We start the Top 7. You finish the Top 10.
Hold on! We can't have a chick denigrating slasher flicks! Clearly she's befuddled by all that estrogen and sensitiviblah. I'm sure she gets all teary-eyed during heartfelt coffee commercials. Except, this chick knows good horror, artistic horror, the sort of horror you could frame and hang on a wall next to Munch's "The Scream" or Salvador Dali's "Soft Construction of Boiled Beans." And slasher flicks (with a few exceptions*) aren't good horror, are nowhere near good horror, are in fact so far beyond offensive and stupid, there's nothing to do but throw big rocks at them.
So, I've decided to put together a comprehensive diatribe in honor of the fact that Jeff Bayer is dragging me to see the new A Nightmare on Elm Street. Nick and I are doing a He Said/She Said and Bayer's selling tickets to the dog-fight. I just thought I'd take a few leisurely moments to sharpen my teeth.
*Just for the record, the first Saw and Severance are two such exceptions, and I'd slip Baghead in there if I could get away with it.
Reason: You have the groundbreaking classic slasher movies, such as the original A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th and then you have the ensuing masses of inauthentic swill. It's like the only good ideas were all used up and now we're stuck with weak facsimiles that are utter embarrassments. Am I saying the original stories were devoid of sexism or a weird correlation between sexuality and violence? Of course not, but the originals defined the genre and so it's forgivable. If it's so damned hard thinking up a slasher plot that can't be directly traced back to A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Psycho, or Texas Chainsaw Massacre, maybe it doesn't deserve its own genre. Oh, and for the record, the above mentioned films (not the remakes, don't be ridiculous) would definitely be invited to the Horror Party.
6. The Antagonist is Invincible
Reason: This worked in A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th, because the bad guys are essentially dead, and how do you kill a dead guy? No idears here, but it's a darned scary idea. It was a scary idea and now that idea is spoken for. Since it's over used, it's no longer scary, just stupid and frustrating and predictable. A lot of bad guys are invincible, but via intelligence not physically! Hannibal Lecter is smarter than everyone else and he can outwit us all and then eat our brains. That's not to say he'd make it if we fed him through a grain thresher. There are no stakes if the bad guy is unstoppable. It's like watching a kid stomping up and down on an ant hive. Why is that remotely climactic? If you remove the element of surprise, it's a waste of precious time. Otherwise, you're just there to watch people die in fantastic, exotic ways and if that's your only reason (not plot, not cinematography, not direction, not talent) you should worry about yourself. Any neighborhood pets buried in the backyard?
5. You Only Survive Due to Luck and Timing
Reason: Luck/timing as an infrequent device is phenomenal. What it means is no matter how smart and competent you are, you shouldn't have lived through what just happened and the only reason you're still alive is because of luck of the draw or your timing. That removes the inherent separation between the audience and the story, because we, the audience, spend the whole time thinking, "Oh, I'd do that," or "I'd never do that." It's shocking when good, strong characters only barely survive because of fortune--it's a reminder that most of us, no matter how smart we think we are, would be dead in that situation. In slasher movies, this isn't the case. You can be brave and competent and moral and still bite the big one; you can be a screaming coward; you can be a pedestrian walking by; you can be the pizza delivery guy. It's firing randomly into a crowd to see who falls and who can limp off to safety and that removes all psychological interactivity between the audience and the storyline. Not scary, just dumb.
4. Puritanical Treatment of Any Behavior Deemed "Excessive"
Reason: Anyone else notice a definite puritanical vein running through these films? Because I feel like a lot more people should be startled by it. After all, based on my observations, a lot of the demographic audience are drinkers, or pot-smokers, or sexually active, or just obnoxious in general and these are the characters that are doomed from the get-go. The antagonist acts a bit like an avenging god, wiping out the revelers, because they're engaging in any excess, like drugs, drinking, sex or being loud and irritating. Why not make the obnoxious, drug-head, sex-freak character the smart protagonist? Oh, right! Because he/she deserves it. They obviously can't survive, because they're bad boys and girls. Does that appeal to people because it's a tad Old Testament? I'm not sure why it should. Hey you! Yeah, you, the guy who reeks of beer, who can't wait to see some greasy titties and blood splatter...you'd be next, friend. You are exactly the type of shameless sinner they'd gut on a hook.
3. Women are Punished for Sexuality
Reason: The gorgeous sluts get it first, right Bitter Bob who still remembers when Popular Jenny wouldn't go out on a date with you? But she sure shared the love with INSERT MORE MACHO/ATTRACTIVE MEN HERE, such as the captain of the football team, the hot drama emo you always suspected was gay, the rich kids, some rich kid's Senator father, etc. And now it's payback time! You're just itchin' to see some beautiful, promiscuous, deserving bitch take off her top and then get butchered or set on fire. How about this: why not kill off the sweet virgin and let the slut live? Because really, sex and death have very little to do with each other when Ted Bundy isn't along for the ride, so why not just drop that correlation altogether? There's a litany of absurd reasons, like, "She was performing oral sex, so she couldn't see the psychopath creeping up on her," or, "She went off into the dark bushes to have noisome intercourse, and that's why they picked her off first, because she was so isolated, see," but that's a cop-out. When it's a reoccurring theme it has everything to do with our societal hang-ups about women's sexuality and sex in general, and absolutely zero to do with furthering the plot.
Reason: The cops don't care, can't help, don't notice, or refuse to believe anything anyone says. "Hi!" the cops should say as they enter the scene, "Don't mind me; I'm just a prop." When you try to do law enforcement justice in horror movies, it's very effective. For example, Saw, Silence of the Lambs, The Crazies, Fallen ... they can do more than just play the red-neck buffoon who leaves Joe Q. Endangered by himself in a dark cell and walks off whistling. And I'm done with the scenario where only one cop/FBI Agent/US Marshal believes the story and then ends up killed, because there would be a sh*t-storm if that happened. Wouldn't it be scarier if the cops acted like real cops would act and they still couldn't stop the boogieman? Isn't scary what we're going for here?
1. The Protagonists/Cannon Fodder are Helpless Idiots
Reason: Stupid people make horrible decisions and die. So, it's a bit like watching a fox rampage through a chicken coop. When does that start being entertaining? There is no separation between the audience and the storyline if every character in the movie behaves so counter-intuitively, it's like they're actually suicidal. "Hey guys! I know there's a madman on the loose, but I'm going to go out to the tool shed by myself to see about getting the electricity back on. I'll be conveniently surrounded by Medieval-style garden implements in the dark, but it's cool." No one in the world would act like that. It's boring, stupid violence for the sake of violence. Not scary violence, not surprising violence--just plain ol', unoriginal, bland violence. It isn't thought-provoking, it isn't anything provoking and it's straight out of George Orwell's 1984: "Audience much amused by shots of a great huge fat man trying to swim away with a helicopter after him...then he was full of holes and the sea round him turned pink and he sank as suddenly as though the holes had let in the water, audience shouting with laughter when he sank." Bad, baaaaad sign.