California is home to a great many personalities in all cities, all along the coast and inland. If you think only the real personalities of California reside in Los Angeles, John Landis is about to prove you wrong. Landis, director of such great comedic classics as “The Blues Brothers” and “National Lampoon’s Animal House”, has made “Slasher”, a high-spirited documentary profiling Michael Bennett, a man whose career is something you might not have thought of, but people like him are out there.
Bennett is a “slasher”, basically someone who is quick to empty a used-car lot. You want a sale that involves cars that are unfit to be sold, but you want to get them out anyway? Bennett’s your man. And this documentary shows him on one such quest, heading from his home in Huntington Beach, California to Memphis, Tennessee, where Chuck Hutton Toyota is located, right off the end of one of the runways of Memphis International Airport, where Fed Ex planes fly over all the time.
The slasher arrives in Tennessee, tired, but ready to get going on this new mission, to empty out as much of the used car lot as possible at Chuck Hutton. First, the preparations are underway as Bennett briefs the employees about what is going to take place, and oversees the hiring of pretty hostesses to attract more customers. What’s even more fascinating than this is the rate at which he will go to bring in customers. This Slasher Sale will undoubtedly be seen by some as unorthodox, but he’s ready to do what’s necessary to bring people in. As noted early on, when people get excited about a good sale, they let their guard down. So, how about an $88 car? Mind you, these aren’t new model Toyota Carollas by any means. Pop the hood and you’re lucky if the engine looks halfway decent. Yet, some of these cars do work, and perhaps they’re even on their last breath. Also, anyone who buys these are taking a big risk in doing so because there’s no warranty attached at all.
We watch Bennett at work, part carnival barker, mustering up enough enthusiasm and energy to get the job done. With a DJ on hand with him, as well as what are called “mercenary salesmen” who have joined Bennett on this job, he goes to work, greeting potential buyers, and telling others that when they’ve found the car they want, honk the horn and he’ll be there to see if he’s able to slash the price, hence “slasher”. The $88 car hook is merely that, a hook. There’s a very limited number of cars that’ll end up being $88, perhaps just one or two per day in this 3-day sale, but Bennett is hoping that most people won’t drift off when those vehicles are gone. Unfortunately, they do drift away and it’s not good for Bennett, nor for this Toyota dealership.
What’s amazing about Bennett is how he manages to keep this up, even when he confesses in private that he’s already getting tired of this. It’s hard for him to leave his wife and kids for these jobs, and with that, as well as admirably extensive footage of him at work, it shows a well-rounded portrait of a man who may not be doing the right thing with some of the con work that goes into this, but when it all comes down to it, we all have to make a living somehow.
John Landis, who’s made quite a turn away from Hollywood, makes this a real treat, inserting good soul songs to complement the situations that Bennett finds himself in, and providing a good time for all who are interested enough in the life of a “Slasher” who’s just trying to make enough of a good living, even when the living doesn’t seem so good in the eyes of others.