Director: Dimitri Logothetis
88 Films

88 Films busts out of Alcatraz with their Blu-ray of the Devo-scored supernatural slasher SLAUGHTERHOUSE ROCK.

For the past week, college student Alex (Nicholas Celozzi, MARKED FOR DEATH) has been having vivid nightmares in which he is tortured and eaten alive by a cannibalistic maniac in an abandoned prison while an undead band performs a rock concert. The details of the dream lead his roommates – big brother Richard (CHiPs' Tom Reilly), Marty (HOTEL's Ty Miller), and Jack (Steven Brian Smith) – to believe there is some connection between the dreams and the band Bodybags whose brutal murders by lead singer Sammy Mitchell (choreographer/"Mickey" singer Toni Basil, ROCKULA) at the abandoned prison on Alcatraz has halted tours for the near future. Alex would rather believe he is going nuts, but his nightmares start intruding upon reality to the point where other people can see them. When his girlfriend Jan (Tammy Hyler, CLOAK & DAGGER) urges him to confide in his telekinesis professor Carolyn (Donna Denton, GOR II) who believes that he is being tormented by the ghost of a commandant (Al Fleming, THE LEGEND OF THE PHANTOM RIDER) who lived on Alcatraz when it was a cavalry outpost and fed on prostitutes and the local Indian tribe until he was burned alive and made a pact with the devil. Carolyn convinces Alex's friends, including Richard's girlfriend Krista (Hope Marie Carlton, HARD TICKET TO HAWAII), that they must travel to the island and find the commandant's grave to destroy his power over Alex. Sneaking onto the island on a fishing boat, they discover too late that the urn containing the commandant's ashes has been broken and his spirit unleashed. The ghost possesses Richard who starts to undergo a monstrous transformation. As Richard stalks and kills the others, Sammy's ghost tries to help Alex destroy the commandant and free the souls of his victims.

A cross between a slasher and a NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET-style dream stalker film – particularly in terms of the music video style that became more apparent with each sequel – SLAUGHTERHOUSE ROCK is also the most tepid of that small subgenre of prison-set horror films like PRISON and THE DESTROYER. The Alcatraz setting is novel but the characters are flat, the backstory convoluted, the inane chatter even more inane than usual, the hero whiny and the villain unmemorable. What little atmosphere the film possesses comes from much second unit photography – including stormy cloudscape opticals by Ernest D. Farino (THE TERMINATOR) and Bret Mixon (RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD) – and the synthesizer score by Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh (HAPPY GILMORE) and Gerald V. Casale (REVENGE OF THE NERDS II), while Basil gives the only engaging performance as the wise-cracking spirit. The first half of the film feels padded for the sake of showing off director Dimitri Logothetis' stylistics, with the scene in which Basil's ghost projects images into Alex's head to show him what he is up against taking the form of an actual music video intercutting images from the film we have already seen with a backlit Basil dancing in front of a giant fan. While there are some proficient make-up and creature effects on view, much of the film's unpleasantness comes from an attempted rape scene.

Given scant theatrical release by Taurus Entertainment (TWO EVIL EYES), SLAUGTHERHOUSE ROCK found much of its audience through the eye-catching artwork of its Sony VHS release. Derived from a 2K scan of the original camera negative, 88 Films' 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.78:1 widescreen encode looks virtually spotless with the slick eighties visuals of Nicholas Josef von Sternberg (TOURIST TRAP) – son of the great Josef von Sternberg (THE BLUE ANGLE) – subject to the limitations of the film's budget while the enhanced resolution does reveal the artifice of some of the make-up effects. The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track of the Ultra Stereo mix seems to faithfully represent the mix which has more directional effects than atmosphere, with the surrounds utilized for thunder and the spread of the Devo's score (including an end title song performed by Basil). Optional English SDH subtitles are included, although they have a couple errors.

Video extras include the film's theatrical trailer (1:40) and “Rock ‘N’ Shock: Back to the SLAUGHTERHOUSE” (9:43), a video appreciation by Jim Harper (author of "Legacy of Blood: A Comprehensive Guide to Slasher Movie") who discusses the film in the context of the trend of hybrid supernatural slashers – particularly A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET II with which it shares a male protagonist stalked through his dreams – the slasher credits of the cast and crew, as well as how using Devo's score to promote the film probably has more cachet to viewers now than at the tail end of the New Wave (especially when other eighties horror films associated the supernatural with heavy metal). Included in the case is a booklet featuring a printed interview with cinematographer von Sternberg conducted by Matty Budrewicz and Dave Wain which devotes a little space to the film and his other collaborations with producer/director Logothetis as well as his work on DOLEMITE, his collaborations with Greydon Clark, and his decision to leave the film business. The reverse side of the sleeve features the same artwork without the Slasher Classics Collection banner. 88 Films' Blu-ray is Region B-encoded but Code Red also has an American edition out utilizing the same HD master and including video interviews with Mothersbaugh and von Sternberg. (Eric Cotenas)