Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) presents a unique take on the slasher/stalker subgenre as it questions reality with the implementation of veracious nightmares throughout the narrative. Additionally, a door is opened with the underscored killer, Freddy Kruger (Robert Englund), as his supernatural origin opposes anteceding existential killers of the subgenre. Analogous to previous slasher films such as Halloween (1978), Craven’s film proves worthy of its similar subsequent laudable franchise. However, during the time of A Nightmare on Elm Street’s release, the slasher film model had been stretched thin with repetitive exploitation of the framework. From less recognized films such as Prom Night (1979) to highly praised films like Friday the 13th, the narrative of the film model was becoming more quotidian with each new release. It was up to Craven to resurrect and restore the viewer’s faith in the sadistic subgenre. Through Freddy Kruger’s introduction to the established slasher film structure, Craven provides his viewers with the antidote to their boredom. While Craven intermittently relies on special effects to construct his killer’s full transcendent potential, Jacques Haitkin, the cinematographer, artfully complements these effects by contextualizing colors and sound; pressing the significance of key scenes on the viewer. As a result, the terrifying film grossed $25 million in the United States box office while leaving the horror fan-base with a venerable killer who would be a mascot of the genre for years to come.
I feel lethal, on the verge of frenzy. I think my mask of sanity is about to slip. – Patrick Bateman.
Mary Harron’s American Psycho (2000) is a captivating slasher film rich with intertextuality, allegories and novel slasher-film conventions. With the addition of Christian Bale’s mesmerizing portrayal of the deranged Patrick Bateman, the audience is gifted with a complex, psychotic killer, constantly holding the viewer’s interest. Straying from traditional slasher films, Harron immediately aligns her viewers with Bateman by presenting the film through the underscored killer’s perspective. Through incorporating cinematographic techniques such as frequent internal diegetic dialogue, various allegories and diverse camera angles, Harron immerses the viewers in Bateman’s methodical routine along with his unhinged, loathsome thoughts alluding to his psychotic condition which complicates the slasher film killer trope.
Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017) closely follows in the footsteps of the social justice framework set by Bryan Forbes’ Stepford Wives (1975). However, as opposed to sexism, Peele confronts contemporary systemic racism in a similar head-on fashion. Being one of the most “black and white” color films of its time, the viewer is exposed to hyperbolic visual motifs tacit to the segregation within our society. Within the first scene, we watch an unsuspecting African-American man out for a midnight stroll down a suburban sidewalk. Suddenly, a lurking white car pulls up behind the man akin to Michael trailing behind Sally in Halloween (1978). Through this scene, Peele immediately conveys his directional intent for the film, and it only builds from there.
From beginning to end, John Carpenter’s primitive Halloween (1978) introduced a vast amount of novel horror elements to the big screen. Not only did Carpenter’s monumental film ignite a later repetitive series of remakes, but it established the groundwork for the subgenre we know as the slasher film. The resultant sub-genre is corroborated through subsequent films of comparable structure and cinematographic elements such as Friday the 13th (1980) and A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). Being revered for its stalking characteristics, the pith of Halloween’s progressive escalation revolves around Michael Myers (Tony Moran) slow, sociopathic approach to his prospective victims. Carpenter underscores Myers’ approach through multiple point-of-view shots, leitmotifs and long shots of Michael silently watching the protagonist, Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis), from afar. Through these rudimentary but meticulous film implements, Carpenter delivers a grasping, trendsetting film operating on a highly restricted budget of just $325,000.
One outstanding convention of Halloween is the film’s ability to cross boundaries as displayed in the first scene where the viewer is placed into the perspective of the killer, young Michael, using Carpenter’s famous I-camera. As we enter the first scene, the viewer is subjected to a long take through a point-of-view shot using a handheld camera. Consequently, we are immersed in young Michael’s perspective as he slowly creeps around the outside and inside of his home where he witnesses sexual relations between his sister and her presumed boyfriend. Carpenter personalizes the historic cinematography of the scene even further as Michael puts on a mask altering our perspective to the mask’s two eyeholes in opposition to the full field of view. The gradual transition proves to be a guileful method ultimately straying from traditional horror by aligning the viewer with our soon revealed killer. By the end of the scene, Carpenter has both introduced an unorthodox element of horror while displaying an example of intertextuality by echoing Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) through the scene’s implicit knife killing.
Peter Jackson’s Braindead (1992) employs parodic conventions in a multitude of forms. From the substantial amounts of exaggerated blood and gore-ridden scenes to the sportive jokes made by the characters, Braindead successfully intertwines comedic conventions in what is portrayed as a zombie-based horror film. Throughout the film, the splatter is in overdrive as the audience is witness to numerous blood-squirting scenes. However, the sound effects that are used mirror a show analogous to The Three Stooges (1925). We see this employed during the appalling lunch scene as Vera’s wounds send projectile globs of blood and flesh into Mr. Matheson’s custard. Of course, as if to taunt the audience, Mr. Matheson unknowingly shoves his face with the gore-infused pudding. It feels as if Jackson intentionally implements this disturbing scene as a horrific presage for what is to come. Following in the footsteps of Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator (1985), Braindead holds nothing back while seizing the audience’s attention with outrageous splatter effects and slapstick horror techniques while subtly introducing novel elements of romance, semi-sentient zombies and unique comedic constituents.