Slaughter Studios (2002)
"The place where nightmares come true"
Young filmmaker Steve discovers that Slaughter Studios, the place where his favourite B-Movies were filmed, is going to be demolished. The studios had been closed twenty years earlier after the death of a young star while shooting a scene. Determined to shoot one last horror film there, he gets a cast and crew together and sneaks into the studio the night before the demolition in order to make a cheap horror film. However strange things begin to happen and they soon find out that they are not alone in the studio.
Great. Another low budget horror film about a bunch of low budget horror filmmakers making a low budget horror film. It’s a well-worn out premise and the whole film-within-a-film has been done to death. Originally starting out as a remake of The Slumber Party Massacre, Slaughter Studios morphed into a spoof of not only the slasher films of the 80s but the cheapo sci-fi horrors of the 50s when the writers realised that they were able to use Roger Corman’s old film studios in California. The studios were in the process of being torn down so a quick twelve-day shoot allowed the filmmakers an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create something bigger than they expected.
What comes out the other end is a surprisingly entertaining slasher film which acts better as a low budget parody on low budget horror filmmaking. Slaughter Studios enjoys itself during the first half of the film, setting up a load of predictable clichés and poking fun at them in the process. It’s not exactly cutting edge satire but the comedy works well enough to give the proceedings a nice light-hearted tone. The dialogue is pretty sharp at times and once you get past the annoying accents put on by some of the cast and their smarmy “I know everything about horror” attitude, there’s a lot of mileage to get out of the idea that these idiots are really making a low budget film with a cast and crew of about ten people. If you love old school B-movies then there will be plenty of homages and nods to tropes that you’ll be familiar with – even the title of the film-within-a-film harks back to memories of the sci-fi trash released in the 50s with the glorious name of ‘Naughty Sex Kittens vs The Giant Preying Mantis.’
Slaughter Studios has production values which defy the limitations of the budget. For a start, it helped that the filmmakers were able to use the old studios whilst they were being demolished. Having access to some sets which would have been way beyond the budget of the film really adds a nice sense of atmosphere. You really get the feeling that this is a massive film studio filled with dozens of rooms and corridors, all left to the ravages of time with cobwebs and dust covering everything that has been left behind. The art direction is spot on, with these dingy sets being lit with a variety of coloured lighting to give them an unsettling and ominous vibe. At times, the film has the kind of charm that a fairground ghost train or high-brow Halloween haunt exhibits. It doesn’t exactly look like a top class production but you know it’s been designed with heart and soul.
The problem with Slaughter Studios is that it takes too long to get to what it sets out to be at the beginning – a slasher film. The set-up is long and whilst it’s not boring watching the antics of the crew, it seems like something of a deviation from where the film should have been heading. There is about forty minutes of watching these people attempt to make the film, with a few little morsels of plot advancement thrown in. But it’s nothing that couldn’t have been shortened and sped up a bit to keep the pace going. Once the slashing does begin, things move rapidly enough and the cast and crew begin to dwindle one-by-one. There’s some decent gore involved and the kills are perfunctory if nothing else with a variety of spears, pickaxes and other implements being used to shorten the cast number. The film knows what it is trying to be and doesn’t shy away from getting exploitative when it needs to. The female cast have been hired for obvious reasons and are required to disrobe with alarming frequency, with the lovely, late Lorissa McComas winning the award for most time spent topless.
The cast play mostly to type. Peter Stanovich is the stereotypical English auteur in charge of the production and mangles a bad accent and even worse dialogue trying to sound posh and artistic. He is so blinded by believing that he is making a good film that he fails to see how ludicrous everything is. The rose-tinted glasses approach rings home true with a lot of Roger Corman’s studio output over the decades – films so terrible that the directors must have believed they were making Lawrence of Arabia or The Godfather. Apart from Lorissa McComas’ ample bosom, Tara Killian steals the show as the diva-like blond actress who demands that certain concessions are made for her to star in the film. Rounding off the “fresh from film school” clichés are the sound guy and a sleazy actor who just happens to be Indian, killing two stereotypes with one stone here.
Slaughter Studios is a bit goofy, a bit silly and a lot of fun. It works far better as a spoof of low budget horror filmmaking than it does as an outright slasher but there’s plenty for genre fans to get stuck into here. Hardly the most demanding ninety minutes to sit through, it would have worked far better had it just continued to spoof rather than try to get serious in the final third.
Director(s): Brian Katkin
Writer(s): Dan Acre, John Huckert
Actor(s): Nicolas ReadAmy Shelton-WhiteTara Killian, Peter Stanovich, Anand Chulani, Eva Frajko
Duration: 90 mins