The eighties were a decade ruled by the slasher film. The success of the Friday The 13th, Halloween, and Nightmare On Elm Street franchises spawned multitudes of imitations… some good, some bad, and some downright terrible. In the past, I'd have said that The Slayer was in the downright terrible category, but to be fair to director J.S. Cardone and his cast and crew members who clearly worked hard on this picture, a lot of that had to do with the horrible presentation the film was given on home video. Now that Arrow Video has worked their magic on this obscure picture, it's only fair the film be given a reappraisal.
The story revolves around two couples: Kay (Sarah Kendall) and her husband David (Alan McRae) and Kay's brother Eric (Frederick Flynn) and his wife Brooke (Caro Kottenbrook) who head out of the big city to a remote island for a little rest and relaxation. Despite the warnings of the oddball pilot who gets them there, the group decides to stick around in spite of the nasty storm that is heading their way. Cut to an unknown lone fisherman type who gets smacked outside the head with a paddle and then back to the story.
Kay is a painter. She claims that she gets inspiration for her art from the disturbing and unusual dreams that she has. These more often than not tend to come completely true shortly after she wakes from them. She becomes quite perturbed when she dreams of David being decapitated and low and behold, when she wakes up, he's missing. One by one, an unseen killer stalks and kills off the remaining tourists until only Kay is left. Will she be able to stop him? Will she make it out alive?
The Slayer has a few things going for it, particularly when viewed in its uncut form as it is presented on this Blu-ray debut. The first of these positives is the quality of the kill scenes and the murder set pieces. There's some pretty strong gore in some of these and the effects used to bring that gore to life are rock solid. The movie also benefits from some genuinely great locations. Shot in and around Tybee Island in Georgia, the film makes great use of some somewhat rustic locations and very cool beaches to create some nice atmosphere. The lighting employed in the film is also occasionally pretty impressive, helping to further solidify the visual style employed in the picture. Again, this was all almost impossible to appreciate in past editions where everything was murky, dark and sometimes just impossible to decipher.
But The Slayer is not a perfect film. There are logic gaps here (you could say dream logic applies to counter this criticism, and that's fair enough but it doesn't really change the facts) and for all the film's quirks and oddities, it's fairly predictable. The acting isn't great, but neither is it awful, it's simply average. There are some occasional pacing issues too. None of this kills the movie, however. It's fairly entertaining stuff particularly if you don't think about it too much. Enjoy this one for its weird regional flavor, decent kills and genuinely solid atmosphere, everything else is a bonus.The Blu-ray:
The Slayer never got a legitimate DVD release in North America, but it did get one in the UK through Vipco and it was absolutely terrible. You couldn't tell what was going on in many of the darker scenes and the framing was all wrong, Arrow's new Blu-ray, taken from a new 4k scan of the 35mm negative, presents the movie on a 50GB disc in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1and it's quite a revelation. It still doesn't make The Slayer a particularly good movie but it does at least allow you to appreciate the fact that it's reasonably well shot and makes good use of color. Skin tones look nice, there are no compression issues, the pictures is quite clean. This looks about as good as The Slayer can realistically look, it's hard to imagine anyone familiar with how the film has been treated on home video in the past taking issue with the picture quality here.Sound:
The only audio option on the disc is a LPCM Mono track, there are no alternate language options though English subtitles are offered. Dialogue is clean and clear and easy to follow and the levels are well balanced. This isn't a fancy track but it suits the movie just fine and it sounds quite good. The score sounds decent here as well. Again, a big step up from what fans of the film have had to deal with in the past.Extras:
Extras for this release, and there are a lot of them, start off with an audio commentary featuring writer/director J.S. Cardone, actress Carol Kottenbrook and executive in charge of production Eric Weston, moderated by Ewan Cant. This is a nicely paced track with a lot of information in it, covering the casting of the picture, the writing process, shooting on location in Georgia, some of the effects work featured in the picture and lots more. Up next is an audio commentary with the members of the Hysteria Continues podcast. This one is more observational, with the participants offering up their thoughts on the film as it plays out while also making some interesting observations about what works, what doesn't and how the movie both compares to other slasher pictures made around the same time and how it differs from them. Arrow has also included selections from the score presented as an isolated track with input from composer Robert Folk moderated by Michael Felsher. As the score is one of the best parts of this movie, this is worth listening to. Much of the music used in the film works quite well on its own and Folk's comments about his creative process as interesting.
From there, we move on to the first featurette which is Nightmare Island: The Making Of The Slayer. Made up of brand new interviews with J.S. Cardone, Carol Kottenbrook, Eric Weston, producer William Ewing, director of photography Karen Grossman, camera operator/2nd Unit DOP/still photographer Arledge Armenaki, special creature and make-up effects ceator Robert Short and "Slayer" performer Carl Kraines this is pretty much the last word on the history of the picture. This clocks in at over fifty-two minutes in length and it gives us some insight into what went into making the picture, the cinematography, the effects work, the casting and what it was like on set. Pretty much everyone interviewed here looks back on their work here pretty happily.
Also worth checking out is Return To Tybee: The Locations Of The The Slayer in which we revisit the locations used for the film found on Tybee Island in the fine state of Georgia. It's basically a thirteen minute tour of the island, showcasing all of the key locations as they appear today and comparing them to how they looked when they were used in the feature.
In The Tybee Post Theater Experience we get to watch an audience at the Tybee Post Theater (the theater location used in the feature itself) take in a of the film complete with a one minute long introduction and an eighteen minute long post screening Q&A with Arledge Armenaki and Ewan Cant. When you enable this, you are basically put into the audience, so as the movie plays out you experience their reactions and what not.
Outside of that the disc also includes an extensive still gallery, an original theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection. As far as the packaging goes, Arrow has also included some reversible sleeve art and an insert booklet featuring credits for the feature and the Blu-ray release as well as essays from Lee Gambin and Ewan Cant. As this is a combo pack release, the clear Blu-ray keepcase also holds a DVD version of the movie featuring extras identical to those found on the Blu-ray disc.Final Thoughts:
The Slayer is not a great movie but it's fun in its own goofy way and seeing it properly presented as it is here on this Blu-ray release does make it easier to appreciate than when we were dealing with horrible tape sourced transfers. The presentation is excellent and Arrow has done their typically great job putting together some very thorough and enjoyable supplements to accompany the main attraction.