Tuesday, October 30, 2018

King Slasher - The Best of the Genre

Halloween PosterWith the release of the latest Halloween installment, the slasher is king again. And this one was really perfect - it hit the exact right tone to put you right back into the story that started thirty years ago, without having to worry about every single thing that has happened since John Carpenter first released Michael Meyers into the world. At the same time, it didn't feel like a time-capsule: the characters were fresh and authentic, and it made my stomach churn when a high-school student acknowledges all that has changed in the world, that what used to be America's worst nightmare: a man kills five people with a knife, pales in comparison to an AR-15 laden reality.

Curtis was brilliant. I didn't expect anything less, but still - her performance had such magnificent power to it. The portrayal of the final girl's rest of her life rang so very true, and my heart ached to see her dynamic with her family shift and turn with the plot, showing her as determined and strong one moment, and broken down with fear the next. It was moving.

I can also praise this film for being incredibly female-forward. We have three generations of female leads in this film, all fully developed, and all bound to have their moment with Michael. They were all strong in timely and relevant ways, (god I loved Laurie's house -what a great use of a single set). Even the unfortunate supporting females who don't make it to the end of the film demonstrate their autonomy - none are there to get drunk and get naked. For a genre that has always been slammed (wrongly, most of the time) for being misogynistic, this was an accomplishment.

Let's talk about Michael for a minute - he was stellar. He was everything he was always meant to be-no more, no less. No cheesy one-liners, no pandering to the reporter (and the crowd, by extension, who have seen more than one slasher ham it up). And after some middling contributions in the middle of the franchise, and the whole Rob Zombie thing, it felt like a breath of fresh air. True to form, Michael is even more dangerous than he was before, killing creatively and with abandon, sometimes off-screen, a master stroke, but always with just the right amount of gore. My personal favorite was watching him stalk the neighborhood in that oh-so-long shot, where you really feel the scope of his menace, and just how many are vulnerable to his whim.

Halloween (2018) gets top stars from me, but that's not the only reason I've summoned you here. If you're like me, and you grinned from ear to ear with your skin tingling at the end credits (and the beginning - let's not joke) you're in the mood for more slashers this Halloween. I've got you covered. Take it from someone who quite literally is 90% of the way there to "seeing them all" - this short list is the best of the best.

Silent Night Deadly Night (1984)
With decorations in every store since last Tuesday, how can you miss the fact that Christmas is right around the corner? This psychotic and hauntingly authentic take on some of the holiday's most beloved staples will make you think twice about leaving free food around on December 24.

The Burning Poster
The Burning (1981)
It has everything you expect out of slashers - snarky teens at summer camp, a local legend, and some wickedly creative death scenes-all done to perfection.

April Fool's Day (1986)
I was skeptical going into this other holiday-based slasher the first time, but boy did I misjudge. Again, a knockout in terms of creativity and camerawork. No shortage of psychological thrills here either!

Prom Night (1980)
No list is complete without Jamie Lee Curtis. Once more we have high-schoolers struggling with adolescence and criminal culpability for past misdeeds. Creativity is key, as always, and from the kills to the twists, you'll never feel safe in your tropish expectations

Sleepaway Camp (1983)
Sleepaway Camp PosterSome of the most incredible themes that rise out of the blood and guts of the genre are packed into this film, with an artistic sensibility that still boggles the mind and disturbs the sleep. If you haven't seen this one yet - that is your mission.

Halloween (1978)
Yeah. You know it is, and always will be. And sure, Jason and Freddy bring a lot to the genre - that goes without saying, and so are under-represented here in favor of the hidden gems that should be more widely seen. But nothing beats that first scene of the original Halloween, nothing comes close to giving me that eerie feeling when I hear those notes play. It wouldn't be Halloween without it.

                                      Image result for halloween 1978

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