This post by Frank Larnerd
The very first slashers come from the ancient Greeks. In his first adventures, the hero Theseus battled six different slashers, before going to Crete to fight the monsterous Minotaur. First he had to face the chthonic bandit, Periphetes, who beat travelers to death with a giant club. Second was Sinis, a robber who disposed of his victims by tying them to two bent pines which ripped them apart once they were released. The witch Phaea was Theseus’ third challenge. This old crone could transform herself into an enormous boar which devoured her targets. Next was Sciron who feed his prey to a giant sea monster. In his fifth encounter, Theseus challenged Cercyon, the King of Eleusis who broke his opponents’ bones in wrestling matches. Finally, Theseus faced Procrustes the Stretcher. Procrustes would offer weary travelers his bed. If they were too short to fill the bed, he would stretch their limbs. If they were too long, Procrustes would cut off their feet to make them fit.
Modern slashers owe more to urban legends of the fifties than to the ancient Greeks. The story of “The Hook” would provide many of the tropes that we identify with modern slashers: kids alone in a deserted location, a twisted killer with a unique weapon, and a warning against teenage promiscuity.
Filmmakers in the eighties used the fear of spree killers like Ted Bundy and the Zodiac Killer to focus the slasher concept into a marketable commodity. Slashers continue to be hot sellers throughout the 90’s and on into the 21st century. Each time subtly changing to reflect fears of the public. Without having to look too hard, we can see a correlation between Jigsaw and the media reports of torture in the early 2000’s.
So what do you need to create your own slasher in 2014? Here are a few things to consider when crafting your very own axe wielding psychopath.
* Back story – Every slasher needs a reason to be a kill crazy monster. Freddy was the son of a hundred maniacs. Jason’s mother was killed by camp counselors and Cropsey was disfigured by cruel kids. Like any good character, give them a motivation for their actions and they will be more than just a killer in a mask.
* Appearance – Most slashers are disfigured in some way. They look fearsome and abnormal. You don’t want to lay eyes on them, let alone have them touch you with their decomposing hands.
* Weapons – Many slashers have a particular trademark weapon. Freddy’s glove and Leatherface’s chainsaw help to set them apart from similar slashers and bring a primal fear to their audiences.
* Intelligence – This one goes both ways. Single-minded killers like Michael Myers provide great thrills as do highly intelligent slashers like Dr. Hannibal Lector. Find a balance for your slasher and the thrills will follow.
* Setting – Usually tied to the back story, the setting should be remote and creepy. Of course cell phones never work there. Try to avoid clichés of the woods, or summer camps.
* Mask – Some slashers were a mask to disguise their revolting appearing. The dehumanizing effect of wearing a mask helps to relate the inhuman passions of the slasher.
* Victims – Usually teenagers, they provide fodder for the slasher’s cruel rage. They should be likeable enough to root for and make you worried they might not survive.
* Last Girl – A slasher is only as good as his greatest challenge. The Last Girl is usually intelligent and morally uncorrupted. Her goodness and wits prove to be a slasher’s greatest obstacle.
* Do something different – Make your slasher chase after senior citizens, or swap genders and make your Last Girl a fraternity jock. Do something different and your slasher will stand out amongst the sea of bloody imitators.
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