Blu-ray Review: The Slayer

In the interest of full disclosure, Arledge Armenaki the camera operator on The Slayer was my cinematography instructor at film school. While we had numerous conversations about his work on Rudy Ray Moore’s Disco Godfather, Death Spa and Emmanuelle IV, this small horror film shot down and Georgia was never mentioned. I really wish we had discussed The Slayer. This is an extremely effective example of what you can do with a low budget, small unknown cast, great physical effects and a sweet location. But by 1998, movie was rather obscure having had a barely noticed theatrical release in 1982 and lackluster home video history until now. Arrow Video has risen this horror film from the cinematic grave to scare more summer vacationers.

Two couples decided to get away from it all when they have a chance to stand borrow a remote beach house. David (Alan McRae) needs to get his artist wife Kay (Sarah Kendall) away from her work since she’s been having lots of bad dreams. They also bring along Kay’s brother Eric (Frederick Flynn) his wife Brooke (Carol Kottenbrook) on a bit of an adventure. This beach place is so remote that they have to fly down in a small plane and land on the beach. There is nobody on the island. However this doesn’t help Kay since it turns out she has had been there before in her bad dreams. The other three try to calm her fears, but very quickly they find out that they aren’t so alone. Things go bad when the pilot returns to the island only to be greeted by unknown guest that grounds him for life. The killer isn’t done as it slowly apart the guests who are stuck on the island with no way to get off or signal the outside world. This was 1982 when they didn’t have affordable cellphones or a satellite cellphone. The only thing connecting the murders is that they happen as Kay sleeps. Is this a nightmare monster or a sleepwalking Kay that’s picking off her relatives?

The Slayer is a captivating ’80s scare film that brought the fear of bad dreams seeping into the real world a few years before A Nightmare on Elm Street. One of the best elements is shooting on location on Georgia’s Tybee Island. This is a picturesque land with sea oats in the dunes and wonderful vistas. This adds so much to a film in a genre where most of the action ends up on a soundstage. In a sense this works perfectly with The Mutilator that was made on the North Carolina coast around the same time (and lovingly revived on Blu-ray by Arrow Video). Director of photography Karen Grossman (Hamburger: The Motion Picture) has things look like you’re in a travel film with a nasty twist. The main cast appears to have not gone any further in cinema, but they worked well as the trapped characters. This is great since you haven’t a clue who is going to get snuffed next. Even more important to the film was the incredible kill special effects. The shot of the pitchfork popping out of a victim looks great in high definition. The gory special effects is what gave The Slayer a cult following in England. The VHS release was part of the Video Nasty list with films that were either banned or censored to get a release. Sadly there was no such list in America that could excite horror hungry kids eager to rent the most gruesome titles at Videorama. Luckily The Slayer has now been given a release with a top notch transfer with bonus features that allow a viewer to finally absorb the nightmares of this vacation. And I got a chance to hear Arledge talk about this film.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. This is a crisp transfer that brings out the wood paneling in the house and the ocean waves. The resolution brings out the gross effects without revealing the trick. The audio is LCPM 1.0 mono. Things sound great for both dialogue and the score. The movie is subtitled.

Commentary Track features writer/director J.S. Cardone, actress Kottenbrook and Eric Weston. Kottenbrook and Cardone are married so it’s fun family tales. Another track has the guys from The Hysteria Continues podcast discussing how they found out about the film during the VHS era. There’s track with isolated score with talk from composer Robert Folk. The final track is an audience reaction from when the newly restored film ran in Tybee Island.

Nightmare Island: The Making of The Slayer (52:24) talks with Cardone, Kottenbrook, Weston and Ewing break down how the film came about and shooting on an island in Georgia instead of out in Los Angeles. Karen Grossman and Armenaki relate odd tales of shooting the film. Grossman sensed producers weren’t sure about a female director of photography, but she proved her worth. There’s talk about the creation of the Slayer monster. They expose the horrible theatrical and home video leases.

Return to Tybee: The Locations of The Slayer (13:18) is a tour of Tybee Island with Arledge. He shows off how so much has changed on the island. The remote vacation home has changed a bit, but the living room is the same. Strangely there’s no poster of the movie on the wall. One of the big shocks is seeing what became of the ruined Tybee Post Theater.

The Tybee Post Theater Experience breaks up a special screening of the film on the island a few months ago. There’s the event introduction (2:38) followed by the video introduction from J.S. Cardone (1:04). You can watch the film with an audience reaction track to hear the crowd get scared. Finally there’s an after screening Q&A with Armenaki and Ewan Cant (17:50). Arledge tells a greet story about the crew going nuts buying and using fireworks.

Still Gallery (9:55) covers so much from the production.

Trailer (1:56) promises a vacation with bad dreams.

Arrow Video presents The Slayer. Directed by: J. S. Cardone. Screenplay by: J.S. Cardone & Bill Ewing. Starring: Sarah Kendall, Frederick Flynn, Carol Kottenbrook & Alan McRae. Running Time: 90 minutes. Rated: R. Released: August 22, 2017.

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