Plot: Agent Stephen Broderick (Scott Glenn) is one of the most brilliant serial killer hunters to ever walks the halls of the FBI, but he has an unofficial partner who helps him nab these dangerous criminals. His preteen son Jesse (Jesse Cameron-Glickenhaus) also has a mind for solving crimes and thanks to his expertise in computers, he is able to find clues no one else could even imagine. A recent case has perplexed Broderick, but even with some potential new evidence unearthed by Jesse, the wrong man is executed and the real killer remains at large. Now Broderick starts to follow the clues once again and thanks to Jesse’s computer research, new leads come in and the hunt is on, though it will be an uphill battle. Can Broderick prove the wrong man was executed for the killings and bring the real murderer to justice, or will this criminal be too elusive, even for this skilled father & son squad?
Entertainment Value: This movie feels like an attempt to capture some of the serial killer thriller texture from The Silence of the Lambs, but Slaughter of the Innocents instead comes across like an oddly unhinged, barely anchored to reality curio that takes a number of just plain strange turns. The tone is dead serious, even dark at times, but the narrative is wildly out of control at times and the plot holes are so consistent, you just have to embrace them as part of the experience. I mean, a father and son serial killer hunting team is an offbeat premise, especially when it is Scott Glenn as a brilliant agent and the son of the film’s director, who comes off like he’d be the kid in a 90s breakfast cereal commercial. The scenes with the kid are cringe inducing, but pack a lot of humor and entertainment, as the idea of this kid traveling the nation to chase a serial killer is just outrageous. Throw in a random Nazi with a flimsy house and I kid you not, Noah’s Ark, and man, this is a wild ride. As ridiculous as the movie can be, it is also quite dark in other stretches, so it is an uneven experience, but I think the tonal shifts just make for an even stranger overall picture. I can’t imagine those after a serious, sincere thriller will be dazzled here, given how outlandish the movie is sometimes, but in terms of general entertainment, Slaughter of the Innocents delivers.
The cast here has some well known talents involved and for the most part, they try to make the material work. This leads to some sincere performances in humorous situations, which I think can be hilarious, but others might just groan or wonder what the hell happened here. Scott Glenn has the lead here and while there are some moments when it seems like maybe he plays into how odd the narrative is, for the most part this is a serious effort. And Glenn does bring some weight to the role, which the movie benefits from and he makes things better than they might have otherwise been. I think his straight ahead performance also makes the more surreal elements even more surreal, since the contrast is so evident. I have no idea how he kept a straight face in some scenes, but Glenn is terrific here. James Glickenhaus’ son is Glenn’s costar and while he clearly tries, his performance is laced with unintentional humor and he isn’t able to convince us whatsoever. Not an entirely bad thing, since he does add some laughs and he’s far from the only strange element of this one. The cast also includes Kevin Sorbo, Linden Ashby, and Sheila Tousey.
The Disc: Synapse Films released this one on Blu-ray and the movie looks great, very clean and sharp overall. I’ve only seen the movie one other time and compared to that DVD version, this new high definition treatment is a sizable improvement. The print looks to be in good shape and detail is rock solid, while colors are natural and contrast is smooth and consistent. A new set of interviews with makeup effects designer Gabe Bartalos and director of photography Mark Irwin start us off, while director James Glickenhaus’ audio commentary is also included, which should please fans who missed it on an earlier release. The extras also include archival interviews, alternate assault sequence (swaps a generic soldier for the Nazi), deleted scenes, EPK kit elements, and some of the film’s trailers.