That's right, scared. Scared that this burnt toast subgenre is making a comeback yet again. It may surprise you (or maybe not, I can't keep track) that I don't particularly like slasher flicks, or slashers period. I mean there're some fine ones (usually the ones that tried to break the mold) but creating tension is apparently as elusive as the formula for Coca-Cola; it's a tedious corridor of Cinema full of exposition and badly-lit hide & seek sessions put in place to inflate running times. Serial killers, Giallo - they all perform under the same tent, and it might definitely surprise you that I'm not into those either. Not solely by label at least; if someone says "Watch this, it's about a deranged mass murderer," I'm not like "Cancel all plans! I'm going to the picture show!" What it comes down to is that the genre doesn't dictate the quality - by that measure, you could say "I love Comedies." Well of course you do, lunkhead, but are you more of a Paul Blart or a Being There? Or both? Or neither?? But what post-Hitchcock "Slasher" has become was never my thing, thats all I'm tryna say.
That's why the 1990s were exciting for a while - never mind the revival of not one but four Universal Monsters (five if you count Branagh's sorta inclusion of a Bride for his Creature, and six if you count Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame), but as I've mentioned over and over again, there was an endless stream of colorful, crazy, creative content spilling out into theaters, TV, books, and even music. It was a macabre Mad Libs: modern-day vampires, Lovecraftian creatures, subversive aliens, virtual reality groundskeepers, guilt-induced hallucinations, haunted spacecrafts, cheerleading slayers, spiders, ticks, mosquitos, bees, reincarnated slaves, resurrected cult leaders, reanimated Jason, real life Freddy, goth girls, demonic toys, a Tom Savini-sized rat, a leprechaun, and a T-Rex; no common theme, no cause to get bored, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, we never really knew what to expect. Until we did.
What if Chucky made a comeback? Wouldn't it be a trip to see Michael Myers stalking Laurie again? Or how about if a new Ghostface started shooting phone calls to Sidney? Well look no further than 1998, when we couldn't leave well enough alone, and what felt like a varietal renaissance took a knife to the head. But what's done is done... But it isn't done, is it. And that's what tears my burrito: the 2010s had a few common themes ("Elevated" Horror, old-timey ghosts, increasingly pissed off zombies, a few giant creature features) but it all felt like it was being funneled into something - because it always does. And so it was. And so nostalgia and familiarity wins again as we continue to revisit eras in which we were already nostalgic for all that came before. Add the 1990s to your catalogue of "yesteryear" and you get Goosebumps, Are You Afraid of the Dark? and Fear Street.
It took 20 years for our collective reboot fatigue to telegraph its way into the system, so now we get official-sorta-sequels -- devoid of any numerative modifiers because that would be "confusing": Candyman, Halloween, Scream. Wasn't part of the fun of these stodgy stab fests pontificating with whole numbers? "Well Part 3 was the scariest but my favorite kill is in Part 6. And Part 2 has the most boobs but Part 5 has the best boobs." Now everything's stamped with a year of release to keep the convo straight. Luckily The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has so many words in the title that they could drop some or add some or flip it around to indicate a new direction - so be careful what you say when you say it. But, in the words of Abe Lincoln, "Leatherface isn't a slasher, he's a Sawyer." He might've not said that, but he would've.
Also luckily, as they sequelize these leftovers they can hang some poetry off the tip, like Kills or Ends - which sidesteps the horrible question, "Is this the third Halloween II or the second Halloween III?" Speaking of - I liked Halloween Kills. I mean, for a Halloween movie I liked it - which is not to say I'm raising or lowering the bar in terms of expectations. It's more of a lateral move; I don't expect buns of steel when I eat ice cream, I just want the goddamn ice cream. But still, we're smarter than that - we know the mood of the room, we know the series, we know the director and how he handles the subject matter -- which, incidentally, did lower my bar with a movie that should've potentially reinvented the franchise and the genre but didn't, nor did it carry on the somber, sparse tone of the original. Kills abandoned a lotta the paint-by-numbers poppycock put in place by the previous one and rose to a level of parody not seen since Jason Lives. (I don't site Freddy's Dead because the afterlife Springwood Slasher was never a "slasher" to me - he was part Captain Howdy, part Joker, and all supernatural and that's why he's my guy.)
I'll say what pretty much everyone is saying: I liked the gore, kinda slept on the other bits. I can't give that kinda praise to most slasher movies - I can't even say that about most Halloween movies. I'm not gonna "review" the sonofabitch, but I've done the math: out of the twelve films thus far, I rank it sixth. So there it is, right in the middle, which puts me on neither side of the fence.
And that's a concept that confounds me: the integrity of the "fence." Short of reading a full-length review, all I've heard is "it's awesome" or "it fuckin' sucked worse than anything." Per usual, I'm caught in a rundown between bases as moviegoers squabble over the nuances of this third generation Happy Meal toy. Like STAR WARS, this enterprise has blossomed from Cult to Religion as blind faith and dogma are the roadmap to guide us through these convoluted timelines and allow us to apply substance where there is none - all rooted in very basic, almost stupid origins. Who'd have thought this ultra low-budget drive-in sketch with no foundation or motivation could still inspire true conviction after eleven movies of the same friggin' thing, over and over? But I suppose that's the gag: Halloween '78 was so skimpy that folks conjure up their own beliefs and impart them on others with persuasion. You know, like anytime something becomes a "community."
I'm no stranger to nailing myself to the crosses of the movies I like that no one else does. This is certainly not an occasion for martyrdom for several reasons: 1.) my airtight defense of Rob's 2009 H2 didn't exactly illuminate the truly dim, 2.) I'm not spilling any blood over this B-/C+ afternoon waster, and 3.) if there's enough of a backlash to create a noticeable dip after its strong opening weekend, maybe we can scare the money people into their offices to place some calls re. "how do we move away from slashers?" People don't know how the hell to articulate what they want, but as I get older it's becoming apparent that it differs from I want. Once this trilogy ends, they can still "reenvision" it, prequelize it, fart out a "limited series event"-- if not, I heard Jason's back on the market so I'm sure they'll try n' make that oatmeal interesting yet again.
So what else? Slumber Party Massacre? Check. Black Christmas? Double check. While Scream (1996) springboarded I Know What You Did..., Urban Legend, Teaching Mrs. Tingle, Valentine, Cherry Falls, and other "original" material, it also opened the window to Prom Night, When a Stranger Calls, My Bloody Valentine, a couple Halloweens, several Chainsaw Massacres, and a Friday the 13th. Dozens of various other genre remakes aside, once a groove is approved, they're gonna keep spending money to make money. Our money. Blumhouse's milquetoast Michael continuation was just safe enough to have critics and fans alike exclaiming "Meh, why not." If that's enough for us, that's enough for them. Evil, predictably, does not die tonight.