Reviewed by Patrick Cooper
Slaughter Tales is a self-aware love letter to the bygone SOV era that’s been making sort of a comeback this year thanks to distributors like Intervision. It doesn’t aspire to be anything more than a low-grade gorefest and on that front it’s a success. That doesn’t mean it’s all that great a film though. Maybe that’s the point? I dunno. All I know is that I found myself reaching for the fast forward button more than once. Despite admiring the enthusiasm of the teenage filmmaker, there’s not much else to get out of watching Slaughter Tales.
The anthology film was written and directed by 15-year-old Johnny Dickie (who also stars) and made on a budget of $65. The film starts with Johnny snatching a VHS tape from a thrift store. Before he throws it in the VCR, he psyches himself up in the mirror by saying stuff like “Oh man, this is going to suck!” I hear ya, man. Then an apparition (played by Johnny) appears and warns him not to watch the tape. Bad shit will happen if he does. Johnny shrugs it off like the stalwart cinephile he is and presses play.
What follows is five shorts, all starring Johnny and featuring homemade special effects made from dollar bin goodies and lotsa fake blood. None of them really stick out in my mind. One of them has some fun stop-motion that made me smile, but they’re all just really shitty. In between shorts the film cuts back to Johnny, kicking back on his futon, commenting on how much this movie sucks. What I got from this frame story is that Johnny wanted to make a shitty movie, but make it look as 80’s SOV as possible.
Mission accomplished, Johnny. Slaughter Tales looks like it really was salvaged from a thrift bargain bin where it’d been collecting dust for a decade. Besides its look, it’s paced and edited like crap, much like the “best” SOV films with those too-long pauses in between cuts. These are some the aspects of “so bad it’s good” films that people get a kick out of, but they’re done in such an intentionally tongue-in-cheek manner in Slaughter Tales that it’s difficult to get any organic enjoyment out of the film.
I appreciate Johnny’s rabid enthusiasm and, let’s face it, how many of us can say we had a film released on home video when we were 15. The problem is that in deliberately making a shitty 80’s SOV throwback, he forgot to make an entertaining, watchable movie. After watching Johnny puke for the fifth time, I wanted to throw in the towel. Or maybe that was the point? I give up.
Slaughter Tales looks like the 80’s SOV films it’s paying homage to. It flips between aspect ratios at times, which is kinda distracting.
MAKING OF AN AMERICAN NIGHTMARE (2:38): This brief behind the scenes feature takes a look at the making of one short, starring Johnny’s mom. You gotta love that his mom supports her son’s bloody interests and was willing to get killed in his movie.
THE EFFECTS OF SLAUGHTER TALES (11:00): This looks at Johnny’s homemade effects. There are lots of dollar store items used to full effect. I can’t help but admire this kid’s ingenuity.
COMMENTARY: Dan and Tim from VHShitfest join Johnny Dickie for the feature-length commentary. They talk about how much Johnny curses, how his original idea led to a full-length film, and his myriad of influences.