This might have been inspired by A Nightmare on Elm Street, dealing as it does with a ghost who haunts a young man’s dreams, but actually what Slaughterhouse Rock desperately wants to be is An American Werewolf in London; it even has a scene in which the rather worse-for-wear recently-departed harangue our hero so that they can all move on into the next life.
Released in the UK as Hell Island, this is also notable for giving a 45-year-old Toni ‘Hey Mickey!’ Basil a late-period acting role, as well as including Playboy Playmate Hope Marie Carlton among its cast (yes, for obvious reasons); they both acquit themselves perfectly reasonably, if not distinctively, in a film which starts well enough but rather loses its way once it reaches its destination.
That destination being Alcatraz; Nicholas Celozzi’s college student Alex is having a series of terrible nightmares – including one which at one point levitates him above his bed in an effect which can only be described as “1988 in a nutshell” – which seem to centre around the ex-prison. When teacher Carolyn Harding (Denton), who already harbours an obsession with the occult, turns up at his shared house during an incident, she decides the only solution is to confront his demon then and there and Alex, along with his brother, two mates and a couple of girlfriends, borrow a fishing boat and make their way to the infamous island.
The first half-hour is actually rather good in a sub-Porky’s kind of way; the repartee between the students is mostly believable and Dimitri Logothetis even throws in some interesting directorial choices, showing a willingness to produce something half-decent on a trifling b-movie budget. We can only assume that time on the island was at a premium, because the latter hour sadly squanders a lot of the goodwill built up by this point.
That said, there are all sorts of pleasures still to be had, such as the sight of Ms Basil giving her best shape-throwing non-dancing during a rock-spell designed to separate Alex’s spirit from his body, and the soundtrack by Devo – while hardly enhancing any creepiness that might be found among the cheap prosthetics and dingy photography, is certainly one for ‘80s fans to savour. This might not be scary, and might not add up to a great deal of sense, but at least it’s entertaining.
It also comes in a brand new 4k transfer straight from the negative, so what thrills there are to be had now look better than they probably ever have. This set is a little extras light, but it’s a commendable Blu-ray issue that will have great appeal to fans of a certain kind of kitsch horror fun.
Special Features: Jim Harper interview / Trailer
SLAUGHTERHOUSE ROCK (aka HELL ISLAND, 1988) / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: DIMITRI LOGOTHETIS / SCREENPLAY: SANDRA WILLARD, NORA GOODMAN / STARRING: TONI BASIL, NICHOLAS CELOZZI, TOM REILLY, DONNA DENTON, HOPE MARIE CARLTON, TAMMY HYLER, STEVEN BRIAN SMITH / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW