6WH: Week 4 - Neo-Slashers

The Slasher movie has a generally poor reputation, but for whatever reason, I really enjoy them. Indeed, regular readers will remember that I've gone on and on and on about slashers over the years of the 6 Weeks of Halloween marathon. I won't rehash too much of the history or tropes in this post, but some delineation is needed here.

Historically, the heydey of the slasher was the 6 year period between 1978 and 1984. This was brought on by the success of Carpenter's Halloween, but also changes to the industry and distribution model that allowed low-budget independent filmmaking to thrive and produce copycats and imitations. The floodgates were open, and tons of slashers poured through. By 1986, the sub-genre had lost most of its steam, and the slasher entered a period of mostly direct-to-video hell. Mainstays like Jason, Michael Myers, and Freddy Krueger soldiered on in theaters, but even they were flagging. By the mid 90s, the sub-genre was basically dead (indeed, the early 90s weren't a particularly great time for horror in general). Enter Scream, whose winking, self-aware take on the genre reignited interests.

This is a simplification of the history, but for my purposes, any slasher made after Scream represents a Neo-Slasher. The ones that happed right after were derivative and maintained the satirical, self-referential tone of Scream, but as we entered a new century, more earnest, serious throwback slashers started to show up (perhaps because the kids weaned on slashers in the 80s had grown up and started making movies of their own). The movies I watched this weekend are probably not the best examples of neo-slashers, but rather, ones that I simply haven't caught up with.
  • Thursday the 12th (Robot Chicken)
  • Thanksgiving (fake trailer)
  • My Bloody Valentine (trailer)
  • Cold Prey - This Norwegian tale of snowboarders trapped at an abandoned ski-resort and being hunted down by a pick-axe wielding maniac is a solid example of the neo slasher. It hits all the tropes (the killer with his slashing weapons, the final girl, the historical tragedy revisited upon the present, etc...), and a fantastic setting. It's a little reminiscent of The Shining, what with all the snow and isolation, but this is obviously a very different movie. It takes a little while to get going, but it is very well made, with a reasonable setup and decent action once the killer shows up.
    Cold Prey
    The killer is pretty cool. Though clearly just a dude in a snowy mountain man getup, he comes off as a sorta abominable snowman. The kills aren't super creative, but then, there really aren't that many of them either. Time is devoted to character in the first half of the film, and while I won't call them fully realized characters, they do feel like actual human beings who react to things in realistic ways. This is not a slasher where you're rooting for the monster to win, eve if you do want to see some creativity in the gore department. In the end, it ticks the right boxes, and it does its job well enough, though there's nothing particularly amazing here either. Recommended for slasher fans! **1/2
  • It's the Gifts That I Hate (Robot Chicken)
  • The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror VI: Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace (sorry no vid online)
  • Scream (trailer)
  • House of Wax - One of the glut of recent remakes (though honestly, this barely resembles the original), this one is only debateably a slasher, though I think it fits well enough. There are some very unslasher-like moments, such as when one killer wields a shotgun, but on the other hand, there are some really fabulous slasher-like sequences. As per usual, a group of kids go camping and run afoul of a local ghost-town complete with Wax Museaum, meyhem ensues. The film is completely absurd, but it knows it's absurd and almost revels in it. It is most memorable for casting Paris Hilton as a character who comes to a particularly gruesome end. As with most of the recent remakes, this is a very slick looking movie, with a respectable teen cast that you'll recognize from other things (including Elisha Cuthbert and Jared Padalecki, amongst others), and plenty of visual effects that look practical. There are some genuinely tense moments, and plenty of ridiculousness, and it's packaged up in a relatively fun ball of wax. Or something like that. Again, it's enjoyable, but not necessarily doing anything new. **1/2
  • Hardly Working: Slasher (Short)
  • Shining (fake trailer)
  • The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror V: The Shinning
  • Cold Prey 2 - The ending of the first Cold Prey doesn't seem particularly open for a sequel, but they manage it. Indeed, this is one of the best neo-slashers since Scream itself. This sequel picks up right where the first film left off: Our Final Girl is found and taken to a hospital, where she tells her story to the authorities, who immediately go out to find the bodies of her friends and the killer (all of whom are presumed dead). I don't think you can call this a clever setup, but they walk a tight rope in getting the killer back alive, and we all know that Hospitals (especially sparsely populated ones that are closing soon) are great settings for horror movies.
    Cold Prey 2
    This movie clearly owes a debt to Halloween II, with lots of corridors and hallway shots and symmetry, and a killer who has gone from being just a dude in the first film to someone who might have some sort of supernatural abilities in the second film. The killer is great here, and he's given a little more to do than the first film. Lots of atmospheric tension, and the kills are more creative. Jannicke was a strong Final Girl in the first film, and while she's sidelined at the beginning of this one, so is the killer, and once things start going down, she really takes charge and leads the fight. Not everything is perfect (there's a bunch of police investigation stuff that seems extraneous, though for some reason, they're on the disc as "deleted scenes" even though they're in the movie? I guess foreign films get short shrift in the DVD QA department...), but it's all very well executed and paced, with several tense sequences and near misses. Well worth checking out for fans of the genre. ***
That's all for this week. No idea what next week will bring, probably a no discernable theme week. Also watching a bunch of Simpsons Treehouse of Horrorses and reading a few books, which I'll try to write about some point as well...