SLASHER Review: “Like as Fire Eateth Up and Burneth Wood”
Drowning isn't a very common form of killing in slasher movies; there are some exceptions of course, but it's not a particularly visceral image - why watch someone gasp for breath and do that hiccuping thing when a perfectly good throat slash would suffice? So in keeping with tradition of being a fairly standard slasher on the surface but doing things a bit differently, Slasher's 3rd episode, "Like as Fire Eateth Up and Burneth Wood" offers a drowning for its only death - but it's a pretty big one. Unlike last week's death of I can't refrain from identifying the deceased - I'll have to say who it is because I have a lot to say ABOUT it, so don't read before watching!
OK you can read for a bit, because I'm gonna talk about other stuff first. Last week's two-part episode event ended with a strange cliffhanger, that of an unidentified woman dropping a cement block on a car (occupants unknown) from a bridge thirty or so feet above them. This week's episode opens with clarification - it's a flashback to 1968 and the victims are a group of popular kids heading to prom. The driver is Sonya, the lady who Brenda (Sarah's grandmother) ran into last week and clearly has issues with. Brenda doesn't seem to be in the car, and so it's not TOO shocking when we learn later that she's the one who drops the cement block. As is often the case in this show (and starting to get slightly annoying), it wasn't a killing blow - the person she hit, Sonya's friend Ada, has been in a coma for the 45 years since. Brenda and Sonya have another heated encounter in Ada's hospice room, at which point it becomes pretty clear that Brenda is the one who dropped the block - trying to hit Sonya (if you don't figure it out, Brenda spells it out later to Sarah).
Why kill Sonya? Well, as we can read between the lines during their encounters (and Sonya's terse conversation with her boyfriend Ronny in the car before the accident), Brenda slept with Ronny, making him the possible father of Rachel (Sarah's mother - I realize this is getting kind of soap-y as I describe it). Sonya didn't dump Ronny, instead she just kept him on a leash it seems, and later in the episode Brenda takes a bit more of her revenge on Sonya (we can assume, for not dumping Ronny and letting him raise his now-bastard child) by hooking up with him near the bathroom of a local bar (hot!). Wendy Crewson is clearly having a ball in this episode, acting the bitch in one scene, a cougar in the next (she hits on Cam, the handsome and married cop who's been quick to rescue our heroes every time they're in danger), and chain smoking whenever possible. She also gets to play action heroine near the end of the episode - firing a gun at a would-be assailant and standing up to The Executioner with a standard "see you in hell!" speech.
Yes, alas, Brenda is this episode's victim, which is a bummer as she had quickly become my favorite character. And it's no fun watching her drown, even with the justified method he uses - he ties one end of a chain to her and the other to... you guessed it, a cement block. As Sarah explains in the closing moments of the episode, drowning is the biblical punishment for envy, and there was "no one more envious or jealous" than her grandmother. This leaves Tom with very little to do this episode (beyond offering condolences to Sarah for her loss - Sarah just sighs a "thank you" rather than point out the irony), though that's fine - we can't have her running to her parents' killer every time a new clue is found or another person dies. But with the town priest (Cam's dad, and also the guy The Executioner let go the night Sarah's parents were killed) being Tom's only other visitor besides Sarah, I wish they had used Tom in another scene to bulk his character up more - we're near the halfway point and he's barely risen above the level of anonymous townsperson (if anything he seems less prominent from episode to episode).
In Tom's place is Robin, who has almost as much screentime as Sarah in this episode. Grieving over the loss of his husband Justin (and now drowning in the debt he inherited from him), we get to learn one of his own dirty secrets, that he forced a family out of their home during the winter, and that they later suffocated using a propane heater in the basement of a house they were squatting in. It's probably one secret too many at this point, and almost certainly just a big red herring - this event only occurred a few years ago, so if it's related to Sarah's story that goes back nearly 30 years, it'd be a giant coincidence. Robin also draws the ire of Trent, Verna McBride's unhinged nephew who was the recipient of one of Justin's bad checks. Again, I can't really see him as the killer, but it's funny watching Robin squirm when they meet up, especially since the actors playing the two characters could very easily pass for brothers - if you miss Trent's introduction, you'd probably assume it was just a big jerk picking on his weak-willed younger sibling.
But I hope Trent snaps and kills someone anyway, if only to get a few more corpses on slabs in this town. In addition to Brenda's failure to kill Sonya with the concrete, we get yet another scene where it seems like the Executioner has offed someone, only for them to miraculously survive (this time it's a cop he strangles). I get that he's not a random killer like Jason Voorhees, and that's fine - but stop having him attack people to give the illusion of kill scenes! It's an OK trick to pull once or twice (like last week with the not-dead punk kid) but this is now the fourth or fifth such instance of someone surviving what was presented as certain death - it's getting old, and we're only on episode 3. That said, his hesitance to kill Sarah (which she finally notices here) pays off in the episode's best creepy moment, as he sneaks around her as she looks for Brenda in the woods. She senses someone is around but never sees him, and he is clearly going out of his way to avoid having to knock her out again or whatever - it's a fun little bit to watch.
Overall the episode does a fine job of strengthening some of its core mysteries, though I was dismayed that they went the Walking Dead route of giving a character their first big showcase just so they could be offed at the end. If they do that every week, the show's biggest hook - that anyone can die - will be weakened, because we'll know who's a goner once we realize that they're really coming out of their shell and sharing the spotlight with Sarah that week. And they once again have fun with an old slasher cliche (the "calls are coming from inside the house!" bit), plus there's a quick closet scene that is almost certainly inspired by Halloween. The cliffhanger with Trent isn't exactly a "OH MY GOD I NEED THE NEXT EPISODE NOW!" moment, but the best thing the show can do at this point is spend more time developing its supporting cast equally, so we're back into "anyone can be next" territory.
P.S. I know who I have pegged for the killer, but I'd love to hear some theories from you guys! I'd think it'd be cheating if we hadn't at least met whoever the killer is by now, so let's hear what you've come up with based on these first three (of eight) hours...
This post is sponsored by Chiller. The new original series Slasher airs Friday nights at 9pm ET on ChillerTV.