In a jungle region of an unspecified South American country, a small group of US soldiers led by a man named Hawk accidentally runs into a group of blood-drinking folks. These guys cannot killed by bullets, but only by stakes through their heart. Back in the US, nobody really believes the soldiers, and their stories are attributed to PTSD and the like.
But when the situation apparently worsens, the local government requests US assistance again, and while a first small detachment is already under way, Hawk gets sent on a semi-official mission to rescue someone close to him from a neighbouring location that might no longer be safe.
Slayer is one of those films that have this very specific „straight-to-video“ feel to them. But that does not mean that it is a bad film. It is a decent action flick rental for a rainy Sunday afternoon: simple, unpretentious, and unambitious.
Watching this film you can immediately see that it was done with no cushy budget, but nothing here feels cheap. The cinematography is mostly very good, and most of the locations feel genuine. According to imdb, the film was shot in Puerto Rico. The special effects are good, with the sole exception of a CGI bat-monster near the end that looks goofy. I have also developed a particular dislike for the “sliding fonts” used in the opening credits, but that is by the by.
As I said, the story is simple and straight forward, and the characters’ backstory gets dealt with in short bouts of exposition that – while forced – are not too painful. The writing is generally solid, especially the dialogue which is not award-worthy but lacks the typical unnatural clunkiness that is often found in these films. It probably helps that Slayer features actors that can sell dialogue and will not stumble over the easiest of lines. In fact, the film has an almost impressive cast-list fitting for a second-tier action film. Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers) plays the lead character Hawk; while more or less major supporting roles went to Jennifer O’Dell, veteran actor Tony Plana, Underworld actor and creator Kevin Grevioux, Alexis Cruz (Stargate), original Wonder Woman Lynda Carter, and the legendary Danny Trejo.
The film was written, directed, and edited by visual effects specialist Kevin VanHook, and it is his second vampire film after 2003’s Frost. Thematically, VanHook shoehorns an environmental message into Slayer which feels more than a bit forced, but he also uses an unusual bit of lore regarding the origins of vampires which I appreciated (but which I will not spoil here).
A number of gore elements aside, Slayer is less horror and more action film. Since I don’t watch many action films I am not quite sure how to judge this film. It has some well-choreographed scenes, but they will certainly not hold up to the high standards that many people apply to these films these days. The choreography also feels strangely unnatural to me. Sometimes there are fights or brawls in this film where it would feel more natural to just see guys punching each other in the face. Instead, you see them dancing around each other – carefully and perfectly going through the motions they have studied for that scene. I am not sure how to describe it. Not bad, not slow; but “staged” would probably the right term.
I also think that the final showdown in this film is more than a bit disappointing. There have been better scenes in this film already, and VanHook seems to have relied on the “bat monster” to be the great show piece of the scene. But since that creature looks so goofy, the scene ends up falling rather flat.
Yet all in all, Slayer is quite a decent action B-movie, and rather short with a net running time of just over 80 minutes. So – if you are not expecting much – you will find yourself mildly entertained. And throwing the solid casting and decent performances into the mix, I am ready to give this film a rating of 5.5 out of 10.