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Slasher film


Slasher film

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The slasher film (also known simply as slashers) is a sub-genre of the horror film genre. Typically, a masked, psychotic person stalks and graphically kills teenagers or young adults who are away from adult supervision (and typically involved in sex, drug use, or other illicit activity). There is often a backstory that explains how the killer developed their sociopathic and violent mental state. Often, the attacker is able to withstand most or all of the victims' attempts to defend themselves. Even after being stabbed, burned, or drowned, the attacker is able to continue to stalk the victims. The films are often followed by multiple sequels which typically decline in quality and fan interest.



The genre has its origins in the early 1960s: Michael Powell's Peeping Tom (1960), Herschell Gordon Lewis' Blood Feast (1963) and Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) all bear the hallmarks of the genre, which could even be traced to the 1940s, like Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None.

Other early examples are Mario Bava's Blood and Black Lace (1964) and Reazione a catena (1971) (known by a dozen titles in English, including Bay of Blood, Carnage and Twitch of the Death Nerve), Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and Bob Clark's Black Christmas (1974).

"Golden age"

Michael Myers, masked serial killer from Halloween Michael Myers, masked serial killer from Halloween

The two films that ignited the slasher film cycle were John Carpenter's Halloween (1978) and Sean S. Cunningham's Friday the 13th (1980), both of which spawned numerous sequels and even more imitators, including Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), which itself became a financially successful franchise.

During the height of slasher films' popularity, since slasher filmmakers continued to use the stock characters and plots, audience interest was maintained by developing new, unusual ways for the victims to be killed, and by developing increasingly gory special effect techniques. Another device used by filmmakers was the "false ending," in which the killer seems to have been dispatched-often in a particularly spectacular fashion-but in fact the killer lives, and is able to continue to attack the victims.

The simple, formulaic plots, minimal special effects (at least until the Nightmare on Elm Street films), and use of low-light shooting conditions that hid set or production flaws made the Slasher genre a natural choice for low-budget filmmakers in the 1980s. As well, the films' potent combination of sex and violence gave Slasher films a large audience in the burgeoning home video market. Nevertheless, by the end of the 1980s audiences were tiring of "unstoppable" psychotic killers and predictable plots, and the slasher market dwindled.


The slasher genre resurfaced into the mainstream in the mid 1990s, after being successfully deconstructed in Wes Craven's Scream (1996). The film was both a critical and commercial success which attracted a new generation to the genre. Two sequels followed, and the series was even parodied in Keenen Ivory Wayans' Scary Movie (2000), and its three sequels.

It kicked off a new slasher cycle that still followed the basic conventions of the 1980s films, but managed to draw in a more demographically varied audience with increased production values, reduced levels of on-screen gore, more character development, and better-known actors and actresses (often from popular television shows).

Critical analysis

Critic Roger Ebert has taken to calling this genre the "Dead Teenager Movie", the principal cliché of which is that the only teenager to survive is always the virginal girl who declines all of the vices (sexual exploration, pot smoking, etc.) indulged in by those who end up murdered. And some other films in this genre have explored the sexual morality question from the other angle, drawing metaphorical parallels between sexual repression and the acts of the killer (as in William Lustig's Maniac (1980)).

Carol J. Clover, in her book Men, Women and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film, identified what she called the "final girl" trope; the heroic young woman who ultimately survives and defeats the killer (at least until the sequel). The history of the slasher film has also been explored by Mikita Brottman in her book Offensive Films : Toward an Anthropology of Cinema Vomitif.

Notable slasher movies

Movie poster for Freddy vs. Jason (2003) Movie poster for Freddy vs. Jason (2003)

  • Psycho (1960) - One of the earliest Slasher Films, Psycho helped to create the "stock" Slasher film character of the mentally disturbed killer. As well, Psycho introduced the blend of sexual themes, mental derangement, horror, and an isolated location that would become commonplace in later Slasher films.
  • Black Christmas (1974) - A small group of university students decide stay in the mostly-empty dormitory house over Christmas is terrorized by a killer who is enraged by their sexual exploits. This in one the first films to combine the elements of a murder mystery with the horror/slasher genre.
  • Halloween (1978) - about a mask-wearing killer that escapes a mental institution and returns to his home town to continue his rampage. Started the '80s slasher craze and spawned 8 sequels.
  • Friday the 13th (1980) - the first in a long-running series. A mother avenges her dead son by killing teenagers at a summer camp, and the son subsequently becomes an unstoppable killing machine who continues to murder teenagers in summer camps, particularly when they are engaging in sexual activity.
  • Sleepaway Camp (1983) - first in a series of typical 1980s slashers.
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) - first in the series that gave slashers a supernatural twist, the killer possessing the power to attack his victims in their dreams. Unilike some of its darkly lit, shadowy predecessors, Nightmare on Elm Street films used make-up, special effects and post-production techniques to create startlingly realistic horror images.
  • Scream (1996) - this horror/dark comedy film added a satirical and tongue-in-cheek approach to the standard formula (teens being brutally killed off) . Scream began the 1990s slasher revival, and it was followed by two sequels.
  • I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) - most successful of the post-Scream slasher craze.
  • Freddy vs. Jason (2003) - combined the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises, as the main killers from the two series' clash after crossing into each others' killing territory.
  • Haute Tension (2003) - gory French slasher film, also known as High Tension or Switchblade Romance.

See also

External links

Home | Up | Slasher film | Splatter film

Movies, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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