Friday, March 12, 2010

Slaughter Night (SL8N8)

SL8N8 (Slachtnacht) a.k.a. Slaughter Night (2006)

Usually when you hear a title like "Slaughter Night" you can pretty much guarantee it's going to be a real crap-fest. But this award-winning Dutch film is something a little different. It's My Bloody Valentine on steriods. (Please don't get too excited when I say "award winning". I'm not sure how many horror films the Dutch have truly made, so something that wins awards for them may be something like The Haunting of Molly Hartley here.)
So, I love the whole 'stuck in the creepy old mine with a nasty backstory' idea. In the 1980 camp-fest MBV, 'ole Harry Warden went mad down in the mine when he was trapped and his ghost continued the party, choosing to resurface on Valentine's Day and kill a bunch of hapless twenty-somethings with bad clothes and equally as noxious beer...
It was hard to really feel anything for those MBV crazy kids because they were just all so damn dumb. Yeah, it's always a good idea to party hardy in a mine, let alone one with a helluva urban legend attached to it. I was actually rooting for Harry in that one.

Liking the whole eerie mine setting, I decided to give this one a shot. Of course there were subtitles, which as I've stated many times do not deter me. I actually like subtitles, preferring
them (ever so much more) to the horrific dubbing that some films tend to do instead. I really hate when the English language comes out of someone so obviously speaking Japanese or Italian. I do realize subtitles seem like work to some people, but seeing as how I can read a book and watch a movie at the same time (simultaneously annoying the hell out of my husband while doing so), movies with subtitles aren't a problem. Gives me something extra to do. And pretty soon, I don't even realize they are there.

Anyway, I digress...
Settting up the story in traditional slasher fashion, we have a peek into the past where we are somewhere in the 1800's. A chase for a killer is underway, and not just any murderer. We have the lowest of low. A man who has been decapitating children for some sort of evil ritual. This immoral felon thinks he can travel in and out of hell by beheading eight children. Um...okay.

Andries Martiens grew up wealthy but mistreated by his parents, who died while he was away in the navy. When he found out they left him none of their vast estate he turned to black magic to try and meet up with them in hell - to persuade them to tell him where the fortune in gold was.

Well, he didn't get to finish his ritual (got to seven, natch) when he was apprehended and as punishment, he ended up serving as a type of 'fireman' in the mines. In other words, he was the canary. (Miners used canaries for years to detect methane gas. Bird dies, you die - so get out.)
They used him to ignite methane deposits and the poor dude never made it out of the mine.
So guess what, he's pissed.

Flash forward to the present where we meet our protagonist, Kristel (Victoria Koblenko). She's out clubbing with friends and when her car won't start she ends up calling her dad for a ride. In the course of the ride home, her friends accidentally drop the bomb that Kris has decided to leave college and join them on an extended travel expedition. Once the friends are dropped off, Dad and Kris are arguing about the idea when a truck slams into the driver's side of the car, killing her father.
It's a jump scare of the highest degree, by the way.

Racked with guilt, Kris decides to run the errand of going to Belgium to pick up the remainder of her father's research for a novel he was writing. She takes her friends along with her on their condition of being able to hit up some new clubs. (When I say you don't need to know the names of any of her friends, take my word for it. I've already forgotten them myself.)

But once she has the manuscript in hand, she learns from one of her father's associates that it was about Andries Martiens. Also with the book is a Ouija board which her father apparently used to communicate with Martiens. In addition, she finds pictures of her father at the mine and the associate tells her he can set her up for a tour - that it will be interesting and "fun". At first reluctant, Kris ends up agreeing and dragging all her friends (some of which are not thrilled at all) with her.

Deep in the mine, the excited tour guide tries to get a rise out of them by telling the spooky story of Martiens and hitting a few pipes with a hammer to scare them. Unfortunately, when the tour is set to return to the surface, the mine elevator will not work. Imagine that!
While a hokey plot device, it still induces a chill - because anyone can imagine how claustrophobic and unnerving it would be to be stuck that far below ground.
Ratcheting up the fear factor is easy then, and when you deduce that there are eight people stuck below ground (Martiens magic number!) you can deduce what is in store.

It then morphs almost into a malevolent spirit type of film, with Martiens jumping from body to body to attempt to gain his eight souls to usher him back to hell for that inevitable parental confrontation.Once someone is possessed they either try to kill the others or die themselves. Martiens undoubtedly doesn't have time to waste, I'm guessing. Not too often a bunch of hapless folks get stuck in his mine.
Lucky for Kristel, she's brought the trusty Ouija board along in her backpack!

Where Slaughter Night succeeds is its ability to give us a similar feeling of claustrophobia that we had during The Descent. With no apparent way out of the mine and everyone's nerves beginning to frazzle, you have to admit it is effective.

That being said, once the action amps up a bit, the director seems to have felt it necessary to throw every typical horror film cliché our way. Hooded/masked killer, ouija board, shaky-cam effects, Evil-Dead like possessed spirits, sharp implements of death, gory death scenes...and all within the last half hour. I have to admit, there are a lot of heads rolling in this one.

But all in all, it is a capable, yet slightly derivative slasher film that sits just a little higher on the quality scale than some of the other litter that clogs the horror scene these days. Perhaps the fact that it's foreign gives it a false sense of credibility, I'm not sure. But it really is just a movie about a killer in a mine, and you'd be better served just dusting off your copy of My Bloody Valentine and having another go at it.

Oh, one last thing. If you're searching for this one on Amazon or some other sites, the DVD cover will no doubt look like the cover at left.
Why, I have no idea, as the lead character doesn't have long or blonde hair.
I don't remember her having a gun or a red hoodie either. And she most certainly did not have on shorts, a skirt or just her panties as this picture seems to suggest.
Whatever.



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1 comment:

Planet of Terror said...

I'm such a sucker for slashers that I'll check this out. But ultimately, everything they did in the 80's is all that ever needed to be done. When a filmmaker makes a slasher nowadays, ultimately its going to be derivative which makes it even harder to digest. I can't think of a truly original slasher released within the last 20 years. Scream maybe? Some might say Laid to Rest and The Hills Run Red (for the love of god I hope people don't think Hatchet is original) but I think that they too are unoriginal and dull.

Anywhos, like I said, I'm a complete sucker for this sub genre and I'll be checking this out. Great review.