Friday, February 20, 2009

Bloody Nightmares #2: Demon Slaughter (2003)

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Now this is more like it. High in ambition but low in production values, Ryan Cavalline's Demon Slaughter has the good sense to hide its shortcomings under layers of gunplay, gore and strategically placed nudity. Of course it all looks terrible, but it's never boring and it certainly looks like it was a lot of fun to make.

Meet Jimmy. He's a complete dick of a gangster looking for a way out of his life of crime. After killing his mistress (and some hired goons), he heads to the crime-bosses' hideout (aka A Bar) and blows everyone away before demolishing the place with a grenade. Unfortunately the bossman thought this might happen and dispatched a few thugs to kill Jimmy's wife before he got there. He finds her in a pool of blood and takes a moment to mourn before being beaten senseless by a couple of baddies. Somehow getting away, he high tails it to a cabin in the woods where he starts going a little wacky and meets a Satanish gentleman. Apparently he wants to recruit Jimmy to his army of the dead. We get the requisite low-rent Evil Dead references before the place is overrun (actually, around seven) with zombies who have messy faces but surprisingly clean shirts. Jimmy blows them away before axing Satan who melts away in a nice computer effect. But Satan has a surprise! *spoiler* The goons who murdered Jimmy's wife actually killed him as well, and it looks like being attacked by zombies in a run-down Cabin is actually his eternal damnation. Uh oh, spaghettiOs.

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While Demon Slaughter wears its influences (and its flaws) on its sleeve, there are still a number of irritating things that shouldn't have slipped by even in a low budget effort. The gunshot sound effects get particularly repetitive, and when you have as much gun-play as this (thanks to a combination of airsoft guns & really fake looking muzzle flashes) it's hard not to notice. It would also have been nice if the gunshots appeared to do damage to the surroundings. The gunfight in the bar features hundreds of bullets being fired, but the place still looks pristine afterward. Just a little bit of faked damage could have gone a long way.

But the biggest flaw may have nothing to do with Ryan Cavalline's production. Several times throughout the film the sound drops out, sometimes for several minutes, with dialogue, music and sound effects becoming totally inaudible. This could very well be an issue with the DVD mastering, so it may be unfair to hold it against the movie. It's definitely distracting, however, and takes away from the experience.

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The acting is, as usual, a mixed bag. While he swears ridiculously frequently, Adam Berasi as Jimmy does a serviceable job in the lead, though he fares much better at being a gangster than at the sillier horror elements in the film's second half. The make-up is equally inconsistent, with the demons (like our red friend above) looking quite decent, while the zombies look like they were thrown together a little too quickly. There's plenty of blood on display, but the gore is mostly shown in flashes and i'm pretty sure I saw some halloween rubber eyeballs in a pile of goo. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

The camera work is fine when sticking to handheld shots, but when trying to do anything more complicated (like aping the Evil Dead "shakycam"), things look a bit more ragged. There is also an overreliance on flashy transitions, particularly when moving into the dream sequences or flashbacks, that look amateurish. The film is almost entirely shot in daylight, which thankfully helps to avoid many of the lighting problems which plague other low budget productions.

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The Bloody Nightmares DVD set presents Demon Slaughter in what was likely its original fullscreen aspect ratio. Any significant movement brings a lot of artifacting onscreen, and there's often significant pixelation, but it's all completely watchable. Outside of the mentioned issue with sound drop-outs, the dialogue and sound effects come through reasonably clear. The original music for the film is quite good, and the film also features a few song contributions for the scenes of carnage.

No extras except chapter selections, though they do not get a seperate menu on the DVD.

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Fun, though shoddy, low budget crime/horror/comedy that makes for an enjoyable hour for fans. The effects are plentiful, though rough, and there's blood and a bit of pixilated nudity in a brief dream sequence. Certainly not scary, but offers a few thrills for less discriminating genre fans.

This trailer shows all the most fun effects. Enjoy.


2 comments:

Ash said...

So is there any way to see these films other than buying the 100 pack? I have a feeling the local video store doesn't stock 'em.

Doug Tilley said...

The hundred packs are also available in smaller collections. Demon Slaughter is available on a 50 pack titled Decrepit Crypt Of Nightmares (how nice!), it's apparently available to be purchased (with requisite special features) online through Amazon in a Three Pack called KILLERS, DEMONS, and DEAD BODIES, and can be purchased through the 4th Floor Pictures website as well (http://www.angelfire.com/pa2/4thFloorPictures/2page.html).