SLASHER Review: “Digging Your Grave With Your Teeth”
It is a tradition to start a slasher movie off by killing some people, whether it's someone famous like Drew Barrymore or just anonymous fodder to hold us over until the real killing begins later (My Bloody Valentine's opener is a fun example - who the hell was that lady? She appears to be a female mine worker, but we're told later that there aren't any). But as I've said several occasions, as much as I love the strict template of slasher fare, I get kind of giddy when it's messed with in some way, so I have to love the fact that Slasher's 2nd episode, "Digging Your Grave With Your Teeth", starts off with a fun inversion of that tradition. A couple is in the woods, fooling around, a noise is heard, and suddenly, they are startled by... a not-dead victim who was buried alive?
Yep, the punk kid who we thought was beaten to death around the midway point of last week's episode has survived his injuries, making this a sort of anti-opening kill - it actually reduced the presumed body count! Whether the show's creators were intentionally subverting a classic body count cliche is unknown, but we can be certain that this switcheroo restores order - The Executioner does not off any random victim. His targets are specific to Sarah (Katie McGrath) and her immediate circle, so hopefully we can avoid nonsense like the Scream series' season finale offing some borderline anonymous kid in the bathroom just to give the episode a death. By the end of this episode, one of our primary cast members is surprisingly killed off, so that doesn't seem to be an issue here - will Sarah be the only one left standing by the time Slasher reaches the end of its first season?
That death is actually the only one in this episode (unless you count a very decayed corpse Sarah finds in the woods, more on that later), so if you're hoping for as much carnage as the premiere you'll walk away disappointed. However, it offers something the first one lacked - a big chase scene! While his husband waits for him at home, Robin (Christopher Jacot) is spending a quiet evening in the office cybering with random dudes on a Chatroulette type service, only for the power to cut out at a most inopportune time. Naturally, it's The Executioner, and what follows is a pretty great chase scene in and out of the office, finally ending with his survival (a good Samaritan yanks him into his restaurant and locks the door) but with his arms cut into ribbons, putting him in the hospital for the rest of the episode. It's early enough in the show that I can't really tell who will probably be around for the long haul, so it's smart of them to dive into this sort of thing early on while it can still be successful. If the killer chased Sarah around during that time, it'd be a good excuse to go get some snacks or check Twitter, because she's obviously not going anywhere. But Robin? I can't be too sure yet, so every lunge from the killer could have been a death blow.
Part of that uncertainty is due to the fact that I don't really recognize these people (and thus, peg their placement in the credits), but that's not the case for Sarah's grandmother Brenda, played by Wendy Crewson from The Good Son, Air Force One and countless other movies tasking her with wife/mother roles. Crewson's casting is a bit strange; she's only 27 years older than Katie McGrath, putting her squarely in "mother" territory (hell, I'm more than 27 years older than my own son, let alone whatever grandchildren he may give me someday), and apart from a contrived moment where some old friend of hers forgets who her daughter is (her daughter would be Sarah's mom, the one who was brutally murdered) I'm not quite sure what the reasoning is. Perhaps she's got secrets of her own, and the family tree is a little more twisted than we've been told so far, but either way I'm not sure it's worth the very confusing appearance. Her role is very much that of an overbearing mother (or mother-in-law, in the case of Sarah's husband who clearly doesn't want her staying with them), so perhaps Sarah ISN'T the baby that was cut out on Halloween night all those years ago?
Speaking of unknown relations, this week we spend another couple of scenes with Tom Winston (Patrick Garrow), who is once again guiding Sarah along as she investigates the murders and her connection to them. When she confesses that she's unable to figure out what Bible verses some numbers she found correspond to, Tom explains that they are GPS coordinates, which lead her to the rotting corpse of Verna McBride's husband, who she offed long ago for his digressions with Katie's parents. Since Verna is dead (she's the lady that got quartered in the premiere) and we already had a wood-set scene that involved a victim being found, I can't help but wonder if it would have been more fun to swap the bodies? Have the random couple at the beginning find Verna's husband (with a later scene to explain who it was) and lead Sarah to find the living victim? If The Executioner didn't want to kill that kid, he sure left it up to chance that he'd be found buried alive in the woods. And with Verna dead, it doesn't seem particularly interesting at this juncture what happened to her husband, without his killer around to offer her side of the story.
Back to Tom, he also helps Sarah realize the biblical relation to ________'s death at the end of the episode (I'm going to keep it spoiler-free until the next review, just in case). For a guy who killed her parents (and thus put her seriously at risk of death herself), he sure seems happy to help her out and doesn't seem to wish her any harm - is he actually NOT the one who killed them? We never saw him take off the mask or anything; the Executioner killed her parents and then we cut to when the cops arrived, finding him with no mask on - that doesn't necessarily mean he was the one wearing it in the first place. It's classic horror movie misdirection kind of stuff, and for a plot that is clearly hinging on surprises and secrets, it wouldn't surprise me at all if Tom turned out to be taking the fall for the killer - meaning it's possible the original killer is the one out there offing people now. Hell, maybe it's Wendy Crewson. She obviously takes care of herself fairly well for a grandmother.
Overall the episode isn't as compelling as the first, but that's to be expected - after the initial flurry of excitement (and information) this is when the show starts to settle into its usual groove, so it's understandable that it's not quite as riveting in spots. The newspaper stuff continues to feel a little shoehorned in (and how successful is this local paper to have like four full time staffers and a nice downtown office?) and the Heather Peterson subplot comes off as padding more than any meaningful/titillating story thread, but we'll see. Neither are crippling flaws, though if they want to really get that "I can't wait to see what happens next!" feeling that will inspire folks to make it appointment viewing, I hope next week offers some stronger ties between these threads beyond a rather generic "Everybody has secrets!" (or "We've also seen Twin Peaks!") feeling. But if they can give us a solid chase like this week's in every episode, I'll stick around until the end even if I've long since given up caring about anyone's skeletons in the closet.
This post is sponsored by Chiller. The new original series Slasher airs Friday nights at 9pm ET on ChillerTV.