As is befitting what should be an outlaw region of filmmaking, there are very few rules when it comes to indie genre films. Really, there is only one rule that I expect a film like SLASHER.COM to follow: Do not be boring. That’s it. It’s very simple. I can put up with any amount of poor acting, sloppy storytelling, dodgy effects work, and many other limitations common at this low-budget level. But I cannot abide a film that is boring. While it eventually does get around to some interesting twists in its third act, for much of its runtime, SLASHER.COM unfortunately violates my very simple rule.
During a brief, surprisingly tame opening, a beautiful woman is stabbed to death by her unseen partner while having sex. Director Chip Gubera then uses an overly-caffeinated credits sequence to fill in some expository gaps. Using jagged jump cuts between a news report and faux-interviews with actors playing law enforcement, Gubera quickly gives the back story that a serial killer in the St. Louis area—unimaginatively nicknamed “the slasher”—is cruising dating sites and killing women who meet him. Given the large number of people on so many dating sites, it is surprising that more horror films have not taken advantage of this premise. Sadly, SLASHER.COM barely uses this potentially interesting jumping off point.
Possibly getting slashed to death does not stop Kristy (Morgan Carter) from meeting Jack (Ben Kaplan) in person after talking online for several weeks. Kristy is fearless and brassy, while Jack is reserved and nervous. She has suggested a weekend in a cabin in the rural Missouri woods for a first date—a bold and foolish decision given what just happened in the opening scene.
Kristy and Jack make their way to the woods where they meet the owners of the cabin: the Myers family. There is Momma (Jewel Shepard), an eccentric who enjoys shoving food into Jack’s mouth and obsesses over her silver spoon; Jesse (veteran horror actor and stuntman R.A. Mihailoff), Momma’s stout husband who walks around with a machete always in hand; and Caitlin (Rebecca Crowley), Momma and Jesse’s twenty-something daughter who acts like a little girl except when it comes to flirting with Jack. Yes, instead of following through on the premise of a slasher killer who finds his victims on dating sites, SLASHER.COM instead spins most of its time as yet another rip off of DELIVERANCE.
It then takes the film an interminable amount of time before anything else happens. To supply a little nudity while things are quiet, Jack and Kristy go skinny-dipping and have sex. But even what should be the obligatory gratuitous nude scene in a slasher flick is restrained. It takes another interminable wait before the Myers clan finally reveals their twisted true colors, drugging and kidnapping Jack and Kristy and disposing of a third victim via suffocation—despite the fact that Jesse has spent nearly every moment of the movie with a machete in his hand.
In a nutshell, that is what is so frustrating about SLASHER.COM: the missed opportunities. From fumbling the opening kill to wasting the established premise to the tame violence, the film feels phoned in for the first seventy minutes, which is especially frustrating when Gubera finally delivers a couple of decent twists in the last few scenes. While hardly revelatory storytelling, the climax and resolution of the film point to a level of insanity that the rest of the movie desperately needed.
Aside from some rough supporting performances and the clunky opening, the film is pretty decent from a technical standpoint. Gubera’s filmography is that of a filmmaker who has been working in the genre trenches pretty steadily for over a decade and it is clear that he knows how to put together a movie, but more time should have been spent refining a script (credited to Chelsea Andes from a story by Gubera) that retains the first draft issues of far too much talky exposition and not enough action.
There are far worse films out there than SLASHER.COM. Kaplan and Carter are appealing and Shepard turns in a memorably loopy performance. It is just too bad that Gubera did not fully commit to his premise and depends too much on third act reversals to make up for the largely dull filler of the first two acts.
SLASHER.COM is available on DVD Tuesday, March 7th and can be pre-ordered on Amazon.