Judge David Johnson doesn't like false advertising.
Small town. Big body count.
Well, the tagline is half-right…
Facts of the Case
The film opens with a handful of high school kids, getting busy in the back seats of their cars. But just as things get hot and heavy, some party-pooper comes along and starts stabbing people until they die.
The next day, ace detective Amy Rodgers (Nicole Buehrer) is on the scene. She and her partner begin scouring the town of Rockville for clues to the killer's identity; and it's not long before they track down a prime suspect: a severely disturbed mental ward escapee. But the mystery may actually run deeper.
Following a tragic showdown with the psycho that leaves Rodgers's partner ventilated, and the crime seemingly solved, more mayhem hits. Someone is still out and about wasting folks and this time the cops have no leads.
Meanwhile, Officer Charlie Fisher (Circus Szalewiski), a laid-back soft-spoken guy with a mysterious past, finds himself thrust in the middle of the investigation. And what he isn't prepared for is how his troubled history and his connection with a woman named Mary Burns (Linnea Quigley, Curse of the Lesbian Love Goddess) is tied to the ongoing rampage.
The Rockville Slayer is a good-looking, slickly directed mystery that boasts an interesting twist ending and some surprisingly able performances (you know it's coming), but, a slow pacing, a lack of scares, and some glaring technical issues keep me from issuing a straight-out recommendation.
The film is written and directed by Marc Selz, a guy who seems to know his way around a camera. He also has a few narrative tricks up his sleeve, able to provide a resolution that came out of nowhere. However, while he obviously appears to be a fan of the slasher film (employing a few of the genre tricks of the trade: topless teens getting stabbed, POV shots from the killer), he fails to stock his feature with enough thrills to satisfy.
Which leads me to this conclusion: The Rockville Slayer, despite the hype on the disc case claiming it as a "send-up to classic horror movies." the boast about the body count, and the cover art of the dying hand clawing on the car window, it has more in common with Murder, She Wrote than Friday the 13th. At its heart, The Rockville Slayer is a crime procedural, and the body count is actually pretty minimal.
Speaking of pretty, Nicole Buehrer stands out as Detective Rodgers. This very attractive actress is stuck with much of the responsibility of carrying the film, as she is the main investigator and does a fine job as the tough cop, even in the middle of the stagnant pace of the unfolding mystery. Her counterpart, Circus Szalewski, not only boasts a kick-ass first name, but also holds his own.
That I think is the biggest strength of the film: it holds its own. A middling compliment for sure, but at least it's a compliment. It's certainly a low-budget outing, but Selz has done a fine job creating a good-looking, professional piece of movie-making. The performances he teases from his actors, a decent, atmospheric score, and some fine set pieces combine to lend his flick some stones. I just didn't dig the story. Perhaps if you adjust your expectations and go in knowing it's a psychological thriller and not a slasher pic, you might have a decent time. For horror fans, I don't recommend it.
But there is one caveat to that sort-of accolade, and it's a big one. While the 1.85:1 widescreen (non-anamorphic, sorry) is a crisp, solid presentation, the audio track absolutely sucks. You have two options of mixes, a Dolby Digital 5.1 or 2.0 stereo. Both suffer form horribly muted center channels, though the 5.1 is more noticeable. Surrounds are put to good use, but that means when something loud happens you'll get your eardrums popped because you have the volume turned up so high to hear the dialogue. Worse, there's a stretch at the end of the film where the 5.1 totally breaks down and loses sync with the video. The stereo track is unaffected, however.
The only extras are a few uninteresting deleted scenes, the trailer, and a director's commentary, which, while informative and lively, suffers from a poor overlay over the film's original audio track; sometimes it's difficult to hear Selz talk as the background noise from the film is distracting. Poor, sucky, broke-ass audio mix…
It's not horror and it's not fast-moving, but The Rockville Slayer may hold some minimal value for mystery fans. The crappy audio treatment is a real deal-breaker though.
Guilty. Court adjourned.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Vivendi Visual Entertainment
• Director's Commentary
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