What's Wrong With Slasher Movies?

What's Wrong With Slasher Movies?

Between critics and moral guardians, they can't seem to catch a break.

Back in their 1980s heyday, slasher movies were frequently criticized as excessively violent and formulaic. It’s never been a respectable genre, but there was a time when it was popular. In recent years, slasher movies have largely been beaten out by competition like monster movies, found footage, and paranormal horror. All this criticism isn’t entirely undeserved. Frankly, the vast majority of slasher movies are not only terrible films, but terrible horror films.

Among the most notable elements of the slasher genre is its use of stock characters. These films usually revolve around a group of high schoolers or college students, each of whom is a lazy stereotype. There’s the obnoxious jock, the awkward nerd, the selfish dumb blonde, and so on. Most slasher movies delight in making their characters as simplistic and unsympathetic as possible, so the audience hardly cares when they die. They’re disposable cardboard cut-outs to be creatively slaughtered and forgotten about. Little to no time is spent on character development, as most characters are killed after very little screen time.

As slasher franchises continue, they become increasingly oriented around the killer. Horror fans may be able to name a few of the killer’s victims, but everyone knows Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees. As the sequels and bodies pile up, we learn more about the killer, often regarding their backstory or motivation. They become the central character of the franchise, while their victims remain shallow as ever. We’re not supposed to feel the terror of the everyday people, but rather revel in the killer’s bloody deeds.

This results in poor storytelling and ineffective horror. The plots of slasher movies are primarily about people trying to survive a killer on the loose, but the characters are written specifically so that we don’t care about their survival. While memorable stories make the audience care about the characters and the outcome of the plot, slasher movies deliberately inspire indifference. Some people might say that horror movies don’t need to tell good stories, as long as they’re scary. I would argue you can’t make a movie genuinely scary if it isn’t a well-told story. Sure, you can focus on jump scares, but that doesn’t inspire real fear, just momentary surprise. In order to really scare us, horror movies have to give us characters that we can feel empathy for, and then subject them to frightening scenarios. If we’re rooting for them to die, we simply can’t feel fear.

As you’ve probably noticed by now, everything I’ve said has been in reference to “most” slasher movies. There are some slasher movies, particularly the earlier ones, that are a different story. While the genre drew influence from earlier films, most notably Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho,’ it’s foundations were laid in 1974 with two films: ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ and ‘Black Christmas’ (from the director of ‘A Christmas Story,’ oddly enough). Both films attempt to make the audience uncomfortable with images of victimization, rather than identifying with the killer. Though these films feature horrific murders, the actual on-screen violence is surprisingly restrained (Tobe Hooper, director of ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,’ actually hoped the film would be rated PG, although it received an R rating). It should also be noted, both films have fantastic, memorable endings. Although controversial upon release, both films have since received critical approval and enduring popularity.

The film that really created the slasher phenomenon was legendary director John Carpenter’s ‘Halloween’ from 1978. Unlike most slasher films, ‘Halloween’ actually has well-defined characters like the protagonist Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance), the killer’s psychiatrist. Carpenter depicted only as much violence as necessary, getting most of the scares by creating tension. ‘Halloween’ set the standard for the invincible, soulless masked killer that would come to dominate the genre. It created a template almost every subsequent slasher movie has borrowed, but what was innovative at the time has become cliche through repetition.

By the mid-80s, the slasher genre was dominated by lackluster sequels and rip-offs, and some of the earliest direct-to-video films. The one bright spot was director Wes Craven’s ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street.’ While adhering to the basic elements of the genre, it managed to distinguish itself from its predecessors with an original concept: an inescapable killer that attacks his victims in their dreams, rather than the real world. The result was surreal, creepy, and actually kind of fun. Wes Craven continued to redefine the slasher genre in the ‘90s, with the sequel ‘New Nightmare’ (which I’ve written about before) and ‘Scream.’

Admittedly, good (or even decent) slasher movies are few and far between. Rather than condemning an entire genre, however, I think it’s best to see where it usually goes wrong, and to praise the films that manage to avoid those pitfalls.
Cover Image Credit: Bryanston Pictures

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8 Reasons Why My Dad Is the Most Important Man In My Life

Forever my number one guy.

Growing up, there's been one consistent man I can always count on, my father. In any aspect of my life, my dad has always been there, showing me unconditional love and respect every day. No matter what, I know that my dad will always be the most important man in my life for many reasons.

1. He has always been there.

Literally. From the day I was born until today, I have never not been able to count on my dad to be there for me, uplift me and be the best dad he can be.

