The Pitch: Slayer’s ambitious music videos for 2015’s Repentless album told the three-part narrative of a former neo-Nazi out for redemption against his former allegiances. Set to the three singles from the LP, director BJ McDonnell intersperses performance clips of the band against brutally violent fight sequences in which the protagonist impales, decapitates, and bloodies his enemies with a variety of weapons. It’s a gory spectacle befitting of Slayer’s music and lyrical imagery, and McDonnell’s cinematography transcends the budget constraints of a music video. It’s convincingly gruesome stuff, on par with a Hollywood production.
With Slayer currently in the midst of the final leg of their farewell tour, it’s only fitting that McDonnell finish the story in the music videos, which concluded on a suggestive open-ended moment. Slayer: The Repentless Killogy adds a second chapter to the music video narrative, filmed separately but with many of the same actors (Jason Trost, Danny Trejo, etc.) who appeared in the original videos along with some new faces, including metalhead actress Jessica Pimentel (Orange Is the New Black).
McDonnell seamlessly connects the videos with new footage, as the protagonist seeks revenge on the Nazis that wronged him. And McDonnell’s short film is only half of the package. The narrative is followed by an entire concert film, Live at The Forum in Inglewood, CA, which documents Slayer’s 2015 performance on their home turf, shot by veteran live-music cinematographer Wayne Isham. McDonnell connects his short film and the concert footage with a savvy storytelling device, with Slayer getting to show off their acting chops in the process.
Slayer Speaks: The film opens with an interview between Slayer and McDonnell backstage at The Forum concert. When McDonnell asks about the highlight of the Repentless album cycle, singer Tom Araya says that it was the music videos that made the album particularly special. Slayer had been shooting videos for many years, but Araya says that “nobody knew about them,” with guitarist Kerry King remarking that McDonnell’s “vision” finally brought the proper visual accompaniment to the band’s music. As the interview concludes, the band leave the green room only to find a corpse at their feet, signaling the beginning of the Killogy film.
Spill the Blood: Given the ostensibly limited budget, McDonnelldoes an impressive job crafting realistic, practical gore effects that are as entertaining as they are disgusting. The straightforward revenge plot lends itself to a stream of violence as the protagonist gradually takes out his enemies one by one — or piece by piece, rather. One unfortunate guy gets an axe to the head, which splits in two like a coconut, his brains oozing out. Another guy gets his heart ripped out Temple of Doom style, and another particularly creative decapitation involves a wire-rope tow pulley, a Nazi, and a tree trunk. Sure, it’s mindless blood and guts, but it’s a Slayer movie, after all.
The plot eventually takes the characters to the actual Slayer show at The Forum during the closing song, “Angel of Death” (which McDonnell films with his own cameras separate from Isham’s footage). Without spoiling the twist ending, we’re taken back to the very first shot of Slayer walking out of their green room as the plot deftly connects itself with the band that serves as its central theme and inspiration.
The Concert: After the credits roll for McDonnell’s short film, the Live at The Forum footage immediately starts. Though a separate experience and entity than McDonnell’s short film, watching a Slayer concert is a pretty good way to follow-up a half-hour of murderous carnage. The Forum was utterly packed, and unlike with Isham’s recent work on Metallica’s S&M2, he didn’t have the benefit of a stage designed with cinema in mind. His footage is far more raw here, shot with the spatial constraints of a wild audience bearing down on the cameras.
The editing is frenetic, in tempo with Slayer’s thrashing speed as they run through a career-spanning setlist and a few songs from Repentless. The strobes from the stage lighting do get tiresome and there’s occasionally a lack of variation in the shots, but Isham works with what he’s given, portraying the evening as it happened. The sound mix isn’t as dynamic as say, the Rick Rubin-produced Decade of Aggression live recordings, but it’s a strong representation of what Slayer sounds like with guitarist Gary Holt and drummer Paul Bostaph in the lineup.
The Verdict: There’s a lot to love about Killogy if you’re a Slayer fan. McDonnell’s short film is the perfect visual interpretation of Slayer’s music and the sinister imagery it portrays. The practical effects and gore are also sure to please fans of ’80s horror cinema, and the action sequences and storytelling defy the project’s limited budget and resources. The film is certainly worthy of a legendary metal band like Slayer. The inclusion of Live at the Forum makes the package even sweeter, documenting the band’s latter era as they approach the end of their touring career. Thanks to McDonnell and Isham, the band finally has the proper visual supplement they deserve.
Slayer’s The Repentless Killogy screened for one night only on November 6th in theaters nationwide. It is available on Blu-ray beginning November 8th.