Thanks to Tara Carpenter’s love of sublime horror films, Jenna Ortega’s character “Scream” (2022) started a debate about the purpose of horror films. For some, horror must always be clever, sophisticated and meaningful. In their opinion, films such as “Legacy”, “Away”, “Solstice”, “Lighthouse” and “Babadook” are the best that this genre has to offer, because they tell terrifying stories about something real. For others, funny slashers such as Friday the 13th, the Halloween series and, of course, the Scream franchise are better suited.
Of course, there is no clear winner here, and fans will always have their own opinion. But when it comes to the slasher genre, is it necessary to elevate all these films? This is definitely an interesting question.
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When horror fans think about the best and most famous slasher films of the last couple of decades, “Halloween” (1978), “Friday the 13th” (1980), “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984), “Scream” (1996), “I Know What You Did”. “Last Summer” (1997) and “X” (2022) stand out. There are so many funny and entertaining films in this subgenre, from slasher films that deconstruct the genre, such as “Cabin in the Woods” (2011), to comedies such as “Happy Death Day” (2017). This is a beloved and famous genre that will not go away in the near future, especially since remakes and reboots are constantly appearing, from Netflix’s “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (2022) to the “Halloween” trilogy.
What defines a slasher? The villain/killer uses guns to kill people, sometimes people he knows, sometimes people he doesn’t know. There are often groups of friends, and there is always the last girl. By this definition, it does not seem that such films need to be improved. Slashers should be fun, sometimes mannered and always insanely interesting. These are the movies that fans turn to when they want to really have fun. These films seem to be somewhat related, since it is easy for viewers to put themselves in the place of the main characters, and they really scare, because it is scary to imagine yourself in such situations.
Many of the A24 horror films are highly rated and there is definitely a need for them as these films are important. But even in the coolest slashers, there are well-crafted characters and moments that make viewers think, even if these are stories intended solely for entertainment. There’s no permanent last girl in Friday the 13th, but Jason Voorhees is one of the cutest horror villains because of the brutal bullying he’s faced. In “A Nightmare on Elm Street”, the characters grow up and try to demonstrate strength, intelligence and independence, trying not to die in their sleep.
The 2022 film X by T. West may be the best example of a slasher that is insanely funny and does not try to rise, but is still one of the most significant modern films. There are many horror tropes here, such as abandoned houses in the countryside, a strong final girl, a character locked in a basement, and characters who have split up and are in serious danger. All this adds up to an entertaining and excellent movie with surprises and lots of topics for conversation.
All horror fans want the same thing: to have fun, be shocked and find new storytelling techniques, strong characters and plot twists that they could discuss with their friends who are as obsessed with the genre as they are. After all, there’s always an audience ready for new slasher releases, and if some of them touch on topics like horror movies, that’s great. And if some are just scary and interesting to watch, that’s cool too.
In an interview with Film Companion, the director of “Heritage” and “Midsommar” Ari Aster shared that he is not a fan of calling something “high horror”. Astaire said: “There are so many bad horror movies that I think are made quite cynically. You know when something is personal, when something is done by a committee or because someone thinks they can make a quick buck. So there are a lot of horror movies that seem cheap.” Astaire continued, “Horror films are feature films,” and “a good horror film can use all cinematic tools in a way that almost no other film can.”
Most likely, fans of slasher films, whether they are classic films or more recent ones, are also fans of stories that people would call heightened horror. There is room for everything, as long as the filmmakers tell exciting stories and provide a proper screening. Slasher films should include the same elements as films that could be considered sublime: well-written characters, a clear beginning and a solid ending that completes everything (while leaving some mystery if this is part of the story), and, above all, a unique and new story.