Slasher Studios Examines: “The Rise of Supernatural Slashers”

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With the slasher subgenre becoming one of the more non-existent subgenre in horror cinema, the supernatural ones are on the rise. This is all thanks to the trend that Paranormal Activity started (along with the over-abundance of found footage). With this all happening, more often than not, the found-footage genre usually has a paranormal story going for it. This consists of the aforementioned ghost/spirit films such as Paranormal Actvity, possession films such as The Last Exorcism, and alien films like The Fourth Kind.

However, it is fairly recent within in the past couple of years that slashers may have taken a new form. No longer do we have a terrifying stranger in a mask creeping around stalking young and beautiful teens. But now we have a supernatural entity stalking and killing our characters. Some may say this all began with Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street films. This is a very valid argument as Freddy is long dead and only appears through supernatural means. Some may disagree since he is a full figure, but it can definitely go both ways.

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Time passed and several Freddy sequels later we arrived to the early 2000’s and Final Destination fell into our laps. This time we have our leads being killed off in slasher form by an invisible force in ways that appear by accident. Followed by four sequels, Final Destination really put the supernatural-slasher train in motion. And truthfully, it gave new fear as to who can kills us. It made us fear every little thing that some unseen presence could kills us with. Like Nightmare on Elm Street, Final Destination gave us some of our more stereotypical characters we see in a slasher film. Again one can argue either side, but it can’t be denied there is a strong slasher presence in it.

Continuing on since then the only slashers we have received were remakes or sequels, not so much original ones with the exception of Wrong Turn, See No Evil, and You’re Next came about, everything else was essentially straight to video low budget films. Certainly there is nothing wrong with low budget slashers being released straight to video, but it hardly leaves fans of the subgenre with anything to see in the theater.

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Then came the age of straight up supernatural and found footage. While most of them deal with characters getting killed off, in Paranormal Activity’s case, it’s due to the characters getting in the way of the demon’s intentions. But following this we have supernatural/found footage films such as The Quiet Ones, The Lazarus Effect, Grave Encounters, and As Above/So Below. These films (some found footage, some not) give us some fairly stereotypical characters that wander off into places they shouldn’t be or messing with things they shouldn’t. Ultimately, whatever spirits they anger begin to kill them off, in the above examples, some in pretty disturbing ways. While these films aren’t considered hits for the horror genre, they’re shining examples of the direction slasher films are heading.

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We have now come to the year 2015 where we are back to stereotypical teenagers are being killed off. The small film Nightlight which depicts a group of teens entering the woods for a fun night game, but of course, an evil presence that haunts the woods begins to kill them off. Following this we are smacked with the surprise hit Unfriended which encapsulates the recent trend of supernatural slashers. We have the most stereotypical and glossy, snobby teens you could expect, and we have a vengeful spirit coming back to haunt them and brutally murdering them in front of each other. While I wasn’t the film’s biggest fan, it certainly opened up my eyes to the prospect of the direction slasher films could be heading. The most recent release of The Gallows was a major flop, but it brought forth the same concept as Unfriended, an evil presence killing off stereotypical teens (but this time by means of a noose).

Despite the fact that we are getting The Final Girls released this month (October 2015), it’s not the slasher we typical expect as it is more of a parody of slasher films (the same goes for the MTV’s Scream series and Fox’s Scream Queens). If this is the only direction REAL slashers going, by means of making them comedic, it shows that the slasher genre really doesn’t affect mainstream audiences anymore unless there is comedy behind it. While The Final Girls looks really fun, as is Scream Queens, it’s not the subgenre of slasher I know and love. At this point it seems like any real slashers we get will be a remake or a sequel, any other form would be with heavy humor involved. Clearly serial killers in horrific costumes killing off these stereotypical, pretty, and horny teenagers just doesn’t cut it anymore. Modern audiences want ghosts, demons, and the evils of the unknown coming after people. But by releasing such supernatural films with heavy slasher touches, is this just pure convenience, or is this the filmmakers’ way of trying to please fans of the supernatural genre as well as those of the dying slasher genre? Whether you love the idea or not or just simply accept it, one cannot deny there is a trend going here.

–Cody Landman