When you sharpen a knife, you can only go so far with your technique; once you reach that razor’s edge, anything you do beyond that is wasted effort. Sometimes, I feel that we’ve hit that point with the slasher film; actually, we probably hit it twenty-five or thirty years ago. Sure, every now and then one comes along that bends or breaks some of the basic rules and molds we’re used to and gives us hope, but regardless of what neat psychological twists or interesting new backstory a writer comes up with, the underlying theme of some elusive stalker hunting down and slicing up the average three-to-eight folks introduced into his territory is almost always followed. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing; I’ve been watching them since I was able to sneak down the hall and peek from behind the couch, and I’ll keep watching them as long as they make them, formula be damned. There’s an inherent fun in them that really is only gotten by folks like us.
This brings me to Slaughter Night, a fun little Dutch hack ‘n’ slash that I recently sat down and enjoyed. It’s got a couple of pretty intriguing twists (although nothing overwhelmingly original), but remains a classic slasher.
After a quarrel with her father ends in a horrible car accident leaving him dead, Kris sets out to retrieve a manuscript he was working on to find some closure and perhaps alleviate some of the guilt she feels. Dad was a writer working on the story of a serial killer from the 1850s (whom we learned a little about in the prologue), and had set up a research area in the office building of an abandoned mine, now something of a tourist attraction, where said killer had been put to death (in a pretty odd but interesting method of capital punishment) over a hundred years ago. Gathering a few of her supportive friends, Kris travels to this mine; while rummaging around in her father’s small research office, she finds writings and recordings of her father’s findings; dark glimpses into the long-ago killer’s mind…his angry childhood, his obsession with the occult…and his willingness to do whatever it took to find the revenge he so desperately wanted.
Still feeling a longing for her lost father, Kris talks her friends into taking a late tour of the mine; they’re joined by a trio of other tourists, and begin the descent into the dark tunnels. During the walking tour, the guide tells of the history of the facility, as well as stories of the killer Kris’ father was studying.When it comes time to leave, they find they’ve been forgotten by the employees above because it’s late and they ran a bit long. No worries; the guide informs them he can climb a small employee shaft (that insurance won’t allow guests to climb) and have them out in short order. After he has left to do this, the group begins playing around with Tarot cards and a Ouija Board to pass the time (never a really good idea, least of all in allegedly haunted mine shafts); without warning, one of the three tagalongs (the girl) wigs the hell out, bashes one of Kris’ friends in the head with a rock, and rushes off into the dark corridors. As the remaining group divides their time trying to find her and get help for the injured friend, they slowly discover that a dark shadow from the past moves amongst them, seeking to complete a bloody and obscene ritual begun almost a hundred and fifty years before…
The film hits all the marks for a good slasher; hell, it even incorporates both the haunted house and possession ideologies to boot.
The backstory is interesting and appropriately gruesome; the characters, albeit touching on the usual stereotypes (the Good Girl, the Slut, the Asshole, so on and so forth) are sympathetic and buck against the pigeonholes that they find themselves in; the Heroic Dude gets his ass kicked often, the Asshole turns out to be a pretty good guy; these and other departures from what you expect keep the flick pretty fresh. Each of the young actors turn out better-than-average to very good performances, and the direction and shot composition accent this well. You can tell the director has a love and respect for the genre, and uses the camera in the dark tunnels to great advantage. And yes, there is gore galore; the effects in this film are impressive and that wonderful squishy sickeningly satisfying that all of us hounds love. Decapitations, skin-tearing bites, scattered brain matter; you’ll get your fill.
You’re not really gonna see anything revolutionary here; as I said, there’s enough shuffling around of the deck to keep it interesting, but it’s still the same ol’ cards; it’s just a nice stab (heh-heh) at a slasher flick. The film is not a game-changer; still, it’s well put together, and if you’re a slasher fan I don’t think you’ll regret giving it a watch.
Keeping with the thought I began with, it’s just a knife, but it’s sufficiently sharp.
I’ll certainly be seeing it again.
…and that’s two pennies to you guys.
Note: I feel obligated tell you guys that the film is in Dutch; there are subtitles, but no English dub. I myself have never had a problem with this; being a fan of foreign horror, it’s par for the course. However, I didn’t want to send you into it without a warning: if you have a problem with subtitles, this one isn’t gonna make you happy.