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Slayer (2006)

Slayer reviewStarring Casper Van Dien, Jennifer O’Dell, Alexis Cruz, Lynda Carter, Kevin Grevioux, Tony Plana, Danny Trejo, Ray Park

Written and Directed by Kevin VanHook


Kevin VanHook began his filmmaking career with Frost: Portrait of a Vampire, a film that is unquestionably one of the worst motion pictures I have ever had the grave misfortune of subjecting myself too. VanHook followed that up with last year’s The Fallen Ones, a Casper Van Dien vs. a giant mummy movie I rather enjoyed, so much I couldn’t believe it was made by the same person. Now VanHook re-teams with Van Dien and returns to the vampire genre with Slayer. The best thing I can say is that at least it wasn’t as painful to sit through as Frost: Portrait of a Vampire. The Fallen Ones felt like a movie with some semblance of ambition behind it. Slayer – every bit as generic as its title – feels like a cheap straight-to-video flick that should have come out a dozen years ago starring the likes of Chad McQueen or Jeff Wincott.

Imagine a cross between John Carpenter’s Vampires and Predator but with all vestiges of imagination removed and the plot really dumbed down. I mean really, really really dumbed down. There’s a serious stupid streak running down the spine of this film and not to the film’s benefit either, and I’m not even talking about the clumsy moments of tongue-in-cheek humor. You’ll know when a moment of lighthearted comedy is occurring because the entire scene will be punctuated with whimsical music, the kind you’d have heard on a sitcom from 50s or 60s or an old time cartoon. Actually, VanHook only does this during the film’s first half hour. I don’t know why he abandoned the technique but I’d guess because by the film’s halfway point you’ll have lost track of what is and isn’t supposed to be intentionally stupid. A stupid B-movie is one thing; Slayer, however, boasts the kind of cinematic stupidity that grates on my nerves.

The plot, or more specifically what passes for a plot, involves Casper Van Dien as Hawk, the captain of a military squad on assignment in the jungles of South America that encounters vampires in the rain forest. Blabbermouth Hawk cannot stop shooting his mouth off about this vampire smackdown even though the military has adopted the position that what they actually encountered were “tribal anomalies” that believe eating body parts gives them powers or some mumbo jumbo like that. “Wonder Woman” Lynda Carter is Hawk’s superior officer and she orders him to lead another commando unit back down there for reasons I honestly can’t even recall and don’t think even really mattered anymore once the film crossed the half hour mark. Some other soldiers got attacked by the vampires, a squad that included Hawk’s good friend Grieves, a hulking black commando played by a guy with a voice so deep that if he were to get possessed by Satan it might actually go up a few octaves. Grieves has now been turned into a vampire and is serving as a sort of field general for the vampires.

Slayer reviewAnd let’s not forget that there’s a hot blonde scientist looking for some disease-curing plant species close to the danger zone. The hot blonde scientist that contributes virtually nothing to the plot is played by Jennifer O’Dell, who I suspect is used to playing the hot blonde roaming the jungle from her role on “The Lost World” TV show. Here she gets to do so in actual clothing, and I must say Miss O’Dell is almost unrecognizable from the days when she was running around dressed like Jana of the Jungle. Oh, and this hot blonde scientist just happens to be Hawk’s ex-wife. Coincidence or contrivance? Hey, do you think those kooky lovebirds will get back together?

I once wrote of Sean Connery that he doesn’t play characters anymore; he only plays Sean Connery, but fortunately, Sean Connery is very good at playing Sean Connery. Likewise, Casper Van Dien doesn’t play characters anymore; he only plays Casper Van Dien. Unfortunately, Casper Van Dien is no Sean Connery. The character of Hawk is described as someone that’s supposed to have a god complex. If so then the movie must have been set on the seventh day when he was resting. This is Casper Van Dien at his least Van Dieness.

As for the rest of the cast – you know what, let’s just say that nobody could have salvaged the dialog they had to recite, least of all this cast. It is worth noting that Ray “Darth Maul” Park appears in a rare non-covered-in-latex role, although I’ll be damned if I could tell you what part he played. My guess would be that one South American vampire that inexplicably knew kung fu.

Slayer reviewVampire lore discussions are repeated throughout the film. All you need to know about the Slayer vampires is that they are immortal, can survive in daylight, possess supernatural agility, have fangs, feed on blood, turn others into a vampire by biting them, exist predominantly in a particular stretch of the South American rain forests, and can only be killed by having a piece of wood driven through their heart – or their abdomen. And it doesn’t even have to be wood. In fact, just skewer them through the body cavity with something sharp. Considering how much these bloodsuckers love to jump around like Romanian acrobats with fangs I think instead of amassing an army to take their place alongside mankind they should just pool their abilities into some sort of vampiric Las Vegas show called Suck Du Soliel.

The wooden stick wielding soldiers versus acrobatic, throat-biting vampire battles are slightly amusing at first but they become so frequent and so repetitive that I became bored with these skirmishes before the film was even forty-five minutes old. That VanHook keeps the pace moving might be enough to keep some viewers from growing weary. To me Slayer felt like a movie on a treadmill – it kept moving but it wasn’t getting anywhere. The hamster wheel of a plot doesn’t amount to anything until the final showdown between Van Dien and the head vampire that transforms for no particular reason into a nifty humanoid bat creature reminiscent of the one briefly seen in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. This climax consists of about five minutes of monologuing (as they called it in The Incredibles) and about 30 seconds worth of actual confrontation. The shortest, least eventful battle of the whole film was what the whole film was building to. Thanks for nothing, Mr. VanHook.

As I watched Slayer I kept think to myself how much this movie sucks. As I sit here finishing up this review and thinking back on the film I just watched, I realize it sucked even harder than I initially thought. I also think Kevin VanHook needs to stay as far away from the vampire genre as possible. Don’t make me get a restraining order.

1 1/2 out of 5

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Jon Condit