6WH: Week 1.5 - Slasher TV

As sub-genres go, the slasher film is not particularly well respected. And yet it has its partisans, and I count myself among them. Longtime readers already know this, as I've written about slashers in a general sense many times, and covered lots of specific slashers during previous Six Weeks of Halloween marathons. While the sub-genre has fallen greatly from its heights in the early 80s and temporary revival in the mid 90s, the past year has inexplicably seen not one, not two, but three attempts to bring slashers to television. I was not terribly impressed with Scream Queens last year and never got around to the other two. Now that they're both streaming on Netflix, I figured I should hop to it:
  • Scream (trailer)
  • How Scream Should Have Ended (short)
  • Scream 4 (trailer)
  • Scream - S1E1 - "Pilot" - After a viral video/bullying incident, the culprits are found dead in suspicious circumstances that recall a 20 year old tragedy. The best thing about this Pilot episode is just how different the particulars are from the Scream film series. Sure, there's a masked killer, but even the mask appears to be different from the infamous Scream Ghostface.
    Ghostface
    It's definitely retained the cheeky, self-aware flair of the films, with characters openly discussing slasher movie tropes and brazeny declaring that, for instance: "You can't do a slasher movie as a TV series... Slasher movies burn bright and fast. TV needs to stretch things out." It remains to be seen whether the series will actually defy that notion, but this pilot shows a lot of potential and again, it's distinct enough from the movies to establish it's own identity (at least, in the pilot). There's a very large cast of characters, nearly all of whom have something to hide. The amount of red herrings is a bit daunting at this point, but it's got me hooked. The tragedy of the past being revisited upon the present (a favorite slasher trope) is actually a big improvement over the films, resembling a more old-school, golden-age of slasher incident. The kills were somewhat restrained in this episode, with a few false-alarms thrown in for good measure. The cast is young and attractive, as befits MTV's stereotypical style, and does a reasonable job. Ultimately, it feels to me like this is succeeding where Scream Queens failed (that show basically felt like a schlockey comedy that never cohered more than anything else, honestly). Look, it's not high cinema, but it's fun and entertaining and I will most certainly be watching more episodes and could see myself finishing it off.
  • The Prowler (trailer)
  • My Bloody Valentine (trailer)
  • Thanksgiving (fake trailer)
  • Slasher - S1E1 - "Pilot" - This Chiller channel original series is notable in contrast to Scream (and Scream Queens, for that matter), which is a very good thing. We start out with the tragedy in the past, a pregant woman and her husband are brutally murdered on Halloween night, with the killer extracting the baby for extra-creepy flavor. Cut to a couple decades (and change) later and Sarah, the baby who survived, returns to her old house in order to make a life for herself... only to be confronted by a copycat killer wearing the same Executioner costume as the man who killed her parents.
    The Executioner
    After visiting with the original killer, Hannibal and Clarice style, Sarah begins to investigate, finding out more about her parents in the process. The contrast here is that while Scream is very self-aware and humorous, this plays the story straight. There are a couple of jokes thrown around to spice things up, but the story takes itself seriously and that actually feels a bit refreshing. Ironically, the story here actually resembles the original Scream movie, though they put a decent spin on it, which is all you should ask for. Slasher stories aren't particularly known for their originality; indeed, it's their formulaic nature that makes them work. And this one seems to be doing its job well. The cast of characters isn't as large here, but there's a decent whodunit structure that shows promise. The red herrings are a little less obvious and not as bombastic, but they're still lurking here. The cast is a little more mature and they do a pretty good job. Sarah is played by Katie McGrath, who is probably best known for her needlessly ornate death sequence in Jurrasic World, and does a pretty good job. The killer becomes surprisingly prolific, even in this episode, taking out several people. Once again, we have a show here that has a lot of promise, and I'm hooked.
I'm guessing I will finish both of these series during the Six Weeks, so I'll be sure to keep you updated as I go. In the meantime, check out Zach's progress over at Film Thoughts. The man, the myth, the legend, Kernunrex has not checked in yet, but I'm sure we'll here from him soon enough... Anyways, up next: When Animals Attack!