Slasher Horror

Genre Spotlight 2: Slasher

The slasher is a horror subgenre that is a notable classic among horror movies. Slasher novels, despite lacking the immediate visual appeal, are textbook studies on how to keep an audience on the edge of their seats. 

Slasher novels are all about the suspense and horror of a beast stalking its prey. Readers are made to anticipate the next death, the method of murder, and to get lost in the killer’s relentless threat. Typically, slashers involve a serial killer who haunts and slowly kills off a group of people in a secluded area.

Characteristics

The slasher genre is home to many running cliches, most notably in the form of the characters and each part they play in the story. There’s the slasher, who is the person or monster behind all the killing. There are the victims, who often personify the extremes of stereotypes such as jocks, nerds, supernatural buffs, and the airheaded hottie; much like the stereotypical cast of high schoolers. Finally, there’s the “final girl”, or the one who makes it out alive in the end thanks to the sacrifice of others.

As a subgenre of horror, part of the slasher genre’s appeal is in the gruesome death scenes. The shock of a grisled corpse of a familiar face never fails to morbidly entertain a reader’s attraction to the macabre. 

Of course, one of the greatest components of horror is in its use of anticipation. Slasher stories often feature cat and mouse chase sequences where the slasher chases after the group of victims in a montage where the group fragments and each character is isolated in an uncertain location. Characters begin to lose their cool and display extreme emotions of desperation and terror. In these times, the audience is made to anticipate the slasher’s next appearance, to anticipate betrayals and the next to be killed.

From the subgenre’s conception, social commentary themes have been prevalent. The stereotypes of the characters tend to represent society as a whole, and characters who are picked off are often chosen according to what negatively judged traits they had ended up showing as the pressure of the chase got to them. Those who survived had also survived in the eyes of society.

Origins and Influences

The groundwork of slasher horror novels can be seen in other forms of horror such as psycho-thrillers or “whodunit” mysteries. One could argue that gothic horror novels also had a play in slashers given the striking, isolated imagery of the settings that the stories take place in, as well as the morbid intrigue in death scenes.

Slasher novels often mirror the anxieties of certain generations due to its punishing nature towards the victims. The slasher boom of the 1970s and 80s, for example, can be seen as a response to concerns about sexual liberation, changing acceptance of family dynamics, and a growing fear of outsiders.

These various influences, blended and evolved by horror authors, culminated in the slasher novels that we know today.

Notable Writings

Psycho, published in 1959 and written by Robert Bloch.

I Know What You Did Last Summer, published in 1973 and written by Lois Duncan.My Heart is a Chainsaw, published in 2014 and written by Stephen Graham Jones.

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