Slish, Slash, It’s a Blood Bath! A Look At The Slasher Sub-Genre

Chapter 2 of The Necrocasticon aired last night, and if you missed it, you missed out.  Check out the show here http://www.projectiradio.com/shows/necrocasticon/

On the horror side this week, the guys talked slasher films, so I’m taking this opportunity to take a leisurely stroll through the dark woods of memory lane, and revisit the evolution of the slasher film genre through the years.

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Real Life Slasher – Ed Gein

There is an old question.  Does life imitate art, or does art imitate life?  In the instance of the slasher film, the answer clearly is that art imitates life.  Alfred Hitchcock’s classic, Psycho(1960), is considered to be the first major slasher film.  The one that started it all!  Norman Bates was a disturbed owner/operator of an out of the way motel.  Norman Bates was loosely based on real life mama’s boy, Ed Gein.

Norman Bates - Psycho
Norman Bates – Psycho

Gein was so close to his mother, that once she died, he dug her body up and lived with her corpse, much like Norman Bates did in Psycho.  Like Norman, Gein tried to become his mother.  Norman’s transformation was a mental one, but Gein’s was a physical one.  Ed Gein would kill women, and dig women’s bodies up and used their flesh to make a suit, so he could transform into his mother.  Psycho was a huge success and it’s shower scene is considered one of the greatest cinematic scenes of all time.  Despite the success of Psycho, it took 14 years for another major slasher film to hit the movie theaters.

Leatherface - Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Leatherface – Texas Chainsaw Massacre

If Psycho examined the psychology of Ed Gein, it was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre(1974) that depicted his sheer brutality.  Like Norman Bates, Leatherface was based on Gein.  Leatherface wore a faces stitched together from his families victims, as did Ed Gein.  The furniture in the home of Leatherface was made of human body parts, such as bone and skulls, the same was true for Ed Gein’s home.

The slasher genre began as two vastly different films based on the same person.  One was a psychological study, the other chose to depict the grisly brutality of the subject.  These two films would set the stage for what was to come.  Slasher films can further be divided into two sub-sub-genres.  The “who done it” slasher (Psycho), and the “monster” slasher (Texas Chainsaw Massacre).  In a “who done it” slasher film, the identity of the killer is unknown.  Typically the killers are human, and when the identity of the killer is revealed at the end, it is a surprise. Examples of “Who done it” slasher films are Psycho, Friday the 13th, April Fool’s Day, Scream.  In a “monster” slasher film, the identity of the killer is known pretty much from the beginning.  The appeal of the film is the brutality of the monster/killer.  The killer is usually supernatural.  Examples of the “monster” slasher film are Halloween, A Nightmare On Elm Street, Candyman, Child’s Play, Friday the 13th sequels.

From here, the slasher film exploded into the ’80s, each film and fell in one of the two categories mentioned above.

Michael Myers - Halloween
Michael Myers – Halloween

In 1978, John Carpenter arrived with his masterpiece, Halloween.  Halloween was a “monster’ slasher, and introduced horror icon, Michael Myers. Michael is the physical representation of pure evil.  The Boogeyman. This is the film that really solidified the formula for the slasher film.  A group of people, usually teenagers, are introduced to the audience.  The main character is typically a female, and she is ‘pure’.  She’s still a virgin, doesn’t smoke, or drink.  She will be the ‘final girl’.  She is the film’s Laurie Strode.  A killer stalks these characters, and kills them one by one, until the ‘final girl’ is left.  Only the ‘final girl’ can overcome the killer because she is the only one that is really good, and good always defeats evil.  Of course, in Halloween, Laurie had help from Dr. Sam Loomis.  Slasher movies for decades, and still now would follow the outline that Halloween set forth.

Friday the 13th
Friday the 13th

In 1980, a movie came along that perfected the formula that Halloween created.  Following in the footsteps of Psycho, the original Friday the 13th was a “who done it” slasher.  Camp counselors attempt to reopen a summer camp, that has been closed for many years due to a few tragedies.  One by one, the counselors a picked off in various ways by an unknown killer. The at the end, it is revealed that the distraught mother of a boy that drown at the same summer camp, Pamela, is behind the killings.  She would do anything to keep the camp where her boy died from being re-opened.

Jason Voorhees - Friday the 13th Part VII
Jason Voorhees – Friday the 13th Part VII

The many Friday the 13th sequels, however, are more of the ‘monster’ variety slasher films.  Pamela’s son, Jason, is now hell bent on revenge, and killing anyone who enters his domain.

After Friday the 13th, many copy cats flooded the movie theaters and movie rental shops.  Many tried to top Jason and Michael, but they all failed.  It was evident that you can’t do the “masked killer” routine better than Jason or Michael, and that forced film makers to get more creative with their slashers.

Enter Wes Craven.

A Nightmare On Elm Street
A Nightmare On Elm Street

In 1984, teacher turned filmmaker flipped the slasher genre on it’s head with one of the most creative ideas of all time, A Nightmare On Elm Street.  Craven chose to go the “monster” slasher route, and gave us Freddy Krueger.  A sadistic psychopath with the power to kill his victims in their dreams.  Armed with a self made razor glove, and the limits of his own tormented imagination, Freddy made it difficult for an entire generation to sleep.

Filmmakers took inspiration from A Nightmare On Elm Street.  They knew that if they wanted to compete, they had to get creative.

Chucky
Chucky

So, one killer was a doll.  Child’s Play (1988) introduced Chucky.  Chucky was a Good Guy Doll, based on the real life doll, My Buddy.  The doll was possessed by killer, Charles Lee Ray.

