Friday, September 1, 2017

#2,416. The Slayer (1982)

Directed By: J.S. Cardone

Starring: Sarah Kendall, Frederick Flynn, Carol Kottenbrook

Tag line: "Anticipate a web of diabolical terror"

Trivia: This film was also released as Nightmare Island

The Slayer, a 1982 horror movie directed (and co-written) by J.S. Cardone, has a handful of gory kill scenes, yet it’s not what I would categorize as a full-on slasher flick. It was certainly inspired, at least in part, by the ‘80s slasher craze (its makers have admitted as much), but the story goes beyond that formula, and at times the film feels like a psychological thriller with just a hint of the supernatural thrown in for good measure.

However you classify it, The Slayer is, without a doubt, an interesting genre entry, and there are moments in the film that are truly inspired.

Kay (Sarah Kendall), a well-respected artist, has been experiencing a series of violent nightmares, all set in a location she has never visited before. Hoping a change of scenery might do her some good, her husband David (Alan McRae) convinces Kay to take a vacation, and along with Kay’s brother Eric (Frederick Flynn) and his wife Brooke (Carol Kottenbrook), the couple makes its way to a remote island, where they plan to relax on the beach and maybe even do a little fishing.

Moments after they arrive on the island, however, Kay begins to recognize buildings (including an abandoned movie theater), and realizes this idyllic vacation spot is actually the place she’s been dreaming about! To make matters worse, the pilot who flew them there, a guy named Marsh (Michael Holmes), has informed the two couples that a bad storm is moving in, and suggests that they turn around and head home. 

But they decide to stay, and while David, Eric, and Brooke try to make the best of the situation, Kay grows more convinced with each passing hour that her nightmares are coming true, and that a killer is watching their every move.

One of the biggest strengths of The Slayer is its setting; director Cardone shot the majority of the movie on Tybee Island (which is situated off the coast of Georgia), a beautiful yet seemingly abandoned landmass that boasts a number of genuinely creepy locales. Chief among them is the dilapidated theater I mentioned above, where one of the film’s most intense moments takes place (the theater has since been refurbished, and hosted a screening of The Slayer earlier this year).

Even more impressive are the various kill scenes. The first victim is a fisherman (Paul Gandolfo), who, while sitting on the beach cleaning his day’s catch, is struck on the head with an oar. It’s a grisly sequence, but is merely a precursor for the violence to come (one kill in particular, involving a pitchfork, is so well-handled that it reminded me of Tom Savini’s early work on movies like Friday the 13th and The Prowler).

Of course, the fact that The Slayer is essentially a story about four people does limit the number of “slasher-esque” scenes. As a result, large chunks of the film are dedicated to the characters and their plight (including Kay’s ever-growing sense of impending doom). Fortunately, Kay and the others are plenty interesting, and their exploits carry us through the slow times. This, as well as its effective location and gory kills, helps make The Slayer a worthwhile horror film.

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