Sunday, May 23, 2010

Big Brother Is Hunting You (because you asked him to)

Gameshow horror is a subgenre I rarely don’t enjoy. Sure, it’s seen some horrific misfires (Halloween: Resurrection) but there’s something always intriguing about the mundane competition typically watched by pension-collecting grandmothers being subverted by dystopian elements and over-the-top homicidal maniacs.
Slashers initially piqued my interest for its writer-director (and producer and editor and most likely, caterer) Maurice Devereaux, the Canadian filmmaker who blew me away with End of the Line . When I discovered his 2001 comedic bloodbath was about a violently extreme Japanese gameshow featuring actual killers hacking up wannabe stars, I was sold.

Quick Plot: Six silly Americans with adorable Canadian accents sign up for Slashers!, Japan’s version of voluntary Running Man. The game is simple: survive a few hours being chased by charismatic psychos and win $18 million dollars.
Easy, right? Well, easier than Survivor or Series 7, but no walk in the artificial warehouse park. The villains are presented as WWF-like bad guys, ridiculous caricatures designed to inspire catchphrases and sell t-shirts. Preacherman slithers around with a Jigsaw-like mask and well-recited scripture. The Doctor giggles (though sadly doesn’t have the name Dr. Giggles) and cuts women’s tops off (leading to one female character having more costume changes than Madonna’s Evita) and most memorably, Chainsaw Charlie hunts with the face of A.E. Newman, the voice of George W. Bush, and the hair of Carrot Top (actually, combine those three things with Satan’s urine and you do indeed have Carrot Top).

The trio of murderers chases a typical batch of rather obnoxious money/fame mongers who do little to garner much audience sympathy. A muscle-popping boxer fares the best, while our lead law student with an agenda tries our patience. Nobody really matters, as this is satire at its meanest, far more concerned with lampooning our greed and boob-tube obsessions than telling a heroic saga of a plucky final girl.

Filmed in 2001, Slashers! is a product of the reality TV dynasty and though it doesn’t quite capture the everyone’s-a-killer charm of Series 7, this is tasty enough candy bar of a horror comedy treat. Not all the jokes fly, but from the skull pop-poms wielded by Slashers! dancers to the slippery practicality of a guts-covered ground, it’s good and gross fun at its low budget best.
High Points
It’s refreshing to see homemade practical effects, even if they occasionally feel like a first-year midterm for Savini University

Reality programs are only as good as their villains, and the trio here are quite enjoyable
Low Points
Bless them for giving full energy, but the performances of the “American” contestants are pretty damn grating
Between heavily masked characters, Japanese actors speaking broken English, and the lack of subtitles, some of Slashers’ dialog is near inaudible

Lessons Learned
It figures that a plastic clown would carry a plastic knife
When your body is severed from its lower half via chainsaw, the effect is very pinatic
Letting a chainsaw ‘rest for awhile’ won’t make it work later
I thoroughly enjoyed Slashers! but its low budget execution and amateur performances are in no way going to please the masses. Fans of End of the Line will find a completely different film here, as the horror comedy approach spares no punning or bite of bad taste. It’s a recommended rental for those who know they won’t be watching a clearly defined genre film, and those who like it will be brought to special feature orgasm by the loaded DVD, complete with a commentary, hourlong documentary, and a bevy of original features (“Beneath the Actor’s Studio”’s interview with Chainsaw Charlie was a personal favorite). I give fair warning that this is a divisive film nobody will really LOVE, but will humbly accept your thanks if and when you find it a good time.


  1. Sounds interesting. If I turn my brain off, I think I could enjoy this one.

    And I actually liked Halloween: Resurrection. Don't worry, I say that while hanging my head in shame.

  2. Wow. You liking Halloween: Resurrection makes me seem positively classy for digging the NoES remake!

    I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on Slashers. Highly flawed, but a good time (and way better than Resurrection!).

  3. I love Slashers and watched it a bunch of times when it came out on DVD! Actually, I love that film and Series 7 quite a bit and kind of group them together for the reality aspect, and I saw them around the same time too. They make for a great double feature.

    If you didn't notice, Slashers attempted to make the film one long continuous shot for the whole reality feel and they did a great job of hiding the cuts and edits in creative ways. I have been meaning to see it again...maybe it's time to dust off my copy.

  4. I didn't catch the continuous shot filming, but I did hear about it after I watched the film. If I stumble upon a cheap copy of Slashers, I would definitely rewatch it for that alone. One thing I forgot to mention was the "commercial breaks" pauses that were pretty fantastic. And oh yes, I adore Series 7 and caught it on VHS right when it came out and Survivor was just making its colonization over primetime. This one never caught my eye until I made the Devereaux connection.

    Speaking of, you should totally see End of the Line if you haven't already. It's fantastic.

  5. Emily - I thought I was the only one that ever watched Slashers. I spotlit Maurice Deverauex on my blog because I enjoyed Slashers and End of the Line.

    Also I dug up the intro/trailer so if anybody is curious about the film, they should check it out.

  6. I'm heading there now Jaded!

    It's always super exciting to discover an emerging director with such skill/affection for the genre. If you're a big Slashers fan, you should totally try to track down the special edition DVD. HOURS of extras that I didn't really get through. That was one more thing I loved about End of the Line--the 50 minute making-of really earns the film (and Devereaux) even more respect. Definitely a filmmaker I'll be checking out regularly.

  7. You've mentioned Series 7: The Contenders in a few posts, and I'd never heard of it so I looked it up. Still wasn't sure so I watched the trailer (I usually avoid trailers like the plague) and I was very, very sold. Just watched it tonight and wow, it was awesome. I can't believe I never heard of it until yesterday. I think the mock reality show angle was original and well done (despite an obvious shoestring budget), and the film had just the right amount of tongue-in-cheek humour (the dramatizations cracked me up, they were perfect).

    That's 4 out of 5 flicks I've checked out on your recommendation that I've dug. Much obliged!

    1. Whoo hoo! Always glad to have my good taste confirmed.

      I think Series 7 was just a year or two ahead of its time. Had it come out right in the middle of Season 1 Survivor-mania, people might have dove in, but it was probably just too indie and weird for that particular time to find a bigger audience.

      I still think about or reference that movie once a week, and I vow that if I ever have to kill someone, my immediate next action is to scream DO YOU HAVE ANY BEAN DIP?!

  8. I was thinking something similar about the timing of its release -- when Series 7 came out, reality shows were in their infancy. We weren't familiar enough with them to really appreciate how Series 7 nailed so many cheesy reality show details. But now, after 20 years of them, the film has aged beautifully and become both a real trip down memory lane and a hilarious send-up of the genre.

    1. COMPLETELY! Such smart filmmaking, and a cast that I would murder for.