Friday, June 13, 2008

The Politics of Slasher Flicks

I LOVE slasher flicks. And by that, I’m not talking about the generic horror movie, or zombie films, or even the Crazy Rural Cannibals genre. I’m talking about straight-up slasher flicks where the plot is about a crazy dude with a knife going around slashing people. Fun stuff.

But I really wasn’t sure why I like those kind of horror movies in particular. I’m definitely not scared by them. Nor do I have fantasies of going around stabbing people. But there’s just something particular about the crazy guy killing teenagers sub-genre that I find fascinating beyond any of the other horror sub-genres.

But while I was watching Don’t Go In The Woods tonight at the Alamo Drafthouse (which was an excellent flick, btw), I finally got it. What I like is how they emphasize the power of the individual and teach us that society shouldn’t fuck with people or allow people to get fucked with. Because you never can know when someone will just snap and want a little payback. And that's a moral that fits right into my belief system.

The Motivation

Of course, that’s not to say that the victims deserved to get killed, as they usually don’t. Or that the killer was justified in his killings, as he usually isn’t. And even if he was greatly wronged in the past, he generally doesn’t kill the people that did it to him. He’ll kill their kids, or the people with similar jobs (ie, camp counselors), or maybe he’ll just kill random people who had nothing to do with his craziness. And hell, some of the best slasher flicks never explain why the killer did it, and that’s all part of the fun. You just never know what these crazy fuckers are up to.

But the point is all the same: Society let these people down and now they’re getting their revenge. This isn’t like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, where the victims walked into the wrong society; a rural hellhole where the rules are all different. These films focus on the dangers of allowing people to slip through the cracks; of allowing them to be so isolated from their fellow man that they feel it acceptable to kill them.

And one of the things I like about these films is that it isn’t personal. They’re not going to torture you. They’re not going to force you to eat your girlfriend while waving your buddy’s eyeball in your face. They’ve got a job to do and they do it. You might not have deserved to die, but they’re going to kill you as quickly as they can. Why? Because they can. They’re showing the world that even a lone individual has power. You might not even see it coming. You’re just walking along, happy that you’re about to get laid, and before you know it, you just got your throat slashed or an arrow through your eye and you’re dead. It’s just that easy. And the killer doesn’t even pause to look at the victim, he just moves on to his next one. It’s strictly business with these guys and I respect that.

Society's Problem

And I think that’s why I’ve always liked these movies, because I think it’s important for society to take care of the weak and the abused and the crazy. Because we’re all in this together and even one crazy person can cause a whole lot of hurt for a whole lot of people. Well, plus these movies are generally quite funny, as Don’t Go In The Woods was. But I do think there is a bigger purpose to all this and that’s what I’ve always found to be so appealing about them.

The moral of these movies isn’t that you shouldn’t go in the woods alone (though you shouldn’t) or that you shouldn’t have sex when a killer’s on the loose (though you shouldn’t). The moral is that we all have a responsibility to take care of our fellow man and not allow them to go down the crazy path that makes them think of us all as mindless victims. We need to remember that every individual has worth and that we’re all in this together. Not because it’s the nice thing to do, but so that all those individuals think of us as being the same as them.

Just as terrorists seek to prove that the powerless can also have power, the slasher is meant to teach us that a single man can do horrible things. And the point isn’t strictly limited to real-life killers, though it definitely applies to them. The point is that even little things can make a big impact on society and that we need to do our duty to make it work. If we want the advantages that a big society gives us, we need to deal with the negative side. And we allow people to fall through the cracks at our own peril.

Oh, and regarding the movie, if you're the type who likes Hollywood polish and character development and plots, avoid this movie. You'll hate it. But if you're the type of person who will take their entertainment any which way it comes and doesn't try to force their pre-conceived ideas of what a movie should be upon the movie they're watching, you might just love this movie. I did. It'd be best if you got lucky and saw it in a good theater that serves good beer, like I did; but if you can rent it, you should. It's not good filmmaking, but it's entertainment and that's all that really counts.

Update: Holy shit! I just realized that today is Friday the 13th, which happens to be my favorite slasher flick. In it, we saw the dangers of allowing a kid to swim without proper supervision and it wasn't pretty. This might not be the best made slasher flick, but it was the first one I ever saw and I still have a soft spot for it. What a great day to have written my slasher post.

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