on the presentation of the movie and the commentary is moderately interesting, the fact of the matter is that Slayer just isn't a very good film. True, it has its moments but they're few and far between and despite an interesting cast it fails to deliver on what was otherwise a decent premise for a B-movie. Skip it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.