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By Steve Anderson | June 15, 2004

What we have here is a serious failure to communicate.

It’s a bad sign when a DVD menu is a portrait of the protagonists overlaid on a matte shot of fire and a half-demon, half-woman thing in the background.

It’s a WORSE sign when the opening credit roll looks like it was shooting for a ranking on Total Request Live. Disjointed images roll by while pulsing death-metal music plays in the background.

Yeah, it’s about as bad as it sounds.

So anyway, the California criminal justice prorgram decides it has a new idea for misbehaving deliquent teenagers…send them to an abandoned hospital in the middle of South Central Los Angeles to renovate it for use in some other city program. Did anyone happen to mention that people were killed, messily, by hatchets in this hospital? In fact, within the first five minutes of the movie?

So much for cruel and unusual, eh?

Speaking of cruel and unusual, or rather, cruel and way-too-predictable, the movie chooses a familiar way of introducing our cast of characters.

It types them on the screen. Seriously. With matching sound effects.

Within the first several minutes, we learn not only the character’s names, but also their dominant archetype in life. For those of you who couldn’t care less what a “dominant archetype” is, just use the handy examples below.

Demon Slayer’s cast of characters, verbatim (dashes are mine for the sake of accessibility):




Phillip–THE PUNK


I am, as Dave Barry is so wont to say, not making this up.

So, with our cast firmly cut into our forebrains, the cast goes forth to clean the hospital up in three days. And, before the work begins, they spent some time engaging in the countercultural behaviors that got them locked up IN this looney bin in the first place. The goth, of course, is the one that has all the disturbing flashbacks that give us insight inot the building’s history. Of course, the goth is also first to have the hallucinations that let us know that the building is pretty deeply haunted. Fifty billion snakes on a floor have a way of doing that.

And, as we learn, the hospital has a really fearsome history. It was open for less than a year when the patients killed everybody in the building. Themselves included. And, as is standard for a haunted house movie, Weird Things ™ start to happen. Doors shutting of their own accord, mysterious hallucinations (as I described before), maggots appear in the food, and plenty else. Better still, it spent more than a little time as the house of some truly vicious prostitutes.

Let’s be honest, folks…”Demon Slayer” is an updated “Amityville Horror”, only set on another coast and tied vaguely into the Mexican holiday of the Day of the Dead. It adds nothing to the genre, only replacing our Amityville family with pot-smoking sex fiends who couldn’t string a proper sentence together without a grammar textbook and three tries. “Demon Slayer” is a tired retread of a film we’ve all seen before, and it’s really rather sad. Are we so jaded, horror buffs, that no one can come up with just ONE ORIGINAL IDEA?

Even worse, it steals a classic scene from George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead.” And this is a horrible crime.

I’m digressing a bit…there are some originals out there. Some truly visionary pieces that owe little or nothing to anyone or anything before it do exist.

This is not one of them.

The special features menu is a bit more robust, with audio options, filmographies, an original trailer, and closed captioning. No deleted scenes, but this doesn’t surprise me. They probably needed all the film they could get to fill in their runtime. Spanish-only subtitles are included, no surprise given the subject matter. A trailer gallery is also included, with trailers for “Treasure Hunt”, “Cheerleader Massacre,” and “Quicksand.”

All in all, “Demon Slayer” is a terribly familiar film, and therefore, you don’t really need to get your hands on it.

You’ve already seen it.

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