All too often I sit and wonder, “Stephanie,” I say to myself, “Why is Kim Kardashian hemorrhaging cash, while I count quarters for laundry?” The answer infuriates me: no one knows.
Since when did people want to be famous? Since always. So many household names throughout time and memoriam have been famous for being famous, but that isn’t an excuse. To add insult to injury, there are so-called celebrities who are household names for all the wrong reasons – glorified teen pregnancy, reality television, drunken mishaps…they are real gems of society. It exasperates many, but that doesn’t stop another socialite or reality star rising to fame just because they make ridiculous decisions that happen to get caught on camera. What if someone got so fed up with it, they decided to do something about it? How much is your 15 minutes of fame worth? That is the question posed in L.A. Slasher, a film by Martin Owen, where a ruthless killer stalks the Sunset Strip for the dredges of Hollywood fame to give them one last fatal moment in the spotlight.
Directed and written by Owen, it stars a bevy of stars from all walks of life including Mischa Barton, (The Sixth Sense, Zombie Killers,) Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy), Brooke Hogan, adult film star Tori Black and “Drake and Josh” star Drake Bell, with Andy Dick starring as the voice of the L.A. Slasher himself. Conceived in 2010, the movie went through many changes until principal shooting began in 2012. Shocktilyoudrop.com is quoted as saying, “A ‘meta’ morality tale for the age of Twitter.” And that is exactly what you get.
This movie, although clearly filled with heart by all involved, is as superficial as the society it mocks. That is the trouble with going after people that are unlikable in the real world – they are unsympathetic in the film as well. By not being able to find any redeemable value in any of the characters, you are not invested in the movie or what happens. Add onto it that the movie is practically cut into shorts involving each character separately, probably due to scheduling, and you have a disjointed satire on modern fame. I am all for catharsis from time to time. It feels good. And I will be the first to tell you that seeing Paris Hilton get a rebar through the eye in the remake of House of Wax is one of the most satisfying moments in cinematic history. But the difference between that film and this one is that while one of them realized that less is more, L.A. Slasher gave us way too much of a good thing. It isn’t a problem with the performances, because the cast is near perfect in their casting. Every actor does a terrific job embodying all the people in the media we love to hate. The brilliant casting of Drake Bell as the Beiber-esque “Pop Star,” and Tori Black as the clear representation of “Teen Mom” Farrah Abraham is enough to get you snickering. Bell has had very public Twitter feuds with Beiber, and Farrah Abraham is now notorious for being everyone’s favorite “Back Door Teen Mom;” That makes adult film actress Black a perfect choice. But you have to have one character, at least one, that the audience can feel for. And although the closest we get to is Barton’s self-realized role as “The Actress,” even that facet falls short. You have to have heart. And this movie, although there is tons of blood gushing from them, has none.
Behind the scenes there was plenty of it – it is clear that this film is a labor of love that has spanned over five years and a mountain of hard work. The visual landscape of this film is truly dazzling, taking you back to the glittering yet grimy 80’s age of Los Angeles, with the glow of neon and a stellar soundtrack of your favorite new age dance hits. L.A. Slasher’s androgynously slick look is a dazzling contrast, reflecting the bright lights of the big city as if untouchable and somehow a purification of all around him. His look is very reminiscent of Sandman from Neil Gaiman’s graphic novel series, another subversive nod to the pop art age, but you are jarred by the audio mix of Andy Dick’s voice. It takes a few scenes to realize that his voice is that of the slasher, and not a radio orotherwise outside voice than one that is coming from an inner monologue of the killer or coming from behind the mask. For all its stunning imagery, the film also takes a hit by its ham-handed use of social media to make it relevant to the theme Owen is trying to create. By using Twitter-esque updates appearing onscreen, you have to at the very least make them usable to the plot. Most of the time they are inane, or are rehashing something that has already been made clear in the scene. That, combined with the disjointed editing, makes the film hard to follow. I didn’t realize that the victims were being kidnapped, assuming that they were being killed on sight. I was confused by who the people were once we are introduced to them in the Slasher’s lair, but after a few moments I realized I had been mistaken earlier and the victims were still alive. There were also so many different characters, seemingly in order to cover every form of vapid fame, that I lost track of how many there even were. They are never named, simply categorized, and are introduced as follows:
- The Actress
- The Heiress
- The Socialite
- The Drug Dealers
- The Stripper
- The Teen Mom
- The Reporter
- The Mayor
- The Producer
- The Pop Star
- The Undercover Cop
…a lot to keep track of, right? Some of these stereotypes could have easily been combined, and a few of the characters seemed to bleed from modern media archetypes into classic Hollywood archetypes. Half of these characters would be cut, for the sake of the viewer’s sanity. Maybe we only meet these characters as a metaphor for their 15 minutes of fame? It seems that we only meet them for such a short time because of scheduling restraint and length of the film. I get being frustrated with Hollywood, and its Colosseum-like obsession with the dirt of society. But taking your frustrations out on LA living by splicing so many characters into one story quickly becomes confusing. All in all, we need to see the heart of this film come out on the screen, and not just in its sheer
determination to be made.
I would love to see a polished version of this movie, and consider this one the first draft of what could be a brilliant film and a new iconic killer for the modern horror age. It’s Grecian Gladiator concept is fantastic, everyone loves to see a good battle for life and death. It is a morbid form of entertainment that has been around for eons. As rough as this film is, it has hope, and I do wish that, like none of its characters, it rises from the flames.
LA Slasher comes to select AMC theaters June 26, 2016.