I want to start things off and say that I have a tremendous amount of respect for Unearthed Films. They are one of my absolute favorite companies. For horror fans who enjoy extreme violence and gore, they are the name atop all others. With releases such as the Guinea Pig box set, Philosophy of a Knife and their delivering the works of filmmakers such as Daisuke Yamanouchi to North American audiences it puts them at the lead in terms of extreme horror. No other DVD company has the fortitude to go after films such as these, but Unearthed delivers and does so with quality releases. Slasher is one of the smaller, less-known independent features that they have picked up for release (similar to Bone Sickness and Mercy) but it is a movie that should prove to have its own audience. For those of us who spent the nineties and the early part of this past decade scrounging for bootlegs of no-budget splatter epics from filmmakers such as Andreas Schnaas, Heiko Fillipper and Olaf Ittenbach, this feature shows an inevitable growth within the realm of German made splatter films. Not that Ittenbach or Schnaas haven’t made more consolidated efforts since their initial shot-on-home-video-horror days, but Slasher represents a new market that is in equal parts influenced by the underground German gore scene of the past as well as newer more polished Hollywood productions. Although Slasher will not fool you into believing that it actually had a decent budget behind it, the filmmakers have crafted as slick a horror film as could possibly have been made while still staying true to the buckets of gore that have made this countries genre output so infamous.
Erin is a young college student working on a degree in the field of psychology. Her latest class study has been on the infamous serial killer Mike Corman, who was never actually captured after murdering several young women. Gearing up for a weekend adventure, Erin puts her school work behind her and instead focuses on having a good time with her boyfriend and four friends. This trio of couples are heading out to a campsite in the woods near a lake, where the three plan to party until they pass out. Once they arrive however, they find that the locals are not the kind and generous country-folk one might expect. Add to this, someone is in the woods tracking down anyone who wanders off the path. This killer wields a chainsaw and a multitude of weapons. Could this be the one and only Mike Corman? Will Erin and her friends manage to survive the terror standing in front of them?
The introduction to Slasher couldn’t better establish precisely what it is going for. It opens with a young couple wandering off into the woods, of course. Followed by the young girl stripping nude for no real reason, of course, and then proceeding to dance for her boyfriend. So far we have established that this movie is going to A) feature very little in the way of logical character motivation and B) tons of nudity. So, as this young woman does her little dance a chainsaw wielding maniac sneaks up behind her and does something truly distasteful and awful. This gives us our third established characteristic of this movie, C) extreme gore. I have already mentioned it at this point, but Germany has had a history with extremely violent cinema. Movies such as Premutos der Gefallen Engel and the Violent Shit series have been well established favorites amongst gorehounds and b-movie fans. Such movies were woefully inept but shared a unique flavor of naivete and fun for all of their silliness. Frank W. Montag presents us a movie that shows that same influence, but aspires to be a much more commercial feature. The comparisons to Schnaas and Ittenbach are impossible to pass up, but along the way Montag shows these filmmakers aren’t his only influence. With Slasher, there are shades of more popular films as well. The supposed torture porn movement definitely shows up in Slasher, as well as references to both the original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and its remake. Essentially the movie plays like a culmination of all the best and worst parts of the slasher movie genre.
Keeping in tune with slasher movies from the eighties, the film proves to unfortunately be "cutesy" in its revelry and love for teenage debauchery. The endless sex, drugs and rock & roll life style doesn’t really work in big doses and considering more than half the film is spent on these teenagers partying away their lives we ultimately end up hoping for their deaths. This of course could have been the goal from the start, as is some times the case with these "body count" films. When actors or non-actors pretend to party and have the time of their life, the inevitable results are usually quite cheesy. Slasher is no exception. During an early sequence we are shown one of leading men, who is apparently a god for his ability to charm any woman, laying down his wit and romanticism to a young lady in a bar. Unfortunately his flirtatious banter is utterly mundane and lacking in any kind of charisma, so the scene falls flat and we the audience find ourselves wishing for the inevitable death sequences to start popping up. Similar to some of the better slasher movies of the past, the film does give its audience plenty of time to get to know these characters. Although they turn out to be rather annoying for the most part, I did appreciate the character moments provided. Montag crafts an amalgamation of influences for his debut film, which can at times be quite impressive. At this point however he appears to be a filmmaker very much in line with Eli Roth or Rob Zombie’s style of "showing influences instead of being influential" cinema. There’s a bit where our teens ultimately stumble upon the killer’s cabin that appears lifted directly from the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The scene even concludes with our modern Leatherface taking a hammer to the head of a victim.
Although I realize I have probably complained more at this point than actually applauded the film, I do have to say that I enjoyed it overall. The negatives unfortunately are so prominent that one can’t help but mention them. It definitely has its weaknesses. Such as our killer, Mike Corman, who comes off as the least intimidating chainsaw-wielding serial killer to ever grace the cinematic world. His constant use of the chainsaw on every little object that he crosses paths with eventually grows irritating. Watch as Corman destroys a door with his chainsaw! Watch as Corman stops in mid-chase and saws through various twigs in the forest! It also doesn’t help that the killer is wearing a Nekromantik t-shirt underneath his bloody apron. This ultimately reveals the geekdom of the filmmakers more than anything. Where exactly would a serial killer on the run, who lives without power in the middle of the woods, ever have the chance to check out Jorg Buttergeit’s masterpiece on necrophilia? It’s silly, but it overall takes away from the intimidation that this killer is supposed to inflict upon the audience; especially for those of us who actually get the reference. However, with all of that said, I am a sucker for a cheap gore film. Slasher truly is just that and the added shades of style give the movie an actual sense of validation that the filmmakers mentioned earlier didn’t have with their first features. Is it a great movie? No. It is burdened by cliche and formula. However, working inside of that formula it manages to do a few interesting tricks. If you’re a fan of German splatter or you are a gorehound period, Slasher does deliver! Bodies are hacked to pieces, chainsaws saw through flesh and the innovative death sequences you would expect are on full display. Going in with the right frame of mind, Slasher most definitely delivers the fun. For fans of gore cinema, what more can you ask for? You can find out more about this title from the Unearthed Films website