Slayers is available in theaters, on digital, and On Demand Oct. 21, 2022.
Slayers is the latest addition to the “Influencer Horror” subgenre, which is quickly growing due to horror’s ability to evolve with society. The more we obsess over digital frontiers and glowing screens, the further filmmakers will push their stories to expose the evils of social media popularity and zombie-like hunger for “Likes” instead of brains. K. Asher Levin co-writes a screenplay alongside Zack Imbrogno that retools vampire mythology for the livestreaming age, complete with dub-step beats and Boomers spouting lines like “YouTuber TikToker Cocksuckers!” It’s a zippy flavor of horror tuned to younger generations that fails bloodsucker tension by overdoing its Wi-Fi-connected commentary.
Elliot Jones (Thomas Jane) is a vampire hunter tracking one of the largest vamp syndicates in America. The “Stream Team” is a collective of online personalities who’ve just been invited by billionaires Steven (Adam Ambruso) and Beverly Rektor (Malin Akerman) to their compound. Instafamous couple Jack (Jack Donnelly) and Liz (Lydia Hearst), Gen Z pro gamer Flynn (Kara Hayward), and party-girl Jules (Abigail Breslin) meet with the Rektors to discuss the opportunity of a lifetime — and that’s when the killing starts. Slayers follows the simplest plotlines as Elliot must save the fame-chasing nitwits who waltz right into Steven and Beverly’s trap, which plays out like a video game as graphic overlays keep score of every death.
The aggression of Levin’s usage of screen images like kill counts, livestreamer comment views, and a whole host of super-quick image flashes makes the film feel like a YouTube video — and not in a good way. Elliot’s status as busy-bearded “vampire hunter” translates more into cranky old-timer narrator as he spends what feels like half the movie recounting conspiracy theories and vampire historical context as odd B-roll montages take prominence. You learn how Joan of Arc was a slayer, and D.B. Cooper was a fanged villain, while Jane grumbles through his Vampire Illuminati timelines that suck the air out of actual on-screen action. Whenever Slayers finally approaches some violence or fight element with the Stream Team, Elliot’s narration swoops in and lifts us to another lecture that, once again, feels made for a YouTube skit.
There’s nothing inherently awful about stylistically online executions — for example, I quite like filmmaker Joseph Kahn’s manipulation of graphic design as an additive to his films. Slayers falters because it’s a coverup for lackluster storytelling as Elliot teams with Flynn, who ditches Call of Duty tournaments for actual crossbow killing sprees. Maybe that’s because attention-grabbing talents like Abigail Breslin and Malin Akerman aren’t here for the long haul or because Slayers doesn’t have the budget to fulfill its “scientific vampire compound” aspirations. Instead of watching a character undergo a reverse blood transfusion, Slayers plays an impromptu instructional video with random public domain clips — stuff like that. It’s a fun gimmick if used sparingly, but the B-roll nature feels cheap and recycled, especially when implemented at such a frequency.
That’s not to say Slayers is devoid of commentary. The idea of vampires preying on influencers to steal their global reach is cheeky and clever, especially once the Rektors reveal their master plan. It’s more how the sum of sequences is drowned out by soundtracks of obnoxious DJ air horns or the corniest dialogue imaginable for Elliot’s elder hardass. Levin attempts some kind of shady vaccine subplot pushed by the Rektors, but that’s disorganized to the point of misinterpretation in the wrong lights. Elliot’s arc as a vampire hunter — from fast-forwarded origin to climatic standoff — feels so underbaked and rushed because the 90-minute movie is chaotic clip-show material, squandering the few moments of gore and attack excitement that otherwise exist.