2. He learned to adapt and suffer through girly trends to make me happy.

I'm sure when my dad was younger and pictured his future, he didn't think about the Barbie pretend pageants, dressing up as a princess, perfecting my pigtails and enduring other countless girly events. My dad never turned me down when I wanted to play a game, no matter what and was always willing to help me pick out cute outfits and do my hair before preschool.

3. He sends the cutest texts.

Random text messages since I have gotten my own cell phone have always come my way from my dad. Those randoms "I love you so much" and "I am so proud of you" never fail to make me smile, and I can always count on my dad for an adorable text message when I'm feeling down.

4. He taught me how to be brave.

When I needed to learn how to swim, he threw me in the pool. When I needed to learn how to ride a bike, he went alongside me and made sure I didn't fall too badly. When I needed to learn how to drive, he was there next to me, making sure I didn't crash.

5. He encourages me to best the best I can be.

My dad sees the best in me, no matter how much I fail. He's always there to support me and turn my failures into successes. He can sit on the phone with me for hours, talking future career stuff and listening to me lay out my future plans and goals. He wants the absolute best for me, and no is never an option, he is always willing to do whatever it takes to get me where I need to be.

6. He gets sentimental way too often, but it's cute.

Whether you're sitting down at the kitchen table, reminiscing about your childhood, or that one song comes on that your dad insists you will dance to together on your wedding day, your dad's emotions often come out in the cutest possible way, forever reminding you how loved you are.

7. He supports you, emotionally and financially.

Need to vent about a guy in your life that isn't treating you well? My dad is there. Need some extra cash to help fund spring break? He's there for that, too.

8. He shows me how I should be treated.

Yes, my dad treats me like a princess, and I don't expect every guy I meet to wait on me hand and foot, but I do expect respect, and that's exactly what my dad showed I deserve. From the way he loves, admires, and respects me, he shows me that there are guys out there who will one day come along and treat me like that. My dad always advises me to not put up with less than I deserve and assures me that the right guy will come along one day.

For these reasons and more, my dad will forever be my No. 1 man. I love you!

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From One Nerd To Another

My contemplation of the complexities between different forms of art.


Aside from reading Guy Harrison's guide to eliminating scientific ignorance called, "At Least Know This: Essential Science to Enhance Your Life" and, "The Breakthrough: Immunotherapy and the Race to Cure Cancer" by Charles Graeber, an informative and emotional historical account explaining the potential use of our own immune systems to cure cancer, I read articles and worked on my own writing in order to keep learning while enjoying my winter break back in December. I also took a trip to the Guggenheim Museum.

I wish I was artistic. Generally, I walk through museums in awe of what artists can do. The colors and dainty details simultaneously inspire me and remind me of what little talent I posses holding a paintbrush. Walking through the Guggenheim was no exception. Most of the pieces are done by Hilma af Klint, a 20th-century Swedish artist expressing her beliefs and curiosity about the universe through her abstract painting. I was mostly at the exhibit to appease my mom (a K - 8th-grade art teacher), but as we continued to look at each piece and read their descriptions, I slowly began to appreciate them and their underlying meanings.

I like writing that integrates symbols, double meanings, and metaphors into its message because I think that the best works of art are the ones that have to be sought after. If the writer simply tells you exactly what they were thinking and how their words should be interpreted, there's no room for imagination. An unpopular opinion in high school was that reading "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne was fun. Well, I thought it was. At the beginning of the book, there's a scene where Hawthorne describes a wild rosebush that sits just outside of the community prison. As you read, you are free to decide whether it's an image of morality, the last taste of freedom and natural beauty for criminals walking toward their doom, or a symbol of the relationship between the Puritans with their prison-like expectations and Hester, the main character, who blossoms into herself throughout the novel. Whichever one you think it is doesn't matter, the point is that the rosebush can symbolize whatever you want it to. It's the same with paintings - they can be interpreted however you want them to be.

As we walked through the building, its spiral design leading us further and further upwards, we were able to catch glimpses of af Klint's life through the strokes of her brush. My favorite of her collections was one titled, "Evolution." As a science nerd myself, the idea that the story of our existence was being incorporated into art intrigued me. One piece represented the eras of geological time through her use of spirals and snails colored abstractly. She clued you into the story she was telling by using different colors and tones to represent different periods. It felt like reading "The Scarlet Letter" and my biology textbook at the same time. Maybe that sounds like the worst thing ever, but to me it was heaven. Art isn't just art and science isn't just science. Aspects of different studies coexist and join together to form something amazing that will speak to even the most untalented patron walking through the museum halls.

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