Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Slasher: Flesh & Blood, on Shudder

It is sort of like And Then There Were None, but everyone is dysfunctional family. Of course, the servants are keenly aware they aren’t, even though they secretly might be. Family game night is a miserable, dog-eat-dog tradition during Galloway family reunions, but this one will be lethal. At least the survivor stands to inherit a huge chunk of change in writer-creator Aaron Martin’s Slasher: Flesh & Blood, directed by Adam MacDonald, which premieres Thursday on Shudder.

Spencer Galloway always took sadistic delight pitting his family against each other. He told them it helped them develop the killer instinct necessary to succeed him as head of the family’s financial empire. However, this time the stakes are for all the marbles, but he won’t be around to enjoy the drama. Given a terminal diagnosis, Galloway planned to have his assisted suicide specialist administer his final exit and then preside over his particularly brutal games. Any family member who declines to play, regardless of the circumstances, inherits nothing.

That was the plan, but a psycho-slasher dressed in a mask and 19
th Century coat and tails complicates everything. Suddenly, each eliminated player also gets eliminated from life. There will also be a few surprise players: a literal prodigal will return and the housekeeper’s daughter gets her chance for recognition (and revenge).

The remote island setting and the Agatha Christie-like one-by-one plot structure still work pretty well in
Flesh & Blood, but it lacks the suspenseful crackle & pop of the thematically similar (but under-appreciated) Harper’s Island. Also, F&B has a few kill scenes that are so disturbingly graphic, they would not be out of place in the Hostel franchise.

On the other hand,
F&B features genre legend David Cronenberg portraying the nasty patriarch, Spencer Galloway, who will often be seen in uncomfortably revealing flashbacks. There is a drily manipulative dimension to his gamesmanship that is definitely chilling. Sydney Meyer and Paula Brancati are both appealingly energetic as potential “final women” survivors, Liv, the servant’s daughter and Christy Martin, the disgusted sister-in-law. Unfortunately, only Sabrina Grdevich really brings the flamboyant villainy as the elitist grown daughter, Florence.

Slasher franchise title certainly is no lie. We must be getting old, because it seems like F&B would be a lot more fun if it were a little less violent. Nevertheless, it smartly capitalizes on the isolated island setting and the suitably creepy family mansion. (Technically though, the premise is a bit faulty. Any legal document involving illegal terms is not enforceable. We’re no lawyers, but we’re pretty sure forcing people to hang from ropes over potentially lethal metal spikes violates some sort of law. You should definitely consult an attorney should you ever find yourself in a similar position.)

Be that as it may, based on the first four episodes provided to the media (out of eight), Martin and MacDonald (who helmed the features
Pyewacket and Backcountry) do a nice job juggling the shifting suspicions and allegiances. Recommended for fans of the Slasher series and genre, the stand-alone season of Slasher: Flesh & Blood starts streaming Thursday (8/12) on Shudder.