Are you a fan of horror movies? If so, you’ve probably heard of slasher films.
Slasher movies are an iconic subgenre of horror that have been around since the late 70s and continue to be popular in the modern era. They involve victims being stalked and killed by a mysterious and seemingly unstoppable predator. These predators often wear masks or have some other distinctive feature, making them memorable to viewers.
Slasher films are not for the faint of heart; they often contain intense violence, gore, and psychological terror. But they also have darkly humorous elements and clever plots that keep viewers on edge as they try to figure out who the killer is.
In this article, we’ll take a look at what makes slasher films so popular and explore some of the most iconic examples from throughout cinematic history. So join us as we delve into out of the shadows: all about slasher films.
Origins of the Slasher Genre
The slasher genre has long been associated with suspense, shock, and horror. In the late 1970s, this genre emerged out of the shadows of prior horror movies with a unique focus on violence and gore. The success of hit movies such as “Halloween” (1978), “Friday the 13th” (1980), and “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984) ushered in the golden age of slasher films.
These films followed a familiar formula: a masked killer armed with weapons such as knives, machetes, or chainsaws stalks victims as they struggle to stay alive. Victims often die in exceedingly brutal ways as they get picked off one by one until only an unsuspecting ‘final girl’ remains to defeat the killer. Slasher films thus created a cycle of anticipation and terror that audiences reveled in throughout the 1980s.
This particular kind of movie led to much critical debate; some praised its “high-energy suspense” while others argued it was too explicit in its violence—but regardless of its perceived merits or failings, it certainly captured an audience’s fascination—and continues to do so today.
Common Themes in Slasher Films
Slasher films are known for their entertaining and often gory violence, but underlying this violence is a consistent set of themes that have been featured in nearly every slasher film.
First, there is the theme of revenge. Slashers tend to feature a wronged character taking violent action against those they deem responsible for their suffering. Victims often become killers in order to avenge themselves or others. This theme creates suspense as viewers wait to find out what will come of the revenger’s plans.
Second, slashers often feature teens as protagonists and antagonists—often a single teen who must survive against an unstoppable killer. This suspenseful scenario plays on our primal fear of the unknown, with teens finding themselves in an enclosed environment with little escape or hope of rescue.
Finally, there is the theme of morality or immorality which questions which characters are “good” and “bad”; typically, it’s only when protagonists make moral choices that they ultimately prevail over their horror-movie foes.
Notable Slasher Films and Franchises
From “Halloween” to “Scream,” slasher films have been around for decades and have made a lasting impression on pop culture. Here are some of the most notable slasher films and franchises that you’ve probably heard of:
“Friday the 13th” (1980)
The “Friday the 13th” franchise has become one of the most iconic slasher film series of all time. The original 1980 movie spawned 11 sequels and a remake in 2009. The plot revolves around Jason Voorhees, a menacing serial killer who stalks the campgrounds of Camp Crystal Lake.
“A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984)
Another classic slasher film, this movie follows Freddy Krueger as he terrorizes children in their dreams. The film spawned seven sequels, a remake in 2010, and even an entire television series.
This meta-slasher film was a direct response to the state of slasher films at the time and is often credited with reviving both the genre and horror as a whole. It stars Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott, a teenager who is targeted by a mysterious killer known as Ghostface. The franchise consists of four movies, with the fifth installment set for release in 2022.
Common Tropes in Slasher Movies
Ah slasher films, the staple of horror movie fans and Halloween gatherings everywhere. We all know them, love them and fear them, but what else may be lurking in the shadows of these classic movies?
The Final Girl
This is probably one of the most recognizable tropes in slasher films – we’ve seen it play out countless times. The Final Girl is usually the lone survivor among her peers, as she uses her wits, strength and courage to survive whatever gruesome traps await her. Generally speaking, she is a strong female character who subverts gender roles through her challenging of traditional societal expectations.
The antagonist in a slasher movie typically comes in the form of a mysterious figure with a weapon or some kind of power that they use to violently dispatch their victims. This killer is usually highly motivated by some kind of twisted sense of justice and is often driven by revenge or religious fanaticism.
Another key trope in slasher movies are death traps – this could include everything from elaborate booby-traps to ingenious contraptions that make killing someone quick and easy. These death traps are often used to give us an added thrill as we watch our hero escape narrowly from whatever terrifying situation they find themselves in.
Subgenres of Slasher Cinema
Slasher cinema has evolved over time, leading to the emergence of distinct subgenres. Horror fans have identified five different categories of slasher films:
Traditional Slasher Films
The traditional slasher film is the one that started it all. Traditional slashers usually focus on a psychotic killer who uses weapons such as a knife or ax to murder innocent victims in typically remote locations. The killer is usually motivated by revenge, which often comes in the form of retribution against immoral characters in the film. Examples include Friday the 13th and Halloween.
Psychosexual slasher films are characterized by intense sexual themes and associations between murder and sex. In these films, killers often have deviant sexual urges that manifest in their murderous behavior. Notable examples include American Psycho and A Nightmare on Elm Street.
Supernatural slashers take the traditional slasher formula and add an element of fantasy: Killer ghosts, witches or aliens may be used to drive the narrative forward, making them much more unpredictable than their human counterparts. Prominent passages include The Ring and It Follows.
Exploitation slashers blur the lines between horror, comedy, and drama to offer an entertainingly campy take on murder-mystery films. These are often gory slapstick affairs with satire rooted in pop culture phenomena and self-referential wit. Notable examples include The Cabin in the Woods and Scream 2.
Comedy slasher films take a goofy approach to horror by framing death as a joke rather than something serious or threatening.
Jump-Scare Tactics and Their Impact
Slasher films are known for their suspenseful tactics like jump-scares, which are carefully crafted surprise moments designed to shock and excite the audience. These can take many different forms, from a sudden change of music or lighting to an unexpected appearance by the killer. Jump-scares have become a trademark of slasher films since they first hit the big screen in 1960s with Alfred Hitchcock’s classic ‘Psycho’.
Jump-scares possess an unmistakable power to leave audiences breathless and on edge, but there is more to them than simply providing thrills. They are designed to make viewers aware of the danger that is lurking around every corner and heighten the tension of an already tense scene. The jump-scare tactic is used as a creative way to keep viewers glued to their seats as they wait for something unexpected and unpredictable.
This suspenseful tactic has been incorporated into slasher films for decades and will likely remain one of the key elements for many years to come.
From its humble beginnings in the late 70s and early 80s, the Slasher genre has since become a staple of horror cinema. With themes of fear, vengeance, and retribution, these films remain as popular today as ever. Whether you’re a die-hard fan or simply curious to know more about the genre, it has something for everyone. Slasher films are not only a source of entertainment and spectacle, but also serves as a reminder of how our society still deals with violence and its aftermath—and how far it has come. Slashers will continue to provide scares and thrills for generations to come.