By: Jacob Bloodee Jacob Babcock
Slayer was a TV movie released in 2006, written and directed by Kevin VanHook for the Syfy channel. The story follows a group of soldiers led by Hawk (Casper Van Dien, Starship Troopers) and Grieves (Kevin Grevioux, Underworld) who are sent in by Linda Carter to investigate and eradicate a growing possible vampire threat. When Grieves is taken as well as Hawk’s ex wife (Jennifer O’Dell) being put in jeopardy, it’s up to him to lead the remaining squad and put an end to it all.
Now I love action but the horror genre is my first love, thus I have slightly more tolerance for a “bad” horror B-Movie then I do for the action equivalent of that…typically. That’s pretty much what happened here as this isn’t a “good” movie but it’s also not truly bad in that in many instances it is aware of the bar it is going for and I do think it hits it. There’s some offbeat music periodically and a general awareness demonstrated that shows they weren’t taking it seriously and neither should we beyond at its core the form of entertainment it does accomplish.
Van Dien is essentially a B-Movie king at this point and while he certainly has a ceiling to his acting range, he’s also always had a good look and been easily likable that helps whatever vehicle he’s in tolerable and he does that here. He’s easily the best actor here and you can take that as you will. I feel like at one point his career had a brighter future than where it’s went, especially after Starship Troopers which I adore. Since he’s seemed to be willing to take a role in movies he probably shouldn’t and while I scratch my head a bit at that, I’ll stop judging as he seems to be doing fine for himself and as long as he still enjoys what he does that’s all that should matter.
The script is all on the nose and kind of typical military type dialogue you’ve heard a thousand times and no one seems to go beyond that which is okay in the right instance. I do like Grevioux as he does have a size and presence to him (as well as a voice you’ll never mistake) and I didn’t mind his dynamic with Hawk while we had it before they take a turn with the character that probably worked best. Danny Trejo also appears in one of his many cameo roles! Something I perceive this film as that has warmed my feelings towards it somewhat is viewing it as something of a comic book style action horror movie. VanHook has written comics as well, so think of this film as that and I think it actually works even more.
Speaking of the director, he is typically a visual effects artist having worked on numerous movies and shows like Hercules/Xena, Daredevil, I, Robot, Law & Order, Olympus Has Fallen, even Scott Adkins’ Avengement and most recently Honest Thief. My point is that his real forte seems to be on the visual end and that shows here as one of Slayer’s saving graces as the blood effects and spurts are all mostly practical and the make up and fangs generally don’t look too bad either on a very small budget. Though on that same end there’s a hilarious scene where two vamps attack and kill a girl’s grandma (or mom?) and toss her clear dummy body back and forth to each other as they ascend to a roof to feed.
By the climax the story does attempt to inject a little lore into these vampires’ existence as well as somewhat of a motivation for why they’ve come out of hiding now. It is sort of an environmental message I guess and it oddly sorta works? As a horror buff I don’t mind a little attempt at lore/backstory either. There’s also a more demonic form that the eldest vampire takes and it honestly doesn’t look too bad for the budget even though the body movement clearly has its limitations due to the material when Van Dien fights it. Speaking of that? there’s some moderately okay fight choreography and martial arts at times which I never mind.
Overall Slayer is a weird flick. It’s certainly not a good movie but I do think it’s a successful product of what the intentions probably were behind it. Van Dien manages to always be likable and easy to root for and this honestly is far from the worst vampire flick or horror actioner I’ve seen. I’m sure somewhere in my cold still beating heart I have a love for it that could very well grow over the years to come.