Sarah Kendall stars as Kay, one of those moody, fruity “artist types” who’s been plagued by a maniac stalking her dreams since childhood. Kay is convinced that the man from her nightmares will begin manifesting himself in reality, and the thought is sending her rapidly down a spiral into depression. Her husband David (Alan McRae) decides that Kay needs a vacation before she goes off the deep end…and so along with Kay’s brother and sister-in-law, the couple heads to a barren island. Kay has seen the island and its few remaining buildings in her dreams- she’s painted pictures of them even- does this mean her ghastly nightmares will become to pass? Well, this is a horror movie, so one can assume that yes…yes they will.
Whoa whoa whoa whoa WHOA. Did I just type out “plagued by a maniac stalking her dreams” and “the man from her nightmares will begin manifesting himself in reality”? What, you’re thinking, is this dude’s name Freddy Krueger by any chance?
The Slayer absolutely bears some resemblance in premise to A Nightmare on Elm Street, which would come down the pike 2 years later. The execution and tone differ between the two films enough, however, that we can all put down the pitchforks and douse the flaming effigy of Wes Craven. There’s no need to cry "ripoff", but you can totally feel like the coolest kid in the room when some yo-yo at a big fancy dinner party is going off on how bitchin’ Freddy Krueger is and how genius Wes Craven’s “don’t fall asleep” idea is and you bust out the “Pfft. JS Cardone and William Ewing totally came up with that idea YEARS before Craven ever did. What? You’ve never seen The Slayer? Don’t talk to me ever again!”. Then you can throw your drink in their face and walk away in a huff.
For a flick made on the cheap, The Slayer has plenty of atmosphere to spare. I was genuinely creeped out during every single kill sequence in the movie. The spooky sets are kept dark- just dark enough so you never know exactly what is making that tapping sound in the basement…
The gore is plentiful (but not turn-your-face-away over the top) and unsettlingly realistic. Composer Robert Folk’s score, recorded by the National Philharmonic Orchestra, is understated and helps add on the chills.
My biggest gripe with The Slayer is that I simply wish there were more of it; it clocks in at a quick 75 minutes. This is partly due to the fact that the cast is so small- Kay runs with a very tiny crowd. How long can it take to kill off four people? Overall, the acting was better than average, and it’s always refreshing to watch a horror movie that doesn’t rely on the stupidity of teenagers to provide tension- the characters, though mostly grating, are all adults.
As I stated earlier, there are definitely some similarities between The Slayer and the Nightmare series. Craven’s creation, however, has Freddy Krueger- a villain who forced his way, for better or for worse, into the consciousness of horror audiences and went on to become an icon of the genre. The villain of The Slayer is never clearly defined- just who is this guy? Is it even a guy? Does Kay really dream him into reality? Is Kay just a cuckoo nutso artist? Is this all her imagination? The film asks far more questions than it answers, and at the movie’s end we’re left wondering what’s what and who’s who. As for the nightmare man himself, that’s simply another question left unanswered. When we finally get a look at his gooey face (he’s wisely kept completely obscured throughout the proceedings), things become even more surreal…and yeah, he's kinda silly, but I just know that if I saw this dude when I was 10 I wouldn’t have slept for weeks. He is a nightmare come to life, after all.
The Slayer actually gave me the willies several times while watching it, and reminded me just how scary those things that go bump in the night can be. What more can I ask from a horror movie? I give it 8 out of 10 put that in your fedora and smoke it, Freddy- you chump!s.