20 July 2010


United States – 1989
Director – James Shyman
Rentertainment, 1990, VHS
Run Time – too long

God bless anything shot on video and I specifically mean video tape. It betrays a certain confidence in the format that is absent from later incarnations of enthusiast cinema. Back then, clever titles and box art were all a buyer had to go on, and that is exactly what brings us to Slashdance, a film so quintessentially box-art reliant that it brings to mind the “I Will Dance on Your Grave” series from Eden Entertainment. Each of which was a terrible homemade horror film packaged under lurid cover art and a series title intended to conjure Meir Zarchi’s rugged I Spit on Your Grave.* These days the internet makes it possible to instantly exchange information on the contents and quality of a film and thus avoid the crushing disappointment that typified such deceptively packaged stuff as Slashdance and I Will Dance On Your Grave: Cannibal Hookers. Now we use the web to talk about how “cool” shitty it is, and want it all the more.

Unfortunately that level of communication does not grace Slashdance itself which is barely held together by vaguely cross referencing dialogue and a cast of well built women who thrash and wobble their way around a tiny collapsing theater stage in New York. Don’t get me wrong, there is lots of talking, everyone is always talking, but they never really put a consistent narrative dialogue together, there is no “communication”.

Ironically one of the temptations of very-low budget film-making is to compensate for a lack of expansive physical atmosphere, locations or even violence and nudity, with extra dialogue. But convincing, realistic dialogue is really hard to write, and all that verbal padding inevitably ends up strained and innocuous, and often delivered in absurdly affected voices. The assumption seems to be that regular conversation is full of crude physical innuendoes rather than anything subtle or simple. In trying to make up for a lack of anything else, Slashdance has overstocked its shelves with the cheapest but hardest to produce commodity. It literally took me three sit-downs to make it all the way through this film.

It is true, I have an affection for the 1980’s which belies my otherwise bellicose attitude toward fashionable retreads. Nevertheless, my attachment to that ultimately unremarkable decade remains firm. The film that I think captures the self absorbed essence of that era is Flashdance, for it bonds painful vanity, leg warmers and faux empowerment in a single profoundly shallow package. Slashdance also seamlessly combines several distinct elements into one convenient nugget. Boring and painful however, are significantly less iconic than Irene Cara’s “What A Feeling”. When you know you have a shitty product I guess you can’t be blamed for trying to recoup your losses by loading your box art with the very things with which you have utterly failed to imbue your movie. Forgive me if it makes me sad when I think of all the lost potential of that cover art and the inspirational namesake, my optimism sometimes forces me to suffer through any debasement.

*. A.K.A. Day of the Woman, 1978, The unofficial sequel, Savage Vengeance stars the actress from the original, and ironically was one of the films in Eden's I Will Dance On Your Grave series.

This review originally appeared in Paracinema Magazine #9, April 2010.

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