Once the glossy, music video veneer is stripped away, all that remains is an 85-minute hate tweet.
In Hollywood, anyone can be a star. A random spot-check of TV listings will reveal numerous entries of reality TV shows. What defines “reality” is up for debate, but the M.O. of these shows is the same: point cameras at people willing to make spectacles of themselves and broadcast those spectacles into millions of homes, then watch as the shiniest of those spectacles become famous. Ten minutes into those fifteen minutes of fame, the public forgets what the fuss was in the first place, which marks these shiny spectacles as being famous for, well, being famous.
On the internet, anyone is a critic. Facebook timelines, comments sections, and Twitter feeds are supersaturated with opinions about Hollywood, and thanks to the anonymity the internet provides, those opinions can get downright nasty. The seedier side of the internet is a breeding ground for spreading sex tape footage, hacked selfies, and wardrobe malfunctions like glittery pandemics.
Still, just as the internet needs Hollywood to provide an endless supply of attention-craving narcissists to feed it, Hollywood needs the internet for its perpetual (and free) promotion of said narcissists. This wickedly dysfunctional relationship is at the core of director Martin Owen’s L.A. Slasher.
The film, penned by Owen and four others, tells the tale of a criminal who goes by the self-appointed name “The L.A. Slasher” (voiced by Andy Dick). The Slasher, donned in a white suit and wearing a mask that looks like a face with all its features smoothed down to nothing, is abducting members of the famous-for-being-famous set. As these serial events continue, the Slasher goes from villain to hero in the eyes of the public; the general consensus, as captured by an eager TV news reporter (Abigail Wright) is that the world is better off without these reality-show-hacks, whose fame was achieved not by hard work or even talent, but simply by being famous.
L.A. Slasher wants to be one of those smart, edgy social satires like Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler. In fact, there’s a quote from Nightcrawler that is actually quite damning of L.A. Slasher. In Nightcrawler, Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) says, “My motto is if you want to win the lottery you’ve got to make money to get a ticket.” This is what Owen and almost everyone else involved in his picture fail to understand: you have to do the work to get the reward. Even something as luck-driven as the lottery requires some degree of effort to get to that place. Owen never does the work in this film, but he wants the reward. The net result is not a winning ticket, but instead video hate-mail—a film that feels like it was built upon (and fueled by) the comments sections of the internet’s most notorious posts.
Good seeds are there. His victimized characters, all reality show types, are nameless and only identified by their primary characteristic. There is The Stripper (Marissa Lauren), The Teen Mom (Tori Black), The Socialite (Korrina Rico), The Heiress (Elizabeth Morris), The Actress (Mischa Barton), and so on. It isn’t necessarily original (think of the theme song to Gilligan’s Island), but it’s terribly fitting. These characters aren’t supposed to be actual people; they are only supposed to represent the types of people who populate the reality worlds.
That said, the good seeds are washed away by Owen’s inability to develop clever caricatures out of these folks. Instead, he falls back on generating lazy stereotypes, giving his characters nothing to do but take selfies and take to Twitter, both of which would be fine if they photographed or tweeted anything worth paying attention to. Also not worth paying attention is the traditional (read: not social) media. Abigail Wright’s The Reporter is mostly inert, but it’s William Nicol’s CBuzz Host (think TMZ jacked on stimulants) who takes the prize, with bro-dude dialogue and mannerisms that become insufferable before his hair gel dries.
With absolutely no protagonist to care about (including the anti-hero Drug Dealers played by Danny Trejo and Dave Bautista, whose characters are entirely unnecessary and unable to provide the comic relief they were clearly created to provide), all that remains is the villain. All that remains is The Slasher.
Again Owen fails to make the money to buy the lottery ticket. Despite supposedly being motivated by the reality show culture, there are no layers to The Slasher. There is no wondering what makes The Slasher tick. The Slasher, like the other nameless characters in this film, is painted with broad, bland strokes (white suit, creepy mask, obsession with fame), only he’s injected with a baseless hate for a specific celebrity type that feels like Angry Twitter started a GoFundMe campaign to make revenge porn. It’s Bad Guy 101 at its worst: a villain who doesn’t have something weighty to say, only something lengthy.
Owen’s greatest sin, though, is being so enamored with his own direction that he routinely sacrifices narrative flow for the sake of a cool shot or an extended music video-style scene where nothing happens but loud music and dancing. It’s nothing more than artistic preening, saved only by Chase Bowman’s superb cinematography.
L.A. Slasher is quite ironic, really. Owen targets those who have done nothing to gain their fame, but he does so by doing as little as possible. The film isn’t satire; it’s insult disguised as intellect, and once the glossy, music video veneer is stripped away, all that remains is an 85-minute hate tweet.