In part one of our History of the Slasher Movie series, we took a look at how the tropes of the genre came to be, beginning in 1960 and how they continued to shape the genre to a more recognizable formula by the late 1970’s. In the second installment we discussed what ignited and eventually dowsed the slasher movie craze of the 1980’s. We also examined how Scream bore a new slew of wittier, self-referential slasher films the following decade. Heading into the new millennium, slashers continued to lean into the meta of their own existence until finally crossing over into full-blown parody in 2000 thanks to Scary Movie.
Now Scary Movie did not impact the slasher genre as much as it epitomized the increasing goofiness that had stemmed out of the over-reliance on meta-context, something Scream pioneered for better or for worse a decade earlier. The Wayans Brothers’ horror mashup was so successful that it spawned a series of its own. The slasher genre was at this point a joke, the punchline to an ongoing series of riffs that fed the ongoing Scary Movie series as well as similar satirical films. However, as we learn early on in school, every action has an equal but opposite reaction.
If slasher movies were not only to live but thrive again, they’d have to shake off the constant ridicule and reinvent themselves in a whole new way. When they did return that same decade, the did so with a vengeance. Slasher flicks were now bloodier, gorier and more cynical than ever. The birth of these “torture porn” flicks, as they were labelled by many, happened to align with a new cycle of nostalgia (which typically effects pop culture on a 20-30 year basis). Enter the 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
The slick production from Michael Bay sacrificed much of the nuance of Tobe Hooper’s original snuff film in favor of a more polished sheen and much more graphic kills. Grossing more than $107 million at the global box office, this Texas Chainsaw Massacre gave way to its own string of sequels as well as a onslaught of ultra-violent exploitation flicks such as The Devil’s Rejects, Hostile and 2004’s Saw, which went on to become the poster child of the “Torture Porn” movement.
Grizzlier deaths was not the only thing Hollywood took away from the success of the Texas Chainsaw reboot. Between 2003 and 2010 the system turned out harder edge versions of cult classics like Prom Night, The Hills Have Eyes, The Last House of the Left, My Bloody Valentine, Black Christmas and of course the heavy hitters Friday the 13th, A Nightmare On Elm Street and not one but two new Halloween movies from grunge rocker-turned-filmmaker Rob Zombie.
The 2010’s have been a phenomenal year for horror. An army of fresh, upcoming filmmakers like Mike Flanagan, Adam Wingard, James Wan (creator of Saw, funny enough), Ari Aster, Robert Eggers, Fede Álvarez and Jordan Peel have gotten the chance thanks to a handful of smaller studios like A24 and Neon to bring their terrifying, unique visions to the big screen. In that time the genre has nabbed even a couple of Academy Awards, including The Shape of Water for Best Director and Best Picture and Get Out for Best Original Screenplay.
Slasher fans too have had plenty to be happy about. The past decade have brought us a bunch of quality slasher films on both the original and remake fronts. As far as excellent re-imaginings of beloved properties are concerned, we’ve had 2013’s Evil Dead, 2018’s Suspiria and Halloween that same year. Newer titles of the same ilk include 2016’s Split, Don’t Breathe and Hush, 2017’s Happy Death Day and 2019’s Happy Death Day 2U, and 2019’s Us.
It should be noted that plenty more of both are on their way already, including yet another remake of Black Christmas and two more Halloween sequels. Next year will see the Candyman return to the silver screen.
In 2019, slashers are no longer confined to the restraints of your local movie theaters. Thanks to the rise of streaming, anybody can seek out their favorite niche content and that includes satisfying their slasher itch. The Purge series, Scream: The Series, Scream Queens and American Horror Story 1984 have proven that even today audiences crave the thrill of the chase, a psycho with a knife after the final survivor. As long as that’s true, the slasher is here to stay.
What did you make of our History of the Slasher Movie series? Did you check out all three? If so, did you learn anything you didn’t already know? I’d love to hear from you, so please sound off in the comments section below and let me know!