Sunday, April 22, 2018

Long-Form Slashers: Who Knew? Slasher: Guilty Party

I've long been a fan of the slasher sub-genre of horror films: so much, in fact, that I've researched this academically under-appreciated tradition in conjunction with related post-war cinematic trends from Germany and Italy. Perhaps, in my next lifetime, that research will turn itself into a book.

For now, it's enough to say that I know a whole lot about slashers - especially regarding their patterns in terms of plotting, visual storytelling, and characterization both of the killers and their victims. Under normal circumstances, the best I can hope for in watching a slasher I haven't seen before (and trust me, that number is dwindling) is to see a little something new nestled comfortably in the old. Good execution is key - both in terms of cinematic production, and in the literal sense. The nature of the deaths in a slasher is one of the prime areas for directors to be innovative and add something new to the genre.
Image result for slasher show season 2

But what I have never seen before is the slasher concept translated into long-form: that is, into a television series. Netlix's show Slasher really blew my mind. The change did some unexpectedly wonderful things. The writers utilized all those extra hours by offering a greater level of complexity and depth, and really made the plot more immersive, and less a simple premise that puts the potential victims in the right place at the right time.

In the second season, entitled "Guilty Party" (which I watched first b/c that's how it showed up in my feed), the tried and true setting of a children's summer camp becomes much more interesting, because the writers have the ability to dive deeper into the story, delving into each of the counselor's backgrounds, and, more especially, their interactions with each other. When they were just teenagers, things went horribly wrong one night: Tallvinder, a fellow counselor who'd gotten on everyone's shit-list, ends up dead. Years later, when the sale and bulldozing of the campgrounds is imminent, the other counselors return to the scene of their worst childhood mistakes before they can be discovered. Things don't go as planned, of course, and as they become stranded at the camp, now turned into a commune for wellness, even the people who live there year-round suffer horrible deaths.

Image result for slasher show season 2And I do mean horrible. The gore in the show was spot-on, and I saw some stuff I ain't never seen before in a slasher - a sign of great care and thoughtfulness which was very much appreciated. The styling of the killer- a bright orange winter coat with the darkened ski mask- was really nice. But more than that, the killings meant something more here than they might in other films because we knew so much more about each character before they met their fate. This show takes the long-standing idea that the victims are not exactly innocent much further, showing their own faults and sins in the multiple backflashes that plumed the nature of these characters, their behaviors and loyalties to their friends, and how each one of the now-grown counselors remember Tallvinder, and the part they all played in her death. This splicing of the past with the present really added a lot to the tale, and we learned more and more about that fateful night as the season wore on, which gave the tale a mystery-like quality that elevated above some of the more formulaic iterations of the genre.

Also, there were essentially two camps (excuse the pun) of potential victims, and amongst them, a killer. This added yet another layer of tension as there is a sort of tribal distrust between the counselors and the members of the commune, but those groups also turn to each other, and the question of how well anyone really knows anyone else becomes a major factor in the decision-making of the characters.

There were lots of good red herrings along the way, as well as subtle clues that lead you to the truth. So subtle in fact, that I missed a pretty important one, and was blindsided by it as my husband put the pieces together as we neared the very end of the series. I cannot say that I was disappointed- it was quite the reveal. So I won't spoil it. But know this, gentle readers: if you have a taste for the gory, the sadistic, or the atmospheric in your entertainment, you simply must try Slasher.

K Rating: 5/5

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