Zombos Says: Good
"Ya know," said Curly Joe, "that supernatural slasher film from the Netherlands just popped into my head. Must be all this walkin’ through these dark, creepy tunnels; reminds me of the old mine they were trapped in."
"You mean Slaughter Night?" I asked.
"Yep, that's the one"
"Yes," I said, pausing to hit my flashlight, hoping to make it a tad brighter. "At least we aren't being chased by the ghost of some maniacal killer who cuts people’s heads off."
What sounded like a maniacal laugh echoed down the tunnel, bouncing off the walls with a screech like gritty chalk on a blackboard. We looked at each other, then walked faster in the opposite direction from where the sound came from. Never hurts to play safe, I always say.
The backstory within Slaughter Night would have been a more engrossing movie, but overall this 1980s-styled slasher is still a Dutch treat with good acting, an eerie story, and a moderate pace moving the action along. Although the overuse of shaky-cam blurs that action at times (probably intentionally to lessen the strain on the budget), and an unexpectedly jarring point-of-view for some scenes, along with a few head-scratching plot logic lapses, all come together to almost weigh the movie down, but at least the earnest victim by victim mow down is lively enough.
There's something evil afoot in the Province of Limburg as children are mysteriously kidnapped. When the latest victim is snatched a clue is left behind, leading the local constabulary to the home of one Andries Martiens (Robert Eleveld)--just as he slices off the head of another poor kid. Martiens' basement is definitely not a rec room in the usual sense: there are heads mounted on poles stuck in the earth, and lots of candles cast a nice warm glow over the glistening , maggot-crawling faces of the dead. It's Voodoo and Satanic Mass nastiness Martiens has been conducting, paid with ritual slaughter to buy his passport to Hell and back again. He's pissed his parents died without leaving him an inheritance and he's hellbent on making the trip to annoy them into revealing where the family fortune is. With four heads for the compass points and four heads to represent the elements, he's off accruing all the frequent flyer miles he can between Hell and Earth.
What a backstory!
Unfortunately this filled-with-possibilities period piece ends too quickly with Martiens' capture and we jump to the present day into a frenzied nightclub scene. Kristel (Victoria Koblenko) and her High School buddies are out partying, but when her car refuses to start, she calls Dad (Martijn Oversteegen) to pick them up. One of her friends, Lies (Carolina Dijkhuizen), the Tarot-card reading seer, accidentally mentions Kris' plans to leave town. After he drops her friends off, Dad and Kris argue themselves into a fatal car wreck. Kris blames herself for her dad’s death. After the funeral, her mom asks her to go to Belgium to pick up her Dad's manuscript. Sure, why not? I suppose FedEx would have been too expensive. He was working on a book about serial killers, writing it at the mine museum where Martiens did his dirty work. Packing her friends in the car along with her guilt, they head to the mine.
A montage of road trip antics set to rock music--what the director considered rock music, anyway-- is mercifully brief and they arrive at the mine. She finds her Dad’s tape recorder and listens as he explains the Satanic aspects of Martiens' serial killing and the need for eight heads to open the gateway to Club Hell.
She also finds a Ouija board--always useful for getting into trouble in a horror movie--a heavy and rather large music box, and his thick manuscript. She stuffs all this in her already cumbersome backpack, and LUGS IT on a last-minute tour of the historic mine. Her friends join her. They huddle around the tour guide as he tells them how Martiens' met his end in the very tunnels they will now walk through. A condemned murderer, he was given one slim chance at life if he could survive being a "fireman," the role an unlucky convict played years ago, sent into methane-filled tunnels to ignite the firedamp. He didn’t play the role for long.
A gimmicky and jarring use of point of view has them mugging the lens, ruining an otherwise atmospheric tableau in another montage of kids running wild down in the mine; until they realize they've been locked in.
To while away the time they whip out the Ouija board from Kris’ backpack to communicate with Martiens, the maniacal, head-removing butcher since they have nothing better to do. Lies explains the intricacies of the planchette and board. In little time they summon Martiens who promptly possesses one of the idiots. She takes out the tour guide first.
Going through the horror movie victim's litany of things-that-will-certainly-get-you-killed, her friends start getting the axe, the pick, and the shovel on the receiving end. In-between the mayhem and carnage, Estrild and Kris whip out the Ouija board again to dial up Dad for some fatherly advice on coping with Martiens.
Dad’s cryptic advice stymies them for a bit. While they figure it out, Martiens keeps possessing her friends one by one and chasing after the others. Unnecessary shaky-cam fuzziness ruins the details of death, but the panic-acting is frenzied to a turn, providing satisfying denouements at proper terminal velocity.
There's one more moment when the Ouija messaging board comes into play, helping Kris realize why the music box she's been lugging around is so heavy (and should have been left in the car except the plot needed it here).
All in all, while Slaughter Night uses gimmicky camera work and the standard horror movie mechanics of shock, drop, and die, it's still watchable and involving.
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