South Africa. 2002.
Director – Neal Sundström, Screenplay – Stephen Francis & Gus Silbert, Producers – Amy J. Moore & Paul Raleigh, Photography – Mark Lennard, Music – Neill Solomon, Special Effects – Zabco SFX (Supervisor – Janek Zabielski), Prosthetics – Magic Numbers (Supervisor – Graham Press), Production Design – Robert van der Coolwijk. Production Company – New Africa Media Films
James O’Shea (Joseph ‘Mac’ MacDonald), Steve Railsback (Jeremiah MacDonald), Zuleikha Robinson (Suzie), Craig Kirkwood (Keith), Nick Boraine (Billy Bob), Brett Goldin (Carl), Nina Wassung (Candy), David Dukas (Rod), Neels Clasen (Ian), Anton Vorster (Killer), Michael Richard (Preacher/Sheriff Gene), Jocelyn Broderick (Jesse), Guy Raphaely (Ray), Milan Murray (Karen), Adam Woolf (Young Mac)
Joseph ‘Mac’ MacDonald, the lead singer in the rock group Slash, receives notification that his Aunt Edith has died. He and the rest of the band travel back home to Mac’s family farm in the American Midwest, a place Mac has not returned to since childhood. The rest of the band finds Mac’s hick father Jeremiah to be forbidding. At the funeral, a local woman warns them of the coming ‘harvest of blood’. Soon after this, a masked figure begins to slaughter the members of the band. The others come to believe that the killings are being conducted in order to irrigate the crops with human blood.
Slash offers what must be a world first – the first South African slasher film. There has been the rarity of the South African horror movie before – with House of the Living Dead/Dr Maniac (1973) having won the honours as being the very first, as well as other occasional oddities like City of Blood (1983), The Stay Awake (1987), The Stick (1987) and Dead Easy (2004). South African director Neal Sundström has been an occasional dabbler in genre material with efforts like the legendarily bad Space Mutiny (1988) and Howling V: The Rebirth (1989).
Not that one would know that Slash is a South African film from a cursory viewing – it seems to be making scrupulous effort to give the impression that it is an American-set film. It has imported a couple of American actors – James O’Shea and most notably Steve Railsback, but, apart from the British-born Zuleikha Robinson, the rest of the cast are all South African actors who are appropriating American accents; while the setting pretends to be generic American Midwest. One cannot understand why low-budget films have to go through this pretence of being set in America – Canadian genre films are the biggest offenders here – if a film is capable of holding one’s attention, is it not likely to do so no matter where it is set? Or is it that everyone fears that all-essential American audiences will not want to view anything that even vaguely takes them out of the comfort zone and away from the precious few things that they know about the world?
There are times here where this does not work at all – the band members’ attempts to spout American colloquialisms often seem forced and strained. Many of the characters seem like cliches – like the hip streetwise African-American character who has no real point in the film other than to keep making sarcastic comments about the backwoods hicks. (Not to mention how precious a line Slash seems to be treading in being a South African film that is trying to throw in anti-slavery rhetoric from a supposedly Black American man).
Neal Sundström makes numerous silly references to other horror films throughout – a copy of the Ghost Face mask from Scream (1996) and sequels is worn throughout, as well as a Jason Voorhees-styled hockey mask; the killer looks almost identical to the Creeper in Jeepers Creepers (2001); while there is also the famous “You want to see something really scary?” line that has been appropriated from Twilight Zone – The Movie (1983).
Neal Sundström also keeps pulling daft red herring jumps – people being stabbed with collapsible knives by the Ghost Face, Steve Railsback pulling his shotgun, a joker coming up behind people wielding a scythe, and Railsback making a speech about his grandfather’s ashes and then upending the urn to tip cigars out “Just yankin’ your chain.”
In terms of atmosphere, Slash offers nothing remarkable. The climactic despatch of the psycho of the show is over quickly, followed by a predictable twist ending where such turns out not to be the case. In all, Slash emerges as little more than a generic blend of slasher film and Backwoods Brutality cliches, with some of the Midwest paganism from Children of the Corn (1984) and sequels also thrown in. The place for films like this is the 50c video/dvd rental bins.