Friday, May 04, 2007

Slayer – review


Director: Kevin VanHook

Release Date: 2006

Contains spoilers

First thing to note about this film is it was made for TV, for the Sci-fi channel I believe, and the second thing is that Lynda Carter is in it. That’s right, Wonder Woman (she’s never going to shake the role). Great to see her again but was she any good – well we’ll get to that later.

The film is a take your brain out action flick that was a bit like Predator victimwith vampires. It started with a group of soldiers led by Hawk (Casper Van Dien) out in a South or Central American country. They reach a small town and it is the scene of devastation, bodies lie everywhere and their throats have all been brutally bitten.

Now at this point you think to yourself that the soldiers are going to bunk down amongst the carnage and then be attacked. Not so. These vampires can go out during the day and they start to attack the soldiers there and then. Of course bullets don’t do Jack and they just won’t stay dead – tricky little devils.

An accidental staking shows the soldiers the way and most survive the encounter.

Six months later and Hawk is in some military base in the US. Now I just must mention the military secretary Dolly (Gayle Artino). How one actress can be so Lynda Carter as Colonel Weaverunbelievably wooden with so few lines was beyond me. Anyway Hawk meets Colonel Weaver (Lynda Carter) who informs him that his team is being sent back out there. His second in command from the last mission and best friend, Grieves (Kevin Grevioux), is already out there and there is a complication. Hawk’s ex-wife, and Weaver’s goddaughter, Lori (Jennifer O’Dell) is also in the area doing scientific research – oh my.

Kevin Grevioux as GrievesNot very long story short Grieves is turned in order to be a tactician for the vampires. Lori is captured by head honcho Javier (Tony Plana) but not turned as she saved his life – go figure. Of course Hawk must save the day and defeat his best friend.

gore festNot much in the way of story but what the film does have is plenty of gore, the sight of vampire acrobatic twins (both played by Ray Park) eating from the torn body of a little old lady exemplifies this. The gore is plentiful and looks quite good (though the fight scene choreography is distinctly average) and adds into the take your brain out attitude that makes this watchable.

bat monsterThe effects, however, are not always good. A plastic explosives ambush looks like a poor firework – no wonder most of the vampires survived the blast. Worst of all was the monster that Javier turns into at the end. It does seem to me that ever since Dracula (1992) had Dracula morph into a big bat creature this has become a must do in a lot of vampire movies – guys, it isn’t necessary, especially when the effect looks cheap.

Casper Van Dien as HawkActing wise we have a mixed bag. Van Dien is doing what he does best and Grevioux looks great and has a wonderful gravely voice (you might remember him from Underworld). It is just a shame that the dialogue he’s given isn’t up to much. Lynda Carter, well it was great to seeDanny Trejo her but she can’t act – that said cult icon status can make up for a lot. Mention should be made of the fact that Danny Trejo makes a cameo appearance, always good to see him in a film no matter the quality.

The film had a mixed bag of lore. It started off quite good. The vamps can go out in the sun and only staking or beheading will kill them (or exploding, vampiremustn’t forget that). Crosses don’t work as they know nothing of God. They have some groovy acrobatic skills and not just the actual acrobats. They only used to stray towards towns and villages rarely, and then only to steal livestock. Now they seem to be more organised and I loved the idea of a vampire breaking into a house to kidnap the old and infirm as an easy meal. You turn if bitten and not either destroyed or fully drained.

Things however started to devolve later. We get an indication that they can enter dreams, given the low supernatural aspects this power seemed superfluous and I didn’t like the changing into a bat creature concept. They have no reflection, whilst standard for the genre if you are going low supernatural there seems little point in that. another vampireWe discover that the first vampires drank from a fountain of youth and blood drinking was the price of their immortality. I didn’t buy that one at all. And why the sudden expansion of territory? Well it seems that they were quite content to live off animals but man is destroying their natural environment… it stuck out, as a concept, like a patronising over-preachy sore thumb.

There are also some comedy moments added in, complete with cheesy comedy music, which just did not work. When the film is at its best it is a simple action flick, and it shouldn’t have aspired to anything more. Not a great film but one you can take your brain out to and watch with a beer for a laugh. 2.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Mateo said...

I almost watched this to do an article on wikimonster, because I had heard that it was one of the better straight-to-dvd movies of the year, and because the mythology was supposedly different.

You're right about the half bat half human trend in vampire movies. I can think of a few movies, Underworld Evolution immediately comes to mind, that uses this as a sort of transition from a recently awaken vampire. It's been a while since I saw Dracula 92 but I believe that was similar to what they did as well. Not sure if that's the case here though.

Off-topic, but if you google your site, the second result is your review for Curse of the Undead. Just thought it was weird that that review was so popular.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Mateo, good to hear from you.

Unfortunately this film wasn't that good. There seemed to be a big push for it on DVD when it was first released, with adverts on all sorts of horror sites but it didn't really work - bad acting/dialogue and awful comedy moments did for it.

the half bat half human worked well in Drac 92 and was used as Coppolla wanted more of an impact in the confrontation between Drac and VH than simply having two humans would have - I don't mind people doing it but it has to look good. In this case it didn't.

I don't know why Curse of the Undead would prove so popular unless people are looking for details out of historical curiosity - being the first vampire western.