Qu’est-ce que c’est?, by Craig Schroeder
There is little reason for L.A. Slasher—the new horror/comedy from director Martin Owen—to have been made. There are even fewer reasons for anyone to come to the conclusion that this film is anything other than a vapid, misogynistic, pedestrian, reprehensible piece of filmmaking with as much artistic merit and visual dynamism as a burst garbage bag of glittery, night-club trash.
L.A. Slasher is repugnant, spouting a set of ethos that lack common decency towards every aspect of the human experience. When a psycho killer—who wears an all white suit, an expressionless mask and a wig straight from the Gene Simmons collection—becomes fed up with America’s celeb obsessed culture, he begins abducting and slaughtering reality TV stars (way to punch up, guys) and socialites, people the filmmakers deem killable; your generic-brand Kardashians, Biebers, Teen Moms, all of them are fair game. And most of these characters are played by the same caliber of celebrity niches the film condemns and vilifies (including reality star Brooke Hogan, porn star Tori Black and cocaine-muppet Eric Roberts). And let’s be clear, it’s not just the killer who thinks these people should be kidnapped, tortured, humiliated and killed in gruesome ways, it’s the film itself, taking every opportunity to assure the audience that these people are subhumans that “deserve what’s coming to them”.
There are too many stupid things in L.A. Slasher to adequately dissect. Like the fact that all of the characters have Twitter accounts and their live-tweets appear on screen, despite the fact that we can see they aren’t tweeting. Or the fact the writers don’t have a firm grasp on subject-verb agreement (“Is there any men here?”). Or that the Slasher is voiced by Andy Dick (finally answering the question what would it be like if Charles Nelson Riley was the voice of Michael Meyers?). Or that there are only three minority characters in the film (one’s a stripper and the other two are drug dealers). Or the fact that the entire credo of the film is the most pedestrian commentary on reality television, yet the film fancies itself a social satire on par with Swift’s A Modest Proposal. But let’s not focus on the stupid parts of L.A. Slasher, instead, let’s zero in on the film’s impenitent misogyny and callousness towards humanity.
I don’t know how to adequately condemn a movie that is so brazenly hateful towards women. Every (EVERY!) female character is referred to as a “bitch”, “whore”, “gold-digger” or any number of other horrible derogatory terms leveled at them with nonchalance (by the killer and audience surrogates alike). And if it wasn’t enough to be subject to hate-speech, the women in L.A. Slasher are constantly being threatened with rape and sexual humiliation, which the film uses both for scares and laughs. Peripheral characters—most prominently, an insufferable pillock who hosts CBUZZ, an interstitial news show in the vain of MTV News—are apathetic towards the abducted women themselves, only showing concern for their well-being if they deem the victim particularly attractive. In one instance, the aforementioned pillock (who serves as both comic relief and a person for whom the audience is mean to identify with) announces the abduction of a reality starlet and says “I hope she’s safe……I like to jerk off to her, sometimes.”
Still not convinced of the film’s flagrant misogyny? One of the characters, simply named The Stripper (that’s the other bullshit thing about this movie, the characters names and identity are reduced down to the one part of their life the filmmakers disagree with, i.e. The Stripper, The Pop Star, The Teen Mom, The Reality Star), undergoes a wardrobe change where her “slutty” clothes are exchanged for an outfit that a family of Mennonites would find a bit too conservative. And it’s only then, after the filmmakers have “un-slutted” the character, that she is granted the slightest bit of dignity. (And to clarify: by granted dignity, I mean the film plays melancholy music when she dies, lest you think the it treats her like an actual human who enjoys the way the sun feels on her face or feels sad when she watches those Sarah McLachlan ASPCA commercials).
If asked if the movie is sexist, I’m sure the filmmakers would answer with all of the condescending, know-it-all confidence of a fifteen year-old boy in an anarchy t-shirt he bought from Hot Topic: “you don’t get it,man. We’re taking down everybody! We’re taking down the status quo!”. But they’re not. Their sights are set on the lowest of the hanging fruits and for their efforts, they manage to minimize and marginalize an entire gender, declaring that a woman’s sexual proclivities make her a social pariah worthy of death. But the film can’t even balance its rampant misogyny well. With twenty minutes left, the film morphs into pretty standard horror fare. But it would seem director Martin Owen forgot that he spent the previous hour convincing the audience these women (and Drake Bell, lest you think this movie is only targeting women) were less than gutter trash; asking us to care for the characters he himself couldn’t be bothered to grant even the most basic human necessities.
L.A. Slasher is at its most deplorable when it implicates the viewer as an advocate for human suffering masquerading as social satire. There are a number of obvious audience surrogates: in addition to the Pillock, there is The Reporter (played by Abigail Wright, one of the five writers) who spends most of the film interviewing everyday schmoes (read: us) to get their opinions on the Slasher. These are the film’s most obvious audience avatars and their (read: our) take on the situation is reprehensible. When The Reporter asks who the next victim will be, the answers vary: “hopefully not a hot blonde”, “The Kardashians got it coming” and “there are no victims”. And the coup de gras: “do you agree with what the Slasher is doing?”, the surrogate says “Oh, wholeheartedly!”. You can practically see Martin Owen and his team of writers drooling over their laptop keyboards admiring the inane drivel they think passes as biting satire. If a version of Animal Farm were to surface, wherein Napoleon kicks Old Major in the balls for two-hundred pages, while drinking a Four Loko and wearing an “I Heart Stalin” t-shirt, it would be stronger, more subtle satire than any single frame in L.A. Slasher.
The fact that L.A. Slasher is being written about and discussed is already giving it more than it deserves. This film needs to be forgotten. Its sexual politics are obtuse and offensive. It’s irresponsibly nihilistic and its general thesis is that some people do, in fact, need to be abducted and murdered (though, it should be said, the film shoe-horns in an epilogue which exists only as a preemptive defense against reviews such as this one). An intelligent filmmaker could mine a bit of smart, social commentary out of L.A. Slasher’s premise, but Martin Owen and company aren’t those filmmakers. There is no real commentary to be had. This is a film that is earnestly saying some people should die because the film opposes their choices. Nothing more, nothing less. I disapprove of you. You should die. Hope you enjoyed my movie. Now if you need me, I’ll be reading Neal Strauss’ The Game, drinking a sixer of Natty Light and wishing that hugs still meant something to me.