The Slayer is an eerie entry into the “let’s go to an island and die” subgenre of horror. It made the infamous Video Nasty list for its kill scenes, but the deaths are mercifully few and far between. This movie instead concentrates on suspense and relationship drama. Am I recommending relationship drama that slows a horror movie to a molasses in January pace? Yes, because the drama surrounds the main character’s psychic dreams about the titular killer, and the other three main characters’ refusal to take her seriously. As far as I’m concerned, ESP nightmares render other unpleasant aspects of a movie forgivable. The Slayer is an unfairly underrated slasher from the golden age of the slasher, and best of all, it was filmed right here in Georgia on an island where I have spent a vacation. Which gives me the opening I need to tell you about the time I saw a UFO on that island. I’m so excited!
A couple of years before Freddy showed us his ugly mug, Kay has spent her life having dreams about a killer who kills in real life, in the way she sees in her dreams. She has parlayed this into a successful career as an avant garde painter, but she’s deeply unhappy because everyone thinks she’s crazy. And also because she tries her best not to sleep, so no one will die. Kay’s husband David, a doctor who knows best, decides that the two of them should go to a deserted island with Kay’s brother Eric and his wife Brooke. Everything is going pretty well, even though Eric (commercial director) and Brooke (former actress) have an expository conversation about all the terrible vacations they have been on. Until David is horribly killed and his body then hidden and everyone else has to spend the rest of the movie in fear and dread. Including me.
There’s one scene from The Slayer that makes it onto horror mixtapes. I’ve seen it before, out of context, but that didn’t stop me from grabbing onto my husband’s arm as it was playing out. I didn’t even know I was still capable of having that reaction. That’s how good this movie is. Of course, my husband didn’t like the movie, and found the ending to be a copout as many people do, but he also didn’t find much to mock about it. I, for my part, was totally captivated, and didn’t even look at my phone except during the few ads Tubi played. By the way, if you plan to watch this, don’t watch the trailer Arrow put out. It shows all the scary parts, which ruins them, and doesn’t hint at all the effective buildup that makes up most of the movie.
As I watched, I realized the scenery looked very familiar. Not that I recognized anything in particular, but the woods by the beach had so many palmettos in the underbrush that I could see that this was a Georgia barrier island. I live near the ferry to Cumberland Island, and Tybee, where this was filmed, is about 90 minutes north of here, off the coast of Savannah. It looks very similar to my home.
In 1998, my parents lived here, and I lived in Athens, so we met in the middle in Savannah for a vacation. We were staying in a run down motel on Tybee Island where I dreamed the night before that someone broke in through the flimsy lock and cut my throat. We had spent the day in Savannah taking the tour of the locations from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, which includes the beautiful but creepy Bonaventure Cemetery, and took a walking ghost tour that night on the streets of Savannah, where a disheveled man grabbed me and said, “I know the whole story.” As I walked away quickly, he hollered, “Tell her I know the whole story!” So I was primed for what happened next, but thank God I had a witness.
Sitting on the beach in our low chairs, staring at the late night sky, my girlfriend and I were in that kind of relaxed bliss that probably evades you once you leave your early 20s. Suddenly I saw two lights appear in the sky slightly to the south of where I was. I don’t know what color they were. One was kind of above and diagonal in relation to the other. They moved slowly further south, then the bottom light circled around the top one, then they both sped up and disappeared. Without moving I said to her, “Did you see that?” and she said, “yep.” There was a man walking by and I yelled at him “did you see that? Hey! Did you see that?” He just picked up the pace as my girlfriend asked me to leave him alone. Now I was the disheveled person, and this guy was me. Or was I Kay?
Whatever terrible challenges life has thrown at me, and trust me I also have many things to be grateful for, I will always be grateful that at least one other person saw what I saw in the sky that night. Not because I have ever doubted that I saw it, but because it hurts so much not to be believed.
Are you ready for a spoiler about the movie? It’s coming up after this pic.
At the end of The Slayer, when everyone is dead and the monster comes for Kay, we are shown that it was all a nightmare she had as a small child. Not only does Kay have to live her whole horrifying life in a loop, but she, as a psychic child in the 50s or 60s, predicted the rise of artsy-fartsy 80s yuppies. Pleasant dreams! I thought the ending was going to be that Kay was the killer, but she only kills one person, using Chekov’s flair gun. Woo!
P.S. While looking at IMDb in order to get the actors’ names for the tags, I see that “David” is credited as playing J.R. Ewing on five episodes of Dallas. Speaking of “it was all a dream,” freaking Dallas? The part played by Larry Hagman? What in the blue retcon hell?
P.P.S. Wanna see the title card?