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Canuxploitation!

Slashers

2001, Starring Sarah Joslyn Crowder, Tony Curtis Blondell, Kieran Keller, Carolina Pla, Jerry Sprio, Sofia de Medeiros Neil Napier, Christopher Piggins. Directed by Maurice Devereaux (Bedford Entertainment Inc./Fangoria Films).





Thanks to the promotional push of Fangoria magazine, Montreal's Maurice Devereaux has lived out the B-movie dream of many teenage horror fanatics, turning his onscreen obsessions into reality after his first high school film production, Blood Symbol (1992), was picked up for distribution by the mag's fledgling video label. Slashers, Deveraux's third shot-on-video feature for Fango in 10 years, continues in the gory tradition of his earlier work, mixing the 1980s slasher boom with an intriguing, Running Man-inspired gimmick for an undeniably unique, often effective horror flick.

Shot in long takes with a cinema verit slant, the film is structured as an episode of "Slashers," a hit Japanese TV game show that has finally made it to the Western world with its first "All-American" special. Six contestants from all across the U.S.Devon (Tony Curtis Blondell), Michael (Kieran Keller), Rebecca (Carolina Pla), Rick (Jerry Sprio), Megan (Sarah Joslyn Crowder), and Brenda (Sofia de Medeiros)are sent out to a multi-room playing field, where they battle a trio of homicidal slashers: good ol' boy Chainsaw Charlie (Neil Napier), ghoulish reverend The Preacherman (Napier, again) and psycho physician Dr. Ripper (Christopher Piggins). Contestants are kept in line with shock collars during commercial breaks, and must find a way to outlast each other and keep their shirts from repeatedly falling off, to take home millions of dollars in prizes.

Like the Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle Running Man before it, it could easily be said that Slashers is a biting satire of violence in media, but that would probably be reading too much into this sadistic little exercise. What Devereaux has here is a great, simple concept, and he really has fun running the story through its boobs-and-blood paces in an unapologetically carnivalesque celebration of the slasher film. Following the terrified Megan, who initially signs on the show as a means of making a bold statement to the TV audience about murder as entertainment, the film nicely balances suspense and horror, taking viewers through a tightly edited series of death set-pieces, touching briefly on the backstories of each contestant.

Though shot on DV, the production values are pretty impressive, and Slashers nicely incorporates Japanese TV imagery and kinetic camera work into the film to make it a reasonably convincing facsimile of the real thing. Though obviously filmed on the cheap, Deveraux makes his budget work for him by pushing his characters through a series of themed playing fieldsthe game begins on a non-descript bunker set, but soon moves into a brightly coloured funhouse, a wax museum, a torture dungeon and a satin-blanketed "love room."

It takes a while between blood baths in Slashers but once the red stuff starts to flow, the gore effects once again exceed expectations. Early on, one contestant is sliced in half with a generous serving of blood and guts spilling out of her torso, and later, there are a few impressive beheadings and a stake through the side of the head, all with appropriately generous arterial sprays.

The only issue with the film is the lack of character development and the wholly inexperienced cast, many of whom turn in overwrought, painful performances. There is quite a bit of reality TV-like infighting between the contestants, and these are the film's weakest moments, as the young actors visibly struggle with the wide range of emotions required by the script.

Directing primarily for an audience of American horror magazine fiends and gore aficionados, Slashers doesn't appear to have any connection to its country of origin, except for the curious character of The Preacherman, a slasher who obviously draws from Quebec's Catholic past. Most French-Canadian horror films are deeply rooted in religion symbolism, and the killer priest, who attacks contestants with a cross-shaped knife and accuses them all of being sinners, is certainly no exception.

When Slashers made its debut in 2001 at the Fantasia festival, the film was recognized as Devereaux's most accomplished work. Even for viewers unfamiliar with his earlier films, a cool gimmick goes along way in the cookie cutter horror scene, and Slashers stands out as an inventive, entertaining horror film that has almost single-handedly kept the Canadian slasher tradition alive into the 21st century.


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