For every one of you out there who watched The Karate Kid, Part II and said "My word, the actress who played 'Stewardess #2' was brilliant! Who is she, where did she get her start and where can I see more of her?", I proudly present to you a little known 1982 Horror Film called The Slayer. Her name is Sarah Kendall, she played the lead part of Kay in this, her debut film. And although her role elevated The Karate Kid, Part II from a merely "good" movie to an absolutely brilliant tour de force, it's shocking to note that these two films are her only screen credits.
And to top it all off... The Slayer (AKA Nightmare Island) was banned in England under the UK's Video Recordings Act of 1984. Yep, it's yet another "Video Nasty"... this time from the goode olde US of A. Even though Censorship has been relaxed and The Slayer was re-released in 2001, it's still almost impossible to find. I should know... I'm in a hunt to obtain and review every single Video Nasty just for you, loyal readers, and the copy I successfully procured was a former rental VHS copy from 1985, a double feature with Scalps that was originally sold for $49.95.
I... I take that back... you should.
But, uh, back to the lecture at hand. The Slayer is a familiar feeling flick about four white people who go on vacation together, only to be picked off one by one by an unseen force. Just like most of these flicks, the four white people are just a tad too far away from civilization to get any help from the authorities and just far enough away from each other to suspect the player to their immediate left.
This time Kay and her friends take a trip to a remote island (she expresses shock that it's "surrounded by water") just before a storm keeps them right where they are. Well, technically she's dragged there by her husband David (Alan McRae) and her brother Eric (Frederick Flynn) and Eric's significant other Brooke (Carol Kottenbrook).
Apparently Kay is living in fear. Eric thinks it's because her career is on the line (clearly he hasn't heard about the Karate Kid, Part II gig), but David knows that it's because of her nightmares. Kay is an artist of at least medium merit and she paints what she dreams. But what she dreams about isn't all that pretty.
Well, sorry, angel, but your nightmares are about to get a whole lot crappier as soon as the Islanders start buying the farm, starting with a local fisherman.
Sure, you've seen all this before and no it's not just April Fool's Day all over again with a streak of A Nightmare on Elm Street thrown in for flavor. What makes The Slayer relatively unique and interesting is the curiosity surrounding just what the hell is going on. This could count as just another big screen adaptation of Scooby Doo with enough blood and gore to get it banned in the UK. After all, the real interesting thing here is not knowing who or what the killer is.
Could it be a local acting out a little Antropophagus action for our little group? Maybe it's Marsh, the creepy guy throwing around warnings, played by creepy Michael Holmes! Could one of the Lake Flaccid Four have finally snapped? Let's face it, Kay's the one with the nightmares and she's already been painting scenes from the island itself. Eric even says that nightmares have plagued her throughout her life and that she has blamed certain mishaps on those dreams since childhood.
Or maybe, just maybe, Kay is right on the money and there is some demonic beast out there just waiting to take its title back from Buffy!
On the other hand, interesting or not, the execution here by director J.S. Cardone (working from the script he wrote with William R. Ewing) doesn't make for a true classic. Aside from the graphic death scenes (Makeup Artist Robert Short does a fine job with the budget he's given) The Slayer (aka Nightmare Island) feels a lot more like a TV Movie of the week, akin to Bay Coven. There's an unfinished feel to the sound and even the acting.
On the other hand (making three hands now... some writer) Sarah Kendall does a pretty decent job of both looking creeped out and creepy as her story progresses. She certainly seems like the victim here and she plays horrified pretty damned well, especially when paranoid insomnia gets the best of her.
Interestingly enough, The Slayer's biggest problem is that it's just a bit too slow. Though, to be perfectly honest, even with a faster pace, this wouldn't be a great film. Here's a little support for that statement. After being classified as a Video Nasty by the British Board of Film Censors, fourteen seconds of violent scenes were cut to allow for video re-release. However, for its US release, six minutes of nonviolent scenes were cut... just for pacing.
Don't be fooled, though, this is a violent and bloody film, and our only glimpse at nudity (nice though it is while it lasts) is spoiled by spurting blood and rusty sharp objects. In that respect, it fits the bill for a Video Nasty quite well. And on that note, I can also say that such notoriety did nothing but good for Cardone's little film!
Is The Slayer for you? Well... it depends on what you're in the mood for. It's a B-Movie to be sure, and not the finest of the fine in the acting category or very much else (though much of this could be blamed on budgetary constraints). Still, what starts like a typical riff on the whole "Backwoods Horror" subgenre does evolve into something more complex and interesting than expected. The mystery keeps the viewer wanting to watch, but it depends on the viewer whether or not that final answer will be the final answer they're looking for. More often than not, though, I'll bet those watching this flick will wait until the credits roll before screaming "That sucked!"
Considering the way this film is lit, along with the choices in camera angle and framing, amongst other things, it's obvious that this film would work best on the big screen at midnight in some grindhouse somewhere. If there's one around here playing that flick, I'll check it out. Maybe that experience would be worth more than Two Stars out of Five. Horror fans, particularly fans of cheap horror, will find much to like here. I did. But I can't imagine many people took a look at the Oscar nominees for 1982 and said "WHAT? The Slayer's not on the list? The Verdict, Tootsie, Missing, E.T. and Ghandi made the list and The Slayer didn't? Which one edged it out?" But by the same token, nobody's going to be looking for my name in the 2007 Pulitzers either, eh? But until a Posthumous Oscar is granted to The Slayer and a Prehumous Pulitzer is whacked over my fuzzy head, I'll see you kids in the next reel. I think I'll go rent either Karate Kid, Part 2 or Buffy. I'll let you know.
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Don't deny that you're going to. You know you will.
You've dreamed it already.
The Horror... The Horror.