WFD // 2011 // 116 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // April 15th, 2011
Will the powers of darkness prevail?
Pop quiz: Are there any classic slashers that run two hours long? More importantly, has anyone ever sat through one of those lovely, lean slashers from the 1980s and thought, "You know, that film needed another thirty or forty minutes to really sell the horror." I would think the answer to both questions would be a pretty firm "no." One of the virtues of a slasher movie is the way in which it can start strong (preferably with a gore-soaked kill) and keep relentlessly moving towards that 80-90 minute mark, piling up bodies along the way. Sure, atmosphere can be important, and I'm not against character development, but at the end of the day a slasher is a slasher because the killer goes and kills relentlessly until he or she is dispatched in spectacular fashion. Which makes Hate's Haunted Slay Ride a difficult film to consider. Not only is it an almost-two-hour film, it's a sequel (when slasher sequels are almost always the same length or shorter in comparison to their predecessors). Perhaps there are some quirks in the film that fans of ultra-low-budget films can ferret out, but for most viewers this is one to skip.
Hate's Haunted Slay Ride includes a helpful dream/flashback to the first film (Hate's Haunted Hay Ride) that establishes the horror of "Hate" (and his cool metal mask) and sets up the rest of the story. In this film, Hate finds himself battling both Judaism and Christianity, while Rabbi Shaw and detectives MacNee and Fletcher try to stop his murderous rampage.
Hate's Haunted Slay Ride is another ultra-low-budget feature from New Jersey auteur Warren F. Disbrow. Based on his website, it would appear that he's had quite a bit of success in the realm, including a several films released by Troma. It's obvious that Disbrow has a lot of enthusiasm for the genre, and his numerous feature films have given him a strong command of his material. He knows how to cut a scene together, make even low-budget gore look decent, and how best to utilize his Jersey locations.
All of which makes Hate's Haunted Slay Ride that much more frustrating. It feels like the work of a guy who has mastered his craft and is looking to push his chosen genre in new directions. It's a noble goal, but the main way that Hate's Haunted Slay Ride pushes boundaries is by including a rabbi as the hero (which might be a horror first) and making the film longer. The rabbi idea is a nice twist -- I'm a little tired of priests as heroes myself. However, the film tries to throw everything but the kitchen sink into the narrative, and ballooning it out to an hour and fifty-six minutes just doesn't work. At a much leaner 80 minutes, there would be enough killing and characterization for fright fans. As it is, the film conflates character development with letting various people pontificate. So, we're treated to a scene where a guy talks for a few minutes about losing his faith after a tragedy and maybe no longer believing in God. Sure, it develops the character, but it also feels artificial and unnecessary. I appreciate the attempt, but the execution is lacking.
Verdict was sent a screener of Hate's Haunted Slay Ride, so take this description with a grain of salt. The video looked surprisingly good for a low-budget feature (and hopefully the inclusion of extras won't lead to over-compression). The colors were decent, and blacks were especially strong. The stereo audio kept the film's over-abundant dialogue audible. The screen didn't include extras, but Disbrow's website promises a commentary and a couple of featurettes about the making of the film. Although I didn't enjoy Hate's Haunted Slay Ride, it did pique my interest as far as how Disbrow gets these films done. So, I would imagine the extras are going to be more interesting than the feature on this release.
I don't relish hating on low-budget films. I understand that this was somebody's baby (even more than the standard Hollywood fare). But, I have to call them like I see 'em. Hate's Haunted Slay Ride might hold some value for fans of low-budget horror looking for a goofy flick to rent on a Friday night (preferably with adult beverages at hand). For everyone else, the film doesn't offer enough thrills or chills to keep interest. As of this review, the film is only available through Disbrow's website, which can be found in the Accomplices section.
Hate's Haunted Slay Ride is guilty of going nowhere.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 116 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Warren F. Disbrow