Thursday, June 3, 2010

Demon Slayer (USA, 2003)

"It's a baby carriage from Hell."
Father Enrique

Dr Gore aptly states the initial appeal of Demon Slayer when he, pained at being suckered once again during his never-ending search for the perfect B film, states in his review of the film that "Once again, the video box cover sings me sweet love songs only to have the movie break my heart." The seductive DVD box sang a Circe song to the hearts at A Wasted Life, too, and while the film did not make us shed the tears of the broken hearted, it did piss us off about as much as a skanky bitch in heat with the invisible drip does two weeks after the drunken fact. There be good horror films (see Dark Remains [2005 / trailer], among others), there be good lousy horror films (see Creepaziods [1987 / trailer], among others), and there be truly crappy horror films; take a guess what Demon Slayer is.
Yep, despite some titty bits—a rarity nowadays that usually helps redeem the worst of films—Demon Slayer is an example of true, irredeemably pointless direct-to-DVD crap that, much like such films as Museum of the Dead (2004) or 7 Mummies (2006 / trailer), leaves the viewer with an inner-emptiness that is caused not by the feeling of wasting a life but by the feeling of not having a life at all.
Demon Slayer is the directorial debut of James Cotton, who has since gone on to make the western horror Sugar Creek (2007 / trailer) and the 2nd-tier actor employment project La Linea (2009 / trailer). Cotton's debut is basically a remake of Michael B. Bruxman's unknown flick from 2000, The Doorway (trailer), but without a name star (the original version had Roy Scheider for the top-billed, five-minute appearance), which explains Bruxman's writer by-line in the film credits. Having never seen the original, it is hard to say which version is better, but somehow it is difficult to believe that The Doorway can be any worse than Demon Slayer.

For Cotton's version of the oft-told tale, The Doorway's college students earning extra cash have been changed to troubled teens doing community service and the house with the gateway to hell has been moved from New England to L.A. The five troubled teens (all orphans) of Demon Slayer are deposited at the deserted hospital with a bloody past (built upon a former brothel run by john-killing demon worshipers) as part of their court-ordered community service. They are to spend three days cleaning the structure in preparation for its conversion into a community center. The film stretches out such genre staples as infighting, bonding, false scares, kids walking around alone, screaming, teenager sex and so on for way too long before finally ending with ten minutes of Meet the Demons and Die. Along the way, the Priest in charge (Robert Eaten) is revealed to have a hidden agenda and another Priest (Joaquín Garrido) pops up from nowhere for a few minutes of ridiculousness before proving to be an ineffectual demon slayer. The best (and only) scenes of mild note are the bathtub scene (titties!), the death of the tertiary character Mr Cobb (Layon Gray of Hood Angels [2003 / trailer]), and a screwdriver in the forehead episode; the rest of the darkly shot film is pretty easy to sleep through.
The first present-day scene of Demon Slayer (which follows the pointless and poorly staged opening scene of the past killing of a security guard) actually raises one's hope initially, for not only does it involve a short but effective tracking shot that seems to promise some directorial standards, but the introduction of the film's fodder—Alicia the Goth (Michelle Acuna), Tyson the Gang Banger (Howard Williams Jr.), Claudia the Bitch (Hanna Lee), Tamara the Bitch's Friend (Monique Deville) and Phillip the Punk (Adam Huss of El Mascarado Massacre [2006 / trailer] and Resurrection County [2008 / trailer])—seems to infer a subtle sense of irony. Regrettably, Cotton not only quickly proves to have the directorial standards of a hack, but the expected sense of irony reveals itself to simply be a basic inability to construct a suspenseful or interesting narrative. Perhaps Cotton was hoping to milk some humor from the hackneyed plot and action, but with the possible exception of the scene in which the exorcist priest tries to dispel demons by calling on "the name of God and Frida Kahlo and [etc]", Demon Slayer instigates less smiles or laughter than it does derisive raspberries. (It would seem the only genre Cotton has less control of than horror is comedy.)
Take heed of these words of wisdom: even though you can always write it off to the beer afterwards, much like you really should avoid that easy (male or female) skank at the bar, you would do well to avoid Demon Slayer.

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