J.S. Cardone’s The Slayer brought back many fond memories of VIPCO (Video Instant Picture Company); a home video distributor in the United Kingdom that introduced cult classics, such as Zombie Flesh Eaters and Shogun Assassin, to UK audiences. This review will also focus on VIPCO’s (now out of print) 2001 Region 2 DVD release of The Slayer.
Written and directed by Joseph S. Cardone (credited as J.S. Cardone) and released in 1982, The Slayer gained notoriety in the United Kingdom when it was briefly added to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DDP) list of obscene videos, dubbed by the media as ‘video nasties’ in 1983.
VIPCO (Video Instant Picture Company) had released The Slayer uncut on VHS (pre-certification) in 1982 before the film’s addition to the list, and subsequent banning in the UK. Fortunately The Slayer was not prosecuted, dropped from the DDP list in 1985 and re-released on VHS by VIPCO in 1992, certified ’18’ by the British Board of Film Classification (formally British Board of Film Censors) (BBFC). The BBFC was already responsible for the certification of UK theatrical releases but in 1985 home video also had to submitted to the BBFC for classification. This was under the Video Recordings Act 1984, which itself was passed due to the ‘Video Nasty’ media frenzy.
The Slayer, however, didn’t make it through the classification unscathed… The BBFC also has the authority to censor any film that is deemed unsuitable for an adult audience. Therefore The The Slayer had to have 14 seconds cut before it’s re-release in 1992. However, the BBFC’s stance to censorship has become more relaxed in recent times allowing VIPCO to release The Slayer uncut on DVD in 2001; 19 years after the film’s initial release.
Artist Kay (Sarah Kendall) is plagued by recurring nightmares of a beast referred to as ‘The Slayer’, that has haunted her since her childhood. With her career on a downward slope her brother Eric (Frederick Flynn) invites Kay and her husband David (Alan McRae) to join him and his wife Brooke (Carol Kottenbrook) on a vacation to an island off the coast of Georgia, believing it may ease his sister’s restlessness.
Arriving at the island Kay immediately gets the distinct feeling that she has been here before, possibly in one of her dreams. The island itself appears to be deserted. “Look at this… It’s beautiful!” proclaims Eric, to which Brooke scoffs. Once they reach the house however all is forgiven when they find it fully stocked, warm and cosy.
Kay’s nightmares continue however. A fisherman (Paul Gandolfo) sits peacefully on the coast, mumbling to himself as he descales, and guts the fish he has just caught. Without warning he is struck with a blunt object. His skull cracks under the impact and he falls to the floor. Katy quickly sits up, awoken from her sudden nightmare, to find herself with Brooke sunbathing on the beach.
That very same night David is awoken, not by the storm that has hit the island, but by numerous noises emanating from downstairs. Leaving Kay to sleep he heads down to investigate, entering the basement where he finds the elevator shaft doors slightly ajar. As rainwater pours through the open gap a sudden gust of wind causes one of the doors to open forcibly. David, visibly startled, looks out of the open elevator shaft, rain now falling heavily into the basement. Suddenly the shaft door slams down upon David neck, as if it was pushed, leading to his decapitation…
Kay awakes the next morning to find her husband asleep beside her. Relieved he is safe Kay kisses David upon his lips. Her sudden embrace causes her husband’s eyes to open. The taste of blood quickly fills Kay’s mouth, and as she pulls away the covers she reveals David’s decapitated head. Her own screams awake her from this nightmare…but David is now nowhere to be found.
J.S. Cardone’s The Slayer (also released as Nightmare Island) is an underrated horror film that was unfairly compared with many other releases within the same slasher subgenre. The island, for example, makes for the prefect setting; isolation. The weather that pounds upon the island creates an atmosphere filled with dread and despair, mirroring the character of Kay, who appears to be lost in her own thoughts and slowly losing her grip on reality. Robert Folk’s orchestrated musical score also deserves credit for building upon this atmosphere, fitting the mood perfectly.
The special make-up effects are extremely effective, especially in the denouement, when ‘The Slayer’ finally makes it’s appearance known. The body count is low in comparison to say, Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday the 13th (1980), but the violence remains brutal throughout and is well paced. J.S. Cardone has done a great job of building the tension during these scenes. The impact of the violence also punctuates the audiences heart, as each main character is portrayed in a mature and likable manner.
The concept of sleep deprivation caused by nightmares is unique in The Slayer, in that it portrays surreal, violent events, initially thought to be dreams as real life situations. This is a concept that would be touched upon again in 1984 with the release of Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street.
The VIPCO R2 DVD release of The Slayer featured a full frame open matte transfer (1.33:1). An open matte transfer exposes the entire image, and would usually be trimmed for theatrical exhibition. The Slayer itself was trimmed to a 1.85:1 aspect ratio for it’s original theatrical release. No information is lost from the image with an open matte transfer.
Unfortunately the transfer used for the DVD release is the same transfer that was used by VIPCO previously on their VHS releases. The picture quality, whilst watchable, is damaged with scratches appearing throughout the 86 minute running time. The contrast is consistently too bright, whilst the colours remain faded and dull, and there are even analogue tracking errors present on the transfer. This contradicts the DVD packaging which claims that the film was digitally remastered.
There are no notable extras to speak of apart from a small handful of trailers advertising other VIPCO attractions. An image gallery is also included but only contains still images taken from the transfer itself. The DVD packaging is notable, but only if you pick up the earlier ‘VIPCO’s VAULTS OF HORROR COLLECTION’ release. The artwork, taken from the original theatrical poster, is as attractive as it is genuinely scary. The tagline “Is it a nightmare? Or is it… The Slayer” is also used to great effect. Avoid ‘VIPCO’s SCREAMTIME COLLECTION’ if you can, as the artwork has been omitted and replaced with plain text. The contents of the disc however remain the same.
VIPCO have created a long lasting legacy in the home video market and The Slayer is undoubtedly one of their best titles, at least in my opinion. VIPCO unfortunately closed in 2007 and The Slayer is now out of print. Despite it’s dated presentation, The Slayer would make a great addition to your VIPCO collection.
In the United Kingdom The Slayer was added to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) list of 72 ‘video nasties’ in 1983, but was one of 33 films not prosecuted.
The Slayer is available to buy from Amazon in the UK; plus if you decide to make a purchase after following any of the links provided you will have supported Attack From Planet B, so thank you.