‘The lowest form of humour’
- English writer Samuel Johnson in reference to the use of puns
The above phrase (substitute ‘humour’ for ‘horror’) often comes to mind when speaking to fans of horror regarding (arguably) its most oft maligned sub-genre: the slasher film. At times, it’s hard to refute that feeling or in some extreme cases, the outright hatred of it. Even though, by and large, zombie films have had a recent run of the generic, slashers continue to be the red headed step child of the horror genre. Why is that? Before we answer that question, a brief run down of its history is essential.
Let’s go all the way back to 1960 when a little film premiered that would pretty much set the blueprint for all slasher films that followed: Psycho. Sure, some films had slasher elements such as 1960’s Peeping Tom, but Psycho was what really gave the sub-genre a formula with which to start: take a socially maladjusted male (or female), a traumatic event which he/she is never able to shake, a disguise to hide behind, an assistant to this soon-to-be vehicle of death (AKA weapon of choice), and a group of people that antagonize him in some way which in turn, sets him/her off. Sure, certain elements have changed over the decades, with some being reflective of the times. But with Psycho, a formula was born.
After 1978’s defining Halloween, it was pretty much all downhill from there. OK that's not quite fair but we did see everything from copycats to outright rip-offs, Friday the 13th, Offerings, Edge of the Axe to name a few; to sleazed out affairs like Aerobicide (AKA Killer Workout), Iced, and Evil Laugh. Movies were churned out en masse and this style of film was beaten like a dead horse. But hot damn I couldn’t get enough of them. They’re like horror’s equivalent of a box of chocolates: you always know what you’re going to get (yes, I just quoted Forrest Gump on a horror blog). It’s easy fun that relieves you from the mind numbing likes of horror’s more serious and exhausting fare (I’m looking at you Martyrs!). Even with the recent resurgence of the sub-genre, and its strict adherence to ‘the rules’, I can’t get enough of these films, good or bad.
So I ask you, why is this sub-genre so oftentimes dismissed? Lack of style or substance? Too paint-by-numbers? The films are mostly shit? What say yous?
For a more critical take and perspective, my friend Jayson over at the Basement of Ghoulish Decadence posted his reply: http://www.ghoulbasement.com/2011/08/re-slashers-why-bad-rap.html
Cortez the Killer