Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #183
Number of Views: One
Release Date: April 29, 2013
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Running Time: 85 minutes
Director: M.J. Dixon
Producers: Jonny Raw, M.J. Dixon
Screenplay: M.J. Dixon
Cinematography: M.J. Dixon
Score: Paul Malcolm Swindells
Studio: Mycho Entertainment Group
Distributor: Safecracker Pictures
Stars: Eleanor James, Adam Williams, Wellington Grosvenor, Andrew M. Greenwood, Alex Grimshaw, Blaze Bayley, Kevin Balshen, Melissa Coyne
Suggested Audio Candy
Dire Straits “Money For Nothing”
I have a massive degree of respect for any filmmaker who realizes their dream of putting their art out there for the wider audience. It’s all too easy to dismiss the work of others out of hand, without considering how momentous an achievement it is simply delivering a project from seed to breed. Should you peruse my appraisal archives, then you will find precious few micro-budget movies taken to task for their execution, unless any criticism can be delivered constructively. Everyone has to start somewhere and you are required to read between the lines in such cases, remaining mindful of the meager resources afforded for such labors of love to bear their fruits. M.J. Dixon’s first full-length feature Slasher House is one such example, shot for a measly £5k, it is a marvel it even got made in the first place.
There are a number of factors one must take into consideration before giving an indie effort such as this the time of day and first is that the performances are unlikely to be of Oscar standards. Perspective is critical here as, chances are, the cast have never acted a lick beforehand and likely providing their services for peanuts. Secondly is the grue and this too is hamstrung by a severe lack of funds. Should chances go begging then it isn’t necessarily a missed trick, more a luxury not afforded in the first place. It’s a tough ask but can be done and Sonny Laguna’s superior chiller Blood Runs Cold offers ideal encouragement to any aspiring first-timers looking to make such a pipe dream a reality on next to nothing. However, this is also something of a one-off.
Slasher House wastes no time in introducing us to our flame-haired heroine Red (Eleanor James) who awakens in a prison cell naked and without the vaguest idea how she arrived there or what crime she is being detained for. There are no wardens on hand to offer enlightenment but, after her cell door opens of its own accord, she gets to rub shoulders with her fellow inmates.
One of these is seemingly benign cyber-geek Nathan (Adam Dillon) and he too appears none the wiser as to what the hell is going down. However, it soon becomes painfully clear that this is no ordinary correctional facility and, instead, knocking shop for the most heinous mass murderers in existence. Somebody is playing an unpleasant game which involves survival of the fittest and the odds of being granted parole are stacked rather precariously out of favor.
Slasher House is the epitome of D.I.Y. filmmaking and Dixon deserves humongous credit for what he has achieved. He shoulders the lion’s share of responsibilities himself – writing, directing, producing, and even doubling-up as cinematographer – which is commendable in the extreme. Moreover, he deserves plaudits for its relatively high concept as a project as ambitious as this has no right clocking in at around the $5k mark. However, with kudos distributed and hat tipped accordingly, we now travel headlong into the bad news. I found it a relatively arduous slog even at a slender 85 minutes and, while Dixon does his level best to keep things ticking along, it’s ultimately a step too far. He tries hard, really he does, and it’s plain to see what he is driving at.
There’s an almost radioactive glow to proceedings and he takes a fair few leaves from Dario Argento’s book, drenching the screen with a brace of primary colors. Both pillar box red and vivid green are omnipresent throughout and this does assist in providing Slasher House with its own exclusive feel. This is particularly evident with the ironically named Red, who uncannily resembles a crimson-tinged Lady Gaga and this certainly doesn’t harm her prospects of standing out. James actually does rather well, despite being required to deliver some fairly stilted dialogue and certainly isn’t without a fair degree of charisma. Her co-stars fare less well although that is only to be expected and Dixon does throw in a few one-liners to keep things spicy.
Possibly the most intriguing aspect of Slasher House is that the cells open at inopportune moments and each reveals a more unhinged piece of work than the last. Whilst hardly original, there are some particularly colorful characters unleashed on our senses, including a cantankerous clown who is regrettably under-used and executioner wielding a pair of over-sized cleavers that look like they’ve been shipped straight from Silent Hill. When playtime commences, Dixon does his valiant best to provide us with access all area passes and, given that the purse strings are so tight, really gives it some welly. With greater resources at his disposal, I’m sure this would have been an out-and-out bloodbath, but is certainly isn’t devoid of claret. Meanwhile, special credit must go to Paul Malcolm Swindells whose guitar and synth-fused score wouldn’t feel out-of-place in a movie with a much larger budget.
Dixon has been plenty busy of late with Legacy of Thorn now under his belt, as well as segments for U.K. anthologies Blaze of Glory and Grindsploitation. Moreover, he is currently planning a sequel to Slasher House and I would be interested to see where he takes it from here as the concept is ripe with possibility and there are numerous indicators here that he is one to watch closely in the coming years. Ultimately the mediocre score it receives may well dissuade you from donating this your valuable time but, should you approach with modest expectation and keep in mind the miniscule budget, then you may just find these bones worth licking.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 5/10
Grue Factor: 3/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: Those expecting a balls-out splatterfest may come away feeling a tad undernourished. There’s a lopped off limb and plentiful slicing and dicing on exhibit but one instance involving a bone saw proves a step too far on such limited resources and Dixon is forced to restrain from getting up close and personal on this occasion. More frustrating is the skin front as, while Eleanor James plays ball, the opening five minutes resembles an Austin Powers homage as obstacles obscure our view at every turn. Buttock enthusiasts won’t be disappointed however.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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