dontThe feature film debut from Slasher Studios looked incredibly promising, but was ultimately a widely inconsistent final product.  From the minds behind the award winning short TEDDY, and the other successful short films POPULARITY KILLER, and BLOOD BROTHERS; it was looking as if DON’T GO TO THE REUNION was going to cultivate their talents and passion into a solid feature debut.  Admittedly, it is impressive that the film was shot in only twelve days on a budget of $18,000.  However, a good film does not a budget make, and this film struggled in areas that couldn’t be fixed by all the money in the world. While the folks behind Slasher Studios created a film dripping with passion and love for the slasher genre, it just missed the mark. The passion and love of the slasher genre is definitely apparent throughout the film, and it’s inspiring to see people making movies who truly love what they’re doing.  For that, Slasher Studios has earned to be commended and congratulated on their first feature

The story follows Scott Rantzen, an awkward kid with a passion for horror who finds himself at the brute end of the torment of his high school’s popular crowd.  When queen bee Erica Carpenter (Stephanie Leigh Rose) asks him out on a date that appears to be more than a cruel joke, Scott finds himself in the typical high-school conundrum of “my life is over.”  Fast forward ten years later and the popular gang is gearing up for their class reunion.  As the title boasts, these popular kids are in for more than what they bargained for, as someone is hacking them up one by one. If you think this sounds a lot like SLAUGHTER HIGH, it’s because it is the exact same premise of SLAUGHTER HIGH without the chemical burn and visible man butthole in the first ten minutes. The horror loving character makes laundry list mentions of the slasher films DON’T GO TO THE REUNION is paying homage to, but it feels a little less like homage and more like blatant copying.  It can only be assumed that the studio was intending to write a love letter to the slasher genre, but it feels as though the fell on the wrong side of the homage/copying line.  Simply making mention of what you’re copying doesn’t immediately make it homage. The goal is to take what inspires you and put your own twist on it, not just replicate what came before.

The acting chops of the cast are all over the place.  Some of the characters give performances that resemble an after-school performance of a high school play, and others are truly convincing from the first frame until the last.  Stephanie Leigh Rose is by far the strongest player as Erica but Matty Dorschner’s performance as Brandon beautifully contrasts from all of the bold “type-A” personalities of the rest of the ensemble.  The strongest acting attribute of the film (which may sound a bit silly) is by far the screams and death sequences.  The acting performances between the death scenes may be a little tough to sit through, but all of the cast members die exquisitely and deliver some incredible screams.  Stephanie Leigh Rose has an INCREDIBLE scream that should immediately be put to more use.

The camera work reflects a production company that is still perfecting their craft, but manages to show amazing potential.  There were incredibly long sequences that were merely two-shot scenes and made the film a bit uninteresting to watch at times, but when Slasher Studios were on the mark, they hit the jackpot.  The costuming for the “high school” scenes could have used some work (considering a large number of the actors couldn’t pass as high school students even for a blind audience) but the feel for the reunion was right on point. Without a shadow of the doubt, the strongest technical element is the score.  It’s creepy without ever sounding campy and has the technotronic 80s feel of old slasher films without ever sounding like a parody.  But if I had to hear the stock “DUN!” sound effect one more time, I was going to flip my laptop tray.  Some of the lines are a little wonky, but it can be assumed that this was another way for the screenwriter to pay homage to the cheesy dialogue of low-budget 80s slasher films.  Unfortunately, the delivery doesn’t follow up with the intent and it just sounds off. Not to mention, it’s understandable to name your characters after iconic names in horror…but come on. Last names like “Thompson” and “Carpenter” aren’t as obvious, but “Kaufman,” “Craven,” and “Wynorski” are pushing it just a little. That’s not to say it’s not enjoyed to see the shout out to our horror idols, it’s just that it’s been done numerous times before. The amount of “homage” in this film gets a little bit tiresome. We get it, you really, REALLY like slasher movies. The “twist” at the end was a tiny-bit predictable, but it was satisfying no-less. The reveal was done very nicely, and it’s the strongest part of the entire story.  Slasher Studios has clearly done their homework, and it shows with their ending.

Ultimately, DON’T GO TO THE REUNION is a decent freshman effort from Slasher Studios, but could use some fine tuning.  If anything, DON’T GO TO THE REUNION shows the huge amount of potential the production company possesses for future projects.  Now that they’ve gotten their first feature out of the way, it’s time to perfect their style and come back with something of an even higher caliber.

DON’T GO TO THE REUNION hits DVD/Bluray on August 22nd via Slasher Studios.

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