Candyman
Candyman

One killer was a vengeful spirit, similar to Freddy.  Candyman (1992) leaned heavily on the Bloody Mary urban legend, but created something more terrifying.   Candyman also deviated from the typical slasher staple of killing a group of teens.  Most of Candyman’s targets were adults.

Finally, in 1996, a film came along that, once again put the killer behind a mask.

Ghostface - Scream
Ghostface – Scream

Wes Craven returns, this time taking a shot at the ‘who done it’ side of the slasher films.  Scream took the formula that Halloween established, and dumped it on it’s head.  Not only did the ‘final girl’ have sex and survive, but there was two killers!  Scream was the beginning of the parody era.

Once again, there was a flurry of copy cats.  I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997), Urban Legends (1998), and more.  These copy cats were endured until 2006, when another very inventive film came along.

Behind The Mask - The Rise Of Leslie Vernon
Behind The Mask – The Rise Of Leslie Vernon

Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon (2006) took the parody concept that Scream teased, and ran with it.  Shot mostly as a documentary, we follow a film team as they record Leslie Vernon, a serial killer, explain the secrets to being a serial killer.  It’s brutal, disturbing, and hysterical all at the same time.

Since Behind the Mask, there really hasn’t been a strong slasher film.  The horror community is ripe for a new creative slasher icon.

Thanks for joining me on this journey through slasher film history.  I know I’ve left a lot of great slasher films out, but there is only so much time.

From The Lord of the Pitts, see ya next time!

Streaming From The Pitts: May 2015

Hello horror fans, Lord of the Pitts here!

Streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Crackle can be great, but one downfall to them, is it’s hard to find a guide of new titles that they offer each month.  We aim to remedy that.

Every month, here at The Necrocasticon,  I’m going to bring you a list of horror titles that will be coming to Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Crackle for that month.  So, without further ado here is a rundown of the new titles for May 2015! 

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WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE (1994) – Legendary horror director Wes Craven’s final time piloting the Freddy vehicle.  Craven turned the Nightmare series on it’s head by making Freddy scary again, and bringing him into the ‘real world’.  With an entire cast that play ‘themselves’, including Freddy, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare is an unsung modern classic.

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SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD (2009) – The grandfather of the modern zombie genre brings his flesh eating horde to Netflix with Survival Of The Dead.  This is the sixth instalment of Romero’s DEAD series that began with the legendary Night Of The Living Dead.  Survival Of The Dead centers around a struggle for control of an island off the coast of North America.  Some people want to try and save the dead, some want to destroy them.  The conflict comes to a head with a bloody climax that leaves few standing. joy-ride-3-poster1

JOYRIDE 3: ROADKILL (2014) –  Joyride 3 is the third chapter in Rusty Nail’s bloody story.  A deranged truck driver stalks the roads of America making anyone who crosses him sorry that they did.  Rusty Nail is played by Ken Kirzinger, who played Jason Voorhees in Freddy vs. Jason.

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THE CANAL (2014) – This film from writer/director Ivan Kavanagh is a slow burn psychological horror film.  These types of films are rare in this day, so this is a nice treat, some may get bored by the pacing, however.

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THE MIRROR (2014) – The idea behind this film from writer/director Edward Boase is interesting.  A group of people buy a haunted mirror, and set up cameras.  Their goal is to capture proof of the supernatural to obtain a million dollar prize that is offered up by a Paranormal Expert.  Ghostly shenanigans ensue.

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RITES OF SPRING (2011) – This film is a brutal film that focuses on two women who are kidnapped.  Every spring a rash of disappearances plague the town, and our unfortunate victims get first hand knowledge of why.

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JINN (2014) – A curse plagues our main character’s family.  To unravel the mystery, Shawn turns to a priest and someone in a loony bin for answers.  Eventually, Shawn comes face to face with the evil entity that won’t leave his family alone.

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ZOMBEAVERS (2014) – Zombie Beavers.  What else can be said? (And Senior Editor Leather Wolf’s pick of the month based on title alone!)

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EXTRATERRESTRIAL (2014) – Colin Minihan, the director of Grave Encounters 1 & 2 bring us their take on aliens.  The typical group of friends chilling at a secluded cabin become stalked and terrorized by aliens.  

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Ghoulies Go To College

GHOULIES: GHOULIES GO TO COLLEGE(1991) – Those disgusting, toilet loving, Critter wannabes are back, and this time, they’re terrorizing the local college.  The Ghoulies get an upgrade, and for the first time in the series, they can talk.  This leads to cheesy toilet humor one-liners.   John Carl Buechler directs this silly sequel.  Keep your eyes peeled for a pre-Scream Matthew Lillard.

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RAVENOUS (1999) – Every once in a while, a horror film comes along with an idea so unique, that the initial audience doesn’t respond well to it, but after time goes by, it becomes more and more obvious how ahead of it’s time the film is.  Ravenous is one of those films.  An army platoon in the 1800’s is stranded at a fort in the snow have to deal a power hungry killer who eats his victims to gain their lifeforce.  Stars David Arquette and Guy Pearce.


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Crackle doesn’t have any new horror titles being added to their library in May, however, they do have this little nugget that was added in March.  I’m a big fan of Dead Rising, and had no idea this existed.

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DEAD RISING: WATCHTOWER (2015) – This film directed by Zach Lipovsky, (Leprechaun: Orgins), is a sequel of sorts to the popular video game series, Dead Rising.

Taking place between Dead Rising 2 and Dead Rising 3, the film follows Chase Carter as he fights to survive a zombie infested town.  Government conspiracies, flesh eating, and bloody battles for survival ensue.

Several options for the horror fan in May.  Psycho truckers, zombie hordes, haunted mirrors, and flesh eating beavers…..it’s hard to go wrong, but if I had to choose…..It’s hard not to bet on Freddy.  My pick for the month is Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.