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Cinematic universes got really fucking popular recently and have only slightly died down since the peak a few years ago. Before that, it was little stuff like spin-offs, fan service crossovers, and artist driven connections/easter eggs. Then suddenly, every action blockbuster wants to ignite four to nine other movies to accompany them. Initially, I welcomed the early versions, for the most part; they were worth it for the novelty alone despite some duds. On paper, the idea of a shared fictional world is something I can get behind.  As a kid, I was a fan of the Red Sonja flick, read superhero comics, and on the TV front, Xena will forever be the better antagonist in her respected universe. However, after Disney's MCU success, a grip of BIG studios (including Disney) announced new connected universes based around existing IPs. Despite the unwarranted enthusiasm at the time, none of these would arise outside of a couple of false starts. In fact, after a few mangled projects forcefully grafted with lead-ins and name dropping (except Dracula Untold, I kind of liked that one--fight me), it became clear they didn't really want to have a spider-web of unique stories; they just wanted to sell five or six movies at a time. It was a disappointment at worst and tedious at best. Luckily (and it's often forgotten), Hollywood isn't the only player in the game, and as always, you can look to less mainstream sources for what you're missing--in this case, a chance at an interlocking series of narratives. For example, the Mycho Universe and its inaugural crossover Slasher House (2012).
Red (Eleanor James) wakes up in what looks like a run-down prison cell with no memory of who she is or how she got there. Confused and wearing only lipstick, she wanders around a bit until a cache opens up with some clothes. After getting dressed, she leaves the open cell, hoping to find a way out or understand what happened. She soon meets the awkward but helpful Nathan (Adam Dillon), and our crimson protagonist learns she has been tossed into a modern dungeon full of murderous specimens. Accompanying the two are an assortment of legendary "slashers," and the questions about their shared captivity start to stack. Answers as to why she is there won't come cheap, neither will an escape.
A lot is going on in Slasher House, and not just because there are four plus bad guys crammed into an abandoned asylum. Infused into the horror tribute is a spice-cabinet of several genres with a sprinkling of LSD and Batman Forever. It's not a movie for purists of any type. There are some creepy moments and some more vital development, but the film isn't above playing camp generously at appropriate times. The repetition and predictability aren't avoided along the way, but the ingredients share a tint of trademark insanity that seems to incorporate just about anything. It employs an intentional unrealistic tone and video game-style setups. The whole adventure takes place in a single location, and the plot makes it essentially a pulp fantasy dungeon, with RPG-style event triggers. 
A much larger world is alluded to though there are just a few scenes outside of a single asylum's walls.
The film comes across as a jumping-off point, not because it is unfinished, but because it's bursting like a spider-sack with natural room to grow. More accurately, it feels as though a handful of adventures preceding this would be an all-star showdown, only they haven't been made yet. Every character in the movie is endowed with backstory, whether we hear it all or not. It is as if somewhere in a notebook or just in someone's brain, they have already lived out a rise, fall, and in-between exploits. Subplots and character development are handed out by way of flashback, often slower than the rest of the film. They are a bit of a mixed bag but never stick around long enough to be a problem. The rest of the movie is also over-caffeinated, so any downtime is made up for in other places.
 Overall, storytelling takes as much from superhero comics as it does horror. An apparent influence is common throughout but between a wide range and unique hyperactive blending style, the introduction to the Mycho universe is a living, breathing creature all its own.
Slasher House is the first full-length feature in the Mycho Productions shared universe headed by writer/director MJ Dixon. An independently published comic line joins the series, and there are plans for other mediums and merchandise. Following the movie's release, there have been almost ten (I think, SH 3 being ten when it comes out) follow-ups spreading across a shared fictional timeline. This includes Slasher House 2 and the spin-offs it has already spawned.
It would be a shame not to take a look at the rogue's gallery the film introduces, many of which have since had features of their own.
Among the "Slashers" we have:
Cleaver: a sweaty take on your average killer clown. I guess there had to be one, and in all fairness, the sheer greasy and almost feral presence gives it an edge over the majority of cinema's murderous weirdos in greasepaint. For genuine horror content in this flick, Cleaver is your guy. Following this somewhat quick debut, he appears in his own films Cleaver: Rise of the Killer Clown (2015) and Cleavers: Killer Clowns (2019). Here he is played by Andrew M. Greenwood.
Thorn: Thorn and his skull-mask amalgamate the icons in hulking, unstoppable stabbers and toss in some early 2000s supervillain for that extra shine. Think Jason and Doom 2099 had a metal-head baby with Micheal Myers backstory from the 4,5 and 6. In fact, if you ever wanted a continuation of those themes, Thorn's standalone films (Legacy of Thorn, Mask of Thorn) might have a passionate, low-budget way to scratch that itch. Before Slasher House, the Thorn character appeared in a self-titled short, although I don't know if that is canon. Brought to life in this case by actor Alex Grimshaw.
Nathan Robbins/The Hollower: Nathan is a helpful dude with glasses.
The Hollower is a killer goblin spirit… I think. Explaining anything else would be a spoiler. Either way, you can catch them both in the prequel Hollower (2016).
Charlie Corben: Corben Spends (Wellington Grosvenor) most of the movie talking shit and playing mind games from behind bars. He looks like a tow-truck driver, speaks like a mystic farmer's almanac, and has a thing for removing people's brains. 
It's hard not to bring up the film's technical qualities without bringing up the apparent genre spirit and scrappy, dedicated motivations. With a budget of about $7,000, the movie's scope could get lost in ambition, but Mycho productions manage a consistent style that incorporates most limitations into an imaginative soup. 
A policy of recoloring everything green-red marries the Matrix sequels and segments of Natural 
Born Killers into a low-budget graphic novel. While the near-night vision look is a common aesthetic choice, it functions here to pair all the stand-out elements without clashing. The special effects run from great old-school practical work to Solo cups and paper mache’ in the same nature as the eclectic writing. Some of the more straightforward moments have a very potent slimy layer that sells a neo-grindhouse motif. Just as quickly, however, a monster can pop out that looks like it was made by someone’s cool grandma from household items on Halloween. Where it might lose some people is the Hollower, as he has a bridge-troll in a school play type vibe. The performance behind it is strong, but it pulled a giggle out of me when he creeped out into the frame. This broad range of techniques could have made the film a lot more disjointed than the final product we end up with. The overarching style absorbs everything into a coherent picture. The whole of the project is above verisimilitude, putting stock in its own reality. Costuming is one of my favorite aspects (and not just because of Red's lack of wardrobe in the beginning). All style choices are loud amalgamations of tropes that could have been tailor-made to become action figures.  Some of the characters even get into anime-like extremes, including keeping a similar pose throughout the film for that perfect angle and shadow. Each outfit speaks to its wearers in canon stomping ground, sometimes perfectly balancing ham and grit.
Slasher House is a shotgun blast of original ideas and tributes that will probably satisfy as many late 90s Batman fans as horror regulars. The flurry of concepts is confined to a small taste that promises a vast outside world of fan tributes and genre love. Whatever the resources involved, the finished product paints a psychedelic noir atmosphere with dark ink. I dig it, and my patronage has been rewarded (in most cases) with each new in-universe release. Even if you disagree about this entry-level piece, I recommend checking out some of the standalone releases as they tell their own stories in differing ways. Hollywood could take a few notes about cinematic universes, but let's just let them tire themselves out on that one-- it's probably better for everyone.
1h 32min | 2012
Director: Mj Dixon
Writer: Mj Dixon


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