October 17, 2022 Slayers (Movie Review)
The undead, and those that kill them, have been a popular fixture in horror action for at least a century or more. For every Dracula, there is a Van Helsing, a Blade, and even a Buffy. The Avenue and Highland Film Group adds to that repertoire with Slayers, their hip vampire-killing flick about revenge, family, and social media influencers.
Directed by K. Asher Levin (The Shadow Diaries 2020, Dig 2022), who also wrote the script alongside Zack Imbrogno (Fear, Inc 2016, Save Me 2020), the film follows Elliot Jones (Thomas Jane: Boogie Nights 1997. The Punisher 2004). He has been dedicated to avenging the death of his teenage daughter by killing the vampires responsible for it. After years, he’s finally tracked them down to their base. But he needs help getting in.
Which is where the ‘Stream Team’ comes in, as Jules (Abigail Breslin: Little Miss Sunshine 2006. Definitely, Maybe 2008), Liz (Lydia Hearst: Z Nation series, Between Worlds 2018), her boyfriend Jack (Jack Donnelly: United We Fall 2014, Atlantis series) and his sister Flynn (Kara Hayward: Manchester by the Sea 2016, The Social Dilemma 2020) among others have the clout and follower count that gets them an invite into the compound of billionaires Steven (Adam Ambruso: Atomic Shark 2016, Butterfly Caught 2017) and Beverly Rektor (Malin Akerman: Watchmen 2009. The Final Girls 2015).
To their shock, they discover her guests are all vampires and they have plans for Jack and Flynn in particular. It’s up to Jones to get them out, stop the vampires’ plans for world domination, and get revenge. The film is due out on October 21, 2022, at cinemas, and on digital and demand services. On paper, it sounds like a fun night in the run-up to Halloween. But is it all that wacky and wild? Or should Horror fans just rewatch 1992’s Army of Darkness?
Readers might already guess the rest of this review by this phrase, but here are the positives. The direction can be tense and moody, building up a decent mood and atmosphere. There are also a few funny jokes here, like the identity of some past vampire overlords, or what Jones did before he was a Slayer. The plot is convoluted, though some of its elements would make for a fair, fun, if familiar vampire tale.
Plus, the performances are solid, given each actor plays their roles as well as the script demands. Jane is salty and moody as the embittered Jones, and Hayward fits the bill as the Stream Team’s alpha girl gamer. Ambruso and Akerman are fair as evil rich people too. Unfortunately, this also means if characters are written as annoying social media influencer types, then they are doing good jobs at being annoying social media influencer types.
The Stream Team are mostly vapid socialites, complete with empty-headed dialogue. Jones acts as the “badass narrator” and mocks them and similar youngsters, though he does not feel like he is speaking for the audience. He sounds more like a boomer complaining about his Gen Z grandkids, adding quips as members of the Team meet a sticky end (“No more swipe-ups for you, sweetheart!”).
As if that was not bad enough, the film decides to add a bunch of visual gags like a ‘Vampires Vs Humans’ scoreboard which appears constantly and never starts being funny. It even takes the wind out of a few scenes, like the flashback to the death of Jones’ daughter. It is like the film is trying to be like 2016’s Deadpool, except that film could actually let its bits of drama breathe. Slayers packs in joke subtitles, stock footage montages (‘Benjamin Franklin: Patriotic Slayer!”), ’60s Batman-style ‘Pow!’ overlays, and more to the point that it becomes as overbearing and obnoxious as the Stream Team.
The film does try to slow down to tell the plot’s finer details, though it is never long enough for the audience to absorb it. The Rektors are planning to give everyone a vaccine that turns people into vampires (which is not a helpful subplot for the 2020s), but they are also cursed and need Jack’s blood to overcome the curse. The only way to stop Steven Rektor is with Jack or Flynn’s blood after they are turned, but there was another way, and it had to be told to the audience in the style of a YouTube tutorial. Viewers will already have a headache with the VFX. They do not need another from the story.
So, in short, Slayers tries to be a fun, in-jokey, 4th-wall breaking, post-modern flick about vampires and the people who kill them. Plus, a few digs at YouTubers, Instagrammers, Twitch streamers, etc. But for every effective scene, there are at least twice as many edgy, try-hard jokes that work as well as Steve Buscemi’s disguise in 30 Rock (“How do you do, fellow kids?”). The acting is fine, though since their characters are meant to be as obnoxious as the visuals, that unfortunately does not produce enjoyable results. All this in mind, Cryptic Rock gives Slayers 2 out of 5 stars