Friday, November 04, 2016

The Slayers – review

Director: John Williams

Release date: 2015

Contains spoilers

This was a film first seen by myself at the 2016 Bram Stoker International Film Festival and for me it was probably the highlight film of the festival – mainly because it is genuinely funny. Following the festival, I was lucky enough to be given access to a stream of the film in order for me to do this review.

Now, to be honest, I will have to give a little bit of a health warning that some of the jokes in the film are probably reliant on being a Brit of a certain age (the Krankies jokes might go way over many none-UK heads I suspect). A couple of the jokes also get a little close to the knuckle but we are more laughing at the main characters’ social ineptitude rather than the obvious gag content much of the time. The lore has its own unique twist to it and also manages to (deliberately?) self-contradict. And yet it is still a fabulous film.

Anthony Miles as Brother Steve
We start off at a meeting of the BSCC (the Big Scary Comet Cult). A Christian apocalyptic cult who believe the world will end in two weeks when a comet collides with the planet – all based on scientific facts gleaned through the prophetic dreams of Brother Steve (Anthony Miles, Blood and Bone China)! The meeting is a suicide meeting, chalices are out filled with poison and, after words of ‘wisdom’ from Brother Steve, the cult commit mass suicide – all that is bar Nigel (Darren McAree) and Job (Matthew Sandland).

Job and Nigel
They discuss matters and decide that perhaps death isn’t the option after all, perhaps they should have a holiday and draw up a bucket list – oh and do good deeds. With Brother Steve looking like he has given a thumbs up as a blessing they somehow get a loan (good credit ratings, apparently) and buy a camper van, deciding to go to Blackpool, the Lake District and Scotland. Before they leave they abandon their dog with a scary looking neighbour (without offering him an explanation) and then set out. Incidentally there is a fantastic joke around the dog’s name that I won’t spoil.

In Blackpool
First stop Blackpool – for some fun and frivolity (no vampires there, of course) and then on to the Lakes where they see two odd looking blokes at a campsite. We later discover that they are “The Ointment” a pair of vampire hunters who “work alone”. We also see a vampire crossing the countryside being tracked by ace vampire hunter Reg (George Newton). Reg corners his quarry but the vampire escapes by turning in to a cloud of bats – note that this is during the daytime. Following an accident with a fishhook and a private part of the anatomy they are off to Scotland, where the majority of the vampire action takes place.

So they are driving along when they see a man (the vampire Reg just missed) thumbing for a lift. They consider offering said lift but soon decide he is ropey looking and might murder them. Job sticks his head out of the window and lamely tries to abuse him (there is an on running joke of Job phoning family members and greeting them with abuse, part of their bucket list). Not long after they break down. They see the man in the van’s mirror (note that), panic but he walks on, lifts the hood and fixes the van. They offer him a lift.

As they drive he decides he is thirsty and they pull up at a petrol station. The vampire attacks the man staffing the shop but Job sees him biting the fellow. He is too stressed to say anything to Nigel and so they continue their journey, their passenger asking to be dropped off before they get to the next town. It is at this point that Job tells Nigel what he saw. They decide to follow the man (their bucket list contains solve a crime) and do so, into a cave.

They find him sleeping upright deep in the cave. Suddenly Reg is there, he stakes the vampire (who starts to melt) and then greets the two before leaving. Later he finds them again and essentially recruits them as slayers, giving them a book to explain the lore and it is there we will go right now. The vampires can walk in daylight – it is only direct sunlight that will kill them (and the film plays fast and loose with that rule, to be honest). The most unique piece of lore is suggesting that vampires do not have an anus and that they release gas from a hole in their sides. They collect this in colostomy bags and it is highly flammable – exploding the bag causes the vampire to blow up.

no reflection
Staking and beheading work to kill the vampires and crosses seem effective, some times. In fact, religious paraphernalia certainly didn’t affect the priest who is a vampire. Now, I told you to note the reflection of the vampire who was hitching. We later get a scene of a vampire (Dan Lewis-Dayle) lighting a candle but casting no reflection. The rules, in this vehicle, are set up to be broken and I believe this is deliberate. Thus we have the idea that if you kill the head vampire (Chris Lines) those who are bitten but not fully turned will become human again – and then have the restoration of a fully turned dwarf vampire (one vampire admits to a fetish for small creatures (generally) and has turned several little people).

So the lore is a bit shaky but, you know what, it doesn’t matter because this one was a joy to watch. A few of the jokes miss a little, but most hit the mark full on and I should mention that the film manages to pull of a Twilight gag that doesn’t sound hackneyed and passé. Darren McAree and Matthew Sandland absolutely make the film (noting that the Job character does owe a debt to Father Dougal from Father Ted) but the supporting cast are all worthwhile – especially George Newton as Reg. There are two primary female cast members, Sophie Elsby as Jess and Kate Thomson as Sarah, whose characters come into the film past the blow by blow description above and so deserve mentioning here. Absolutely great fun, 7.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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