“Slaughter Night” – A.J. Hakari

As an American film buff, I admit to harboring a few preconceptions about foreign movies. I sort of expect them to reflect a different cultural perspective that makes them more fresh and original than our homegrown films. Unfortunately, the Dutch slasher flick Slaughter Night proves that genre cliches know no borders.

After her father is killed in a horrible car accident, college student Kristel (Victoria Koblenko) and some friends decide to embark on a road trip to a closed mine where her dearly departed dad was writing a book. The manuscript turns out to have some pretty disturbing subject matter, as Kristel and company learn while reading about how the mine used “fire men” in the 1800s. These men, criminals on death row, were sent in to explode methane patches and set free if they survived. Among them was a child killer by the name of Andries Martiens, a man said to have used black magic — literally to travel to Hell and back. Sadly for those on a tour of the mine, his restless spirit is bent on being resurrected. One by one, the ghost of Andries possesses the individuals trapped in the mine and goes about performing a sacrifice to return to life, leaving Kristel and the dwindling number of survivors to find a way of stopping his murderous rampage before they’re slain next.

In short, Slaughter Night is a cross between The Hidden and My Bloody Valentine, cramming together the body-hopping killer aspect of the former with the latter’s subterranean setting and mineshaft slasher. But as cool as the combination sounds, the results seem pretty bland. Aside from a few minor tweaks, Slaughter Night fails to be discernible from any slasher offering over the years. Your basic characters — the Slut, the Jerk, the Psychic, and, of course, the quintessential Final Girl — appear; there’s a predictable turn of events (the song “Another One Bites the Dust” comes to mind); and, as is more the case with recent slashers, its uber-shaky cinematography makes 28 Weeks Later look like an Ingmar Bergman film.

On the bright side, the acting boosts the stock characters’ overall tolerability (it also helps that Koblenko is a bona fide cutie pie), and the film doesn’t shy away from splashing a little gore onscreen, as evident in a nasty shotgun killing as well as in a scene with a shovel which gives new meaning to the term “splitting headache.” However, the filmmakers of Slaughter Night appear to be making stuff up as they go along, showing an awkward sense of reasoning and a knack for the inexplicable. Why do some of the possessed people remain dressed as themselves while others decide to randomly slap on the fire man gear? What is it with that elevator? How is it that coming back to the surface, it works on a whim, and why don’t the people who make it up run for help instead of heading back down? These may seem like petty complaints, but when stacked up one after the other over the course of 90 minutes, it’s downright annoying.

In the end, Slaughter Night doesn’t show you anything you haven’t already seen in a horror movie, but viewing this film isn’t completely unbearable. Still, it says something when the scariest thing about a movie is that it took two directors to come up with something this by the book.

Rating: ★★☆☆

-A.J. Hakari

Read Chris Luedtke’s Slaughter Night review here.

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