Do Iconic Slasher Villains Have a Place in Modern Horror?

     October 27, 2016

freddy-jason-michael

The eighties were truly a glorious time to be a slasher villain. All they had to do was follow the Halloween blueprint, come up with a cool look and have some creative gore; maybe a little random T & A too.

It was a golden time for the subgenre, and this decade alone saw the debuts of Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, Pinhead, Chucky and Hannibal Lector. It was also a golden era for practical effects, which allowed filmmakers to push the boundaries of what could be shown onscreen. Granted they were hardly sophisticated entertainment, but they provided great mindless fun on a Friday night.

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Image via New Line Cinema

By the end of the decade, though, the formula had been wrung fairly dry. In 1989 Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street were on their fifth entries, and Friday the 13th was on its eighth. The mythologies had gotten increasingly convoluted, and an MPAA crackdown on screen violence meant even the gore was toned down.

Since then the fortunes of the major slasher icons has gone up and down dramatically. Pinhead and Chucky have gone straight to DVD, Michael got retconned more than once and Freddy became a playable character in a Mortal Kombat game. The one thing that remained consistent was fan affection for them; a bond not even a shoddy sequel or remake could shatter.

It’s a sign of how much things have changed since their heyday that – despite this love and affection – many of these icons are struggling to get a new movie going. It’s 2016 now, meaning it’s been six years since the last Freddy movie, and seven since the last Halloween or Friday the 13th entries. They’ve all become trapped in development hell, where occasionally talk of a reboot will emerge, but nothing comes of it. Part of this is down to corporate red tape, but it also seems to be a creative problem; namely, what the hell else can you do with such well-travelled characters?

The horror landscape has changed so much it’s hard to know where they fit in. The biggest horror movies of the last few years are either indie chillers (It FollowsThe Babadook) or they’re coming from Blumhouse. These movies tend to be limited to a single location with a small cast, but they’ve got a high concept hook. This has led to a steady line-up of hits, including InsidiousThe PurgeSinister and Oculus.

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