I made another video! This time, I talk a bit about slashers. I also watched Scream because I still love that movie.
The slasher topic came up after my last video talking about Why we watch horror movies and the psychology of all that. I focused on the general appeal of the genre as a whole but doing that, we’re not really getting into the nuances of why we like these different sub-genres.
Honestly, the slasher sub-genre isn’t my favorite. We talk about tropes and “rules” and the slashers have such a specific set of conventions they follow that it all can get a bit repetitive and boring. Or worse, exploitative and/or gross. A lot of times I find myself questioning why I even bother. That being said, when a slasher is good, when a movie gets it right, these are some of the most fun horror movies you’ll find.
There’s a reason we know the names of Michael, Freddy, and Jason.
And that’s what I’m here to talk about.
Speaking of the genre in general, horror movies can reflect our fears and anxieties not just on a personal level, but on a societal one as well. By their nature they play on what scares us. So as societies evolve, horror movies reflect those evolutions. We exorcise our demons as we watch them play out on the screen.
Slashers in particular speak to power. Who has it, who doesn’t. The audience gets an anti-hero to cheer for in the killer, but in the end we sympathize with the final girl. The would be victim taking the power and overcoming seemingly impossible odds.
Now what about this idea of the killer as the anti-hero? The first year I did my 31 Days of Horror, I caught a double header of Hellraiser I & II. After the second movie, there was a q&a with a couple of the guys involved in the production. They talked about this crazy thing that happened after the first Hellraiser was released, the reason we have so many Hellraiser movies today. Audiences liked the movie, but what they really loved, what they really wanted to see more of, was Pinhead. The villain. The terrifying S&M demon from some hell dimension of pain.
I mean, who doesn’t want to see more of that???
Audiences loved Pinhead so much, the filmmakers were able to make a whole series of crazy movies. The series arguably starts to go downhill pretty fast after II but still, these movies are weird, terrifying, and most importantly, FUN. Pinhead is great. It’s true, he’s why we come back for more.
It’s become a thing. The victims are interchangeable and forgettable. The killers are what we’re there for. We want to see them be badass and scary and crazy. We want their backstories and histories, glimpses of their inner lives. We have a fascination with the dark, but we also have an obsession with power. And that’s what these guys have got. Power and lots of it baby.
But like I said at the top, in the end we still (usually) like to see the victim turn things around, we want to see that Final Girl win. There’s also a reason that the Final Girl trope exists and part of that is because she is who we identify with.
Eventually I’ll go more into gender and the horror genre but for now I’m going to leave it at that. Slashers give us the Final Girl as the character we can relate to and identify with, the one who we can imagine we would be if we found ourselves stuck in a horror movie. I mean, we’re smart right? We would never hide in a room with no way out. We would never find ourselves trapped in a car in a garage, a killer stabbing his way in through the locks.
We’re smarter than that. Right? Maybe?
What Scream does, is it highlights a particular appeal of the slashers -the rules. Every genre has its own tropes and audience expectations, but none are quite as ingrained as the rules of the slasher. Scream deconstructs the slasher and makes fun of itself. But it is also a genuine horror film at its heart. It’s the post-modern horror film. In the very beginning of the film, it makes very clear what the genre rules, and by extension its own rules, are. Knowing these rules dissipates some of the fear and replaces it with the insider knowledge. We get the winks, laugh at the inside jokes, even appreciate when our expectations are subverted. In short, watching the rules play out, seeing them be either followed or deliberately broken, is fun. We like to laugh as much as scream and its a good time when a movie manages to do both.
In the end, Scream goes for the genuine scares, it unleashes a blood bath. And we’re totally into it. It’s sometimes more action than terror but I think those both play to the same adrenaline rush, give us similar feelings of excitement.
What do you guys think? What do you prefer? The straight up gut clenching tension of Halloween? Or the hilarious self-awareness of Scream?
Or maybe we just love us some of both.
Also, we totally love Gail’s neon yellow 90’s power suit. Right? I mean, I love it. It’s amazing.