Slasher movies likely have a strange fondness in many horror fans hearts, as one normally finds the staple icons carried over from the late 70s to today, any reference to them in article or headline generates retweets and massive number of views. However, the subgenre lately fallen on hard times, the reoccurring slasher driven tales developed into a franchise serious lacking, and hence bringing us one-offs which delivers high body counts and exquisite amounts of gore. Therefore, Serial Kaller a British slasher graces the screen, with an extremely low budget and borrows from the arena of both Sleepaway Camp and Norman Bates from Psycho (1960). Director Dan Brownlie, who worked on many anthology films, brings his own script to the forefront in the genre, with assistant of actress and screenwriter Dani Thompson, on the subject of risqué adult entertainment, showing it more from the women’s side than the patrons.
The story opens awkwardly sad, with a woman obsessed with her own vanity, needing to try to improve on perfection with another surgery, all in the vain hopes of trying to retain her youth. She completely is overlooking her motherly duties and her son’s feminine interests with her vanity. Herein one might recall the Excess Flesh (2015) or even Looker (1981) concerning the excessive levels of wanton lusts for beauty, looking for a condemnation of the practice; however Brownlie takes the audience in a completely different direction. This opening medical scene sinks a major chunk of the movie, for example wearing makeup into the operating room, when she incurs a problem; their response becomes a flat-line. The plot abruptly transitions 30-years later to a secure studio where an interactive peepshow televised sex line shows from adult callers, similar to the concept of webcams, used in the Girl house (2014). The ladies working the phones and rolling provocatively on the beds while dress in lingerie simulating sexual acts include Dani Thompson, Suzi Lorraine, Lucinda Rhodes-Flaherty, among others). The nudity clearly at a minimum, and trying to pass it as a modern day occurrence seems a tad winded early on, Aerosmith’s music video Sweet Emotion gave more eroticism than the dialogue and actions shown. All the shenanigans occur at Jack’s (Stuart Brennan) Babealicious TV-studio, from the women friendly on the phones vicious to each other in the dressing rooms and even extending their humiliation to others at clubs. For example, at club the visit after hours Steph (Debbie Rochon, horror icon star of over 170 films in the genre, and known for Axe to Grind (2015) and the highly anticipated (2017)) encouraging her to audition for the channel, even though the ‘cougar’ aspect not wanted by Jack. All of it sounds intriguing but conveys at dull space, until the killing starts and lays down a ruthless amount of violence and gore, results from the foolish mistake of Tanya (Dani Thompson) of badmouthing a client, when he’s still on the line. Oops – big mistake in horror film lore!
Once the hunting starts every viewer knows the second half of the movie started, even this bad movie knows the right cues, managing to deliver some rampaging anger and sexual devious behaviors. It helps the final 10 minutes of the movie, except a viewer watches a film to have entertainment throughout the runtime not a few brief moments. However, this does not mean the entire flick as a bomb, no, it does contain glimpses where more robust budget might succeed venture down new paths in a deviant world of lies, mistrust, and ideally self-loathing from the callers and their respondents.
Brownlie’s movie never falls into a gutter of violent images endlessly layering the screen despite some gory killing; the editing quickness helps in this regard greatly. The box art lies a bit of confusion, an old fashioned phone, though set in the modern day and the tagline fits the United States market rather than the UK as it reads “911 can’t help you now” but the movie uses many British words i.e. blokes hence 999 is the official emergency number for the United Kingdom. Some the secondary characters deliver less than stellar acting, and it deepens the entertainment significantly.
Unlike the mystery in Sleepaway Camp and the suspense from Psycho, Serial Kaller, bypasses many of the avenues of terror, maintains the straight and narrow path of slasher, never exploring the character depth of the ladies, one sees the potential, sadden by the glossy overlook of it all. Simply, when the phone rings, best to answer it just once, and then block all future calls.