At first glance, I admit to be absolutely befuddled with the phrase “SL8N8.” How in sam hill does this translate into Slaughter Night?
By being Dutch, you dork.
Right. What it actually means phonetically in Dutch is ‘SlachtNacht,’ which does, in fact, roughly translate into the aforementioned English title. And, while this is a rather unfortunate (and let’s be honest, lame) title for a horror flick, there is a fair amount of slaughter, and it does, in fact, happen in the night. The name SL8N8 itself reflects the characters’ penchant for Ouija boards, and turns out to be a somewhat imaginative choice once you have seen the movie in its entirety.
While the film itself is thin, hollow and often leans dangerously towards tacky, I had fun with it and it certainly provides enough gore, scares and story to keep me interested from start to finish.
The underlying plot is typical and straightforward, and horror fans will most likely be more apologetic than the average viewer. Essentially, some pretty teens get isolated and get picked off one-by-one by an angry, vengeful killer. I know, I know. I can hear your collective sighs of disdain already, and they are not entire without warrant. But beyond this conventional (if not tiresome) template, there are more than a few excellent scenes and some sound, skillful filmmaking.
After an accident claims the life of her father, Kristal (along with a group of her close friends) sets out to collect the remnants of a book he was writing. Her father’s novel revolves around an abandoned coal mine and the story of a child killer sentenced to death in the area. There is a connection between the mine and the killer (in one of the films more ingenious plotlines), which Kristal and her friends unfortunately happen upon while on a museum tour of the mine. The tour group soon finds themselves lost and trapped in the labyrinthine caverns with the spirit of one very pissed off dead guy, and must fight to make it out alive.
The majority of the film plays out in the dark, dingy mine and the directors take full advantage of the surroundings (as well as every possible cliché or story about mining you can think of). Long, claustrophobic caves abound, with scratchy lighting reflecting off the black, moist walls. Most of the camera work is fluid and constantly moving, changing from smooth dolly shots to chaotic, frenzied action sequences. There are also many close-up shots of the eyes and face, and often whole conversations happen while the camera lingers uncomfortably in a character’s personal space. What may have been intended as intimate sometimes comes off like we are invading the character’s privacy, daring to stare intently and longingly directly into their eyes. Not a criticism, just merely an observation.
Out of this varied camerawork comes the film’s most obvious and frustrating drawback; the action and kill sequences are incredibly shaky and obnoxious. It is like the directors decided to mount the camera in a bowl of Jell-o. Instead of chaos or fear, I just felt nauseous, like I just stepped off the Gravitron at the county fair. It certainly isn’t a new or unique tactic, but it is certainly a downright annoying and laughable one.
Also notable are a number of contrived and sloppy script moments, like an elevator that only works to service the plot. At one point it is the reason they are trapped, and then a half hour later it works with no questions asked. The possessed characters are a mystery as well (possessed by one, moving spirit like the film ‘Fallen’) – some dead come back to life, others are in the throes of dying, but they are easily killed with the shot of a gun. If the dead can return to life, why keep occupying several bodies when one would obviously suffice? And there are others not worth repeating here.
Minor gripes aside, Slaughter Night is a fun little twisted film. On more than one occasion I was actually surprised and intrigued with some of the story and learned a thing or two about mining as well (seriously, the ‘fireman’ thing is pretty neat, even if it is obviously make believe). Hide your Ouija board though, you’ll definitely think twice next time you consider bringing that thing out again.