Friday, December 6, 2019

The Slayer (1982) - Vacations can be murder!


If you ever get the opportunity to take a vacation on a secluded island -- the kind you can only access as a passenger on a small private aircraft -- it's probably a good idea to first make sure there isn't a hurricane headed that way. You should also be certain that it isn't haunted by a strange apparition that wants to kill you and anyone else who is with you.
"This reminds me of that time I had an earache, went to the doctor,
and while I was in the waiting room a roach crawled out of my ear."
This is the case with Kay (Sarah Kendall), a successful artist whose work has been negatively influenced by recurring nightmares she's had her entire life. She dreams of a spectral humanoid creature committing gruesome murders in an unknown location, and she finds that the nightmares are happening more and more frequently. Her brother Eric (Frederick Flynn) arranges a visit to a small island off the coast of Georgia for a vacation getaway, and joining them are Eric's wife Brooke (Carol Kottenbrook) and Kay's husband David (Alan McRae). When they arrive, however, Kay is alarmed to discover that the deserted resort that still stands there is the actual location of these terrible dreams, even though she's never been there before. Is it possible her dreams are prophetic and the murderous beast is real, too? Let's consult the Magic 8-Ball:



The pilot who drops them off, Marsh (Michael Holmes), warns them of an impending storm, effectively stranding them there, and from there it's only a matter of time until they start being slaughtered. It only happens when Kay is asleep, though - the first to go is a random fisherman we never got introduced to. This happens while Kay is napping on the beach. Then that night while she's sleeping, David does some classic horror movie poking-around-the-basement-with-a-flashlight and is decapitated by a storm door. 
"I'll never doubt her again when she says there's a Slayer."
The next day, Kay dreams she wakes up with David's severed head, but then she wakes up for real and discovers him missing. Eric refuses to believe that anything is wrong (apparently he can't wrap his head around the fact that 4-1=3), but eventually foul play is confirmed when David is discovered hanging around headless, and suddenly they realize they're in a survival situation. Kay catches on that the killer only attacks when she's asleep, so what do Eric and Brooke do? Give her a sedative, of course. I have to admit, sometimes I love it when bad things happen to stupid people.

"We gave her that sedative because it was in the script, jerk.
Also, my resemblance to Gaylen Ross is purely coincidental."
When all is said and done, Kay is left alone and desperately tries to stay awake long enough to avoid being murdered in her sleep. She barricades herself into their lodge as best she can, but someone breaks in -- she kills him with a flare, but of course it turns out to be Marsh, who is still on the island for some reason. The house goes up in flames, and when she tries to escape she is confronted by the monster, which turns out to look like a cross between adult Macaulay Culkin and an anglerfish:
This is it! Don't be scared now!
But instead of seeing Kay murdered by the monster, we instead see her as a child, waking up from another nightmare of The Slayer. Was the entire movie we just witnessed a dream? Is this a flashback? Was the Slayer real, or were the murders committed by a human being? It's possible Marsh was the killer, or was it Kay herself, since she's the one with all the problems? Let's ask the 8 Ball again...

It's just as I thought: despite the fact that we stuck with the movie through its entire runtime, we get no definitive answers. We're not meant to know. 

This could have been an actual artistic choice, or it could have been a creative way to avoid using any action footage that didn't look all that great once they saw it in the dailies. The creature does look cool, but it only rears its ugly head for a few seconds during the climax, and even then it's just standing there looking at Kay. I don't mean to suggest that the makeup FX aren't great, because there are a few standout moments here, the greatest of which is an on-screen pitchfork murder worthy of Tom Savini himself. I wish we'd seen more of the monster though, and that ending really feels like a cheat.
"Hey, did you ever hear the one about the isolated vacation spot haunted
by a Slayer? It was a nice place to visit, but you could never live there!"
Small price to pay for such a creepy, atmospheric experience, though. The locations are extremely effective, as well as the sense of isolation and doom. I was reminded of the movie "Ghostkeeper" while watching this, which also had a similar plot, except it took place at a snowbound resort in the mountains instead of a deserted island. Together they'd make for a great night of Travelogue Horror, just add your favorite movie where people are trapped in an isolated vacation spot, and voila!
"Hey Darlin', I love your nails. Maybe you can do mine sometime."



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