The Spooktacular Eight #2: The Slayer (1982)

I did promise i would cover more Arrow Video releases.

I didn’t specify or pointed out that they also re-released a lot of slasher flicks, so we’re not talking about the works of Park Chan-wook, Miike or Buttgereit, not today.

Today we’re talking about one of the many cult slashers from the 80s (really, what slasher from that era ISN’T a cult sensation today?), The Slayer, the debut feature from genre director J.S. Cardone, and yet another one for the “video nasty” list, which in retrospect helped these movies gain more notoriety than they ever could wish for, so yeah, good one Thatcher and co.

Since we’re on “obvious streak”, the movie was also known under the “Nightmare Island” title, which is actually quite fitting, since it does take place on a small island near the Atlantic coast, and it’s about two couples that come there to visit but get stuck due to a hurricane, and one of the women knows of it being a prelude to disaster, as she has recurring nightmares and an unseen figure – apparently related to the woman’ nightmares – starts killing them.

This does sound like a proto-Nightmare In Elm Street, and it does precede the first movie of that series by a couple of years, with the main character at some point having to not sleep to avoid the creature, but oddly it’s just coincidence, as The Slayer goes for a more ambiguous narrative, often told in non-chronological order and involving points of views of the characters that are mutually exclusive, so you’re left wondering… even after the ending, there were a handful of ways of how the events could have actually played out in diegesis, but with no actual proper answer.

No, they don’t even do the old clichè of “it was all a dream after all”… kinda, they spin it as some sort of premonition, but since that is the ending, it’s just self-reference that avoid them the task of making proper sense of what actually happened in the story before that, sidestepping entirely the contraddictory nature of some events.

Still doesn’t explain the ending, as only the audience could know what that meant in context of everything else. Which yes, it’s a cop out.

So the result it’s a movie with some atmosphere to it, but the pace seems deliberatly slow more to draw events out, thought it kinda works since you do wanna know what it’s exactly building up to in the end. turns out to be everything and nothing, as they couldn’t decide to play it out as psychological thriller or a standard slasher killathon, so did both and none at the same time.

Also, while the kills aren’t very abundant on gore, they are odd enough to be somewhat interesting and make you gloss over them not being that graphic or bloody. While also serving as proof (if any more was needed) that the “video nasty nominations” were made by people that didn’t see the movies themselves, just the poster and marketing materials, in the best case scenario.

It’s a decent movie with some interesting ideas and a premise that does stand out enough, overall solid acting, convincing musical score, the combination of an old creaking house and the island scenario isn’t new but it’s nice, but it’s definitely not flawless, as the characters fairly obviously foreshadow their own deaths early in the first act, the character themselves are kinda bland (not unlikeable, but not interesting), and the pace it’s a bit slower than usual just to pad the runtime a bit.

I wouldn’t go as far as calling it a cult classic, but regardless of that The Slayer is a decent flick and a good curiosity watch for any slasher fans, and there’s a good amount of extras, from audio commentaries to the usual photo gallery, interviews, isolate musical shore, even a recording of the experience of a special screening where the movie was mainly shot at, complete with the Q&A panel/section.

Arrow does not disappoint in this regard, as expected.

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