Slasher Movie killer in its natural habitat; stalking the Final Girl
Zombie movies are about groups: outside, the zombies are legion; inside, the humans struggle to work together. Slasher movies are about individuals: one man is doing all the killing, and only one girl will outwit him and survive.
serial killers stalking attractive young girls, a combination that allows for buckets of gore and enough flesh to titillate.
The killers, mostly driven by revenge
, are Made of Iron
, at a minimum, and usually Implacable
. Many are explicitly supernatural. All of them can appear and disappear as if by magic
, and the corpses of their victims are equally elusive. A slasher killer can whisk away a full grown adult's corpse in seconds, leaving not a single drop of blood behind, or swiftly arrange all its victims in an elaborate tableau, without ever being seen lugging the dead bodies around
. The more explicitly supernatural killers will have powers ranging from Super Strength
(all the better to pull victims through walls
), the ability to appear in dreams
and attack the dreamers, or other ghostly abilities.
The victims are usually teenagers or young adults, all usually guilty of some minor vice
. Once the audience has had a convincing demonstration of their (usually sexual
) misdemeanours, they are spectacularly slaughtered
. If there's more than one sin or minority to pick from then the Sorting Algorithm of Mortality
comes into play.
Eventually, there will be only one girl left standing, the Final Girl
, normally the only "morally pure" member of the main cast. With considerable help from her death battle exemption
, she will kill the killer.
Come the next sequel, it will be revealed that the killer was actually Not Quite Dead
A subset of the Horror
genre, although the schlockier examples replace suspense almost entirely with gore. They are often considered B-movies
. Early examples of the genre were heavily influenced by the giallo
films of Italian directors like Dario Argento
, Lucio Fulci
, and Mario Bava. The genre first became popular in the late '70s and early '80s, with the release of the three most iconic slasher flicks: Halloween (1978)
, Friday the 13th (1980)
, and A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
. The genre would burn itself out in the late '80s, as the established franchises grew stale and the ripoffs grew more desperate. The slasher genre was revived in the mid-late '90s, when Wes Craven's Scream (1996) satirized the genre
and became a hit. Once again, studios sought to cash in on the film's success
, releasing their own post-modern
, teen-focused slasher flicks. Today, the slasher genre may be entering a third wave, with the remakes of Halloween
, My Bloody Valentine
, and Friday the 13th
all being hits, a remake of Nightmare on Elm Street
just arrived, and the backlash against the gore-driven
" that dominated horror in this decade
called these movies "Dead Teenager Movies" due to their focus on teenagers getting killed. Another popular nickname is "Bodycount Films/Movies".
Keep in mind that, while every slasher movie features a serial killer or a spree killer, not every serial killer or spree killer movie is a slasher movie. Also note that a slasher film is quite different from a Psychological Thriller
, which tends to emphasize the Sympathy for the Devil
part using a Freudian Excuse
or two (and possibly a few Pet the Dog
moments in the killer's favor), and de-emphasize the Final Girl
, often killing off all characters
Want to write your own slasher flick? We have a handy writer's guide
for anybody looking to do just that.
Tropes Applicable to the Genre:
- Adults Are Useless: Parents, teachers, police or any other kind of authority figure are either blissfully unaware of what's happening or being obstructive and denying it. In the case of the Nightmare on Elm Street series, they're almost villains themselves.
- Asshole Victim: Particularly noteworthy in Halloween (the later entries at least) and Friday the 13th; averted in A Nightmare on Elm Street, where almost every victim is made to be sympathetic.
- Barrier-Busting Blow
- Black Dude Dies First/Bury Your Gays: Character who is a part of a minority is usually as good as dead.
- Cool Mask: On some of the killers. Usually leads to Dramatic Unmask.
- Creepy Basement: You can always expect at least one death in here.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: At least one death in many of these movies will qualify for this.
- Dark Secret: One of these lies at the core of most of these films, usually as the reason that the killer is on the rampage.
- Deadly Prank: Some slasher movies have one of these as either a way one of the victims is killed or as the catalyst for the entire thing (see Urban Legend for a recent example).
- Death By Genre Savvy: Ran into the ground by lesser filmmakers when Scream (1996) made it popular, and mostly set aside during the age of Torture Porn.
- Death by Pragmatism: You wouldn't have a very long movie if everyone did the intelligent thing and stuck together.
- Death by Sex: If you have sex in one of these movies, rest assured that you will die. Horrifically.
- Developing Doomed Characters
- Don't Go in the Woods / Summer Campy: Summer camps and backwoods are a popular setting, owing to Friday the 13th's use of these locales.
