Let’s take a trip back to the 1980’s. As the decade was coming to a close, the ‘Golden Era’ of the slasher had passed. Aside from major franchise sequels, Hollywood relegated the B-movie slasher to straight-to-video hell. Older horror fans may recall the obscure Destroyer from the top shelf of their local video story. Though it enjoyed a limited theatrical release, you probably best know Destroyer (if at all) for its VHS cover art. The sight of hulking former football player Lyle Alzado wielding a jackhammer promised grimy, over-the-top slasher gore. So has this cheapie, late-to-party slasher retained any of its sleepover party charm? Or should you just leave it on its 80’s videostore shelf?
Ruthless serial killer Ivan Mozer awaits the death penalty for the rape, torture, and murder of 23 victims. But the execution goes horribly wrong. As the electric chair jolts Mozer, there’s a sudden power outage. A prison riot follows and Mozer’s body disappears. Sometime later a movie crew arrives at the now closed prison to make a low-budget exploitation film. Unfortunately, Mozer isn’t dead – his electrocution only made him stronger. Hiding in the bowels of the deserted prison, Mozer begins stalking his latest victims.
Destroyer Fails to Deliver on Promised B-Movie Blood and Guts
With its VHS cover art and premise, you’d expect Destroyer to offer up a generous serving of slasher blood and guts. After all, it looks like the kind of movie The Cannon Group churned out for the better part of the decade. Yet somehow Destroyer turns out to be relatively tame. What’s worse – Destroyer is actually kind of boring, which is ironic. Director Robert Kirk’s movie ultimately lacks the exploitative thrills of the fictional movie being made in its prison. Yes, there’s some unnecessary nudity and a couple of decent death scenes. But nothing ever approaches the sheer spectacle of Lyle Alzado with a jackhammer promised by the promotional materials. In fact, several deaths occur offscreen – a telltale sign of a limited budget.
Audiences Will Serve ‘Hard Time’ with Long, Dull Stretches
Running at just over 90 minutes, Destroyer still finds a way to overstay its welcome. Whether it’s a matter of taking itself too seriously or just a lack of ideas, Destroyer consistently underwhelms. Neither scary nor funny, Destroyer drags for chunks of time courtesy of an under-cooked screenplay. There’s never any mystery as to Mozer’s fate, so watching one character play ‘Scooby Doo’ is pointless and feels like a time-filler. A better director and/or writers might have found something clever to do with the idea of a ‘movie within a movie’. In the end, however, you’ll likely find yourself wishing that you were watching the fictional one instead of the actual movie itself.
Destroyer Wastes a Better-Than-Expected Cast and Killer
Despite its low budget, Destroyer was blessed with a better-than-expected cast. Presumably Anthony Perkins (Psycho, The Black Hole) owed someone associated with this movie a favour. His screentime is limited, but Bates lends the movie a little more credibility than it deserved. And April Fool’s Day star, Deborah Foreman, is surprisingly good as Destroyer’s ‘Final Girl’. Arguably, the atypical (and somewhat forward-thinking) ‘Final Girl’ – a stuntwoman – is the movie’s one shining point. Forget about the rest of the cast – they’re strictly a body count in the movie.
…Alzado clearly brings a physical presence to the movie.
If Destroyer has any other plus, it’s the casting of the monstrous Lyle Alzado as ‘Ivan Mozer’. Though he’s not necessarily a strong actor, Alzado clearly brings a physical presence to the movie. In addition, Alzado is also somewhat charismatic and likely would have fared better if his character had actually been interesting. Even with three screenwriters attached to the screenplay, Destroyer couldn’t come up an interesting backstory for its killer. See No Evil’s backstory was derivative, but at least it tried. Comparatively, Destroyer underutilizes Alzado and leaves him hanging.
Destroyer Doesn’t Offer Much Outside of Some Nostalgia For VHS Fans
Arguably, Destroyer’s VHS cover art is the best thing about the movie. Horror fans looking for late 80’s cheesy gore like Slumber Party Massacre II or Slaughter High will be disappointed. Cheap, dull, and predictable, Destroyer gets low mileage from nostalgia. Some things are best left in the past. And Destroyer is one of those things. If you’re looking for an 80’s horror movie about an unstoppable executed killer, watch Wes Craven’s Shocker.