"Slasher" (2023)

by Joseph Perry and Mike Imboden

In our “The Good, the Bad, and the Verdict” film reviews, Joseph and Mike give their thoughts on a slice of cinema. For this installment, it’s Slasher, from Alberto Armas Díaz and Cinema Wings.

Julio inherits a mask like his father wore when he used to kill. A group of young people arrive at his town and cross his path and Julio must decide whether to continue the family tradition or embrace the love he has just discovered. 

The Good
Joseph:  I’m not an easy sell on slasher movies, but unique ones get my attention, and writer/director Alberto Armas Diaz’s Spanish feature Slasher certainly did just that. An engaging look at how the sins of a serial killer father are passed on to the son — with loving support from the youngster’s mom — and how sociopathic tendencies can be thwarted by romantic feelings, the film has the feel of a super-antihero origin tale. Why an antihero? Well, for example, of course he kills people, but there are certain rules he must follow that include who he cannot harm. There’s also a bit of the supernatural in play, as the mask he wears affords him increased powers. Although not strictly a horror comedy, the film is more a horror tale with some comic elements. The ratio of humor — which includes a mushroom-fueled trip — to horror felt fine to me, though I can see how it might throw others off somewhat. The practical gore makeup and effects are impressive, and the cast members all give fine turns. Diaz has crafted a stylish, intriguing film boasting impressive cinematography and production values.

Mike:  All good protagonists have an origin story, something that gives them purpose and - despite being the titular slasher in Alberto Armas Díaz’s Slasher, Julio (Sergio Alguacil) is undoubtedly the protagonist. These couple of facts combine to present a very original concept in which we’re SHOWN the origin of the killer and not just told how he came to be, usually by a crazy old man who interrupts a bunch of camp counselors sitting around a campfire. 
In our story, Julio is tasked with taking over the family business, and I don’t mean the little general store that his mother, Carmen, runs.  See, being a slasher runs in the family and as a child, Julio was enamored with his father - the Red Demon - even going so far as creating his own paper mask and wanting to help dad.  Diaz doesn’t just stop there, which is already cool enough, but he adds a nice touch in the form of some “rules”, mainly that while he gains strength and the ability to disregard injuries, he pays a heavy price which I don’t want to spoil because I think it’s quite a novel and possibly the most interesting aspect of the film.
There’s also Julio’s infatuation with one of the guests that are staying at a villa nearby.  We’ve seen hints at something like this in other movies, but Diaz goes all in, making this an important aspect of the events. I wouldn't go so far as to say it adds a love story vibe to things, but it comes close (and that’s not a bad thing).

The Bad
Joseph:  It’s difficult to do satirical or send-up takes on a film subgenre without following tropes, and Slasher does indeed have its share of those, including stock characters such as the annoying girl who won’t stop bothering others and those who you can’t wait to see get theirs, such as the bullying, possessive boyfriend. 

Mike:  For every bit of originality Slasher throws at us with the background of Julio and the Red Demon, the film relies on the expected tropes and cliches of the slasher sub-genre. While practically inevitable, it’s still a bit of a shame that it leans so heavily into them. 
There’s also an issue with some of the humor that honestly seems a bit out of place.  There’s two scenes that stand out as being diametrically tonally different from the rest of the film, one involving two of the kids being stalked while tripping on shrooms which works because of the events of the story that occur and one about some cultists that doesn’t and feels stuck in, like it’s only there to pad the runtime by a few minutes.
Despite some outstanding acting, there is an issue with the characters being a bit stereotypical, although I don’t necessarily think this is bad considering the nature of the film, although some people may focus too much on that one aspect which could be considered a negative.

The Verdict
Joseph:  Slasher is part coming-of-age and part coming-of-rage story. Sergio Alguacil does terrific work in the lead role, assaying a complex slasher character that doesn’t fit the norm of the subgenre. Recommended for those seeking something different in stalk and slay fare, for fans of foreign horror, and for fright-fare aficionados who gravitate toward filmmakers trying something a little different. 

Mike:  Alberto Armas Díaz delivers  an entertainingly original slasher flick with Slasher.  Not only do we get an intriguing origin story, we’re treated with some good performances, particularly from Sergio Alguacil who plays Julio.  Mild mannered son one second and a beefy, intimidating killer the next.  When I first saw this I was certain it wasn’t Alguacil behind the mask, but much like Christopher Reeve did with his portrayal of Clark Kent and Superman, this kid somehow pulls off the perfect dual identity. There’s also brutal and inventive kills (one involving a cell phone) that will make fans of blood and guts happy, although there is a little CGI mixed in which honestly wasn’t needed.
Slasher could have done without some of the humor which seemed out of place and did nothing to add to the story at all, although other bits land pretty solidly and don’t take anything away from the otherwise serious story.
As a word of note - there is a mid-credits scene which you won’t want to miss, so make sure you stick around long enough for it.

Red Owl Films presents

Directed By: Alberto Armas Díaz
Written By: Alberto Armas Díaz
Starring: Sergio Alguacil, Fabiola Muñoz, Rafa Blanes, Cristina Bravo, Mario Gallardo
Run Time: 1h 35m
Rating: NR
Release Date: May 12, 2023 (Spain)