I'm in Long Beach at a conference for the next few days. As I was preparing my presentation, I came across several posts that I had written about slasher films. I thought in celebration of me talking about Women and Slasher Films, I would share one.
I was never a huge horror buff. I hated being scared when I was kid. Still, that didn’t stop me from watching horror movies, especially if it meant saving face in front of my friends. I couldn’t have them teasing me for being a baby. That may be part of the reason I got away from it when I got into junior high and high school. Then, I didn’t really care what my friends thought. I was my own person and I could make my own decisions. I still thoroughly enjoyed movies, just not the scary ones.
I never really watched slasher films growing up. I do recall one particular slumber party where my sister, my friends, and I all watched A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 because of the scene where Freddy turns one of the kids into a marionette puppet. Why we thought that was interesting, I have no idea.
It wasn’t until I got into college that I really started watching horror movies again. I took a class that focused on science fiction and horror movies from one of my favorite English teachers when I was an undergrad. It was fabulous. We watched classics such as The Day the Earth Stood Still and When Worlds Collide, among others. On the horror side we watched films such as The Exorcist and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. We also watched Aliens, which is my all-time favorite movie. The class didn’t focus solely on slasher films, but it got me back into watching the horror genre.
When my husband and I started dating, he really got me into the slasher film genre. I remember sitting with him on the couch watching these films and jumping. I was in my 20s, but these films still scared me. I was instantly hooked. From there, I started renting other slashers and catching up on all the things I missed growing up.
It was about this time I started working on my master’s thesis. Originally, I wanted to do something with demons and trace their evolution through history. My committee chair was none other than my favorite English professor who I had taken the film class from. He suggested I look at demons in slasher films. At the time, there wasn’t a lot of work out there, especially for the Friday the 13th films. I thought, what the hell? If nothing else, I’ll have help from the teacher and my husband getting my thesis done.
It was also nice to have someone to talk to and watch movies with while I researched, which my husband graciously provided. As I delved deeper into the world of slasher films, it became apparent that while the films had their fans, there wasn’t a huge crowd of people rushing out to see them. I distinctly remember having a conversation with my husband one night while playing on our pool league about audience reaction to these films. He argued that the vast majority of the population liked slasher films, while I was intent on proving him wrong.
In a spur of the moment and completely unscientific survey, the two of us made our way around the bar and asked groups of people if they liked slasher films. The reaction from three-fourths of them was to wrinkle up their nose and respond with a “Not really.” But almost all of them knew exactly what movies we were talking about and who the killers were. Even if they didn’t like slasher films, they knew they existed.
Life Lessons from Slasher Films is an expansion of my thesis. I focus on more films than just the Friday the 13th franchise, and it’s also a way for people to look at the genre of slashers differently. Yes, there is a lot of blood and guts in these films. Yes, you can guarantee that teens are going to be murdered in gruesome fashion, and yes, you can pretty much count on there being sex in these movies, but there is also so much more to them than that. I want people and audiences to be able to look beyond the carnage, but I still want them to enjoy the films. I would also like to see the slasher genre elevated to higher level than being considered the bastard child of the horror film industry because they offer so much insight into our culture.