Cannibal serial killers. Toni Basil. Demons on Alcatraz. Music by DEVO.
These are all things that, on paper, should make an excellent movie that’s right up my alley. But sometimes what is presented to you in doesn’t quite turn out like you had imagined (a bit like how this election is going).
Slaughterhouse Rock is a 1988 slasher film – at the tail end of the decade where the slasher genre was really starting to feel like well-trodden ground. The film tries its best to shake the formula up by introducing supernatural elements and an absolutely bonkers backstory.
Alex is a seemingly normal college student, only he’s haunted by nightmares of grizzly deaths on Alcatraz Island. He becomes convinced that he’s losing his mind, even more so when his friends tell him that he predicted the murders of a rock band there
As Alex’s dreams continue, they get worse in severity. They begin to blend in with the real world. He sees hands bursting through a wall on a date. His girlfriend and professor find him in a burning bed. He’s eventually convinced by his Introduction to Psychokinesis professor, Carolyn, to go to Alcatraz after his friends find him floating above his bed.
For some reason, Carolyn insists that everyone go to Alcatraz. Guess we need bodies to get up that body count.
She’s informed Alex that his dreams could be trying to tell him something. According to a manuscript by some native medicine men, a white man at the turn of the century had stolen their secrets. Driven mad, the commandant began to kill sex workers and eating them. Carolyn is convinced that the commandant’s body is somewhere on the island and his spirit haunting the place.
Soon after arriving on the island, Alex becomes separate from the rest of the group. He meets the ghost of Sammy (Basil), the lead singer of the band Bodybag, who tells him that she’s the one who accidentally freed the spirit.
As Sammy teaches Alex how to speak to spirits and, I don’t know, hover outside his body or something, the rest of his friends are being killed off. In true American Werewolf in London-style, Alex is haunted by the ghosts of his dead friends. His brother Richard was quickly possessed by the commandant’s spirit and making quick work of the group.
There are some incredibly bizarre decisions made throughout the film, sprinkled throughout to give the film its feature-length. My least favourite of the time-wasters has to be the scene where Krista (not me) is raped. She escaped (yay Kristas everywhere) using her own guile, only to be the first to be killed off anyway. AND has the most brutal death scene. I guess if you show your boobs you’re just asking for it.
Cue hard eye-roll.
The demon-brother is blown up. All is seemingly well. The ghosts of the commandant’s victims are seemingly at rest. Hooray.
This is a pretty by-the-books supernatural slasher. I enjoyed parts of it, particularly Toni Basil, the spirits, the commandant’s backstory and the make-up effects on the demon. But ultimately, it was just a bit boring. I really hated the treatment of Krista’s character. Not just because this is the first time I’ve ever seen a character with my name, but because she actually had some spunk. Just a dated way of handling women, I guess. But that never justifies anything.
And I will not hear a bad word about Toni Basil. The woman is a legend. She’s easily the most fun person to watch and her ghostly spirit adds a fun sprinkle of camp. Her costumes are incredible.
Honestly, I was expecting a bit more “rock” in my Slaughterhouse Rock. It’s a missed opportunity to only show Toni dancing once and with no performance scenes! WHERE ARE MY GHOST CONCERT SCENES AT? A true case where the film had the ability to take its unique plotline to 11 but stopped short at a meek 5.