Friday, July 19, 2019

SLAUGHTER OF THE INNOCENTS (1993) (Synapse Films Blu-ray Review)


Label: Synapse Films
Rating: R
Region Code: All
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1)
Duration: 104 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo with Optional English Subtitles
Duration: 104 Minutes
Director: James Glickenhaus
Cast: Scott Glenn, Sheila Tousey, Jesse Cameron-Glickenhaus

Slaughter of the Innocents is a fairly undeniable post-Silence of the Lambs production, a 90's serial-killer thriller directed by James Glickenhaus, director of the exploitation-revenger The Exterminator (1980). FBI Agent Stephen Broderick (Scott Glenn, Hulu's Castle Rock) is well-respected for his ability to capture serial killers for the bureau, assisted by his gifted young son Jesse (Jesse Cameron-Glickenhaus, the director's son) who is a bit of a whiz-kid. A seemingly genius level criminal-profiler and a computer prodigy, who wen not playing baseball with his little league team partners up with his crime-fighting father to visit crime scenes and solve horrific crimes using his computer. 

The latest case that Agent Broderick is investigating is a series of religious themed murders committed by a deranged, sandal-wearing weirdo who thinks he has been chosen by the Lord to build a new Ark. Apparently the Lord has also give him permission to rape, murder and kidnap children, yes, the Lord certainly does work in mysterious ways!

Agent Broderick's habit of teaming up with his son not unexpectedly backfires, when his precocious kid runs away on a solo cross-country trip to solve the crimes himself, leading to the kid finding the nut's lair, where he has built himself an ark decorated with Christmas lights and the mutilated corpses of his victims.

This is a weird one, it's a 90's serial-killer thriller with some weird, offbeat tangents that certainly keep things interesting, if sometimes unintentionally humorous. We have the demented religious nut building an ark and stealing taxidermy - to populate the ark,'natch - while stopping along the way to impale a store clerk on the antlers of a head mounted elk, giving the film a bit of the Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) flavor. The movie is absolutely 
unhinged in the way it goes off on strange tangents, including an ultimately pointless detour involving a Nazi living in a cabin in the woods. Agent Broderick and a SWAT team raid the cabin and all hell breaks lose when one of SWAT team launch a canister of tear gas into the cabin, igniting a firestorm of gunfire that literally collapses the cabin! This scene is notable in that it features a young Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight) in his first movie role. Then we have the story of a mentally challenged man sent to prison for a heinous murder he didn't commit, given a lethal injection while screaming for his mama, saying that he didn't do the crime. 

The portrayal of the agent's kid is a bit annoying, he's too smart but also way too dumb at times, giving an uneven and goofy sort performance that doesn't suit the dark tone of the rest of the film. Scott Glenn gives a rock solid showing, keeping things appropriately serious despite the offbeat strangeness of the premise. 

The film has some good moments of violence, notably the store clerk being impaled on the antlers, but the most grisly stuff would have to be the macabre scene the kid discovers stumbles upon after entering the deranged killer's lair, the place littered with mutilated corpses, these were done special Gabe Bartalos (Frankenhooker), and look realistically gruesome and stomach churning.  

Audio/Video: Slaughters of the Innocents (1993) gets a solid Blu-ray release from Synapse Films, presented in 1080p HD and framed in 178:1 widescreen. Grain levels are well-managed, colors are nicely saturated and the black levels are deep and inky throughout, with only a few minor blemishes by way of white speckling along the way. 

Audio comes by way of an English DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0 with optional English subtitles. Dialogue is crisp and clean, free of distortion, everything mixed well, including special effects and the synth score from Joe Renzetti (Dead & Buried) is well placed in the mix.   

Extras include a vintage audio commentary with director James Glickenhaus, he touches on writing the script and the story that inspired the film, the locations and technical aspects of shooting the film, as well as working with the cast and crew, including star Scott Glenn, and what it was like directing his son.

There are also several archival promotional pieces, a 6-min interview from Dylan Dog Film Festival with the director and his son, an 8-min EPK with plenty of cool behind-the-scenes footage, plus cast and crew interviews. We also get three archival interviews from '92 with the director, his son Jesse Cameron-Glickenhaus and star Scott Glenn, adding up to about 8-min in total. 

New stuff comes by way of an 11-min interview with Make-Up Effects designer Gabe Bartalos (Brain Damage) who speaks about creating the realistic corpses versus the usual fantasy-creature horror stuff he was doing at the time, which is what drew him to the film.

There's also an 10-min interview with the
Director of Photography Mark Irwin (The Brood) who speaks about capturing Glickenhaus's vision film, touching on certain set-pieces, including shooting the Ark and it's destruction, and his thoughts on the film.  

The disc is buttoned-up with 13-min of deleted scenes, plus a 2-min alternate assault sequence featuring a different actor that changes him from a Nazi to a militia-type nut that is quite bloody, plus a, image gallery, and a selection of trailers, a HBO promo spot, and a TV spot for the film. 

The single-disc release comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with a one-sided sleeve of artwork, housing the disc with the same key art as the wrap. 

Special Features:
- Audio Commentary with director James Glickenhaus
- Archival Interviews with James Glickenhaus (4 min) 
- Archival Interviews with Jesse Cameron-Glickenhaus (1 min) 
Archival Interviews with Scott Glenn (3 min) 
Jesse Cameron-Glickenhaus Screen Test 
Footage (2 min) 
 Dylan Dog Film Festival Footage (6 min)
- Interview with Make-Up Effects designer Gabe Bartalos (11 min) 
- Interview with Director of Photography Mark Irwin (10 min) 
- HBO Promotional Spot (2 min) 
- TV Spot (1 min)
- U.S. Trailer (2 min)
- International Theatrical Trailer (2 min)
- Archival Electronic Press Kit (9 min)
- Deleted Scenes (13 min)
- Alternate Assault Sequence (2 min) 
- Image Gallery (4 min) 

Slaughter of the Innocents (1993) on the surface looks to be a fairly typical 90's crime-procedural, the kind we saw plenty of in the wake of the blockbuster success of The Silence of the Lambs, but it's infused with an macabre darkness and offbeat kid-detective twist that makes it both strange and oddly appealing, if not necessarily a fantastic film. The special edition Blu-ray from Synapse Films has a solid transfer and comes loaded with both new and archival extras that make for a satisfying packaging. 

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