This stylish, shallow attack on reality TV squanders its potential

L.A. Slasher is a movie that tries to tap into a cultural sentiment that we are now so far removed from that its whole premise seems pointless. The film presents itself as a “biting social satire” of reality TV and L.A. culture, but never quite makes it there. Instead, it’s content to be fulfillment for a wish that I don’t think anyone ever actually made. The titular slasher, and the film itself, are obsessed with the idea that reality TV stars are “famous for being famous;” vapid, talentless hedonists and bimbos who don’t deserve their wealth or the attention they get. This is the film’s conceit, and it doesn’t go much past that, except for a few spurious grasps. The movie hammers home what passes for its theme at every possible moment, and it’s honestly bizarre at how gleefully every aspect of the movie says the exact same thing: that it’s totally awesome for reality TV stars to be murdered. The film has so many elements going on that should work really well, and the whole reality TV-star murder conceit should serve as a hilarious jumping-off point for what could have been a wild ride. But L.A. Slasher can’t move past the fact that it really, really hates Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, and in doing so does a disservice to itself and us, the audience.

L.A. Slasher establishes its premise and your expectation of a funny, stylish takedown of celebrity life in its awesome opener. In an animated sequence with a sort of 80’s comic-book style, the movie introduces all the major characters: a cast of Hollywood’s corrupt and creatively bankrupt, all stalked by our pal the Slasher. The sequence is funny, gets you pumped to see the stacked cast in action, and the funky synth-pop theme song gets you grinning. Of course I want to see Dave Bautista and Danny Trejo! Frank Collison gets some screen time? Hell yeah! Brooke Hogan’s in this movie? What the fuck? You’re strapping yourself in for a ride that never comes, though, because the movie never transcends what it lays out in the opening sequence, and none of the actors get to play around with this material.

The whole premise of L.A. Slasher is that a guy in a white suit and Michael Myers mask livestreams himself kidnapping and torturing not-even-thinly-veiled representations of the mid-2000’s reality show craze, and the whole world loves him for it. Seriously. In horror movies, and especially slashers, we’re used to suspending our disbelief, but L.A. Slasher abuses that trust. In a world where NSA mass surveillance programs are common knowledge, it’s just impossible to buy into the movie’s idea that the Slasher is literally tweeting about the people he is hunting and posting videos of him torturing them without anyone catching him. He has a picture of him in his costume online and walks around L.A. in it and no one even points out, “Hey, it’s that Slasher guy.” No one even tells him to stop! The movie tells you that the whole online world is on the Slasher’s side. The movie takes lots of time to show you that people are cheering on the Slasher’s campaign, and wants you to think that America is just waiting for someone to cull the herd of Hollywood’s young and famous. The whole point is labored so breathlessly you just get tired. I feel like even if you did hate reality TV, after watching L.A. Slasher, you’ll just ask yourself why you take the time to bother. The film doesn’t even take the time to explain to you why you should hate these people; it just sort of assumes you should. The few scenes where we see “The Heiress,” “The Socialite,” and “The Stripper” act normally, none of them do anything noticeable besides be a little stupid. In fact, there is barely any detectable conflict in this film; the protagonist is ostensibly young, innocent “The Actress,” played by Mischa Barton, has an arc in only a grudging way; the movie barely takes note of it and sort of throws it in at the beginning and end. The movie literally shows you how she changes by two tweets she sends. It’s just silly, because a movie with this setup could have gone really far with this premise; however, it never takes the time to make you care about why the Slasher goes about his awful work or why these people deserve to be hacked up, stabbed and meat-hooked.

The fact that L.A. Slasher’s point is beaten to death is a real drag, because the film fails to use the elements in it that could have worked incredibly well. The interplay between Dave Bautista’s and Danny Trejo’s drug dealer characters is so funny that I want a movie with just these two characters more than I want L.A. Slasher. Seriously, keep giving Bautista more work, Hollywood. He’s got it. Unfortunately, looking at the movie as a whole, Trejo and Bautista’s characters are involved in the plot in only an infinitesimal way, aren’t given any identifiable arc, and are rudely shunted out of the movie at the last minute. The editing choices range from interesting to nonsensical. Sometimes, the movie does a great job at presenting the sleazy, wealthy L.A. nightlife, and at other times, places jump cuts in scenes that throw off the pace completely (look for an early scene of a Slasher victim walking in the Hollywood hills for an example).

Ultimately, the problem with L.A. Slasher is that it puts all its eggs in its own thematic basket. The problem is, who cares about reality TV any more? The film hopes so fervently that the audience will buy completely into its conceit that it doesn’t give you any alternative. The Slasher has no foil, and no one stands up to his spree. The film goads him on, serving as an excuse to torture look-alikes of D-listers from ten years ago. The thing is, though, did anyone really think Paris Hilton should die, or that the Teen Moms should be drowned in a pool? Does anyone really think that these people are drains on society*? Even if they did, L.A. Slasher fails to establish why anyone should think so, and therefore fails to take a truly satirical look at the issues surrounding American celebrity. It plays more like a strange neckbeard murder dream from 2005 set to film, which is a damn shame.

*When you think about it, reality TV has done a lot of good lately–a lot of people wouldn’t be as aware of transgender issues without the cultural spotlight Keeping Up With the Kardashians was able to provide for Caitlyn Jenner.