6WH: Week 5 – Golden Age Slashers

Slasher movies are formulaic and trashy, but longtime readers know that I love them (because I won’t shut up about them). They’re good, old-fashioned horror comfort food, like a warm blanket on a cold autumn night. Want a good overview of what makes a slasher a slasher? Check out Final Girl’s Slashers 101 comic book. Funny and informative (and it’s free!)

Final Girl is definitely qualified

Me too! On both counts! And yet, it’s been a while since I really dug into classic Golden Age Slashers (i.e. that 1980-1983 corridor where seemingly hundreds of slashers were made). Sure, I’ve caught up with one or two here or there, and I’ve hit up some neo-slashers and proto-slashers, but there have been a few seminal slashers that I’ve never managed to catch up with. It’s about time I rectified that oversight:

  • Thanksgiving (fake trailer)
  • Driving Lessons – Halloween Deleted Scene (short)
  • Jason’s Deceiving Speed (Robot Chicken)
  • The Slumber Party Massacre – An escaped mental patient terrorizes a high-school slumber party. I’ve definitely seen this before, back in the days of late night cable viewing, but I’m not sure I saw it all the way through. So this is a movie I want to like a lot more than I actually do, and I’m not entirely sure why. The movie is written and directed by two women (Rita Mae Brown and Amy Holden Jones, respectively) who claim to be feminists, and yet this is one of the more lurid slashers out there. Boobs everywhere. Then again, their influence certainly comes through in our maniac’s choice of weaponry, a giant corkscrew drill whose phallic symbolism couldn’t be more obvious and yet, it doesn’t come off as clumsy as it’s a neat, almost iconic visual.

    Behold my terrifying denim jacket
    Behold my terrifying denim jacket

    It’s clearly got some stuff on its mind, but then it also came out of Roger Corman’s stable, so the trashy elements are out in full force. It’s also a more comedic take on the sub-genre than you normally see. Some of the slasher conventions are skimped on a bit, particularly the historical component and the lack of any mystery as to who the killer is (he doesn’t even wear a mask and his jean jacket is the most terrifying thing about his getup; he’s not very intimidating), but other slashers have done well with similar oversights. I honestly don’t know why I didn’t connect with this as much as I really wanted to. I still think it’s really good, but not quite top tier. (There are, however, many who do put this in that top tier, and I can see why…) **1/2

  • It’s the Gifts That I Hate (Robot Chicken)
  • The Prowler (trailer)
  • The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror V: The Shinning
  • The Boogey Man – A little boy murders his mother’s boyfriend, and his little sister watches the whole thing in a mirror. 20 years later, still trying to confront what happened back then, she hallucinates the boyfriend in the mirror and smashes it with a chair. In doing so, she releases the boyfriend’s spirit, and he’s looking for revenge! So this one goes right for the supernatural jugular. It takes a while to get there, but it eventually hits its mark. The whole “spirit trapped in a mirror” bit is effective and they wring a lot of juice out of the little bits of mirror finding themselves scattered and thus providing our Boogey Man with a wide range of victims. Of course, you don’t actually see him, it’s all just levitating knives and pitchforks and whatnot, but that works well enough. He can also kinda, sorta possess people, and like, shine green light that makes people’s eyes bleed.

    Giving you the ol green eye.

    Or something. His powers aren’t exactly defined so well. The first half of the movie is far too clunky for it to be a classic, and while it picks up, it never really overcomes its limitations. A worthy watch for slasher fans, but again, not top tier. **

  • Hardly Working: Slasher (Short)
  • Horror Friends Forever (Robot Chicken)
  • April Fools Day (trailer)
  • He Knows You’re Alone – A serial killer specializing in brides-to-be stalks a woman as she prepares for her wedding. The woman’s ex is a persistent douche who won’t leave her alone, so he gets to help out. Meanwhile, a police detective (and fiance to the first victim) is hot on his trail. Now this is the stuff. It hits the conventions but never gets too lurid or too trashy, and the tactical execution is pretty solid too. It’s most famous for being the onscreen debut of Tom Hanks (who isn’t around for long, but he does get to extemporize on why people like to watch trashy horror movies), but you’ll actually recognize a bunch of the actors.

    Behold my terrifying denim jacket

    A lot of “that guys” show up here. Once again, the killer isn’t masked and the historical element is a bit lacking, but he’s a little better than the Slumber Party Massacre guy and the film does a great job with his many stalkery reveals. Overall, it’s a really fun slasher, and it feels less trashy than your typical entry while still working in the same arena. Not exactly fine cinema, but I really enjoyed it. ***

Whoa, week 5 is already down? Yikes, this is going fast! Not sure what’s up next, but I’ve got lots of stuff in the queue… In the meantime, check out Zack over at Film Thoughts, who is updating nearly every day…

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