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The Evolution of the Slasher Film

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Shane Hesketh

on 26 April 2013

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Transcript of The Evolution of the Slasher Film

The Evolution of the Slasher Film Since the early 1960's, the slasher film has been a staple of North American cinema. Slasher is a sub-genre of horror, one that specifically revolves around a psychopathic killer stalking and killing a group of victims, usually with a type of cutting tool. Certain elements bind these films together: gore, nudity, and an identifiable, humanistic villain. Five particular phases define the slasher genre as it journeyed through the last five decades of cinema. The Originals These films are the precursors for every slasher film to come. While they themselves may be derived from other sources, these films are credited to have began the "slasher craze" in America." Peeping Tom (1960)
British film that explores the topic of voyeurism as a serial killer videotapes as he dispatches his victims. Notable for being the first film to put the audience in the killer's P.O.V, as well as the first major British feature to show female nudity Psycho (1960)
Hitchcock film famed for plot structure, knife-wielding and mentally disturbed killer, twist ending and 'stalking' camera technique that would become influential. Brought first "anti
hero slasher" in the form of Norman Bates and first "scream queen" with Marion Crane. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Established many slasher techniques that would prevail through the years, including a masked figure that uses power tools to dispatch victims. Used very little blood, and introduced Leatherface, who remains one of the most iconic slasher villains of all time. Black Christmas (1974)
Inspired by the urban legend "The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs," this film is credited as not only being one of the first slasher films, but initiating the Holiday Slasher craze, which set slasher films in the middle of a festive holiday. Also began a tradition of including a college campus sorority house as a main setting. Halloween (1978)
Inspired by Psycho, this film continues the Holiday Craze and became one of the most influential films of all time. Most notable for establishing the idea of the "final girl" in the form of Laurie Strode, which turned the female character into a heroine rather than a damsel in distress, as well as creating Michael Myers, arguably the most famous serial killer on cinema. Myer's mask is credited as being one of the main reasons why the movie had a creepy feel to it, and continued the trend of using a lifeless, blank mask for a sociopath killer. When A Stranger Calls (1979)
Also based on "The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs." Notable for depicting violence against young children and bringing a more psychological aspect to the genre. While many assume this film to be a knock-off of Halloween, it is actually an expanded version of a short film the director had made prior to Halloween's release. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Took the slasher genre into the dream world and created Freddy Krueger, who killed teenagers in their dreams with razor blades attached to his glove. It also helped solidify director Wes Craven's position as a leading director in the world of horror. With the success of films like Halloween, Black Christmas, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a slew of imitations arose in the 1980's. These are generally referred to as the 'Knock-Offs," as they take the ideas from those films and twist them just a little in an attempt to make a different movie, as well as keeping some of the more notorious aspects: sex, blood, and more sex. Location Themed Holiday Themed School Themed College Prom Night April Fool's Day Friday the 13th Knock Offs Within the Knock-Off phases came a group of films set in either high school or college, in an attempt to attract that crowd to the theater. High School Films include Graduation Day and Return to Horror High, which helped propel the trend of combining horror with comedy. Studios realized early on that the college market was most interested in the slasher genre, and came out with a long list of films that include Final Exam, The Dorm That Dripped Blood, The House on Sorority Row, Night School, Sorority House Massacre, and Splatter University One of the most enduring knock-offs featuring a school theme is 1980's Prom Night, which furthered Halloween star Jamie Lee Curtis's reputation as a scream queen. Another group of films focused on certain common location, in order to attack the audiences primal fears at a place they would have usually felt comfortable. Hospital Massacre While mainly a generic slasher, this film put the murders in a location that made audiences even more uneasy, as a serial killer disguised as a surgeon begins murdering everyone in a hospital. Sleepaway Camp and
Slumber Party Massacre These two films aimed to terrify younger audiences by having a serial killer stalk his victim in a situation most people in the 1980's had been to: a slumber party and a summer camp. Terror Train and Maniac Jamie Lee Curtis starred in Terror Train, in which a serial killer begins murdering people on a train. Maniac attempts to scare people away from New York City with the tag line: "I warned you not to go out tonight." Following in the footsteps of Black Christmas and Halloween, these
films capitalized on audience's enjoyment of watching
slasher-type films occur on a Holiday. Films such as My Bloody Valentine,
Happy Birthday to Me, and New
Year's Evil consisted of the basic slasher
cliches, with the only change being that
they took place on important dates
(birthday) or major holidays (New Year's
Eve and Valentine's Day) April Fool's Day took the same theme as other holiday slashers, with one exception: all characters were killed off-screen due to the fact that the murders never really happened. The entire plot of the film turned out to be an April Fool's prank. The most influential knock-off of the 1980's came with Friday the 13th, in which a group of teenagers are group of teenagers who are murdered one by one while attempting to re-open an abandoned campground. Taking inspiration from Halloween, this film changed the genre by adding much more gore and sex than its precursors. It is also notable for being one of the only slasher films to have a female serial killer. Sequels and Franchises A Nightmare on
