Is the slasher genre dead? A lot of horror fans and macabre geeks seem to think so. In their heyday, the 1980’s, the slasher genre thrived with new titles being released faster than you could say Friday the 13th. Plus, with the popularity of video rental stores at the time, fans could find a plethora of slasher films to quench their thirst for mayhem and low-budget thrills. After all, the 1980’s were the dawn of such iconic slashers as Halloween (1978), Friday the 13th, and Nightmare on Elm Street. These are the franchises that jump started the entire genre into the popularity it had well into early nineties. Besides those horror forefathers, we had cult classics like Tourist Trap (which came out in 1979), April Fool’s Day, and The Mutilator that fans discovered in video stores nationwide. Now remember, these were the days before the internet so there was no way to read hundreds of reviews of movies on the internet before you watched it. You simply judged the film by its how “cool” the cover art was (which is a whole other blog post) and the short synopsis on the back of the video packaging. To all the millennials, it was quite the exciting time! Just as the slasher craze was dying a little bit in the mid-nineties, Wes Craven gave us the Scream series and reinvented the genre for a short time.
I agree with Bloody Disgusting that slasher genre popularity, just as with all horror genres, go through cycles. It will usually pick up steam, as it did in the 1980’s, and then die down before it starts to get popular all over again. Scream pumped fresh air into the genre by basically being ironic to the genre it brought back to life. I mean, it only made sense to become a little bit meta of itself to be original and fresh. The tired and formulaic nature of the movies had become cumbersome and played out. Audiences were smarter now and needed to see something to reinvigorate their love of the genre. Then of course, following the success of Scream, came all the sub-par slasher horrors of the late twentieth century and into the new millennia. What made it even worse was the new-found use of computer generated effects over practical. Please don’t misunderstand, when utilized effectively, CGI combined with practical effects can be done very well (again, this is a whole other blog post). The flood of sub-par talent that came with these films didn’t do anything to help the genre either. Of course, there were some amazing slasher films that graced our eyes such as Jeepers Creepers, Freddy Vs. Jason, and of course the classic American Psycho. Some could argue those aren’t slasher film and we all have our opinions! Please feel free to leave yours in the comments section.
Now, to bring back the slasher genre, a movie must have more than just blood, half naked coeds, and a masked killer running around jumping from the shadows. Believe it or not it has to have a little something called story. Yes, many slashers films from the ’80’s probably could’ve been written by a drunk monkey with a typewriter, but the films that spawned all those badly written (but fun) films were the ones with great stories. Take Halloween (1978) for example. A lot of people say this is the movie that began the slasher craze. While others might say Bay of Blood or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre were the movies to galvanize the genre, Halloween is the one that started it all with a guy in a mask, holding a big knife and chasing teenagers. Not to mention it was a huge financial success. My point is, along with a fantastic score by John Carpenter, Halloween’s overall story is fantastic as it is minimal. The first Nightmare on Elm Street film has a great and original story as well. A man in your nightmares with a razor laden glove that kills you in your sleep? How could that not frighten anyone who has ever had a nightmare? These films, as well as others, spawned many sequels and while fun, the sequels mostly lacked in story. The point is there was a market for all those sequels thanks to the amazing originals. These films were included in participating to the cycle of different horror genres.
With a few exceptions like the amazing Hatchet and the fairly recent success of It Follows, the cycle seems to have definitely been at its lowest point over the past ten years. That can only mean it’s time to start that cycle in an upwards pattern again! There has been a surge of interests in slashers again over the last year or two. There were talks of a new Friday the 13th film in the early stages of development but that train lost some steam over the last few months. On the other hand, a brand-new Halloween sequel that takes place after the actions of Halloween 2 (1981) is in development and shows no signs of stopping. Plus, there have been fantastic video games released within the last year of both Friday the 13th and Halloween (1978). I think this is also in part due to a resurgence of ’80’s nostalgia. Not to get off topic, but in turbulent times, sometimes the audience wants to remember a time when things might have been easier for them. Revisiting these old franchises can do just that. Now back to slashers (again). Blumhouse Pictures have been a vital part of the renewal interest in horror and slashers. Recently, Get Out and Split have been gigantic success at the box office for horror. Now, I know what you are thinking. “Those aren’t slashers! What kind of horror fanatic are you?” I know they aren’t! These films could possibly be those amazingly written successes that could catapult the slasher genre back into the spotlight. The potential success of the upcoming Halloween sequel will be a huge factor in this too. Danny McBride (Eastbound & Down, Your Highness) is one of the writers on the project and David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express, Vice Principals) is co-writing and directing. This leaves fans of the franchise a little wary, since the two are mostly known for their comedic chops. If they can pull it off, then it will be boogeymen galore. I have faith!
Some horror fans think the slasher genre is more dead than a 1980’s teenager smoking reefer at Camp Crystal Lake. Myself, and millions of other horror fans have faith! We are ready for some quality slasher on celluloid! Well, in this day and age, I’ll take deadly digital as well.