Thursday, November 24, 2011

Day of the Turkey Review: Slaughtered

With my eyes mostly recovered, I decided to expose them to some movies I had low hopes for in order to do a gimmicky impromptu Thanksgiving Turkey blog-fest between here, The Charles Band Collection, and Terror Titans. Welcome to Day of the Turkey!

The first selection, however, was far worse than I had imagined.

Slaughtered (2008)
Starring: Chris Smith, Arlisha Fogle, Aschleigh Jensen, Rebecca McQuen, and Cheri Lynn
Director: Anthony Doublin
Rating: Zero of Ten Stars

Harold (Smith) is a psychopath who murders nude models and posts gory images of his crimes on a pay/members-only website. As he goes about his business of booking small-time models and murdering them, the world's worst detective (Fogle) is hired to locate one of Harold's victims. But something else is closing in on Harold--the restless spirits of his victims. Is he truly being haunted, or are the ghosts just a figment of his deterioriating sanity?

"Slaughtered" is a movie so bad that the only good things I can say about it is that it's well-lit and the camera is in focus at all times. And I'd be appalled if those weren't quality, given that the writer/director of this should-have-been cinematic abortion is a well-established lighting technician and cameraman with several regular gigs on television series to his credit.

But as a director and a screen-writer, he is completely incompetent.

We have a central character--I can't bring myself to call him a protagonist--who is both loathsome and uninteresting, whose only defining characteristics is that he wears too much eye-liner and likes to kill women. Oh... and he's also a peeping tom who likes watching his models undress via a webcam before he... makes them undress and kills them. We never learn anything about Harold... who he is, why he is doing what he's doing, or any other stuff that might make him a little interesting. He never becomes more than a crazy goth in too much eye-liner.

We have a character who should be the hero, but who is so irrelevant to the plot that by the time she arrives at Harold's house, the movie's over... his last victim has freed herself and ghosts have exacted gory revenge on him. (Yeah, I just spoiled the movie. If you had watched it, you would have wished I had and saved you the misery.) She's also, as I mentioned in the teaser summary at the top of the review, the world's dumbest detective; while working on her missing person's case, she calls up the local police station and offers sexual favors in exchange for open missing persons cases. I've no doubt she's real popular around the squad room, since those sorts of things are not under lock and key... the police are trying to find those people. A Google search might have given her the same information as those files. And then there's the fact she spends much of the movie in her office (which looks like it might be a nook in her kitchen) trying to "hack" Harold's members-only snuff-port site. Why didn't get herself a pre-paid Mastercard, billed to her client, and just sign up for the site under a fictitious name?!

Of course, the police in the area of California where the film takes place--Santa Barbara? I think it was mentioned at some point, but my brain was starting to turn off by that point, so I'm not sure--aren't much smarter. Nude models are going missing... nude models who are contacted via their promotional web sites, via email... nude models who have computers and email accounts where correspondence is stored. It seems to me that it wouldn't take more than a couple of vanished women with emails from Harold in their inbox to make the police interested in him and his little web-venture. That and the fact that he disposes of their bodies, fully intact, in dumpsters. Neither Harold, nor the cops, have apparently watched even one episode of "CSI". Or "Quincy, M.E.". Or even "Columbo." Hell, the world's dumbest detective looked at the email account of one victim and zeroed in on Harold.

Some of the laziest writing I have ever seen in a film that was supposedly made by a professional is on display here. The cipherous nature of Harold. the idiocy and plot irrelevancy of the character who should be the hero, and the absence of any apparent thought devoted to how Harold can be getting away with his serial killing are only the worst sins among a multitude.

Moving onto the direction... words fail me. Either Doublin managed to make scenes of girls getting undressed boring, or I need to have my testosterone levels checked. We're treated to three scenes of girls getting undressed and then getting dressed (before undressing again and being murdered), and the next one is duller than the one that went before. Even the kill scenes are boring, with only the first one having even the slightest impact, possibly because it was a bit unexpected. Usually with films like this, I'm disgusted or irritated--I do not like movies whose central and only theme is the brutalization of women and other innocent victims--but with "Slaughtered", each murder brought a greater degree of indifference.

Perhaps it has something to do with the acting, which was almost as universally flat as the direction. The fact that Doublin is a seasoned professional probably helped him keep the "playing to the back row at the community theatre"-style performances that usually plague movies of this kind. The actors here all seemed comfortable in front of a camera and aware of how to play to it... but one can also easily understand why very few of the cast have credits beyond this picture, or other films directed by Doublin.

"Slaughtered" is lurking inside several multi-packs from Maxim Media's Pendulum Pictures imprint. Wherever you find it, save it for last... or, better yet, don't bother with it at all. The only reason to watch it is to gain a greater appreciation for Mario Bava's excellent "Hatchet for the Honeymoon" and Robert Hammer's "Don't Answer the Phone". Those films have many elements in common with Slaughtered... only they were made by directors who understand how to put a movie together.

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