The Pitch: Slayer’s ambitious music videos for 2015’s Repentless album told the three-part narrative of a former neo-Nazi out for redemption against his former allegiances. Set to the three singles from the LP, director BJ Johnson intersperses performance clips of the band against brutally violent fight sequences in which the protagonist impales, decapitates, and bloodies his enemies with a variety of weapons. It’s a gory spectacle befitting of Slayer’s music and lyrical imagery, and Johnson’s cinematography transcends the budget constraints of a music video. It’s convincingly gruesome stuff, on par with a Hollywood production.
With Slayer currently in the midst of the final leg of their farewell tour, it’s only fitting that Johnson finish the story in the music videos, which concluded on a suggestive open-ended moment. Slayer: The Repentless Killogy adds a second chapter to the music video narrative, filmed separately but with many of the same actors (Jason Trost, Danny Trejo, etc.) who appeared in the original videos along with some new faces, including metalhead actress Jessica Pimentel (Orange Is the New Black).
Johnson seamlessly connects the videos with new footage, as the protagonist seeks revenge on the Nazis that wronged him. And Johnson’s short film is only half of the package. The narrative is followed by an entire concert film, Live at The Forum in Inglewood, CA, which documents Slayer’s 2015 performance on their home turf, shot by veteran live-music cinematographer Wayne Isham. Johnson connects his short film and the concert footage with a savvy storytelling device, with Slayer getting to show off their acting chops in the process.
Slayer Speaks: The film opens with an interview between Slayer and Johnson backstage at The Forum concert. When Johnson asks about the highlight of the Repentless album cycle, singer Tom Araya says that it was the music videos that made the album particularly special. Slayer had been shooting videos for many years, but Araya says that “nobody knew about them,” with guitarist Kerry King remarking that Johnson’s “vision” finally brought the proper visual accompaniment to the band’s music. As the interview concludes, the band leave the green room only to find a corpse at their feet, signaling the beginning of the Killogy film.
Spill the Blood: Given the ostensibly limited budget, Johnson does an impressive job crafting realistic, practical gore effects that are as entertaining as they are disgusting. The straightforward revenge plot lends itself to a stream of violence as the protagonist gradually takes out his enemies one by one — or piece by piece, rather. One unfortunate guy gets an axe to the head, which splits in two like a coconut, his brains oozing out. Another guy gets his heart ripped out Temple of Doom style, and another particularly creative decapitation involves a wire-rope tow pulley, a Nazi, and a tree trunk. Sure, it’s mindless blood and guts, but it’s a Slayer movie, after all.
The plot eventually takes the characters to the actual Slayer show at The Forum during the closing song, “Angel of Death” (which Johnson films with his own cameras separate from Isham’s footage). Without spoiling the twist ending, we’re taken back to the very first shot of Slayer walking out of their green room as the plot deftly connects itself with the band that serves as its central theme and inspiration.
The Concert: After the credits roll for Johnson’s short film, the Live at The Forum footage immediately starts. Though a separate experience and entity than Johnson’s short film, watching a Slayer concert is a pretty good way to follow-up a half-hour of murderous carnage. The Forum was utterly packed, and unlike with Isham’s recent work on Metallica’s S&M2, he didn’t have the benefit of a stage designed with cinema in mind. His footage is far more raw here, shot with the spatial constraints of a wild audience bearing down on the cameras.
Slayer’s The Repentless Killogy screened for one night only on November 6th in theaters nationwide. It is available on Blu-ray beginning November 8th.