GORE GORE GORE: Slashers Vs Modern Horror Franchises
After a long hiatus away from my reviews, I am back to grace the main page again with reviews of silly movies with lots of stabbing. I have a lot on the slate for the near future including finishing up my reviews of the Friday the 13th Series and tackling a controversial entry into a beloved horror franchise. I’ll also be reviewing the “winner” of the Oratory’s Worst Movie Ever poll going on on the forums as we speak. However, this isn’t any of those things though this article is inspired by my comments on one movie in the tournament. I’m going to talk about the modern horror franchises vs the Slasher franchises that they are often compared to.
First let me establish which franchises I’m talking about here when I say modern franchises. I’m talking about Saw, Final Destination, and Hostel. These are the three that often get compared to Slasher movies. Full disclosure, I enjoyed both the first Saw and the first Final Destination. I did not enjoy Hostel because it was just torture porn, it was gore for gore’s sake and had none of the charm and humor or silliness that make Slashers fun. The problem here is I only enjoyed the first movie of those series, beyond that I did not like any of the series.
The reason why I did not like the sequels while I enjoyed the first movies is a simple one. Each series used a premise that only worked once, and dragged them out into long series. With the Saw franchises, it was a clever killer who locks people into intricate traps that they can escape usually by doing something horrific to do so. The Hostel films people are kidnapped by Eurotrash in a country where everyone listens to bad club music and tortured by rich people who want the thrill of killing. The Final Destination series always features a group of attractive people who avoid a catastrophe because one of them had a premonition and panicked and then Death picks them off one by one using elaborate Rube Goldbergesque schemes. Each of these premises are great for a single film (except Hostel) but have many sequels that are the exact same thing. The Exact Same Thing.
This is where the Slasher thing happens. People argue with some merit that Slashers all follow the same premise and structure and I love them, so I shouldn’t hate these movies. There’s a difference though. Slasher franchises as the go along get fun and silly. They don’t take themselves too seriously and aren’t afraid to have fun. Freddy is beloved for his silliness at times and Jason’s super abilities lead to some pretty hysterical things. Slasher movies and the modern movies have a formula they follow. Where the Slasher movies formula can lead to some absurd things, and even playing with the formula in unexpected ways can get you great movies like April Fool’s Day or the Scream Franchise, the modern horror movies treat everything as so serious for gritty realism. I can laugh my ass off at Jason picking up a girl in a sleeping bag and banging her off a tree in a completely improvised kill or Freddy cutting a one liner before cutting a teenager. I can’t get that enjoyment from this new franchises because they don’t have that mirth.
The other defense I get is that these movies have a plot that stretches over multiple movies, that’s why they get so much love. People say slashers don’t get those. First of all, the plots of these franchises are convoluted messes created retroactively to excuse putting a new coat of paint on the same movie over and over again. Second of all, all the major Slasher franchises have long multi-movie plot lines in them and though created for the same reasons as the modern franchise plot lines, they are far more effective because they are actually pretty simple. Michael Meyers wants to kill all of his family members because he is pure evil. Freddie is getting revenge on the children of the people that killed him, and then the plot grows to include his back story and family. Hell, the Friday the 13th franchise has an easy to follow plot that carries it through the first 6 movies without out ever making people hate it. Jason’s mom kills because she thought her son drowned. Jason saw her get killed so he went on a rampage over a series of days, that leads him to face Tommy Jarvis who kills him and then his obsession over him leads to him accidentally bringing him back as the unkillable zombie Jason everyone loves. The point being both series have plots. The slasher tend to have simpler more effective ones.
The Slasher franchises feature a formula that gives you both protagonists you want to root for and killers who are fun and often absurd. Jason did battle with a girl who had telekinetic powers. It was silly, it was even stupid, but it was fun as hell to watch. Freddie cut silly one liners and could do incredible things because he killed you in your dreams. Michael Meyers had the advantage of a great protagonist who knew him well coupled with the two most likable heroines in all of Slasher movie lore. Final Destination and Saw have none of that. Hostel somehow has a negative quantity of it. Once you get past the gimmick of these series, there’s nothing else to latch on to. No moments of levity, no Laurie Strode or Jamie Lloyd. Hell one of the series doesn’t even have a tangible antagonist for you to hate.
That’s really all I have to say. One set of franchises have memorable characters, humor and antagonists you know and love. The other movies have gimmicks that got tired after one film and nothing to really enjoy outside of the tired gimmick. I’m going to go watch Jason slam a paintballer into a tree. See you next time with a new review.