This week's VHS is James Glickenhaus' 1993 thriller Slaughter of the Innocents.
FBI agent Stephen Broderick (Scott Glenn) is aided in his search for a serial killer by his hyper intelligent son, Jesse. (Jesse Cameron-Glickenhaus)
I saw this movie when it came out, but really only remembered two things, this guy getting impaled on deer antlers Quigley-style—
--and that even as a teenager I thought that the Jesse character was wildly implausible.
Slaughter of the Innocents showed up on the “Hot New Singles” wall at Blockbuster one day. This was a rack reserved for one-off releases to make sure they didn’t get buried under the popular titles that took up the bulk of our shelf space. I kept my eye on this singles rack because it often featured the indie & foreign stuff like Man Bites Dog, Happy Birthday Türke, Mindwarp and Gas, Food Lodging just to name a few.
As for this one, it’s not too hard to figure out that Glickenhaus wanted to cash in on the success of The Silence of the Lambs here. Aside from casting Scott Glenn and the similar sounding title, it’s also an FBI-hunt-for-a-serial-killer flick. Just imagine Lambs without Hannibal Lecter and if Clarice Starling was a ten-year-old boy and you’ll get a decent approximation of the subject matter.
So the bulk of my thoughts on this movie are going to be about Jesse – who was played by the director’s own son and actually does a hell of a job considering all he goes through in this movie – and I’m not sure where to start so I’ll just dive right in. This kid was basically the Encyclopedia Brown of true crime knowledge and, between school and little league, seemed to be able to out-sleuth the FBI. I'm torn between which element was least likely, that a kid would even be capable of this or that his father seemed to be actively encouraging it. Seriously, Broderick and his son had the weirdest relationship…
But I haven’t gotten the best part, as Jesse also happened to be a tech guru, carrying around the nineties equivalent of an iPad and was always connected to his fact-spewing super PC. I mean, the voice recognition on this thing was better than Alexa's today!
But it wasn’t just the dynamic between father and son that was confounding, as there were several scenes that just struck me as odd, like when a young girl got kidnapped from a gas station parking lot and the attendant seemed more upset about it than the mother. Or when Broderick and his team (that included Aaron Eckhart in his first role) snuck up on a Neo-Nazi suspect’s cabin and he was just hanging out in full SS garb. On the other hand, the movie did have Hercules’ Kevin Sorbo in his most un-Hercules role ever so…
Lastly, I wasn’t surprised when Imdb told me this premiered on television because this movie contained the most generic nineties score I think I’ve ever heard. Having said all of that, Slaughter of the Innocents was a functional movie, but it lacked the grit-infused energy that Glickenhaus’ action-oriented titles from the eighties like The Soldier and Shakedown possessed. It’s just a shame that the problematic wonder kid element was also the only thing that made this movie at all unique.