First there were the classic slasher films of the late 70’s-early 80’s. Then there were their countless sequels, and the novelty wore off, along with the invitable decline in quality.
For a while, Hollywood along with indie cinema seemed to go through a bit of a dry spell when it came to horror flicks: we got stellar psychological thrillers with toned down violence, but very few good, bona-fide slasher films, and those were mostly smaller productions labeled as b-movies.
The genre had a brief resurgence in the late 90’s with the brilliantly meta Scream franchise (and its substandard copycats), but quickly moved towards the new torture-porn subgenre which dominated the mid-00’s. And, while it initially made quite a splash, as the first shockwave wore off, it became the subject of scorn and severe criticism, giving way to a new crop of horror films focusing on the supernatural, whether it be vampires and zombies or a demonic presence – both classic favorites for horror fans but for the first time entering the mainstream. This also gave rise to the found footage subgenre, which made a brief appearance with the original Blair Witch movie back in the late 90’s and really carved out a niche for itself in the 2010’s.
Amidst all this constant shift in tone and subject matter in the horror genre, the standard slasher flick fell by the wayside with very few examples, one of which clearly stands out: the ultimate meta horror movie of the decade, i.e. The Cabin In The Woods. The brilliantly original – in its derivativeness – scary movie definitely opened the door for this new crop of shows that satirize the genre while still respecting its core principles and basic set of rules. (And sure, if didn’t exactly stick the landing, botched ending and all, but still, it epitomized the old school horror flick we all knew and loved – and then turned it on its head).
Still, genre fans could get their horror fix on television by way of the racy, pulpy and wonderfully ridiculous True Blood series, and then, of course, the zombie extravaganza that is The Walking Dead. Then we got more zombies and more vampires, with mediocre shows such as the Z Nation and The Strain, and while the vampire craze has mostly died down thanks to the abomination that was Twilight franchise, zombie lovers can still enjoy the occasional good zombie movie and binge on TWD.
Except that’s not all television has to offer to horror fans: from American Horror Story to Penny Dreadful and everything in between, we can now get our blood and gore fix and a few good jump scares on a weekly basis.
And, thanks to the ever-popular trend of everything meta, from self-referential comedies like Community and awesomely cartoonish adaptations of horror classics like Ash vs. Evil Dead to comedy-horror like Scream Queens (ugh), we can now enjoy cool slasher horror, in serialized format, in the comfort of our own homes.
It may not be a sensational comeback, but for people who enjoyed the meta horror of Scream or Cabin In the Woods, it’s the next best thing.
The title really says it all: it’s the classic slasher flick, stretched out to 8 episodes for a supersized dose of horror directly on your Netflix app. Cleverly formatted as an anthology series, the first season of the show is perfectly adequate to satisfy your appetite, but the second one is where, for me, it really shines.
Slasher 1 deals with the classic case of a heroine moving back to the little town where tragedy struck her family decades before. A series of horrific murders start to occur the minute she settles into her family home, and you get exactly what you’d expect from a show aptly named ‘slasher’: people dropping like flies left and right, killed in the most horrific ways possible by a menacing masked villain, while every turn reveals yet another possible suspect but leaves enough doubt floating around to keep you coming back for more, and culminating in a semi-surprising reveal.
Although perfectly fitting with the theme and offering a variety of gore and jump scares, complete with just about every horror trope imaginable, I didn’t enjoy the first season as much as the far superior (for my preferences) Slasher 2: Guilty Party.
In true cabin-in-the-woods form, a group of old friends take a trip to their old stomping grounds, a secluded property in the mountains where they used to work as summer camp counselors, and where they hid their dirty little secret five years before. Except the camp is now the home for a vegan kumbaya community, it’s the dead of winter and people are getting slaughtered in gruesome, creative ways.
Even more filled with horror tropes, the second season is part I Know What You Did Last Summer, part Friday the 13th, and generally full of homages to just about every slasher flick you can imagine, right down to the twist ending.
And then we have the ultimate homage show, which doesn’t even try to be original: if you enjoyed the Scream movies (at least the first couple of installments), chances are you’ll love their TV adaptation.
We open with an updated version of the classic Drew Barrymore opening scene (except now the one getting attacked is Netflix’s new darling, Bella Thorne) and follow a group of highschool friends getting picked off one by one, as the nerdy guy provides meta commentary, ripe with countless pop culture references.
Instead of Ghostface, the masked killer now wears a different, but equally terrifying mask, Gale Weathers is replaced by a podcaster dealing in serial killer lore, the backstory of the heroine’s family diverges from the original, but the bones of the plot are pretty much the same, as it runs parallel to the original Scream movie.
As Randy #2, aka Noah, explains, slasher films aren’t really TV show fodder – and then the show does its best to disprove this theory, cashing in on its central premise: the goal of such flicks is to make the viewers care about the characters enough to make their deaths significant (and as scary as possible). And what better way to connect with your audience than to provide 10 whole episodes’ worth of time to identify with the terrified kids?
Perhaps the show would have been better off as an anthology series, because at some point the plot lines, characters and list of suspects are recycled one too many times, but it’s still quite entertaining as far as slashers go. Apparently Season 3 will be getting the complete reboot treatment (and a new showrunner), so hopefully the new episodes coming up in March will inject the show with a much needed dose of fresh faces and storylines.
What both Slasher and Scream have in common is that they both pay homage to their movie predecessors and genre classics of the 80’s and 90’s with a tongue-in-cheek approach that checks all the horror trope boxes while gently poking fun at them in a respectful way.
Are they predictable? Absolutely, but then again, what slasher movie isn’t? Are they gory, suspenseful, and ultimately fun? Yes, yes and yes to all of the above.
If you’re looking for some mindless horror cliches that are actually entertaining and true to their roots, you can’t go wrong with either show.