***/**** Image B+ Sound B+ Extras A
starring Sarah Kendall, Frederick Flynn, Carol Kottenbrook, Alan McRae
screenplay by J.S. Cardone & Bill Ewing
directed by J.S. Cardone
by Sydney Wegner As co-writer/director J.S. Cardone insists, The Slayer is not quite a slasher. More than titillate or thrill, it seeks to unsettle, to dig at the viewer with emotion rather than throwaway jump scares. The set-pieces have the imaginative gore of any good slasher, but a sadness permeates the film so deeply that all the dorky banter and melodramatic murders in the world can't disguise it. The slow pace and heavy emphasis on the psychological trauma of its lead doomed The Slayer to be drowned out by the deluge of early-'80s slashers, and most viewers who might have been drawn to the carnage implied by the lurid title and poster were likely left unsatisfied. The Slayer opens with a nightmare: Wandering wide-eyed through a house, the protagonist, Kay, is strangled by long, inhuman hands encrusted in slime and blood. The opening promises the violence and sex (she's of course wearing a classic skimpy nightgown) of the typical slasher variety, but pay closer attention to the close-ups of a chiming grandfather clock and the beautiful orchestral score--those signal the kind of movie you're in for. When Kay startles awake from this dream, sweaty and terrified, her husband stands above her. He starts talking to her about something innocuous, but the camera, peering up from a jarringly low angle, makes him seem ominous and oppressive. This, too, is a tell. Kay will spend the movie trying to convince the other characters that what she dreams is real, and they will brush her off, and then they'll die. They aren't a comfort to her anymore, because she is far gone to a place where everything is at the wrong angle.