The horror genre is known to dip into low-budget territory, but 1991’s Slaughter Day is on a completely new level. Written by the brothers Blake and Brent Cousins, and directed by the latter, this insanely obscure little gem is now available on Blu-Ray disc for the very first time – even if it still looks like a home video from another world. For the uninitiated, and there are probably a lot of uninitiated, Slaughter Day is a micro-budget movie shot with consumer-grade equipment about a pair of teenagers who find themselves battling a group of murderous construction workers after they’re possessed by forces flowing from a mysterious occult book. It’s only about an hour long, and it somehow still manages to be filled with both the worst acting and craziest action sequences ever put to, what appears to be, a camcorder, in history.
Yet, there’s something undeniably charming about the ingenuity behind Slaughter Day. There’s a sense that the cast and crew of this film had no interest in making it big or popular. Instead, it very much feels like a group of friends finding a way to have as much fun as possible over summer vacation. Whether that’s actually the case remains a mystery to most, but at the very least, it injects the project with a certain aura that makes it easier to swallow the fact it also comes off like an over-done class assignment. Like watching a child show someone something they’re proud of, Slaughter Day makes one sit back and gaze on with a smirk that says, “honestly, good for them.”
At a certain point in the picture, the story switches gears and becomes an absolutely bonkers, balls-to-the-wall action flick. This point, maybe twenty or so minutes into the runtime, is when Slaughter Day really comes into its own, and a viewer starts to understand why it received a re-release 30 years later. Cousins and his team pull off the kind of stunts and effects most kids merely dream of doing in their backyards growing up. The amount of effort and creativity put into crafting something like, say, a man folding in half and being sucked into a magic book, is astounding. The camera work is also surprisingly impressive for the limitations of the brother’s technology at the time. Early on, most shots are clearly replicas of ones seen in grander, theatrically released films of the era, but as Slaughter Day plays out, the filming techniques appear to become more complicated and start to leave audiences wondering how two kids from Hawaii might have made them happen.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia creator Rob McElhenney has long been a champion for, quote, “making your own stuff.” He argues that, if a person has an idea of what they’d like to see and they can’t get anyone else to make it, they should just do it themselves and see what happens. That’s how Sunny began its remarkable 15-season run, with a micro-budget home video shot on a crappy camera by McElhenney and his friends. It’s a lovely story, and one that seems to be in line with the mentality the Cousins brothers had almost 15 years before Sunny ever aired. The childlike wonderment and originality of Slaughter Day is proof that one never knows what they’re capable of producing until they just do it. It’s an ode to making art with people you love, simply because you all love making art. After all, people never know where their creations might take them. Maybe one day, someone else throws together a little passion project in their backyard, and 30 years after that, it gets its very own Blu-Ray Collector’s Edition.