Sunday, March 11, 2007

Slayer (2007)

Editor's Note: This is not to be confused with Casper Van Dien's film Slayer, set in the jungles of South America.

Tired of the same old vampire clich├ęs? Want to see something besides a leather-clad woman kicking vampire ass? Looking for vampires that are a little leaner and meaner and don’t clothe themselves in velvet and lace? Tired of vampires bitching about their tortured souls? Then you should check out Slayer, directed and written by Ed Peduzzi, a film that dispels all the popular myths surrounding vampires and presents them as they should be…evil, vicious and bloodthirsty.

Eric is a college student who witnesses a brutal slaying in the hills of Amherst, Massachusetts. He begins to investigate the killing and finally tracks down a janitorial service he saw at the scene. All is not as it appears though, as the janitorial service actually cleans up the scenes of vampire slayings. The clean-up crew is part of a group of slayers who try to protect the area from vampires. Eric ends up joining the clean-up crew and learns that the popular view of the romanticized vampire couldn’t be farther from the truth. Real vampires are unaffected by sunlight, garlic, crosses, don’t possess any superpowers and most are vicious and evil. There are a few “good” vampires, though, including Elijah who is the leader of the slayers. When Eric kills his first vampire, he becomes one of the slayers and they try to track down and kill the vampire (or “rip,” as the slayers prefer to call vampires) Sam, who is the leader of the rips.

Slayer takes a very different approach to the tired myth of the gentile vampire, who can usually be found in an Anne Rice novel wearing luxurious clothes and brooding about all night. Slayer’s vampires (or rips) are truly evil, killing not just for food but because they enjoy it. They delight in torture, not just of the flesh but of the mind as well. When evil rip Sam returns, he has some unfinished business with Elijah, but he attacks his mind and heart (through killing some of his fellow slayers and others who are close to him) before attempting to physically attack him. I love this much more realistic approach to vampires that has them ripping people’s throats out without a second thought. Vampires in films have gone soft and have been far too romanticized lately. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy Interview with the Vampire or Underworld, but I much rather prefer the nitty-gritty, no nonsense, no frills vamps featured here in Slayer.

Slayer was quite a treat and a big surprise. The action sequences are great, especially for a low-budget feature. There are lots of bloody hand-to-hand combat scenes involving knives, swords, fists, and my favorite, a baseball bat. Blood flows freely in the film, but it is not a gorefest. A nice counterbalance to all the action comes in the form of a dramatic story involving Eric and his need to know the truth behind the good and evil forces at work. The story is interesting and kept me engaged throughout the entire film. Slayer also has a lot of heart, and doesn’t sacrifice the emotional aspect of the story. There are quite a few surprises thrown in, especially which characters end up dying toward the end of the film.

All of the characters are interesting and are played wonderfully by the actors. It’s a pity, but the film didn’t have credited performances in the credits, so I don’t know who played who. I will mention that the actor who played Elijah was sublime. He has a very commanding presence on-screen and I enjoyed every second of screen time he had. It also helped that the cast was very good-looking, especially the previously mentioned actor who played Elijah. I definitely took a shining to him!

Director Ed Peduzzi shot the film beautifully and with a sure hand. His directing even won Best Director at the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival, and it is easy to see why. The beautiful backdrop of Massachusetts in fall and winter creates breathtaking shots. The action sequences are expertly filmed as well, with some stunning camera work that impressed the hell outta me.

My only complaint with the film was that it got off to a shaky start. The audience, along with Eric, didn’t quite know what was going on. I suppose this might have been intentional by writer and director Ed Peduzzi, but I think a little clarification in the first part of the film would have been helpful. Also, the villain doesn’t show up until an hour into the film. While I enjoyed the character development in the first part, a little more conflict in the beginning would have given the plot more cohesion.

Nonetheless, Slayer gives the vampire mythos a much needed kick in the ass while still packing an emotional punch. It’s a very well-rounded film that balances both a great heart and spectacular action sequences. I highly recommend it to those who miss the good old days of violent and bloody vampire flicks.

Slayer's Official Site

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