Jeremiah Kipp’s new slasher film “The Sadist” puts “First Blood” and “Friday the 13th” in a blender and pours out a gory cocktail. While countless slashers since the original “Friday” premiered in 1980 have copied the psycho in the woods formula, “The Sadist” goes the extra mile and enlists Jason’s maker himself Tom Savini as the killer. One of the godfathers of practical special effects, Savini has also carved out a nice acting career in genre films like “From Dusk Till Dawn”, “Planet Terror”, and both iterations of “Dawn of the Dead”. He plays this part mute, which is fitting for the character, but disappointing because Savini’s high octane delivery is a high point of his performances.
Jack Bird (Frank Wihbey) is a college student on his annual hunting trip with his uncle Will (Santo Fezio). Supposedly on the wagon, Uncle Will’s hacking cough makes Jack worried about how many more trips they’ll have together. The two actors have a believable history with palpable friction between the optimistic nephew and the man whose days may be numbered. The scent of death is in the air as they learn of an group escape from the local mental hospital. The last remaining escapee is a former special forces commando who is using his training to survive in the woods. After leaving a defenseless swine pitchforked to death, he is now working his way up to larger targets. Besides the aforementioned “First Blood”, the idea of a highly trained human weapon loose in the wild was also covered in The 2003 William Friedkin potboiler “The Hunted”.
Unfortunately, just when we’re getting deep into Jack & Uncle Will’s story, our attention is diverted to a trio of campers. While the two groups eventually converge for the inevitable showdown with the escapee, the camper scenes really drag down the tempo. Where the rest of the film is fresh, these parts lean hard on genre clichés. Sex, pot, illogical assumptions, cars that won’t start, and no cell phone reception. These scenes appear rushed and are victim to some questionable sound mix and ADR. At first it seems the campers are only in the woods to become cadavers, but the longer they hang around, the more you realize they’re in for the long haul. It’s a shame the filmmakers didn’t trust in the dynamic of the initial pair to carry the movie.
Except for some less controllable exterior woods scenes, “The Sadist” is beautifully shot in 2.35:1 Widescreen by DP Dominic Sivilli. He artfully uses shafts of backlight to create haze, depth, and halo the actors. The film also benefits from some great production value that provides a much larger and visually impressive finale than most independent horror films are granted. Negatively, there are some aesthetically strong but redundant travelogue sequences that pad the 76 minute running time.
It’s a thin line filmmakers walk when they muck around in the slasher genre. They have to appease the hardcore fans without seeming like they’re coasting on the past. I’m not sure if Kipp intends for this to be the start of a franchise, but a clever twist at the end shows it has potential. It’s just disappointing that they didn’t stick with the initial title “Swine” and instead went with the more generic and forgettable title of “The Sadist”.
“The Sadist” is available on Vimeo on Demand @ https://vimeo.com/ondemand/38271