Channeling the EVIL from the EVIL DEAD! “Slaughter Day” reviewed! (Visual Vengeance / Blu-ray)

SOV “Slaughter Day” on Bluray for the First Time Ever!

A pair of friends who run a small construction company drive up to an isolated cabin project in the outskirt nooks of Hawaii.  When they arrived, they encounter disgruntled employee John Jones who dabbles in the dark occult.  Having murdered already one of their construction crew members, Jones invokes the evil from the book of the dead, the Necronomicon, to bestow upon himself unnatural powers to seek revenge for years of abuse on the job.  Enslaving two other members of the construction Crew, Jones relentless goes after his former employers who must fight tooth and nail for every minute of their lives.  The fight stretches across the island and spills into the streets, abandoned factories, tropical brush, and even on the side of a mountain. 

“The Evil Dead” meets “Double Dragon!”  A fierce bareknuckle fight against a malevolently possessed construction crew is the not-stop action and gore premise of the Brent Cousins’ “Slaughter Day.”  The heavily influenced Sam Rain and “The Evil Dead” 1991 shot-on-video occult survival horror is co-written by Brent’s twin brother, Blake Cousins.  The twins’ filmic debut concept where a maniacal occult enthusiast goes on the offensive with his vindictive side by conducting dark, Necronomicon evil against the two construction supervisors is pieced together, scene-by-scene, from the various shorts created when they were adolescents.  The four short films from their inspired youth were revisited and remade into a full length feature film financed by a nearly a next-to-nothing zilch budget, but with more than a little can-do attitude, a group of close friends and family, and a willingness to drench the cast in splatter bags fill of fake blood, Brent and Blake’s balls-to-the-wall, commercial grade equipment schlocker never lets up and pays endearment to the legendary video nasties that have stimulated their need for tangible blood-shedding effects.  “Slaughter Day” is a self-funded labor of love under the Cousins Brothers Productions and is made in one of the more tropical places on Earth, the Big Island of Hawai’i, with a few scenes shot in the town of Honokaa.

Aside from being one of the two writers, Blake Cousins jumps in the front seat to become one of the hapless heroes in the suddenly twisted, Hellish ride of that classic story of good versus evil. Blake embodies one of the few aspects that makes the viewing of “Slaughter Day” so infectiously exciting with a high intensity level somewhere around near redline critical. The intensity spreads to each and every actor in front of the camera and with Blake’s breakneck pacing as the film’s post-production editor, there’s a side-scrolling, beat’em-up video game quality about the whole run through. The acting isn’t terribly good with haywire yelling and screaming from start-to finish with a lack of professional training that gives way to under developing a story, but story be damned, the brother Cousins ambitiously puts caution to the wind by balancing out the acidic acting with exceptional camera work that occasionally would involve hazardous to their own health amateur stunt work. The unharnessed and unpadded fight sequence in the back of the pickup truck gets mad props in succeeding instead of squashing someone’s head under the tire. If everyone lives and you get the shot, it’s a win, right? The fight sequences themselves are extensive, as I aforesaid, the breadth of the short feature is like experience a live action “Streets of Rage 2,” and they have the smack of decent choreography with near miss blows and head whips. Some of the bigger fake hits lack sterling results but are nonetheless entertaining and expected. “Slaughter Day’s” cast is made up of essentially a closeknit group of friends with performances from Sam Bluestone, Dave Anderson, John Lambert, Kulaka Branco, Jeremy Couchiardi, Joe Ross, and Lincoln Ross who all have never again seen the gaffer lights of another film production.

“Slaughter Day” has many flaws: bad acting, continuity mistakes, not much of a plot, etc. While honest attempst were made to rectify a handful of those sore points, those very same imperfections are what make “Slaughter Day” ironically perfect in the SOV canon. Some of the gags land relatively smooth, such as being John Jones being bent backwards in half and sucked into a copy of the pop media cultural influencing H.R. Giger’s Necronomicon book, and others kind of flounder in the lukewarm stew of unskilled technical know-hows. Yet, I do firmly believe the brothers achieved a memorable salute to Sam Raimi’s breakthrough 1981 video nasty, “The Evil Dead” in pulling more so the macabre-isms then comedic slapstick elements of the “3 Stooges.” Brent and Blake obviously understood what they wanted to see and how much familiar content they wanted to rework to open the recesses of our memory banks to access and recall “The Evil Dead” playbook, but then the flyby the seat of their pants filmmakers take their committed vision farther by adding certifiably crazy stunts and be big and bloody as all bloody hell! Severed limbs, decapitations, exploding shotgun bursts, and impalings are difficult for even the most seasoned effects artist, taking sometimes years to master a simple effect to perfection. With “Slaughter Day,” the brothers are unafraid to take risks, something the filmmakers proved with audacious stunts, by rendering a practical effect inclined storyboard or script thought to the screen tactic and owned it with a pinch of panache pizzazz!

“Slaughter Day” might be release number five for Visual Vengeance but is clearly the Wild Eye Releasing cult-horror SOV sublabel’s second adulation of “The Evil Dead,” following “Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell.” The rough-and-ready S-VHS quality, presented in a full screen 1.33:1 from the original standard definition master tapes, can take on a grueling affect with a below par outcome. Tape lacks the proper color resolutions and that displays here immensely with full of deep and warm purples, reds, and yellows that you’d think the brothers were using gels to tint the picture. Tape wears, static interference, tracking lines… you name it, ‘Slaughter Day” visually had it. Delineation and details are deduced to a softer, overlapping ghost image that barely yokes together resolution pertinent pixels. Like always, Visual Vengeance’s disclaimer warns of the consumer grade equipment issues. These issues extend also into the English Stereo audio mix with a consciously underlay of static shushing, lo-fi dialogue recording, and zero depth and range to add more fuel to the “Slaughter Day’s” chaotic fire. Perhaps that’s why the dialogue is terribly rampant with the hope to invigorate and illicit engrossing captivation. The video game punch throw sound bites are a good touch and a innovative way to keep with the fighting game motif. The special features include a new audio commentary by directors Brent and Blake Cousins, a new audio commentary with Visual Vengeance’s own Matt Desiderio and Rob Hauschild, a quickly paced new interview with the Cousins Brothers regarding the genesis of “Slaughter Day” and they’re excitement about the new Blu-ray release, all four original “Slaughter Day” shorts, an earlier short entitled “Full Metal Platoon,” the “Slaughter Day” theme song, trailers from other Cousins films, such as “Rising Dead,” and the original trailer cut. Physical release features include a mini poster of the Visual Vengeance cover artwork, a three-page colorful essay from long time cinema contributing writer Tony Strauss, retro Visual Vengeance stickers that has graced all the company’s releases so far, a reversible cover art with new artwork as well as the original VHS art, and a cardboard slipcover with a heavily demonic and menacing Thomas “The Dude” Hodge design. The film comes unrated and has a runtime just shy of an hour at 58 minutes. I always get the warm and fuzzies when obscure works of art receive the red-carpet release treatment and “Slaughter Day” is an exemplar of SOV at its best while being innately its technically worst. Lots of ambition, lots of derived creativity, and lots of guts behind and in front of the camera to make a life-long dream of filmmaking come true.

SOV “Slaughter Day” on Bluray for the First Time Ever!