Abstract artist Kay (Sarah Kendall) work begins to show a more distributing turn in her work much to the concern of her husband David (Alan McRae THE STUDENT BODY). He suggests a getaway vacation for the couple along with Kay's brother Eric (Frederick Flynn) and his wife Brooke (Carol Kottenbrook THE CYCLE VIXENS) which he also hopes will help cure her of the disturbing dreams she's been having. The group flies to their destination Tybee Island (a small Island off the coast of GA.) their pilot being the rather sinister Marsh (Michael Holmes DEADLY PREY) who provides the cryptic warnings (instead of the proverbial crusty old man) to the group concerning their stay on the unpopulated island being off season there.
"maybe I'm dreaming" thoughts of Kay and does provide some blood early in the film. The first night Kay dreams of a horrific death for David and awakens to find his severed head in bed next to her. The rest of his body his discovered and Kay becomes convinced that a skeletal figure from her dreams murdered him and will kill the rest of them if she falls asleep again.
Written and directed by J.S. Cardone (THUNDER ALLEY) and shot by cinematographer Karen Grossman (HAMBURGER: THE MOTION PICTURE), it was released in the midst of the slasher boom and THE SLAYER does deliver the expected goods with kills and bloody gore. It does attempts to set itself apart (not always successfully) with the emphasis more on the characters and their distinct personalities along with the brooding atmosphere and desolation of the island.
Perfect for a stormy night viewing, this slow-burn & atmospheric horror with slasher elements and a touch of Euro horror/giallo requires attentive viewing to appreciate its plot and ambiance. Some viewers might find it somewhat tedious & talky (rightly so) but it will draw the you into its dream like pacing if given a chance. It's also generated a bit of notice because of its "don't go to sleep" theme and the comparison to the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET franchise.
Barely released to theaters it later showed up one of those classic big box videos from Continental Video where it was paired with Fred Olen Ray's SCALPS in a double feature that seemed to show up at every video store back in the day. THE SLAYER also (in)famously appeared in Continental Video's TERROR ON TAPE compilation in which video store owner Cameron Mitchell trots out the goriest scenes from the company's library saving THE SLAYER for a Gothic Michelle Bauer as she's never been scared in her life (with its climax from THE SLAYER naturally doing the trick).The kills themselves are composed effectively with an eerie dream-like quality to them including a well-staged pitchfork impaling. The mature cast also sets up things differently relationship-wise rather than the usual horny teenagers. The dream like mood carries though the entire film and the sometimes-slow moving plot while maybe does make one fidget (this would make a terrific double feature with 1980's SILENT SCREAM) it does fit in with the film's central question - is Karen "dreams" real or is she or somebody else the murderer with the title figure maybe a part her dreams or not??
Sarah Kendall (whose only other credit is THE KARATE KID PART II) does a decent job in the lead role with her slowing building hysteria although with her corpse like appearance and buggy eyes she seems pretty batty right from the beginning. Later when frantically chain smoking, guzzling coffee and even burning herself with a cigarette to stay awake she seems even more scary then the title monster. Michael Holmes stands from the other cast in his brief role as the red herring and intoner of doom to the travelers. The creature make-up effects by Robert Short & Julie Purcell are very well done with the skeletal needle toothed title character being an unforgettable image and it's not surprising he's featured prominently in the trailer (although only quickly glimpsed in the film itself).
The above screen caps are from the Arrow Films DVD