Slayer (2007)

Rating:

USA. 2007.

Crew

Director/Screenplay/Photography/CG Animation – Ed Peduzzi, Music – Justin R. Durban. Production Company – Acorn Cinema

Cast

Ed Peduzzi (Eric Carlson), Tom Gibson (Elijah), Kieran Haller (Phoebus), Amanda Snook (Rose), Andrew Friedberg (Clint), Nathaniel Adams (Cid), Christopher Haag (Sam), Ian Chisholm (Link), Nathan Kensinger (George)


Plot

Massachusetts university student Eric Carlson is wandering along a country road trying to find a cellphone signal when he sees two men erupt from the woods behind him and one kill the other. He flees the scene, dropping his phone. It is later mysteriously returned to him. He follows a trail that leads to an empty lot near the woods but is abducted when he arrives. He is then inducted into the ranks of a group of guys that he comes to realize are vampires, although are somewhat different to what one expects vampires to be. They are engaged in the slaughter of other vampires or RIPs as they call them, which they have turned into a hunt. At first, Eric is expected to clean the blood from the weapons after each hunt. The group is then threatened by a former member Sam, who now starts killing his way through their ranks.


Slayer – not to be confused with several other films with the same title – is an independently made amateur film from Ed Peduzzi, a young filmmaker in his early 20s from Massachusetts. Peduzzi made Slayer while at University of Massachusetts Amherst – apparently most of the locations in the film are on the campus. All of the cast were non-acting amateurs that Peduzzi recruited from around the university. Peduzzi himself plays the lead role of Eric.

With Slayer, Ed Peduzzi attempts something ambitious with the vampire legend. His willingly dispenses with many of the aspects of vampire lore – sometimes for practical reasons (like the aversion to sunlight being thrown out because Peduzzi didn’t want to do night shooting and lighting). Certainly, there are times when Slayer feels like it is a home video being shot by a group of slackers around campus – there are too many scenes early on of the group sitting around what is clearly a university residence talking, drinking, playing videogames and so on. On the other hand, Slayer does touch upon the intriguing possibility of what you could call a grunge vampire film – lead vampire Tom Gibson (the best actor in the film) could almost be a more feral version of Kurt Cobain – and there are some nicely written scenes where the vampires articulate what it means to be a vampire.

The major minus point about Slayer is that Ed Peduzzi never makes what is happening particularly clear – I was never certain why the group lured Eric there and why he so willingly stayed and made no attempt to escape after being released (which happens only a few minutes after he arrives). There is little explanation given to the background of the film. Numerous people are hunted through the forest but I could never glean if all the victims are meant to be human or RIPs, why one group was hunting the other and what the differences between the two groups was. (If all the hunted are RIPs, then we never actually see the vampires obtaining their blood anywhere). The narrative seems frustratingly inert – the film never has what could be described as a plot, just a series of overlapping scenes without much connecting thread. Things pick up slightly towards the end when we get to the war between Sam and the group, although again there is confusion as to what scenes are taking place in the present and what, if any, are intended as flashback.

Nevertheless, there are some often subtle moments in the direction and many things that are ambitious – notably some of the striking and often beautiful autumnal backgrounds that Ed Peduzzi shoots. Particularly good is a sequence that flashes back to the killing of Rose’s parents, which Peduzzi has shot entirely solarized in striking colours so that it almost resembles animation – it could easily be a scene out of something like A Scanner Darkly (2006). Peduzzi eventually builds the film to the no-budget equivalent of a grand climactic showdown – all of which takes place in an empty field and manages to effectively suggest an epic confrontation simply in two groups of untrained people fighting and two ordinary cars running around the field.



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