- Dwindling Party: Many slashers begin with a group of six to 10 teen-agers or young college students, often representing a cross section of interests and so forth. One by one, the antagonist (often a deeply troubled individual, but just as often someone who is pure evil) will kill off the kids in the most brutal way possible. Usually, only or two will survive in the end ... sometimes to help defeat the bad guy (usually by luring the villain into one of his own traps or by holding him off long enough for the hero to arrive), other times just leave to feel fortunate to survive. More than once, it is the villain who reigns supreme in the end by killing the last remaining opponent, often in a one-sided fight that ends with the most brutal, elaborate death.
- The End... Or Is It?: A common ending twist, especially where the makers are hoping to get a franchise started.
- Everyone Is a Suspect: In movies where the killer's identity isn't known.
- Fanservice: One of the reasons why the genre became popular.
- A Fate Worse Than Death: In the sense that: 1. Death comes excruciating slow, painful manner humanly — sometimes, beyond humanly — possible; or 2. The manner of death is extremely brutal or incomprehensibly violent, as opposed to a quick, relatively painless death (such as getting shot or dying instantly of a heart attack). Often, a ultra-violent rape may be involved, and in that instance, male victims are not immune.
- Final Girl: The Trope Maker. The trope was named by Carol J. Clover in her examination of the genre.
- Follow the Leader: These films tend to follow the path shown by the most successful entries.
- Gorn: The name of the game in these movies (although some of the most famous examples, such as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and Halloween (1978), are rather pointedly not very explicit).
- Hockey Mask and Chainsaw: Although in references to these films rather than in the actual films.
- Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: These films usually take place on holidays and such.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice
- Implacable Man: Killers in these movies are rather hard to kill, if not nigh-indestructible.
- Improvised Weapon
- Job Title: Some of the more gimmicky movies have a killer of a profession that will provide thematic kills and quips.
- Just Here for Godzilla: A lot fans honestly watch to see the killer doing his thing and really don't care much about the actual story.
- Kill the Cutie: Many slashers have several white-hot nova babeilicous girls ... and they are among those who are killed in the most violent of ways, and the end result is you won't see them lying in a casket, looking like an angel. Read: bludgeoned, disfigured, mutilated, burned, etc., sometimes several of these before the onset of death ... to the point where dental and/or DNA records (if there's anything left) are required to identify their remains.
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Slashers tend to blur the line between fantasy and reality. Even if the killer is an explicitly normal human, his seemingly superhuman speed, strength, and stamina will rarely be given an explanation.
- Menacing Stroll
- Men Are the Expendable Gender: Male deaths are usually sudden and without struggle; it's incredibly rare to have a chase scene with a male character being chased. And in 99% of slasher movies, being male is practically a death certificate, because no matter how Too Dumb to Live the Final Girl is, she will live despite being a complete moron (examples are Friday the 13th Part III, The Strangers, Mother's Day (2011)).
- Monster Misogyny: The other side of the coin. While men can and do die in these movies, the favorite victims of many slasher killers (and the ones that usually get the more elaborate deaths) are women.
- My Car Hates Me; If you're running from the killer, expect your car to let you down at the worst possible time.
- Not Quite Dead: If a slasher movie goes into sequels, chances are this applies to the killer.
- Off with His Head!
- Offscreen Teleportation
- Paint the Town Red
- Police Are Useless: The cops, the guys we normally expect to be able to deal with the problem, are especially useless in these kinds of movies. As always, it's up to the Final Girl to actually stop the killer.
- Popularity Polynomial: The slasher genre was dead in the water by the end of The Eighties, before it was resurrected by Scream (1996).
- Reactionary Fantasy: Many '80s slasher movies, underneath all the R-rated bloodshed and raunchiness, had a very socially conservative view of teenage culture, usually expressed by ensuring that those teenagers into drinking, partying, doing drugs, rock music, etc. — basically, those who "rebelled" in any way against society — were the ones who got killed. The Final Girl was nearly always the Token Wholesome virgin. Later films, however, tended to subvert, parody and/or deconstruct these aspects more often than they played them straight.
- Red Shirt: Yes, even in these. Before the main cast gets it, several minor (and usually unnamed) characters will get it early on.
- Reduced Monster Difficulty
- The Reveal: Usually coupled with the unmasking.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Most of the killers of these movies are on a vendetta of some sort.
- The Savage South: Slashers tend to take place in the southern regions. Ex: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
- The Scourge of God: Many slasher killers target the "bad" people among the cast while generally leaving the "good" ones alone for the most part.
- Shaggy Dog Story/Shoot the Shaggy Dog: The surviving protagonists generally don't get any reward for their trials. Oftentimes, their victories over the killers are completely undone in Sequel Hooks, even if the given movie doesn't have a planned sequel yet.
- Silent Antagonist: Most of the killers rarely talk, if ever (Exceptions include Freddy Krueger and Chucky the Doll).
- Slashers Prefer Blondes: Blonde girls in slasher films tend to get offed a lot, usually with more elaborate deaths. The Final Girl is almost always brunette, in contrast to the blonde. Though of course there are exceptions.
