Review by Mike Finkelstein
Horror and comedy feel like a natural fit. Yes, one is meant to scare while the other intends its audience to laugh (respectively) but the two can be used together in conjunction to highlight each other. You can see that at play in films like The Lost Boys, Fright Night, and Evil Dead II, where the big horror moments are scarier because you were just laughing, while the adrenaline of the horror feeds back into the laughs. These films are both funny and scary and they work better because the film understand how to embrace both sides of the equation.
With that said, finding that right balance can be hard. If you don't tune the horror just right, it can look campy and cheesy instead of scary. If your laughs are silly, or hokey, then the comedy doesn't feed into the horror properly. A film without the right mix of either can fail on both fronts. 2022's Slayers tries to be both funny and scary but it doesn't really manage to nail either side in proper measure. It has some amusing ideas, some decent nods towards horror, but none of it really amounts to a solid mix at all.
The film stars Thomas Jane as Elliot Jones, Slayer. For as long as there have been vampires there have been slayers. Joan of Arc, Benjamin Franklin, Elliot Jones. These men and women have stalked the bloodsuckers, doing what they can to capture, contain, and kill the fang-heads whenever their body counts get too high. It's lonely work, though, as you're living on the fringes of society, unknown, unloved, and unappreciated. Which is about as far from influencer culture as you could possibly get.
The Stream Team -- Jack Donnelly as Jack, Lydia Hearst as Liz, Abigail Breslin as Jules, Kara Hayward as Flynn -- are a group of very famous Online streamers. Together their followers number in the tens of millions. This leads to them catching the notice of rich industrialists, the Rektors. They want the Stream Team to help be the face of their company as they transition into global aid and saving the world, and they'll pay the team handsomely. But some offers are too good to be true, and the Stream Team is about to learn the kind of devil's bargain they might have made. Thankfully, Elliot Jones is on the case.
There's a certain comedic charm to the idea of vampires meeting up with influencers. One is a secret cabal of the undead who have been stalking the world for centuries, keeping their reality a secret so as to better hunt humans. The others, though, are Gen-Z elites who push themselves out there as far as they can, feeding on fame from their impressionable audiences. Both could be considered bloodsuckers, those that feed on humanity, soulless monsters. Just, you know, in very different ways.
This issue with Slayers is that the film never finds a way to underline that point in an amusing manner. The Lost Boys managed to be make "teens and vampires" a lot alike a joke but also a deep thrust of the film in an effective way; Slayers lacks that creativity. Instead it's just loud, overly stylized, and a tad too dumb to really understand how to tell its idea. It's a solid idea wasted on this 90-minute movie.
Problem one is that the film never settles down with its tone. It starts off with a long, long but of narration, telling us about the world (which, bear in mind, it then feels the need to explain again halfway in), before then telling us about the Stream Team, and then telling us about the Rektors. It's a lot of explaining, taking up almost the entire first act of the film, but it never settles down long enough for us to really get to know any of the characters. Once it finally does, in the second act when the Stream Team ends up at the Rektor compound, the film is still searching for its tone.
I think the movie wanted to be an indictment of streaming culture, but the film very rarely even makes a nod to streaming. It does some overlaid graphics as if there was a video game high score going on, and there's a late scene of one hero streaming themselves as the fight vampires, but those are two moments within ad entire film, and they both feel more distracting than anything else. They don't fit neatly within the film any time these moments occur. It's pasted on, as is so much of the stylized, frenetic graphics and sound the film goes for.
It also has a crazy elaborate, overly explained mythology for the vampires that feels both too big and too vague to invest in. Does killing the Rektors actually do anything? What did they control? How many people did they kill. They're just described as billionaire industrialists, but its hard to understand the depth or scope of their evil. They're treated with the same level of shallow development as the streamers in the film, leaving you left unfulfilled.
The only character that gets any real development is Elliot Jones. he has a tragic backstory, a motivation to hunt vampires, and he's played by Thomas Jane. Frankly, Jane could play this character in his sleep, but he invests his gruff acting style into the character and its great. I'd watch a whole series of films with Jones in the lead (not that this direct-to-video release likely did well enough to warrant a sequel). Jane, and his character, are frankly wasted on this confused film.
The movie isn't terrible by any stretch. It has some good ideas, a few amusing performances, and just enough blood and gore to keep vampire lovers engaged for a few minutes. Beyond that, though, there's nothing really to recommend the film. It's fleeting, silly, and not that great at anything. There are better vampire films out there, better films about slayers, and frankly much better horror comedies. Slayers, be comparison, lacks the staying power to become immortal.