A documentary version that extrapolates from Adam Rockoff’s book of the same name delivers a quality blend of interviews and archive footage, headed by field director Jeff McQueen, with the talent provides enthusiasm for the genre of Horror and passion for the sub-genre Slasher Films that receive attention from fans and criticism from critics in general. The movie, truly shows a historical and critical uncovering of dozens of films from Psycho to Friday the 13th and well beyond, giving the aspiring filmmaker much to strive for and the dedicated horror fan a checklist to viewing many forgotten gems. The late great Wes Craven appears early and often, with great treats from the Betsy Palmer and John Carpenter, providing a solid foundation to the genre. This film, goes much deeper than Terror in the Aisles with host Don Pleasance and Vincent Price’s Creepy Classics, both worthy for fans to check out, not focused on one genre of the industry. One may wonder why a review of this movie, and the answer do, simply revisiting horror films, and interviews of the standard bearers of the industry provides great insight to the genre, and what transcends to the future of movies.
First off, the audience learns the tried, tested, and repeatedly used formula for the genre, a group of teenagers out for the proverbial good time, references sexual adventurous and naïve mentality, ignoring warnings and signs of impending doom. Then the killer appears subtle at first, and then more often, added a gruesome factor higher each time they kill, and more bizarre each time. The movie Scream (1996) from Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson expounded on the rules in the film, and forever become horror folklore to carryover endless into other movies. The slashing movie must not extend past 90-minutes and leave a big surprise for the end, and definitely leave a door open for sequel. The concept of slasher films often stated by many critics started with John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) but ideally and even he acknowledges that Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) and in the same year Peeping Tom by director Michael Powell, set the tone for the sub-genre to take root from and explore. In fact the movie skips over, Leatherface, and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) contributions the slasher market and that is surprising shockingly for the horror fans to have that emittance. The last portion of the film deals with Scream and then the combinations of torture porn and slasher to Saw and Hostel, but again show how hard it is to kill the sub-genre, much to the dismay of the critics. Needless to say, the genre generated much interest then and now, with named stars starting in the field only to achieve greatness later on, Kevin Bacon, Jamie Lee Curtis, Neve Campbell and not forgetting those that have since past on, Debra Hill, Betsy Palmer and Anthony Perkins.
Wes Craven attributed many wise words for the fans, and upcoming filmmakers, the words echo, now that he has past, and he alluded to how to manipulate the audience with an energetic interview that also discusses rising conscious becoming one’s master of art, and to referencing the creation of A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). In addition, Felissa Rose, always a supporter of the genre, and who had the infamous role in Sleepaway Camp, gives tasty morsels for the audience to enjoy thoroughly. Tom Savini’s interviews are vividly interesting that he could alone carrying an entire film on the topic, several times over, however here, he uses much the screen time to grandstand on his special effect achievements. The film likely could cover over 2-hours yet nestles just under 90minutes, which might attribute the obtaining permission and rights of showing and including clips of many films for the enjoyment of the fans. Also the documentary omits the significance to the “Final Girl” an aspect vital to the entire genre of slasher movies, the notion of the topic does tend to open more questions that do look unfavorable to some, about these films, nevertheless a proper documentary needs to show the good and bad, equally, thereby not a bias creation.
One of the questions that many critics of this film ask, why do such vast gaps appear in the timeline if the popularity ventures a grandiose affair, namely the answer falls into over saturation of the market. Simply noting in the mid-80s, over 10 werewolf movies appeared on the scope of the fans to devour, Wolfen, The Howling, and An American Werewolf in London just to name three, however, Howling spawned a franchise carrying into remakes and reboots of today’s market. However for a long time the field remained bare, like many aspects in culture, especially in film and music, there is a time when one type of genre reigns supreme, currently it is paranormal films battling for dominance with found footage movies, eventually they will slide off, into abandonment. After all the first found footage movies was not The Blair Witch Project (1999) rather the infamous cannibal films of the late 70s, and then the market died out until now. Although another reason exists, for the fall the sub-genre, the studios kept cranking out more silly and gory slasher films, instead of a surgical strike for one here and there, the industry found constant bombing on the every Friday night. Then cheapness mix into the VHS tape, production values drop and independents gave birth to new waves of films and filmmakers. In the 80s excessiveness was the rage, more was always better, and when studios saw the vast wealth of the sub-genre all the bells sounded, the same aspect happened the heavy metal industry, great product replace with garbage all looking and sounding the same, soon enough, a glutton for punishment and it crumbled down to ruins.
This documentary, while perhaps slightly bias, as it overlooks the Final Girl, and sadly never includes anything from any fans, still packs a mighty gut tearing, skin splitting blood gushing enjoyment for the fans, and encouraging them to venture back to seek out past hidden gems especially those born after the heyday of the 1980s. The genre though, slowly crawls out of the depths of darkness, with films such After School Massacre, Play Hooky, Wrong Turn, and Girl House, though the latest trend of remakes and reboots of slasher movies has slowly started, one can hope the new filmmakers revisit the treasures herein and create new terrorizing slashing serial psychos.