Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A good idea is butchered in 'Demon Slaughter'

Demon Slaughter (2008)
Starring: Adam Berasi, Bill Wittman, Vic Badger, and Shannon Johnson
Director: Ryan Cavalline
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

Psychopathic killer Jimmy (Berasi) decides to quit the crime syndicate by stealing a few million dollars from it and then killing everyone that might come after him. But his partners in crime get wind of his intentions, and they decide to take out Jimmy and his wife (Johnson) first. And that's when the demons and zombies start popping up.

"Demon Slaughter" has in interesting story at its heart and that makes it yet another in the seemingly unending row of films I wish I liked more. Jimmy, as played by Adam Berasi is an absolutely unlikeable character, but the viewers become invested in his fate despite ourselves; he's a character like Scarface (from the 1930s version... I've not seen any of the remakes) with even fewer good qualities. This is a credit to Adam Berasi's acting talent more than the material (or the props) he's working with.

Unfortunately, the film is nowhere near as powerful as it might have been, due to budget- and skill-limitations on every front.

First off, this is a movie with lots and lots of gun-play in it, but there was not the money to hire an armorer (so the weapons--some of which look like toys--are never fired and the actors don't even try to simulate recoils), nor the budget to actually damage the interior of a building where a massive shoot-out takes place (all those missed shots from the automatic weapons never impact anything), nor the special-effects know-how to rig actors with squibs (or whatever the modern equivalent is) and blood-packs for when they get shot. All-in-all, the shoot-outs and gangster action felt more like someone trained a camera on adults playing Soldiers or Cops & Robbers rather than something that belonged in a movie.

Second, there wasn't the budget to fully create scary zombies when all of Jimmy's victims (I assume that's who the zombies were, although that's never expressly stated) come back for their revenge. The make-up and costumes were reminiscent of a high school play or cheap haunted house rather than something that belonged in a movie. It also didn't help that there were barely half a dozen zombies when the sequence called for a veritable hoard of them.

And then there's a the sound effects and sound recording in general. There is a reference to "boom operators" in the credits, but if such were used on this film, they were the least competent people to ever handle that equipment. It seems more likely that all dialogue was recorded with the built-in microphone on the cheap video camera that was used to make this movie, as there are times where the dialogue is so soft so as to be almost inaudible and the volume of the actors' voices vary greatly... sometimes to the point of being inaudible. And Cavelline uses the game gunshot sound over and over and over and over and over....

Finally, the transition point from violent gangster flick with a few horror touches into full-blown surrealistic horror film is so clumsily handled that anyone who's read "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" (or read any of the many comic book adaptations, or the "Twilight Zone" episode based on it) will have a pretty good idea about where the rest of the film is headed. If the story had been a little more elaborately structured--with the first half perhaps being in flashback?--maybe it could have been a little less predictable.

Despite all the toy guns, bad effects, and clumsy filmmaking, the film has enough moments to make it just good enough to not end up at Movies You Should [Die Before You] See... but only barely. The scenes surrounding the death of Jimmy's wife that lead up to the transition from gangster movie to horror movie are pretty well done and are the film's highlight.

"Demon Slaughter" can be found in several DVD multi-movie packs from Maxim Media's Pendulum Pictures and Brain Damage Films. It's worth checking out if acquired that way, but you will regret spending the money if you get any stand-alone version that might be out there.

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