Research: The History & Conventions of The Slasher Genre

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Information about Research: The History & Conventions of The Slasher Genre

Published on March 13, 2014

Author: Uzzynator


Image Boards w/ Codes & Convention & History of the Slasher Genre


Monsters • In a typical Slasher film the villain/killer is majority of the time masked, this is due to the audiences “fears of the unknown” and to maintain the integrity of the narrative and plot by leaving an element of mystery and suspicion within the viewers. • The killers tend to use sharp edged or improvised weaponry as opposed to lethal firearms. Examples of this is a Chainsaw that Leatherface utilises, Daggers for Jason. Drills and pitchforks are the typical improvised weaponry to be expected from a Slasher film as these weapons are not manufactured with killing in mind. • Slasher films sometimes are directed in order for the audience to “root” or side with the villain. Examples of this is from Slashers like “Prom Night” (1980) • Antagonists/Monsters etc usually re appear for a sequel • The slaughtering of the victims is usually provoked by a terrible event in the persona’s life or an injustice whilst being a child. The victims are in some shape or form linked to the killer. • Again yet another convention of a slasher is that the killer will be a male with a masculine appearance or aura to the role that is associated with dominance and being in control as the killer is the dominant persona within the film majority of the time.

Final Girl

Final Girl • The final survivor of the killers onslaught is usually a female according to the conventions of slasher films. • She is portrayed as masculine or “mumsy” and virginal, she is the epitome of pure and innocent hence her survival in most slashers, never the “bimbo” type. • Never a blonde but a brunette as blonde hair is associated with a submissive female. • They portray innocence and purity however it can be switched and the final girl can be guilty or not innocent at all e.g. Sydney Prescott from Scream and/or Saw. • She usually succeeds in surviving through the disruption of the old equilibrium and establishment of the new equilibrium. (Tzyelan Todorov’s narrative theory) • She may feel displaced from the group of friends who inevitably get killed by the antagonist.

Group of Friends

Group of Friends • First to die. • Majority of the time they are in intercourse when the killer decides to strike • Almost reject the “Final Girl” • This group of friends to always to be expected in Hollywood films as they follow a similar formulaic or generic structure which can also be found in fairytales as described by Vladimir Propp’s Fairytale Narrative in which a stage within the plot a group of friends are present.


Location • Locations are isolated, away from civilisation and most important of all away from any source of outside help for example in Friday the 13th , it occurs in a isolated sleepy woodland cabin area. • The colours, using usually connote to fixed meaning definition via semiotics for example red symbolises blood, violence. Black symbolising depression and loneliness (isolation), danger and peril. White symbolises or connotes to innocence and purity. • Sometimes the characters will be unfamiliar with the location such as Jeepers Creepers in the corn field farm or a familiar area such as a characters house e.g. Scream where a school and a characters house was utilised as set locations.

Ineffective Authority Figure

Ineffective Authority Figure • Within the slasher genre it is to be expected within the codes and conventions of the film to have an ineffective authority figure, this could be a policeman or sheriff but could also be a parent, teacher and other authority figures within society, they are unaware of the conflict between the killer and innocent victim and their efforts are futile in trying to repel the killer. Examples of this within slashers film are e.g. Sheriff Dewey Riley who Sydney had to assist in subduing the killer via telling him where to aim even though he carries a firearm throughout majority of his job (this is a perfect example of a clumsy authority figure). Sherriff Garris is another example of this as when Jason continues to strike and increase his ever-growing kill count, Garris ignores a vital report of this but continues in ignorance again demonstrating clumsiness and unawareness. It could be said that due to these ineffective authority figures who contrary to the title do not have any authority over the killer, amplifies the feeling of helplessness and desperation in the audience which engages more with the demographic and can leads to empathy for the characters via the audience.

The Benefactor

The Benefactor • The benefactor within a film is to be expected as majority of films follow a very similar narrative as explained in Vladimir Propps fairytale narrative theory, one of the steps within the narrative involve a benefactor which helps slay the monster by assisting, giving magical powers. In the case of a slasher this can be done via a character handing out vital knowledge or weapons to help take down the killer. Billy in Scream is a good example of a benefactor as he assists Sidney consistently thoughout the film offering support and information in taking down the killer (initially however). Another example is in Texas Chainsaw Massacre in which a truck driver runs over Leatherface and stops to help Sally. Dr Loomis from Halloween is yet another example

German Expressionism

What is German Expressionism? • This was an artistic movement, during post and pre WWII in 1930s and 40s in Germany. This was a era of film that allowed directors to express themselves via odd set pieces with jagged edges, heavy usage of shadows to portray characters emotions and extreme camera angles with characters in films like Metropolis. The films were directed in ways in which the set pieces and camera angles reflected the characters emotion or inner conflicts in a very artistic way as shown in the images above. Nosferatu is another example of German expressionism as many of the films that utilised German Expressionism were dark and had horror themes in which Nosferatu was a variant of Dracula.

Film Noir

What is Film Noir? • As German Filmmakers and directors fled as refugees to America from Nazi Germany during the Third Reich, they continued their film work there in the US. Many German directors whom utilised German Expression had made B Films (Low budget motion pictures; this made up the foundations of films everyday in the cinema such as low budget Westerns and Sci-Fis etc), and utilised the same technique in that area of cinema creating a genre of Film Noir. Film Noir is a genre of film that is typically contain cynical crime and sexual themes displayed in a low key and high contrast black and white display which of course dates back to German Expressionism. The themes portrayed in this are reminiscent of the Great Depression and other social struggles which have been integrated into the motion picture again a technique that was used in German Expressionism. Films include “Gun Crazy”, “Pulp” and “The Set Up”. Also in the 1960s a heavy amount of civil rights movements boosted including the Women’s Rights, via social mirroring/reflection or questioning this found its way into cinema and the Femme Fatale was the result of this, a deadly seductive female character

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