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Freestyle presents
The Rockville Slayer (2004)

"It seems your boy Timothy wasn't the only one that was out all night last night. There's been some awful wild Homecoming nights, but this is the wildest one I've seen yet. Oh, and that ain't all. Out there at Clairebrook, the insane asylum, they had a patient escape last night."
- Sheriff Duncan (Joe Estevez)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: November 30, 2005

Stars: Joe Estevez, Nicole Buehrer, Circus-Szalewski
Other Stars: Michael Kessler, Linnea Quigley, Robert Z'Dar, Bob Farster, Ellie Weingard, Richard Strobel, Mike Markoff, Amy Brown, Nikki Taylor Melton, Cameron Benzie, Karl Sundstrom
Director: Marc Selz

MPAA Rating: R for violence, sexuality and language
Run Time: 01h:31m:13s
Release Date: November 01, 2005
UPC: 602498844274
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- C+B-C- B-

DVD Review

Something's rotten in the small town of Rockville, and it includes dead teenagers, an escapee from an insane asylum, an aging scream queen and even a couple of hidden family secrets tossed into the mix. A quiet deputy (Circus-Szalewski) teams up with a cute detective (Nicole Buehrer) to track a knife-happy killer, and a shrieking lunatic (Amy Brown), a gimpy dad (Bob Farster) and a country sheriff (Joe Estevez) all figure prominently, but what about that creepy guy at the cemetery?

That's the premise of writer/director Marc Selz's The Rockville Slayer, a film that originally began as Unaware, but then underwent some substantial retooling and editing along the way. There are some red herrings and a bit of Linnea Quigley nudity as Selz stages some nice-looking sequences as part of a script that starts out more promising than it ends up.

The new and improved version is noticeably tighter, with the first two-thirds moving along at quick clip as Selz slowly doles out information, but he almost shoots himself in the foot as things build to appearances by two very familiar faces to horror fans (Robert Z'Dar and Linnea Quigley), whose names and pictures are featured prominently on the back cover. Their presence, or rather the lack thereof for most of the film, took me out of the moment waiting for them to inevitably show up. Quigley, as expected, doffs her duds briefly for a flashback sex scene late in the story, but after that plays against type with a character that is about as far removed from scream queen sexy as you can get. The towering Z'Dar is unlikely to ever play a kind, sweet soul, and here he moves into foul-mouthed Frank Booth territory, sadly not getting nearly enough screen time.

But temporarily disregarding the Quigley/Z'Dar factor for a moment, the rest of The Rockville Slayer is typical low-budget horror/thriller stuff, with acting quality that fluctuates from stiff to decent, sometimes from the same character, depending on the scene. But films like this are rarely demanding thespian affairs, so the occasional wooden line reads fall within acceptable, forgivable genre limits. Joe Estevez (Soultaker), looking and sounding more like big brother Martin Sheen more than ever, comes across as the most consistent actor in the bunch, managing to make his kindly recitations seem almost genuine.

I was a little disappointed in the way Selz resolved the story, but the oddly developing relationship of ballbusting Nicole Buehrer, whose character grew on me after a rough couple of early scenes, and nerdish deputy Circus-Szalewski played out fairly well overall. The salvageable strength here is the look and feel, or at least a portion of the look and feel of the film because it shows Selz capable of painting moody genre eye candy when called upon to do so, even under a very limited budget.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The backcover description is a little deceptive, as it refers to the transfer as a "16 x 9 widescreen presentation." Well it is widescreen, but in actuality it is a nonanamorphic 1.85:1 print. For a low-budget film, the transfer is rather strong more often than not, looking its best during daylight sequences. Color in those moments appear bright, with even, natural skintones. The only real negative comes during some of the night scenes, which tend to be a little on the muddy side, most evident during the big climax of the story.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Audio choices come in either Dolby 5.1 surround or 2.0 stereo. The 5.1 track provides clear dialogue throughout, and a few well-placed rear channel cues come into play, but overall the presentation relies on the front three channels. It is most effective during the flashback scenes, with dramatic spatial movement of chattering insane asylum residents. The stereo track bypasses on the broadening of the soundstage, but still delivers a satisfactory level of voice clarity.

A huge problem, however, occurs at roughly the 01h:15m mark of the film, lasting for the duration, when voices suddenly are off by a half second or so. The effect is like watching an English dub of a foreign film, with mouth movements not matching the words being said. It's unfortunate and distracting, especially since it first appears during one of the pivotal scenes.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 11 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Marc Selz, Karl Sundstrom
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The primary extra is a commentary track from writer/director Marc Selz and composer Karl Sundstrom (who also appears in the film as the wacky motel clerk). Selz talks about shooting in and around Galena, Illinois, which he refers to having its "claim to fame" as the home of the Field of Dreams, which I always thought was in Dyersville, Iowa—but who am I to argue. The track doesn't offer many grand revelations—Robert Z'Dar's acting "took it up many notches" and Linnea Quigley "looks great nude"—but Selz and Sundstrom have a comfortable rapport together.

The other extras include a theatrical trailer, as well as three deleted scenes (06m:37s) featuring more of the tormented Steve character, showcasing him in a hospital, at a cemetery and at home.

The disc is cut into 11 chapters, with optional Spanish subtitles.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

The Rockville Slayer has pockets of suspenseful goodness, most notably some occasional visual moments that show great promise, and some obvious nods to the horror genre. But those promises get mired in a plot that bails out at the last minute, relying on a payoff that falls short of the buildup.

Nicely recut from its earlier incarnation, writer/director Marc Selz frontloads some solid elements (sleepy small town, insane asylum, illegitimate children, crazed killer), and even milks a fine, understated performance out of Joe Estevez.

An unfortunate audio transfer problem during the final 15 minutes causes voices not to match mouth movements, and that just becomes a distraction.


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