Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Slasher Films: An Introduction

Interesting fact: “And Then There Were None” is the third highest selling novel of all time. It is the best selling work of detective fiction ever. Anyone reading it for the first time today would instantly recognize the sub-genre that it surely helped give rise to: the Slasher film. OK, it doesn’t quite meet all the characteristics of the genre, but we see all the beginnings here: a group of people thrown together with a killer slowly picking them all off in elaborate and violent ways, and everything linked together with an elaborate back-story.

Early on Slasher Films were not just a sub-genre of horror, but also of the detective story. Unlike classic horror, with its often supernatural and philosophical elements, the slasher stories began more as mysteries, albeit intense and scary ones. Over time other elements were added that became standards, but even early on most are in place. Consider Psycho. There is already a complex back-story, the knife as the weapon of choice, and an almost “final girl.”

By the time of the “Golden Age” of slasher films, most of the mystery had been overshadowed with pure violence and terror. In one early example “Black Christmas” the mystery is never solved and the killer not captured. “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th” place the audience in the killers POV and the focus is then increasingly given over to mere killing.

Films like “Nightmare on Elm Street” and the other entries in the 80s slasher franchises added variety to the formula by introducing nonsensical supernatural elements and by continually revealing more realistic and bloody ways for people to be killed. The genre looked like it was goring itself to death…

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