The Slayers: Portrait of a Dismembered Family (2014) has been in our queue for a few months now. So, for his patience, I offer a huge thanks to the writer and director, Alex Poray. I decided last week that come hell or high water, I was going to make time to sit down, watch this movie, and put my thoughts on paper. Before jumping in, Poray asked us not to give away too much, so that you can watch it and judge for yourself. Okay. I can do that. I hope! So I made myself a cup of tea and settled in to watch the movie.
Before I even begin to attempt a review, I want to say that this movie was made for about $5000 (£3000). On one hand, that’s amazing! On the other, I don’t think a huge budget is needed to make a decent film. With that said, I will not be going easy on this film just because they worked on a shoestring budget.
I think Poray and those involved did a good job in using the small budget to their advantage. Professional prosthetics, or special effects weren’t in the cards, so they opted for a documentary style of filming.
Patrick (Lex Ray; same as Alex Poray, maybe?), the black sheep of the family, wants to tell his story. He wants the world to know what his family really is (watch and you’ll find out!). Patrick hides behind a very effective (Read: super creepy!) pig mask, and because we are told that this is supposed to be a secretive confession, the grainy quality and poor lighting work. In any other scenario, I would have slammed a movie for this style – shaky cam does nothing for me. But in this instance, it works, and I give kudos to the group for playing to their strengths.
The actor that played Patrick was convincing. I sat at my kitchen table and really believed that I could be watching an interview with a young man twisted up in a deadly game of murder with his deranged family.
On the other hand, the female interviewer, Monica (Alicia Newton), is so stilted that it’s almost distracting. We are told this interview is a real coup for the camera crew, and yet there’s no excitement in her voice! There’s no feeling, no presence, no energy, and in a way that kills the mood a bit.
Because of the type of film Poray chose to make, there is room for improvisation, and because of the subject, consisting of alleged witchcraft, murder, and cannibalism, I feel that stumbling over questions, and stuttering out words would have really worked – and cost them nothing. I think they really missed an opportunity for a more authentic feel by making it sound less scripted.
In addition, the scenes of flashbacks, or what we are to believe is stock footage of the rest of the family, feels forced. Unfortunately, you can see the lack of experience.
But as someone that struggled for years to finish a book (yes, a shameless plug… sort of!), I know that just seeing a project through to the end is an accomplishment in and of itself. And I believe the director accomplished what he set out to do – make a movie. There was no grandiose idea here. They simply wanted to have some fun and make a movie. Those involved knew they were limited by their miniscule budget, and they tried their best to play to their strengths.
Knowing what they were working with right off the bat gave me a frame of reference when I sat down to watch the movie, and I believe I was able to successfully watch the film and not nitpick what did and didn’t work. On the other hand, there are some real missed opportunities that could have worked within the constraints of the budget – more improv for example, or less of the campy gore which didn’t mix well with some of the more realistic gore going on in the movie.
All the big issues are present: abuse, drug addiction, witchcraft, and covens, and the end was rather disgusting (though I think that’s what they were going for). And it was all mixed in well. And Anna (Donna Beeching)… Kudos to her for playing the tortured victim so well.
And though this isn’t really my type of movie, I find myself really admiring the cast and crew for coming up with a finished product. There is some real promise here. So much so, that it has been accepted into the Viewster Online Film Fest which will run from September 11th through the 25th.
I’d recommend it, if only to see what they did with a budget of 5k.
2 out of five dismembered body parts.