A Slasher For The Whole Family! A DAY OF JUDGMENT (1981) Review

Most people think all slasher movies are the same. And, for the most part, I agree with this. However, the real enjoyment to be found in the subgenre is in the details. The kills, the characters, the atmosphere, the suspense…it all adds to the fun. I’ve seen slashers of all sorts of shapes and sizes, but I have never seen, nor do I expect to see again in the future, anything quite like this. But, is that a good or a bad thing?

A DAY OF JUDGMENT (1981) Review

In the 1920’s, a majority of the people in a small town have strayed from the path of righteousness and have turned their souls over to sin. Only three people go to mass on Sundays, the bank owner is greedily robbing people of all they have, a man is having an affair with the local rich man’s wife, and other occurrences are everyday in this town. However, one dark and stormy night, a man with a ghostly pale face and clad in black rides into town, scythe in hand. He begins to make short work of the sinners, and the ones who are alive seek repentance, but can they save themselves from…the day of judgment?

Here it is folks: the first (and probably only) Christian slasher movie ever made! That’s right; A Day of Judgment is really more interested in preaching the word of God than being a tried-and-true slice-‘n’-dice thriller. The film really feels like an anthology of sorts, as we follow all these different plot threads throughout the movie, and at the end of each one, the “sinners” get their just desserts at the hands of the reaper. We follow a bitter old woman who poisons three kids’ pet goat, a man who commits his parents to a home so he can have their property, two scheming lovers, a greedy bank owner who attempts to force a poor farmer out of his home, and finally, an alcoholic who torments his brother because he blames him for the direction his life has gone. Unfortunately, none of the “stories” are very good, but certain key aspects save this “slasher” from the garbage.

For one, it was well-made, considering the budget and the talent available. There’s not a whole lot of creativity in the story and the writing’s very bland and unoriginal, but some of the acting was surprisingly good (the men who played the banker and the farmer stood out) and the filmmakers did a really good job of dolling up the location to look like the 1920’s. On the horror side of town, what we have here really isn’t that bad either. The 1920’s setting gives the movie some much-needed atmosphere to go with some nice visuals (the one of the reaper riding into town is cool, as well as one later on of a figure with glowing red eyes stalks a man inside a storage shack). The movie is completely bloodless (for the most part), there are some cool deaths, like when a woman literally gets dragged to Hell and a surprisingly bloody decapitation (you can clearly see the wig fall off the dummy head when it happens).

However, where the movie completely falls apart is with all the parts in between the horror scenes. There are multiple plot threads, which implies that things should be decently enjoyable, but none of them are very interesting (the one about the dueling brothers could have been fun, but it really wasn’t) and none of the characters are very interesting. And, unfortunately, these scenes eat up a good 80% of the runtime. The movie runs the standard 90-minutes, but it feels like two hours due to all the stories and how dull they all are. Really, the only thing that kept me going was the knowledge that the reaper was going to show up at the end of each one and deliver the movie some much-needed horror. As Christian propaganda, though, the movie does succeed in hammering the viewer over the head with multiple religious themes (especially at the end), and the filmmakers even took the time to insert the Ten Commandments into the credits. How sweet.

A Day of Judgment doesn’t have the best reputation among slasher aficionados, but it really wasn’t as painful as I thought it would be. Knowing what to expect is key in determining whether you’ll enjoy the movie or not. It’s far from a lost classic, but there are definitely worse out there. The acting is above average, the setting is utilized well, and the horror scenes that are present really aren’t too bad. However, this is all marred by the very preachy and very bland writing. Surprisingly, two of the actors in this (William Hickey and Hanns Manship) went on to have parts in the much better piece of slasher nostalgia, 1982’s House of Death, A.K.A. Death Screams. That movie was pretty average overall, but it’s much better than the tedium presented in this movie. Unsurprisingly, this one isn't on DVD, so you'll have to either find yourself a VHS or just watch it on YouTube below.

The Verdict: Even though it’s basically a Bible School film with a touch of horror, A Day of Judgment does have good acting, well-shot scenes, an interesting setting, two cool deaths, and good intentions. I can’t really recommend you go out and watch it, but I’m not going to exorcise this title from your memory either.

Score: 4/10

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    obscurecinema101 - Blog - A Slasher For The Whole Family! A DAY OF JUDGMENT (1981) Review
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    Response: Eric Gonchar
    obscurecinema101 - Blog - A Slasher For The Whole Family! A DAY OF JUDGMENT (1981) Review

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