Hollywood's serial killer follies continue with SLAUGHTER OF THE INNOCENTS, a lurid $6.5 million effort intended for theatrical release but dumped into cable TV and home video instead. An unworkably schizoid plot tries at once to be a nerve-wracking thriller about a mass-murderer and a tender family drama about a loving father and his precocious son. ...read more
Hollywood's serial killer follies continue with SLAUGHTER OF THE INNOCENTS, a lurid $6.5 million effort intended for theatrical release but dumped into cable TV and home video instead. An unworkably schizoid plot tries at once to be a nerve-wracking thriller about a mass-murderer and a
tender family drama about a loving father and his precocious son.
Dad is Agent Stephen Broderick (Scott Glenn), a Cleveland-based fed called on for the roughest cases. His unofficial partner is pre-teen offspring Jesse (Jesse Cameron-Glickenhaus), boy criminologist and computer whiz who isn't above walking in on his naked parents' post-coital bliss to announce
a new clue in the current investigation: the grisly Provo Canyon Massacre of a whole family five years earlier. Utah has a poor pervert on death row for the crime, but Broderick thinks the condemned is just a witness who had the bad judgment to masturbate on the bodies. Prison authorities lethally
inject the man, who writhes in agony, figuratively crucified on a cross-shaped table. Too late comes the call confirming the guy's innocence; Provo Canyon was part of a 15-year string of atrocities. Based on the martyr's fevered testimony about seeing God do the crime, Jesse fingers the Moab Sect,
a tribe of Old Testament fanatics scattered throughout Utah. Their onetime leader has evolved into an armed neo-Nazi, but Broderick's efforts to question him come to naught when trigger-happy ATF gunmen incinerate the suspect in his survivalist compound.
Meanwhile, young Jesse matches a pattern of vanished zoo animals with a particularly nasty Moabite, Mordechai Booth (Zitto Kazann). Alone the kid boards a flight to Utah and bikes to a stretch of desert called the Valley of the Gods. There madman Mordechai lurks in a cliffside cave, awaiting
Armageddon with his own arkful of exotic beast carcasses and 15 years' worth of mummified humans, in imitation of Noah's clan. One kidnapped waif hasn't been slain yet, but before Jesse can untie her, the maniac seizes him, too. Agent Broderick arrives in the nick of time and shoots Mordechai
down. Like all maniacs in bad movies, he's not really dead and revives long enough to plummet to the canyon floor in his gopherwood boat as the heroes roll to safety. Final scene: Jesse asks his father in a cemetery "Why do people have to grow old? Why do they have to die?"
And why did they make this movie? That can be answered easily. Glenn played a supporting role as a federal agent in the serial-killer blockbuster SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, to the success of which this inferior movie aspires, while casting the Eastwood-gaunt actor against type as a warm family man.
Jesse Cameron-Glickenhaus is the son of vet action filmmaker James Glickenhaus, earning him a idealized role in his father's own feature, where vanity elements make it hard to measure acting ability. Cameron-Glickenhaus has one great scene in which he ferociously badgers an adult informant until
the much bigger man breaks down, but mostly the script flatters Jesse as a golden-haired, all-American boy, seemingly untouched by all the insanity. Had the junior G-man been less Beaver Cleaver and more Eddie Munster, and had the onscreen team of the Brodericks been remotely credible, SLAUGHTER
OF THE INNOCENTS might have been something truly special.
Or maybe not. The ridiculous villain, with his caricatured fundamentalism, is a hackneyed creation, fodder for the oft-trumpeted accusation that cinema conspires to defame Christian beliefs and traditions. James Glickenhaus generously provides basis for such charges with his own preaching. When
Utah cops bust a trailerful of Moab zombies preparing to boil their own children in a purification ritual, Stephen Broderick snorts: "Religious freedom of expression gives the right to kidnap, starve and beat kids to death, huh?" The Beehive State gets bashed, depicted as a wasteland of Jesus
freaks and fascists. "Like another planet," is Agent Broderick's summation as he pines for cosmopolitan Cleveland (unsurprisingly, producer Frank Isaac's hometown). At least there's no pious propaganda about the environment--though in real life, nature-lovers protested the dropping of the
7,000-lb. model ark over Utah parkland during the 1992 film shoot. More power to 'em. (Violence, profanity, adult situation, sexual situations, nudity.)
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