The Slayer (2-Disc Special Edition) [Blu-ray + DVD]
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(Aug 29, 2017)
2-Disc Special Edition
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IS IT A NIGHTMARE? OR IS IT... THE SLAYER?
One of the most sought-after titles for slasher fans everywhere, The Slayer finally rises from the ashes of obscurity in a brand new 4K transfer courtesy of Arrow Video.
Two young couples set off to a secluded island for what promises to be a restful retreat. But the peace is short-lived: as a storm batters the island, troubled artist Kay begins to sense that a malevolent presence is here with them, stalking them at every turn. Is she losing her mind, or are her childhood nightmares of a demonic assailant coming to terrifying life?
Previously only available on home video in truncated or full screen versions, The Slayer whose nightmares-seeping-into-reality theme predates a certain Wes Craven classic by several years comes lovingly restored from the original negative in a stunning transfer that will be a revelation to fans both old and new.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
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Aside from a desolate filming location, dreary atmosphere, and a good deal of tension derived from its limited cast, what the movie does really well is it sticks to its tagline: "Is it a nightmare, or is it The Slayer?" Throughout the film, it's not uncommon for this question to arise from time to time; after all, when the "slayer" of these fussy people does its work, it is either not seen or else is seen only in a shadowed glimpse. Who is making these nightmares come true? Are they even coming true, or are they all part of some vivid imagination? Hints of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREEET are here, albeit not fully fleshed out, due likely to a limited budget or else because the movie wants to go the minimalist route. It does end on a note which left me considering different possibilities about its concept and overall story. Some viewers don't like that, but I love works of art--such as this one--that allow the viewer (or reader) to use his or her own imagination.
THE SLAYER, while a bit slowly paced for some (younger viewers, especially) and lacking a tad in the storytelling department, is actually a pleasant, suspenseful, wonderfully dread-drenched, tense, nicely layered, occasionally gory horror film (it holds back on the exploitation, thankfully, yet when it does show gore, it shows just enough to keep us satisfied). It's one of the better horror obscurities you'll see.
Kay (Sarah Kendall) is an artist plagued by terrifying images in her sleep. In an effort to relieve the stress of an upcoming gallery showing her husband David (Alan McRae), brother Eric (Frederick Flynn) and sister in law Brooke (Carol Kottenbrook) have arranged a short vacation. The location is a secluded island owned by one of Eric’s friends. It’s the off season and no one else is on the island. With the pantry and fridge stocked, the four set off for a quiet time away from phones and worries.
But once they hit the island the fears Kay has had come up again. Various items on the island are scenes she has painted in recent months, even though she’s never been to this island. The rest of the group tells her she’s imagining things and they find the house and settle in. Then things begin to happen. Eventually the members of this group begin to be killed one by one. Is someone else on the island, perhaps the pilot who brought them there? Or maybe someone else, someone who has been stalking Kay? Then again maybe it is the terrifying creature she only catches glimpses of in her dreams.
The movie is well made and for a group of actors who were basically unknowns they to a good job here. Kendall is particularly good with a haunted look to her that makes the character of Kay, a woman who is afraid of sleep for fear of her dreams, quite believable. Of the four main actors Kottenbrook comes off as the most skilled and her shift from perturbed at their vacation location to concern for her sister in law is well played.
What makes the movie work most of all though is the way it’s plotted out. We don’t take too much time in exposition setting up the story but it does give us enough background to inform us. The pacing works well here too without providing an immediate murder to keep us watching but playing out the suspense enough to make us ponder whether or not Kay is insane or being pursued by a potentially supernatural force.
Of course the first thing horror fans will note is her fear of sleeping. Some might think that this makes the film a rip off of the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET films. But check the date of release and you’ll find that this movie predates the first film of that series by 2 years.
Arrow Video does their usual bang up job here offering a restoration of the film from 4k scan of the original negative. Extras are fairly limited but include new interviews with the cast and crew, the original theatrical trailer, a reversible sleeve with artwork by Justin Osbourn and a booklet featuring new liner notes by writer Lee Gambin for those who pick up the first printing of the disc.
A few companies have seen the success that Arrow Video has had by reclaiming these lost video store gems and are trying to compete with them now. But no one has equaled the amount of affection that Arrow has for these titles. Until they do Arrow will be the company to look for when choosing movies from this category and time period.
Released in 1982, a time where you couldn't throw a cat (or a hammer?) without hitting a slasher film, "The Slayer" is in good company, but also stands out from the pack in a few ways. First off, unlike your "Prom Night" or "My Bloody Valentine," this film isn't about teens getting cut up. This is a movie about adults, and despite some dodgy acting here and there, these characters feel like a real, tight-knit group of people who care about each other, which makes their grisly fates even more effective. Also, this isn't exactly a body count flick. With only four characters (well, there's also the pilot who pops in and out of the plot), that pretty much goes without saying. As a result, "The Slayer" is slow and steady, and focuses on the surreal more than it does in grossing you out.
On the technical side of things, the haunting, desolated beach-side setting and the gorgeous cinematography help to keep things interesting during the movie's slower parts. Also of note are the special effects which, while few and far between, are pretty well accomplished for such a small-budget affair. They couldn't get Tom Savini, but Robert Babb does his best to keep you (ahem) hooked. Likewise, the score that serves as the backdrop to the horror adds a touch of class rarely associated with the genre.
There's a lot going on in this deceptively simple little film. Much like, say, "Phantasm," it plays with your expectations and makes you question that what you've seen was real (or at least real in the context of the film). If you watch it late at night, it will beg another viewing in the morning just to make sure you got everything. It's that kind of movie. For its modest intentions and humble origins, "The Slayer" pretty much slays. Fans of the genre who have patience for the more deliberately paced side of things won't want to sleep on this.
After years of being abused and neglected, the good folks at Arrow have assembled the definitive home video release of "The Slayer." Previously out of print and only appearing in heavily truncated and poorly transferred form, fans get both a DVD and Blu-Ray copy (because, even if you're still using DVD, you deserve to see this film). The print is absolutely pristine and the soundtrack is mixed just right, meaning you won't have to keep fiddling with the volume control as the film jumps from screams and stings to hushed dialogue. The special features are also plentiful, the centerpiece of which is an hour long retrospective documentary that focuses a lot on the film's scrappy beginnings, its troubled release and its gnarly special-effects. Be sure to pick this up if you're a fan of this sort of thing.
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Arrowfilms have reissued the film on blu-ray for both U.K. & U.S.Read more