Slaughter Studios 2002
Directed by: Brian Katkin
Starring: Nicholas Read, Amy Shelton-White, Tara Killian
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Personally, I never got the whole comedy/horror thing. I understand about opposites attract and all that, but are you really telling me that it’s good to laugh and be scared during the same sequence? Wouldn’t one emotion done well be better than the two mixed poorly together? I recently saw Decampitated, which is a fairly watchable film for the simple fact that much like Scary Movie, it is really just a comedy that’s been set in a horror universe. That’s ok if you know what audience you are targeting. It’s when writers aim for the best of both worlds that things seem to really get messy. I can’t think of many entries at all that made the combination work: Scream, Cherry Falls, Blood Hook; but they were only marginally comedic… Erm… I’m struggling for more… Maybe it’s just my sense of humour?
Slaughter Studios was originally pencilled to be a Slumber Party Massacre remake. It was only when producer Damian Akhavi managed to rope in Roger Corman and access to his soon to be demolished studio that the idea was scrapped in favour of a whole new story. They went for the goofy dialogue approach and have attempted to interweave toilet humour with some cool deaths and a whodunit storyline.
A group of film school students get together to make a horror film in a dilapidated studio. ‘Slaughter Studios’ has been closed down since the fateful night when one of their lead actors was killed by a real loaded gun that was accidentally used as a prop. The rapidly cobbled together crew decide to shoot the whole picture in one sitting and have only nine hours to finish the photography. Almost as soon as they arrive however, an unseen someone begins killing off the cast members one by one. Could it be that the unfortunate star has returned from the grave with murderous intent…?
When my family first emigrated to England from Spain in 1987, I was six years old and shared a bedroom with my older brother, Oscar. There’s eight years between us, so I was little more than a nuisance to him then, even though we get on real well now. To look at and speak to, you would never guess that we even know each other, let alone that we are siblings. Aside from the stereotypical Latino dark hair and olive eyes, we share no similarities in our appearance and our lives have traipsed in separate directions. He worked from the age of sixteen, found the perfect wife a couple of years later and has three lovely children with her. I was a total wild child, bounced from girl to girl and on top of that, we even support rival football teams (he’s Spurs I’m Arsenal).
When we lived together, as you can imagine, we were completely non-compatible. Him and I leaving the family abode brought us closer and was a blessing in disguise for our relationship. Watching Slaughter Studios takes me back to those times so well, because its two opposing styles are a combination that don’t see eye to eye in a 90 minute runtime.
Firstly, Greg Salman deserves a massive pat on the back for his art direction here. We are treated to well crafted sets that look fantastic and make superb use of horror ‘prop stereotypes’ such as cobwebs and low lights. The photography is also top notch and visibly stylish with a real emphasis on keeping the runtime as energetic as possible. Cinematographer Mark Lulkin drapes the film in a gothic darkness that helps to keep the tone ever threatening. The first few killings are off-screen and bloodless, and so on the 45 minute mark, I had written a note that it was somewhat disappointing considering the OTT theme of the feature in other areas. During the final half though, things go on a rampage and the blood begins to flow. There’s a couple of really grisly murders, including a fitting demise for the spoilt slut character that I won’t ruin for you here. I also cringed at the drawn-out slaughter of one guy who tried to jump to safety from a second-floor window. He ends up breaking both of his legs on impact and crawls away with his smashed limbs trailing behind him only to be stabbed and decapitated with a pitchfork! Christopher Farrell’s score is well composed and manages to evoke various moods when the momentum does briefly stagnate.
Most of the time though, things move at a neat pace and I was really excited to see who it was that was killing everyone. There’s a fairly large body count and all the usual post-Scream slasher movie stereotype characters. This almost borders on being one of those semi-erotic slasher flicks and chucks in bundles of nudity and a Lesbian clinch. It’s not as adult focused as say, for example, Porn Shoot Massacre though and does try hard to stick with the original plan of action.
As you have probably already guessed by what I have said earlier in this review, it is the stupid attempts at goofy humour that really damage Slaughter Studios. The script is all, pretty much, tongue in cheek tosh and I didn’t find any of the jokes funny. I read a review of this somewhere online that said, the film can be digested much easier if you take it as a comedy. Ok cool, then tell that to the marketing bods who made it look like a gore extravaganza on the cover. Also, I am the last person in the world to stand up for political correctness, but why turn the only Asian character in to a cowardly, perverted fool with a stammering accent?
The revelation of the killer was equally annoying and a bit of a cheat too. After the credits had rolled, I was left thinking, what was the point of the opening scene? In fact, what was the point of any of the story before it? It just came across as rushed, unexplained and effectively hollow. There’s a predictable false climax that feels drawn out because its obviously a red-herring and it all ends with an overall feeling of disappointment.
On occasion I was really impressed by some of the stuff in Slaughter Studios. I kept thinking to myself, maybe it will come good from this moment onward. Despite a brazen attempt at an exciting finish though, the damage had already been done and I really didn’t enjoy it as much as I should have. The producers made the movie look incredibly slick, but the comedic aspect should never have been given the go ahead. An impressive amount of technically adept filmmaking flair is wasted in a stupid attempt at a mix of genres.
It’s no surprise that this has become such an obscurity and it really is its own worst enemy. Gone and quite simply well forgotten, it doesn’t warrant a place in your collection.
Final Girl: √√