6WH: Week 4 – 80s Slasher Week

The Six Weeks of Horror continues (See Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3) with some 80s slasher fun (sort of an extension of week 1’s Friday the 13th marathon).

  • Psycho (trailer)
  • Prom Night (trailer)
  • Grindhouse: Don’t (fake trailer)
  • Sleepaway Camp: Young Angela, still shaken and withdrawn from seeing her father and brother killed in a boating accident years earlier, travels to camp with her protective cousin. It’s just another summer at Camp Arawak, with the usual softball, swimming, horsing-around, and DEATH! Honestly, how many 80s slasher flicks have this exact premise? Fortunately, this film has a couple of twists on the cliches. First, the kids in this film are younger than usual, and they’re actually played by kids (not 30 year-olds pretending to be kids). This means less opportunity for the traditional slasher T&A, but more time for childish antics and tomfoolery. It makes for an interesting tradeoff. Another oddity is that you are generally rooting for the killer in this movie. The tone is set by the first attack against the pedophile cook, who really had it coming. Successive kills are less warranted, but there’s usually some sort of motive for the killings (most of the dead folks had been picking on poor Angela, for example), and that’s a little different than your typical slasher pic. Most of the performances are about what you’d expect, but Felissa Rose does a great job as Angela, with a fantastic empty stare. The death sequences are unusual as well – you get death by boiling water, bees, and curling iron, amongst others. Furthermore, most of the death sequences have a buildup, an implied death, followed by a closeup look at the gorey aftermath. This technique is difficult to describe, but surprisingly effective. And no discussion of this film would be complete without mentioning the ending, which is amazing. I don’t want to ruin it, but without the ending, this movie wouldn’t be worth it at all. I found myself strangely sucked in to this movie and I enjoyed it much more than I expected. ***

    Sleepaway Camp

  • Slumber Party Massacre II (trailer)
  • The Evil Dead (Japanese version of the trailer – I have no idea what he’s saying, but his voice is fantastic!)
  • The Hills Have Eyes (trailer)
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street: Oddly, I don’t think I’d actually seen this entire movie from start to finish before. I think I watched it about 10 minutes at a time throughout the 80s, so there were a few spots I never remembered seeing. But it’s still a classic. The premise has an elegant simplicity that is difficult to deny. How do you hide from an enemy that haunts your dreams? There’s no escape from Freddy Krueger, which is why this movie is so compelling. Director Wes Craven does an exceptional job executing this film. It’s filled with creepy but compelling imagery, including some of the most memorable and horrifying death sequences in all of horror. The surrealistic nature of dreams (or rather, nightmares) opens the door to all sorts of fantastical visuals, but Craven keeps things grounded enough that we never really doubt what’s happening. In that respect, it owes something of a debt to the original <a href="Phantasm“>Phantasm (especially the haunting and ambiguous ending), but Craven crafted a brilliant film and established an iconic villain in the process. He also probed some fertile symbolic ground as well, which is another reason this film continues to be effective (for instance, the children in the film are always trying to wake up while the adults are constantly advising them to stay asleep). Successive installments would dull the fear by delving into Freddy’s past and making him more comedic in nature, but in this first film he’s menacing, grotesque and vicious. I’m really glad I revisited this movie, as it was better than I had remembered. ***1/2

    Freddy Krueger

  • Chopping Mall (trailer)
  • The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror VI: Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace
  • Scream (trailer)
  • Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film: This documentary traces the slasher film from its origins in the sixties and seventies to its heyday in the early eighties to its demise later that decade and its resurgence in the mid-nineties. Lots of talking heads here, but the filmmakers don’t skimp and get the top directors, producers, actors, etc… including the likes of Wes Craven, John Carpenter, and Tom Savini. They even manage to cover relatively obscure topics like how the giallo scene in Italian horror influenced the eighties slasher craze (I would have liked to have seen a little more of this, but the fact that they mentioned it at all was surprising). All in all, watching this documentary made me want to watch more slasher pics, which is a pretty good indicator. I wish there were more documentaries like this, as there are a lot of topics to explore in modern horror films. ***

That’s all for this week. I’ve really been cranking through films this Halloween season, so I might have another full installment on Wednesday… [Thanks to Widget’s 32 Days of Halloween for the Psycho trailer and the Japanese Evil Dead trailer]