Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Special Occasion Slasher

How many slasher films can we really think of that don't involve some kind of special occasion being completely ruined? Valentines Day was destroyed by that whacky Canadian, Harry Warden. Final Exams have been distorted from the taking of a simple test to the murdering and maiming of college co-eds by a van driving, army coat wearing, mad-man. Oh yeah, he carries a butchers knife. Graduation Day has been forever cast in the never ending worm hole of special occasion slashers. The good old birthday has been mired and trodden under foot by the mighty 80's money makers. Halloween was destroyed by a knife welding psycho wearing a bleached out William Shatner mask. Christmas was turned from a holiday of good tidings and joy, to a day of bloody missle toes and harrassing phone calls. The summer camp turned from a place where kids could feel safe, to a place where they could be considered prey by a machete carrying freak. Even the personal dreams of an individual were not safe. A man named Freddy Kruger could now pervade our dreams and turn them from a peaceful unconscious emmission of the garbage of every day life, to a struggle of wits and survival which usually ended in an exaggerated death for the person dreaming. The night when most teenagers just wind up drunk and pregnant was turned from just that, to a day that would be labeled by a greaser punk named Lou, and a boggin wearing hatchet-man stalking the school corridors on Prom Night. Nothing was safe. Not even the confines of a train amongst all your friends. At a party no less. A killer could now follow you on a train during a New Year's Eve party and kill all your friends one by one. Hollywood simply left no stone unturned. Can you really blame them? They moved on from one special occasion to the next, hoping to cash in on the flavor of the day. They'd wear us out with one gimmick and simply move on to the other. It was a game of 'who can outlast who'. As long as they made films like that, there would surely be an audience for it. In Hollywood numbers, that particular audience could result in the shutting down of a franchise, nevertheless, the special occasion slasher never went 'viewerless'. The slasher film helped turn memorable and traditional events into horror. The telephone (as I mention in my psychological phone murder posts) was among the first 'good timey' things to become exploited. Soon after, a simple Sunday afternoon drive became a nightmare. The special occasion slasher had been right in front of the producer's face all along, but they were either afraid to touch it, or just didn't think it would stick. The off-kilter date of Friday the 13th - a random time throughout a year or two in which the 13th of the month falls on a Friday. It's supposed to mean bad luck and the 1980 special occasion slasher mixed the camp setting and the ominous date to turn Friday the 13th post 1980 into a double ominous day. Something was gonna happen and that was all there was to it. I CAN remember going to the beach with my mother and her friend as a kid on Friday the 13th. Someone stole her purse (which had her keys in it) and we ended up having to walk five miles to have a spare made. I guess we dodged Jason on the freeway somewhere.

When you really think about cinema versus real life, there's not much difference. There may be a little exageration on the celluloid end, but there's something tangable in both realms. The slasher film was so successful because it turned the simple things in life - an outing with the family - one's birthday - one's graduation day ' Valentine's Day etc - into a day of dread and anxiety, not a day of good times and relaxation as it should have been. The comfort zone that previously came with these occasions was shattered. All the warm and fuzzy feelings had been driven away and exploited by the big hammering fists of Hollywood. The family aspect was sometimes used in the special occasion slasher, but not nearly as much as camping pals, or frat brothers and sorority sisters. Maybe one day, we'll have a slasher film that can exploit every single holiday in one film. Friday the Black Christmas After Halloween - Yeah, that sounds about right.

1 comment:

Charlie Counselman said...

hey, thanks for the nice comments. Friday the 13th can actually happen more than once per year, and in 2009 it will occur 3 times! Look up the wikipedia page about the day, it's cool. I added a link to your blog on my blog.