The Slayer (1982)

Terror strikes again and again.
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The Slayer - Terror strikes again and again.

For the most part, The Slayer brings little new to slashers of that era but manages to present itself in a way that makes it feel like it might have a little something extra to offer. Writer and director J.S. Cardone uses tried and tested horror methodologies amid a few innovations but fails to grasp any of these elements as opportunities to really impress, as a result there are a lot of scenes that seem to drag like pugs during a tapeworm epidemic. A prime example of a missed opportunity is how the evil entity in this film manifests itself. The beast exists in dreams, these dreams give it power until it can finally infiltrate the waking world and wreak havoc in a vicious manner. Seems like a familiar concept doesn't it? The Slayer was released two years before this concept was taken and etched into horror history while Cardone's directorial debut drifted into relative obscurity until rescued by the BBFC and their video nasty hysteria.

Artist Kay (Sarah Kendall looking like the less popular ginger sister of Sigourney Weaver) is haunted by nightmares of a murderous beast she calls The Slayer. Her brother being a top quality, highly skilled, highly qualified, expert doctor decides that the ideal solution for remedying mental instability is vacationing on a secluded island with no access to professional care or medication. Once on the island the storms arrive and they become stranded until the weather will allow a plane to come and retrieve them. This gives Kay the perfect amount of quiet time to realise that this island is where all of her prophetic dreams were leading to and allows her to bring her demons into reality.

Numerous clichés are used to fill in the gaps between the sparseness of the story and many horror principles are thrown in haphazardly. The first instance of this is when creepy murder music comes to the fore when someone cuts themselves shaving, an everyday bloodletting with no relevance to the story or any sinister implications. There are a lot of creaky doors, thunder, lightening and irrational investigations by the curious. All of which have their place in horror but work better when relevant. Screams often scare the local fowl from a distance and there is even a creepy old pilot full of local knowledge sharing his prophecies of doom regarding the island who probably tells tales of Indian burial grounds when not flying people to dangerous remote destinations.

While the theme seems adequate for a film, it is not fleshed out enough so there seems to be a lot of filler between the killer. As there are only really six players in this game (the tourists, the pilot and a random fisherman) there is a lot more time to kill than people. At one point the films seems like it will consist of two people wandering around shouting "David" and looking at the scenery for approximately 52.94% of the time (you may also experience this if you visit Guernsey). Kay's mental stability doesn't seem to waver either way, she seems cracked at the beginning and remains that way throughout so there is no build up of tensions there. Towards the end of the film Kay tries to keep the demon at bay by staying awake and repeating to herself "Just stay awake, that's all you have to do". By this time the viewer is probably thinking the same.

When the kills do happen they are fairly impressive with a decent build up beforehand. The budget is obviously low but the effects make good use of the lighting (or lack thereof) and this helps deliver some quite gruesome deaths. The pitchfork through the tits seems to be the one that attracts the most praise although decapitation by attic door must come a close second. The monster appears very briefly and is formidable enough to make an impression on an eighties crowd. He deserved more screen time but this is most likely a constraint imposed by the budget.

The Slayer definitely deserves the attention it gets through video nasty infamy simply to expose this to a wider audience. Despite some substantial pacing flaws it is a valiant effort at adding something a bit out of the ordinary to the slasher genre in the midst of a saturated market. It plays it safe and by the rules but manages to avoid looking like a bandwagon jumper. Taking a few more risks could have made this stand out more than it does but, as a debut for Cordone, this could simply be a lack of experience and a lesson learned which has noticeably been taken on board for some of his more recent endeavours.
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