Release Date(s)1982 (August 29, 2017)
Studio(s)International Picture Show/21st Century Film Corporation (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: C
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: A-
Originally labeled as a video nasty in the U.K. in the 1980s, The Slayer (aka Nightmare Island) was one of many slasher-type films released during the glut of the VHS horror rental era. Due to its so-called atmosphere and handful of gory death scenes, it has remained a cult classic since. Directed by J.S. Cardone, who would go on to direct Shadowzone and The Forsaken, The Slayer tells of a troubled woman plagued by a series of deadly nightmares. Brought by her husband, her brother, and his wife to an island off the coast of Georgia for a vacation, her nightmares intensify and she begins predicting future events. And once the four of them are stranded due to an oncoming hurricane, they are suddenly being picked off one by one by an unseen force.
Despite the film being considered in many circles as an underappreciated work, I personally didn’t find much about the film to really grasp onto. Part of the reason is because I’ve so many horror films and this comes across as many of the things I’ve already seen over and over again with nothing really new added to it. The other reason is, frankly, it’s just plain dull to watch. While the aforementioned gory moments definitely have some spark to them, the rest of it is fairly humdrum. It doesn’t help that I cordially disliked much of what the lead actress was bringing to the table. Perhaps seeing it in a theatrical environment with an eager audience would elicit a better reaction from me, but in this incarnation, The Slayer didn’t offer anything fresh or even interesting.
Regardless of my feelings, Arrow Video’s presentation of the film, restored in 4K from the original 35mm camera negative, features splendid results. This includes a natural grain progression that appears mostly even from scene to scene. Fine detail is abundant, particularly in close-ups, while shadow detail is sometimes slightly lost due to the thickness of the black levels (likely inherent in the source material). Color reproduction is strong with naturally-appearing skin tones, while contrast and brightness levels are quite satisfying. Little to no damage is leftover and there appears to be no signs of digital manipulation. The sole audio option is an English mono LPCM track. While it’s a centered presentation, it’s not exactly flat as it has a bit of fullness to it, particularly with the score and some of the sound effects. Dialogue is usually clean and clear, and there are no dropouts or hiss-related issues to report. Overall, a very sturdy presentation. Subtitles are also included in English SDH if needed.
For the extras, there’s plenty to dig through, including an audio commentary with co-writer/director J.S. Cardone, producer Eric Weston, and actress Carol Kottenbrook; an additional audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues podcast; isolated score selections containing an interview with composer Robert Folk; The Tybee Post Theater audience audio track; the hour-long documentary Nightmare Island: The Making of The Slayer; Return to Tybee: The Locations of The Slayer; The Tybee Post Theater Experience, which includes the aforementioned audio track, an intro from the director, and a Q&A after the film with Arledge Armenaki and Ewan Cant; an animated still gallery; the original theatrical trailer; and a 36-page insert booklet with essays on the film by Lee Gambin and Ewan Cant, as well as restoration details.
While it’s mostly an obscure title, I’m certainly in the minority when it comes to the appreciation (or perhaps even reappraisal) of The Slayer. I didn’t necessarily like it, but I know that there are folks out there who do and others that will, especially when seeing Arrow Video’s fine release of it. With an excellent presentation and a nice little bounty of extras, it’s a solid package for its fans.
- Tim Salmons