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Nobody gets out alive.
Apparently, this was a horror film made in the early '70s just discovered and released now. The circumstances behind its vanishing act are mysterious, and appear to be connected to the violence that happened between its director, Vin Crease, and producer Benjamin Mankiewicz. Now for the first time, Slaughterhouse of the Rising Sun is made available to the public.
Of course a close look at the disc case or a stop over at IMDb reveals the film was actually made in 2004.
Facts of the Case
But we'll play along anyway. The premise it that this is a horror flick made in 1972. It chronicles the misadventures of young, crazy Jennifer (Cheryl Dent), a former adult film star who wigs out one day on the set, resulting in some painful injuries for her hapless costar.
She decides to hit the open road to clear her mind. After a vehicle mishap, Jennifer finds herself wandering alone in a low-population rural area. She's hungry, alone, and not right in the head.
Luckily, she meets up with a group of hippies, led by the charismatic Damon Grey (Vin Crease). Damon and his flock live their lives going from place to place in their VW bus (of course), hanging out at campfires, playing the guitar, smoking dope, and all kinds of other stereotypical flower child crap.
Jennifer eases herself into this lifestyle, and is assimilated into the group. But things may not be as gnarly as they appear. When a couple of Damon's goon pals harass then murder a traveling missionary boy, Jennifer realizes she's hip-deep in trouble.
The nightmare culminates at an old farmhouse, warned about by an enigmatic traveler, and the horrifying visions that have thus far plagued Jennifer, may become gruesomely real.
Ok, first things first: the gimmick. Yes it's obvious that the whole "lost film from the '70s" angle is contrived. But I'll unload a kudo or two to director Vin Crease for going out of his way to make his film look like its three decades old. It's a bit heavy-handed sure, what with the costuming and the bonfires and the hippie-speak, but I appreciate the innovation. Most notably, Crease has managed to lend his film the look of an older film; the illusion isn't perfect, but it's close.
You hear the word "homage" tossed around a lot, but Slaughterhouse of the Rising Sun is as deserving of that label as any other film I've seen. Beyond the technical look of the film, Crease has created a story with the feel of old-school horror (and it is hard to ignore the blunt aping of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre during the extensive VW bus sequence).
So the gimmick kinda works—how about the movie itself?
Eh, it's okay.
Slaughterhouse of the Rising Sun, despite its showy title, isn't a particularly gory movie. Much of the blood and guts is hidden away, with the sound effects doing most of the heavy-lifting. Basically, the action usually happens off screen and is accompanied by the typical "slurping" and "dripping" sound bites of blood and sinew being shed. When the gore is brought to the forefront—yikes. Let's just say it was more effective being heard and not seen.
Story wise, there are a few twists and turns, and a big reveal at the end, but honestly it's all a bit too convoluted and the payoff is more confusing than rewarding. The characters are cookie-cutter, save for Vin Crease as the hippie extraordinaire Damon Grey.
Because of the film's shtick, there is never really a feeling of seriousness to the situations. This leads to a lighter tone, despite the authentic horror grist pervading the goings-on. Which was fine with me. Slaughterhouse of the Rising Sun would have been unbearably pretentious if it had tried for straight horror. Like The Blair Witch Project, only stupid. Wait, the The Blair Witch Project was stupid.
The strongest aspect of the film is its style, and the 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer really bucks up the look. A 2.0 stereo mix offers a so-so mix. Two bonuses come with the feature: "Losing the Light: The Unmaking of Slaughterhouse of the Rising Sun" is a faux documentary that tries to continue the lost-film-of-the-'70s ruse and is briefly entertaining and "Cuttings," which is a fancy title for the deleted scenes.
A hat-tip to Crease for trying something new within the genre. While I wouldn't call Slaughterhouse of the Rising Sun (man I'm getting tired of typing that) a particularly good movie, it does have its moments and it's a true homage. I suppose your desire to see it will depend on your level of nostalgia for horror films from the 1970s; if you're a big fan, here is film made by people just like you!
Sentenced to three months in a cubicle, you dirty hippies!
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Scales of Justice
• "Losing the Light: The Unmaking of Slaughterhouse of the Rising Sun"
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