Elm Street Halloween Child's Play The Texas Chainsaw Massacre By the early 1980's, film studios had realized the impact that the slasher genre was making on cinema. Audiences would flock to the films, and the companies were making a huge profit on generally cheap projects. As a result, they began making sequels, which eventually formed into some of the largest film franchises in history. Friday the 13th One of the earliest films to spawn a sequel, the success of Friday the 13th led to 11 more films including a remake. Serial killer Jason Voorhees was never intended to be the main antagonist, but was a hit with the fans. Despite critical failures due to focus on gore over plot, the franchise is the highest grossing horror series in America with $687.1 million combined. After achieving critical success, Halloween followed in the knock-offs footsteps and created 9 more films including a Rob Zombie remake and another sequel. The gross for this series is $366 million, and is cited as one of the most simplistic and unsophisticated series, despite having one of the most recognizable masks and soundtracks. This franchise, starring Leatherface, claimed to be based on a true story, although none of the events actually happened. The franchise spawned six more films, including a remake, prequel, and reboot in 2013. The character of Chucky was immortalized in four films, in which the later ones transcended the boundary between comedy and horror (Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky). Another sequel is slated to be released this year with a remake the following year. Freddy Krueger followed the trend of endless sequels with 8 more films, including a meta-film, remake, and a crossover with another horror icon, Jason Voorhees. The films went further than just a serial killer who murders people in their dreams, and included characters with superpowers (dream warriors), as well as depicting an unborn child's dreams. The films also became more comedy as the franchise went on. The New Wave Candyman Wes Craven's New Nightmare Scream By the end of the 1980's, audiences had began to tire of
the same sequels, and box office grosses began to
dwindle. Directors began a new effort to change the
genre and make it fresh in order to keep audience
interest. In 1992, the film Candyman was released starring Tony Todd, This film attempted to revamp the genre by doing a different take on the Bloody Mary legend. The film was both a critical and finanical success, and is credited with revitalizing the genre after a slump. The film is also notable for being the first mainstream slasher film to have an African American villain. While this is the seventh film in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, it is important due not only to Wes craven's return to the franchise, but also because it began the "meta-craze," in which a film references or acknowledges the fact that it or its predecessors are film. The plot of this movie sees Heather Langenkamp, the actress from the original movie, playing herself as Freddy Krueger comes out of the movie screen into real life and begans stalking her and the other actors from the original movie. Wes Craven followed New Nightmare with Scream, another meta-film in which a slasher stalks students. The film was a critical and commercial success, and spawned three sequels including a 2011 reboot. The films are notable for turning most of the horror cliches around and acknowledging certain "rules" in order to survive a horror film. The characters almost acknowledge that they are in a movie at various points throughout the series. The character Sidney Prescott became a scream queen comparable to that of Jamie Lee Curtis. Remakes and Reboots Remakes of the Lesser Known Major Franchises Current Slashers The Future of
Slasher Films After the resurgence of the genre in the early-late 90's, audiences seemed to enjoy the themes again. Many directors decided to take previous horror classics and remake them in their own vision for new audiences, as well as some series being "rebooted," or restarted, after a long hiatus. Smaller slasher films that hadn't been subjected (as much) to the franchise treatment were remade, such as Black Christmas, My Bloody Valentine, Prom Night, Sorority Row, The Stepfather, and When A Stranger Calls, and Psycho. The remakes were generally less critically successful, and focused on being much darker and gorier than the earlier films. The four major slasher franchises (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Halloween, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre) also entered the remake phase, with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), Halloween I and II ('07 and '09), Friday the 13th (2009), and A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) Prequel Although not nearly as common as sequels, remakes, and reboots, the occasional slasher prequel will surface. A prime example of this is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning in 2006, which told the story of how Leatherface became the serial killer he is. The most recent examples of slashers within the Reboot phase include 2011's Scream 4 and 2013's Texas Chainsaw 3D, which serves as a direct sequel to the original and ignores all previous installments. As of now, slashers are still barreling through the remake/ reboot phases, with films like Texas Chainsaw 3D 2 and a remake of Child's Play in the works. As far as innovations go, 3D slashers are becoming increasingly popular. However, there does seem to be a dwindling audience reception again, and TV slashers are becoming the new craze, with shows like Hannibal, Bates Motel, and a proposed Scream series. Will slasher cinema rebound, or will it succumb to television
pressures? Another very influential slasher knock-off is Child's Play, in which a possessed children's doll comes to life and begins killing people. This film is notable for introducing American audiences to Chucky, one of the most important slasher villains, as well as bringing about controversy due to claims the film was enticing/promoting violence in children. Child's Play I Know What You Did Last Summer Viewed as a knock-off of Scream, this film released a year later is still considered part of the New Wave phase. The film depicts many young stars of the decade, including Ryan Phillippe, Jennifer Love Hewitt, and Sarah Michelle Gellar, and revolves around four teenagers being stalked by a killer a year after they were involved in the cover-up of a car accident that involved a murder. Written by Kevin Williamson, who also wrote the screenplays for the first two Scream films. Introduced horror icon The Fisherman, known for killing victims with a hook. Followed by a less successful sequel, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer Urban Legend Released in 1998, this film continued the trend of casting hot young actors with stars such as Rebecca Gayheart, Jared Leto, Tara Reid, and Joshua Jackson, as well as horror alums Robert Englund and Brad Dourif. Many famous urban legends are used in the film, whether as a murder method or in conversation. Some include Bloody Mary, The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs, Pop rocks and soda, kidney heist, and gerbilling.
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