[Series Review] SLASHER: FLESH & BLOOD
Slasher has been one of those series that has been a pleasant surprise to catch up on during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the first three seasons currently on Netflix for streaming, the horror anthology series quickly became a favorite. Each season surpasses itself. From the gruesome kills to the mystery who-done-it storylines, there is something to keep viewers hooked. With the arrival of the series’ fourth season, FLESH & BLOOD, there is a wobbliness to it this go-round. The series is still entertaining. The kills are on fleek. What reduces the impact, though, is the pacing and uneven acting. As a disclaimer, this review is based on the first four episodes provided.

SLASHER: FLESH & BLOOD stars horror legend David Cronenberg, Paula Brancati, Jefferson Brown, Patrice Goodman, Sabrina Grdevich, Christopher Jacot, Rachael Crawford, Jeananne Goosen, Sydney Meyer, and Alex Ozerov.

Right out the gate, this season is pulling no punches. It has a little dash of A Dangerous Game, a hint of Ready or Not, and maybe some Knives Out thrown in. The fourth season follows the wealthy but dysfunctional Galloway family that has come together for their annual family reunion. Of course, the reunion takes place on a secluded island. As viewers learn, the patriarch of the family Spencer Galloway (David Cronenberg) has a penchant for cruelty. This manifests itself the most with a series of brutal competitive games between family members for a prize. This year’s reunion features the return of these games. The prize? The entire Galloway inheritance. If that weren’t stressful enough, there is a masked killer hunting people down.

Photo Credit: Cole Burston/Shudder

A staple of the Slasher series is that there are no characters entirely blameless. It creates that necessary grey area that reminds the viewer that human behavior is not set in black and white categories.  FLESH & BLOOD takes it up a notch by creating the mostly unlikable Galloway family. However, there is a clear generational divide behavioral-wise that viewers might pick up on. From Stephen Galloway and his offspring, viewers can see clearly how the pattern of behavior perpetuates itself. It’s the youngest generation of Galloways that find themselves conflicting with the way the rest of the family behaves. I may be reading too much into this, but this development and inevitable perpetuation of toxic behaviors between generations may be something Creator Aaron Martin is hoping to explore this season.

Another staple that many fans have appreciated over the years is how gruesome the kills are. FLESH & BLOOD spares nothing this go-round, starting the bloodshed pretty early and ending its first episode with a shocking early dispatch of a character. The kills continue to shock as viewers keep chugging along and, as a fan of the series, I can’t wait to see how fans react to each episode’s kills. As the series progresses, viewers get a hint of who is next to go in each episode. The writers’ team has kept with the formula of character exploration to provide further insight into soon-to-be gone characters. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but can put a little damper on the mystery of who’s next pretty early in the game.

What isn’t formulaic, though, is how this season has maintained its mystery throughout the first four episodes. With a variety of twists and turns, viewers will be left scratching their heads trying to figure out the murderer early on. When you think you have it figured out, the team throws another twist at you. This makes FLESH & BLOOD compelling. Especially as we learn more with each episode about how truly screwed up the Galloway family is. The killer could honestly be anyone.

Sabrina Grdevich as Florence l Photo Credit: Cole Burston/Shudder

Where this season of Slasher falters a bit is within the uneven pacing and performances. At least, within the first four episodes of FLESH & BLOODThe first two episodes, in particular, waffle a bit in deciding what tone it wants to set. However, after episode 2 with the reveal of another character’s death, the tone and pacing start to pick up a bit. It stabilizes itself. That cannot be said as much about the acting. There are instances that verge on the realm of flat from some of the younger performers. But, on the flip side, there are instances that crossover into over-the-top performances to the point of unnecessary distraction. I do need to highlight Paula Brancati, Christopher Jacot, and Breton Lalama, in particular, for their performances as it is difficult not to look away when their characters are onscreen. Rather than coming across as caricatures, they all embody and ground their characters in the realm of this universe. Brancati, in particular, embodies a calmer energy that highlights where she can go as an actor, especially after portraying Violet last season.

Overall, SLASHER: FLESH & BLOOD may not be the strongest season of the series. However, the mystery that has unfolded so far will have viewers investing quickly. There are twists and turns that will lead to the wildest of places, with some twists taking on a more melodramatic flair. That’s not a knock per se, but whether or not it works may depend on the individual viewer in how they respond to certain bomb drops. The kills, per the Slasher standard, are top-notch. I won’t mention specifics because I’d like you guys to experience it full throttle, but they are lovely. In all, as a viewer and fan of the series, I’m curious to see where FLESH & BLOOD goes, and how this season will wrap up.

SLASHER: FLESH & BLOOD premieres with the first two episodes on Shudder on Thursday, August 12, 2021.

Sarah Musnicky
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