Why The Slasher Movie Was The Quintessential ’80s Horror Subgenre
“Horror films channel the fears and fervor of modernity, acting as reflectors turned against their viewers. They’re the most epochal form of escapism of the last century. Take, for example, James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein, which uses monsters and madmen to depict the internal torment of repressed sexual orientation at a time when homophobia was the norm, or Psycho and Peeping Tom, which explore the identity suppression and psycho-sexual struggle of the McCarthy era (to whichThe Wicker Man would provide a gleefully perverse epilogue in 1973). John Carpenter’s Halloween presents suburban banality and parental tyranny — no pot, no premarital sex, be home by nine — personified as a living urban legend in Michael Meyers. David Cronenberg’s skin-tighteningly creepy Shivers, and later his remake of The Fly, capture the fear of disease and bodily disintegration. The fear of communism permeates Invasion of the Body Snatchers (both of them), while Carpenter, always happy to usurp the conservative norm, portrays the fear and paranoia of communism, rather than communism itself, sinisterly in The Thing.
But it’s the slasher film — usually considered the dumbest, bloodiest, least respectable of horror’s myriad sub-genres — that feels the most precognitive, the most retrospectively relevant. “Slashers” have the unique ability to vivisect culture while dissecting helpless victims on limited budgets. Roger Ebert’s beloved Dead Teenager flicks, with their the Reagan-era excess, their gallons of blood and bushels of gore, their copious nudity and every-man-for-himself mentality — they’re capsules of the Gordon Gecko decade. You might say that Jason Voorhees and Freddy Kruger were the Donald Trumps of their time: they trampled over bystanders to get what they wanted, and a certain sect of American society embraced them.”
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