The slasher genre needs to evolve if it wants to survive another 40 years. Here is a good place to start.
No one believes that “Halloween Ends” is the real end of “Halloween” movies—the only thing harder to kill than a slasher villain is a profitable series of movies about him. But it’s also not exactly clear where the franchise should go next. In fact, the slasher genre as a whole has stagnated a bit.
Franchises like “Halloween,” “Friday the 13th,” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street” spent the 1980s and ’90s building loyal fanbases by releasing an endless series of fun and gory sequels that produced gonzo, comic book horror series every year. . – Legends for their masked killers. Then, they spent the first two decades of the 21st century squandering that goodwill with a series of remakes that attempted little more than opportunistic retreads of old story beats. These days, news of a new “Friday the 13th” or “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” elicits little more than groans.
Not that these movies were ever high art, but there was a time when they provided a constant flow of grindhouse creativity. The people who finance them may be as cynical as they are now, but at least you can go to the multiplex every October to see if Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees are going to do something they’ve never seen before. That wild creativity has given way to a stream of hard work in the form of mediocre, CGI-laden remakes and terrible attempts at meta-comedy.
David Gordon Green’s “Halloween” reboot trilogy saw perhaps the most artistry anyone has injected into one of these franchises this century, and its success can be read as evidence that there’s a market for more creativity in this space. (The reboot trilogy grossed nearly $310 million worldwide, even though the last two films in Peacock had same-date openings.) But for the slasher movie to survive another 40 years, it must evolve. With more content than ever — and it’s not slowing down — conditions are ripe for volume-based genres like the slasher movie to enjoy another renaissance. But it’s also clear that nostalgia-fueled reboots only get you so far. At a certain point, even the good ones start to wear thin.
To truly return to form, the slasher genre needs a healthy dose of quirky originality fueling films like “Freddy vs. Jason,” “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare,” and even “Jason X.” It needs a mix of original franchises that let us root against new killers — thanks, Ti West! — and creative new takes on the series we know and love.
If filmmakers take these four practical ideas to heart to save the slasher genre, that goal can be accelerated. These tips apply equally to those dreaming up new original franchises and working to breathe new life into the ones we already have. If Hollywood is serious about giving slasher movie fans what they want, this would be a good place to start.
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1. Stop deleting your own history
The 2018 “Halloween” reboot from David Gordon Green found a convenient way to make sense of the franchise’s messy timeline and set the scene for the next showdown between Michael Myers and Laurie Strode: It ignored and dramatized all the movies that came before. A direct follow-up to John Carpenter’s original film. Countless sequels and ill-fated reboots (and the onscreen death of Jamie Lee Curtis) just didn’t happen.
This year director David Blue Garcia’s “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” reboot used the same plot device, acting as a direct sequel to Tobe Hooper’s original masterpiece. And while the Netflix movie was fun enough, it demonstrated the strategy’s limitations. That movie seemed to almost directly parody Greene’s realistic take on the material (without spoiling it too much, it also follows a Final Girl who spends her life preparing to face her slasher nemesis with far less impressive results), but it didn’t exactly pave the way. For more movies.
Being a fan of slasher franchises has always been inherently irrational, and there’s no point in pretending otherwise. Many of these series are beloved Because Their mythology becomes unnecessarily complex. If you really look under the hood of the “Friday the 13th” franchise, there is virtually nothing. You have a guy who is basically invincible, who kills everyone wherever he goes. It’s not particularly exciting until you send him to Manhattan, outer space, hell and the realm of dreams (with countless summer camps along the way, of course).
If someone tried to make a straight sequel to the original “Friday the 13th” that ignored all of that lore, they’d lose a lot of what makes the franchise fun. Sure, they might get a nostalgic hit out of it, but it will ultimately be a reminder that the series’ heyday is behind it.
A fresh take on the material will reckon with its own messy history. Force your characters to understand the fact that this guy went to space and Went to hell and you still can’t stop him!
David Gordon Green’s Gambit eventually produced a hilarious trilogy of rebooted “Halloween” movies — who’s really going to complain about seeing Jamie Lee Curtis play Laurie Strode three times? – so it definitely earns a pass as a one-time exercise. But this should not be the new normal.
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2. Travel through time – there’s more to the ’70s!
What do the two biggest horror hits of 2022, “Prey” and “Perl” have in common? They both found success with their timely take on classic horror tropes.
Dan Trachtenberg’s “Prey” takes the “Predator” franchise back to the 18th century and sees a tribe of Comanche warriors battle aliens with bows and axes. And it was crazy sweet! It wasn’t a slasher movie, but it showed that even the most dormant franchises can be revived by putting them in an era we haven’t seen before.
“Perl,” Ti West’s prequel to his ’70s slasher homage “X,” goes back to 1918. The techno assassin origin story was as much a love letter to grand old Hollywood cinema as “X” was to grindhouse movies, and juxtaposition. Two styles were enough to impress Martin Scorsese.
There are many historical eras that horror movies haven’t explored, and slasher franchises have the perfect opportunity to put a dent in that list. is given extremely They have always worked out that with a loose grasp on reality, the possibilities are literally endless. Send Jason Voorhees to Rome and let them try to stop it with trebuchets. Have Freddy Krueger haunt the nightmares of the ancient Egyptians until they worship him as a deity. Show us what Leatherface was when cowboys were still roaming Texas. Slasher movies have had no problem taking us back to the 1970s and 80s over and over again. It’s time to expand their horizons.
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3. Bring other genres into the fold
On a similar note, there’s no reason why slasher movies can’t go further and completely merge with other genres. To be considered a slasher movie, you really need a masked guy (or girl!) who goes around killing people until there’s only one left. There’s no reason those elements can’t be combined with tropes from other genres.
The most famous example of this is probably “Jason X”, James Isaac’s infamous “Friday the 13th in Space” movie that has been re-rated as a cult classic. That film is too bogged down by cringe meta humor (more on that in a minute) to be considered a true blueprint for the future, but its best moments show that slashers and sci-fi have the potential to be a fun combination.
And it doesn’t have to stop there! Many westerns center around an anonymous drifter who wanders into town and starts causing trouble. Why not make it where Jason Voorhees is a drifter? Or make a World War II movie where a soldier goes rogue in the trenches and becomes a masked slasher? Gangsters, samurai, high fantasy – you name it, and the right filmmaker can fit a slasher into it.
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4. Eliminate the phrase “self-aware” from your vocabulary
Throwing in a slasher movie you haven’t seen can have two possible fun outcomes: The movie can be really scary (see: the original “Halloween”) or it can be ridiculously bad (see: … well, most of them). While both experiences have their place, one thing that almost never works is trying to make a deliberately ridiculously bad movie. And yet many of the worst slasher movies of the 21st century earned that title because their directors tried to do exactly that. From teenage girls in “Jason X” to children in “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” to Brechtian declarations about their motives for “smoking pot and premarital sex” to subtle references to the past, recent slasher films have made unique “jokes” are full It exists only to hide the film’s lack of effort to be original.
Ultimately, those jokes just serve as a reminder that you’re watching a great movie about the exact same characters. Anyone making a new slasher movie should go in the opposite direction and choose to tell new stories with honesty instead of just pandering to their audience.
There are obvious exceptions to this — “Scream” built an entire franchise out of brilliantly executed meta-comedy — but we’ve had so much of it that it’s time for a dose of honesty. Humor will come naturally on occasions when you fail – and if you make enough of these, you will! But you have to let it happen on your own terms.