Friday, May 15, 2015

Circus of Strange

THE SLAYERS: PORTRAIT OF A DISMEMBERED FAMILY (2014)

"Dirty, smelly girl." Not just Final Girl but Only Girl, Ghost threatens Anna during the trek to her final destination. Director Alex Poray notes of his actress Donna Beeching: "she was a great sport and took it in her stride ... she didn't have a heads up on what she was going to be put through until we shot the scene!"

ALEX Poray's infectious indie horror is part shock-mockumentary, part snuff movie. Made for £3,000, it tells the story of Patrick (Poray, using the pseudonym Lex Ray) - the son of Rt. Hon. Stanley (David Poulter) - claiming his father murdered a woman during a satanic ritual and forced him to film it; victim Anna Thompson (Donna Beeching) is consequently presented as a meal to wife Olga (a gurning Georgina Richmond) and other sons Leech (Julian Poulter),Tommy (Matt Lemon) and Ghost (Marek Gruszczynski). The question remains: is Patrick - a mentally unstable individual obsessed with death - telling the truth, or is Stanley, who claims that the scenes of abuse, witchcraft and cannibalism where a Halloween-night exercise aimed at liberating his troubled son. The project itself acquired controversy during its staged abduction of Beeching into Lemon's decommissioned Ambulance. Several calls to the authorities by concerned onlookers later, the filmmakers were flagged down by a Police dog unit, who explained that four other deployments - including armed response - had been utilised, and stingers had been placed on the highway.

Filmed in North Devon and Cardiff - taking in talking heads from the 2013 Cardiff Comic Con and the Braunton community (including estate agent James Benning as the family accountant) - THE SLAYERS is a relentlessly bleak canvas, best viewed at midnight and played loud. Publicity-seeking Patrick spends most of the picture wearing a pig mask, a familiar horror motif that also reminds of Grant Morrison's Professor Pyg, the "low-rent" extreme circus boss enemy of Batman. This fa├žade provides a startlingly effective moment, where a squealing Patrick provides the ident card for the snuff portion, DEAD GIRLS. THE SLAYERS has the same raw feel as Roger Watkins' 1973 American cult curio THE CUCKOO CLOCKS OF HELL, and also is thematically similar in its portrayal of a disillusioned youth who - together with the liberal use of masks for his sociopathic helpers - makes a snuff movie that culminates in gleeful intestine-based slaughter. Thankfully, Poray's film doesn't have the toxic vibe of Watkins' amphetamine-fuelled movie, but rather gives the viewer an admiration for a group of friends who have assembled to make a horror picture and got the job done.

"He beat evil into me." The head of the North Devon Slayer family, is Stanley a respected citizen fighting for what is right for his disturbed son, or actually a master of the black arts?

The film's real-life father and son combination David and Julian Poulter both excel; David in particular is heartfelt when talking about Patrick, while suitably wide-eyed when donning his ceremonial robes. In her thankless role as Thompson, Donna is stalked, drugged, bound, gagged, punched in the stomach and urinated on in her own makeshift grave, before being cut to pieces and eaten (Beeching is particularly effective when being dragged face-down through house corridors and muddied pools). Donna remembers that filming the Ilfracombe churchyard scene was particularly harrowing. "It was really cold being buried alive with a few worms and that water was even colder, and with no spare cloths it was a wet journey home. But the worst for me was the chainsaw. It was real and so close I could feel the breeze on my face, so I did not want to do that take twice, especially as David had drilled through his arm a week before and I was worried his arm might give out." When asked about Poulter Snr's off-set injury, Julian reassures that it was "ok for chainsaws over a girls neck."

Next up for Alex is an animated realisation of his comic book Level Above Human, scheduled for 2016. As he explains, "the story is about a hoaxed alien invasion in a fictional American city which has fallen into chaos." Quizzed on the eternal SLAYERS father and son debate, the filmmaker was unsurprisingly guarded; "that's not for me to say. Some people write Patrick off as a useless lying junkie, others feel Stanley is guilty as hell! Maybe they are both lying?"

Thanks to Alex, Donna and Julian for their feedback via Facebook.