As many of you readers know, microbudget horror films these days are more miss than hit. It seems anyone with a mediocre script, a few cases of beer and After Effects can make a cheapie that eventually gets put onto DVD, and then that DVD gets tossed into the bargain bin at a dollar store. Occasionally, there’s a bright spot when all the stars align and the moon is in the right part of the sky and your get a great low-budget horror film. Or, more realistically, you have a director and crew who are competant at what they do. So, where does that leave writer/director MJ Dixon and his film, Slasher House?
Red (Eleanor James) wakes up in what appears to be a former asylum. She has no memory of how she got there, or why she’s there. She soon discovers that she’s not alone. Trapped along with her are other various individuals, including serial killers. Eventually, Red and the others are let out of their cells to “play” by an unseen individual, leaving her to not only fend them off, but also try to find a way out and to discover the reasons she was put there in the first place.
The immediate thing that sticks out for Slasher House is it’s use of aethetics. Red is coloured like her namesake, but is contrasted by the use of green hues in the environment. Dixon also throws in blues and yellows for specific scenes, but primarily the red and green contrasting dominates the film. It’s a creative idea that harkens back to Dario Argento’s heyday, as well as Nicolas Winding Refn’s recent Only God Forgives, and frankly, it’s a shame that not many indie horror directors take this powerful visual tool into account. What makes it even more interesting is that green psychologically is a calming colour.
In addition to the aethetics, the cast of kooky characters hunting Red are another notch in the handle for Slasher House. In amongst the action, Dixon has made sure to take a bit of time for a couple of flashbacks to show off the killers’ handiwork, while also throwing in some needed time for these guys to develop. Okay, so they aren’t exactly deep characters, but it does attempt to play into the “less is more” motif when it comes to a scary antagonist: the less you know about the villain, the scarier that villain becomes. As for Red herself, she’s also given a bit of time to develop, but in doing so exposes one of the film’s main weaknesses.
Understandably, this is a low-budget film. As such, the acting quality more often than not isn’t the best. Slasher House, for all it’s visuals and attempts to be unique, fails when it comes to it’s dialogue. Everyone exhibits a wooden delivery, which unfortunately takes you out of the film. Even though James has a charismatic tone to much of what she says, it still comes across as stilted, even with some witty one-liners. Another downside is the film’s use of cutaways when it comes to much of the gore. Again, low-budget fare, but the cutaways aren’t done in such a way that would compensate for the payoff. Then again, the gore that is in the film tends to fall towards the hokey side, making the salvaging attempt in vein. Finally, while the film moves along fairly well for a 90 minute feature, the ending is a mixed bag. Besides dragging a bit, smart viewers will be predicting the ending before the final scenes even roll. But given what Dixon had to work with for this film, it can be forgiven.
So Slasher House, what do we say? For an indie affair, you have some unique visuals that are pretty darn cool. You also have some shortcomings that while they don’t make you a mess, they do impact on your overall enjoyment. But, given that there’s a lot worse out there by many indie hopefuls, you fit the bill for a night’s watch. I probably won’t visit you again, but at least you offer more than the “me-too” trapped-in-an-asylum films.