Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Slayer (1982) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
Kay (Sarah Kendall) is depressed. Ostensibly this is because she has suffered from nightmares since early childhood, convinced that a monster is coming after her. In reality, it might have more to do with the poor quality company she keeps. Although she wants to stay at home and work on her art (which she seems to be selling successfully, but which her friends dismiss as rubbish), her husband, brother and sister-in-law decide that it will be better for her to accompany them to an isolated house on a remote island where they can all share a holiday. There, they proceed to bully and ridicule her as she breaks down further and becomes convinced she has seen parts of the island in her dreams.
As a study of mental illness and abuse, this film scores quite a few points, but awkwardly so, as there's no indication that anyone involved thought Kay's treatment was inappropriate. It's like a piece of found art, a snapshot of inadvertent cruelty. But it all goes off the rails when the intended story starts to develop, because the only reason we're really supposed to take Kay's side is that she's right, there really is a monster, and when she dreams it comes to life. Of course, nobody else takes this seriously, despite the mounting evidence. "There has to be a logical explanation for everything," insists her brother with manly determination. So everyone splits up and runs around unarmed even after they realise there's a threat. Meanwhile, poor Kay is drugged and battles against sleep as if in a low-rent Invasion Of The Body Snatchers.
Films like this rely on supplying gratuitous genre kicks in order to work. No time is wasted when it comes to nudity, but the soft porn aspect is generally underplayed - all we get is bodies moving underneath covers and a bored-looking blonde wandering around in a transparent nightgown. As for gore, the original cut of this film contains a memorable pitchfork sequence, but it's been edited out of the UK version (the film was originally banned), depriving viewers of the key moment much of the rest has been building up to.
In a modern context, the ban seems very odd - there's not much horror on display, all in all. The suspense is pretty feeble too, but that's partly because what was quite possibly a scary soundtrack in its time now seems twee and laughable. However, the visual aspect of the film is lifted by some beautiful cinematography, especially when the characters explore the island in daylight. Unfortunately certain motifs are overused and the interior work isn't nearly as impressive.
Kendall is the only person who makes much effort when it comes to acting, and her genuinely convincing moments as haunted, frightened woman nobody will listen to are blunted later by a display of panic which is all flapping arms and bulging eyes - somebody was aiming for Argento's style but missed by a long way. The ending probably thinks it's being clever but, when you think about it, doesn't make much more sense than anything that's gone before. At least the filmmakers had the sense not to show too much of their monster, which looks like something that's been left in the fridge for too long. The only people having nightmares over this film must have been its financial backers.Reviewed on: 15 Jun 2009