December 9, 2017


You’re probably not going to believe this, but SLASH DANCE is a terrible movie. It opens like a direct-to-video BLOOD AND BLACK LACE knock-off, all mannequins, ornate bric-a-brac and gelled lighting. We’re inside some rundown arts theater. Our only companion is a ditzy, big haired blonde here to audition for some kind of dance performance. As no one seems to be around, the blonde puts on her headphones, dancing alone on stage. Then suddenly, GASP! SHOCK!, a dark figure emerges from the shadows. A short POV stalking sequence ends with the blonde lying dead on the floor, her throat slashed with a hand saw.

We cut to a pretty redhead sunbathing on the beach. Her lounging is interrupted by a very gay man flashing his penis. After insulting the flasher enough to chase him off, the redhead packs up her things and leaves. We see her again later, this time approaching two beefy women about scoring some illegal steroids. They’re willing to sell if she’s willing to buy. Unfortunately for our would-be drug dealers, this redhead isn’t just a pretty face. She’s a cop. A cartoonish brawl ensues.

Later, our red haired copper, Tori, has a meeting with her politically ambitious asshole of a boss, Edison (played by B-movie regular John Henry Richardson). This is where we learn that the world at large only thinks of Tori as a life support system for a pair of tits. Never mind the fact that Tori once went undercover, busting a psychopathic, homicidal nudie photographer before he could kill even more women. A few of her nudes leaked out to the world, causing Edison some undue stress, killing her reputation in the process. “Her tits are too nice to be a cop”, Edison says after Tori storms out of his office.

Thankfully, Tori has a chance to prove herself once again. Another aspiring dancer has gone missing. Tori and her partner devise a covert operation that involves our intrepid ginger posing as a would-be performer. But will she be able to stop the mad slasher before he kills yet another girl?

The better question would be, did writer/director James Shyman have any interest whatsoever in making a slasher film? Because SLASH DANCE isn’t much of a slasher movie at all. It has the requisite elements, the pretty women, the masked killer, and a handful of red herrings that include a desperate-for-cash owner, his mentally challenged (and possibly insane) little brother, a flirtatious and demanding director, and the penis flashing pervert who just so happens to work at the theater. It’s all there. But Shyman decides that instead of diving down the slasher hole, he’s going to make an attempt at a character drama.

Tori has had a shit childhood. Her sister overdosed at a party. Her mother committed suicide shortly after. Tori became a cop to right the wrongs of the world and hopefully one day find the man responsible for supplying her sister with the drugs that took her life. At various points in the film, we hear voice over narration relaying all these troubling events. The film has us believe that the killings will somehow be connected to Tori’s past trauma and that by solving the mystery, she will achieve some kind of closure.
But nope. The killings have absolutely nothing to do with Tori. They don’t even have much to do with anyone else in the film. The killer has their own past trauma, one that we only learn about when the murderer suddenly makes his appearance with about six minutes left to go in the film. That's right, Tori doesn’t even solve the mystery. The killer just shows up, takes off their mask and vomits exposition for two solid minutes.

And that’s probably the single biggest issue I have with the movie. Tori does literally fuck all in terms of solid investigation. Shyman decides to play a little game of wish fulfillment with his leading lady. She’s looked down upon at work, treated like a slut or a sex object by virtually every man she has contact with. But with the exception of the nut job little brother, the men at the dance company treat her rather well. She even gets along with her fellow dancers. A romance brews between Tori and Rupert, the schlubby director. He thinks she’s lovely and talented. He wants to take her to New York. I imagine for someone as put upon as Tori, the positive attention must feel wonderful.

But this is a goddamn slasher film, not a corny romance about people finding love in a shoddy dance company. So why do we spend more time watching five women practice the same five dance steps over and over, and so little time watching people die in horrible ways? What’s the point of having an undercover cop if they’re not going to do any real police work? Shyman could have just written a movie about an aspiring dancer who just so happens to stumble into a dangerous situation. There wouldn’t have been so much wasted time.

SLASH DANCE is a film with a major identity crisis. It has several violent moments, including a suicide. It contains a whiff of the revenge flick. It has a premise that all but guarantees sexploitation thrills. And yet the violence is infrequent and tame, the revenge aspects are just left hanging without resolution, and the bevy of dancing beauties never once disrobe or show more than an ankle or an exposed shoulder. But they sure do talk a lot about boyfriends and love affairs and money woes and unfulfilled dreams and issues at work. And that’s a big, big problem.

The title SLASH DANCE promises cheese and giggles. A slasher film promises scares and flesh wounds. This film sorely lacks all of those things. It’s like sitting on the couch with your mom as she watches some Lifetime drivel, eagerly flipping over to the horror flick playing on another channel every time she leaves the room. You only get a few moments before you have to click back to the lame, uninteresting melodrama. It’s a frustrating, tiring experience.

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