- Small Reference Pools: Judging by the number of parodies that feature the Hockey Mask and Chainsaw trope, it's as if Friday the 13th and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre were the only slasher flicks ever made.
- Stealth Hi/Bye
- Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Final Girls of previous movies who sign on for sequels are especially at risk of dying, usually very early on in the movie. The Final Girl of the original Friday the 13th was famously the very first victim of Jason Voorhees.
- Theme Serial Killer: As slasher movies proliferated, many creators tried to distinguish their films from the pack by coming up with increasingly bizarre gimmicks for their killers.
- Tomboyish Name: A common attribute of the Final Girl
- Too Dumb to Live: Some victims just might not be particularly Genre Savvy, but the first victim is usually in a class of his/her own.
- Villain-Based Franchise: Especially popular with slashers.
- The Villain Makes the Plot: Most of the films have the killer as the center of the story.
- Weapon of Choice: Most slashers have at least one, blades and and axes being the most usual choice.
- Wild Teen Party: One of the most common set ups.
- The Worf Effect: Often one of the killer's early victims will be athletic or tough in some way to show that simply trying to match his brute strength is hopeless.
Slasher Films with TV Tropes Articles:
Homages, Parodies, Other Stuff Regarding the Genre:
Anime and Manga
- The comic book Hack Slash stars a former Final Girl who hunts down slashers. Essentially, every distinct story arc is its own 'movie' — Cassie even refers to the return of Father Wrath (actually a copycat) as a "sequel".
- The genre is played with Andrea Mouse-themed storylines from Horndog. Given the comic's style, it teeters between straight example and Affectionate Parody.
- The ShadowLine/Image Comics miniseries Gutwrencher.
- Camp Cuddly Pines Powertool Massacre, a porno-slasher notable for sharing its set with Hatchet. Amusingly, the villain's origin is mish-mash of Freddy, Michael and Jason's respective backstories.
- Cry_Wolf is worthy of mention here for being a "faux-slasher". Only two people die in the entire movie. I'm not saying who. And neither of them really dies in a particularly brutal fashion as has become accustom to the genre.
- The comedy film Psycho Beach Party is a homage to the old slasher movies and beach movies from the 60s.
- Scary Movie parodies the genre, mostly Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer. Its sequels venture into other genres.
- Shriek if You Know What I Did Last Friday the Thirteenth, which also heavily parodied Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer.
- Stan Helsing features various Captain Ersatzes of various horror icons, including from Slasher movies.
- Student Bodies and Wacko predate Scream and Scary Movie by more than a decade.
- Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil parodies the 'degenerate hillbilly' variation on this genre by flipping it; the two main characters are a pair of sweet-natured but not very bright hillbillies who, through a bunch of misunderstandings, are mistaken for psycho killers by a group of college students camping in the woods. Very Gory Hilarity Ensues.
- Unmasked Part 25 is an existential British satire of the Friday the 13th series, in which a deformed slasher named Jackson tries to leave his life of meaningless slaughter for his love of a beautiful blind woman. It's somewhat reminiscent of The Toxic Avenger.
- Cabin by the Lake centers around a serial killer who performs his murders to write a more "sophisticated" horror movie script than the usual slasher fare he puts out.
- Stephen King's The Dark Half, which was adapted into a 1993 film directed by George A Romero.
- There are a few obscure "slasher novels" like Slay Bells, Joyride, Deadly Detention, Apeshit, and Under the Blade.
- Where The Bodies Are Buried and sequels by Kim Newman, are about a series of slasher movies of the same name, whose slasher, Rob Hackwill, has a nasty habit of becoming real.
- A group of phobophages (shapeshifters who feed on fear) attack a convention while disguised as horror film characters (including slasher villains like "Hammerhands" and "The Reaper") in the The Dresden Files novel Proven Guilty.
- Hunter: The Vigil has... Slashers, who are people influenced by the supernatural into becoming perfect Serial Killers. They range from Rippers, who have abnormal, but still theoretically possible abilities, to Scourges, who are obviously supernatural. The types are: Avengers & Legends, Brutes & Masks, Charmers & Psychos, Freaks & Mutants, and Geniuses & Maniacs. It is possible, though difficult, to play one as a Type IV or V Anti-Hero, targeting people, or supernatural beings, who deserve it.
- Clock Tower, released in 1995, is very similar to a slasher movie, with a near-indestructible slasher villain who murders young women off-screen. A movie in and out of Development Hell is being made.
- Until Dawn, in which eight young friends go to a secluded hotel in the mountains and get attacked by (what are implied to be) supernatural killers.
- The Manhunt games have often been compared to slasher movies, only with you playing as the killer.
- Ditto for Naughty Bear, which was more explicit about its slasher influence, albeit in a much Lighter and Softer form.
- Pig Farmer Games's Babysitter Bloodbath and its follow-up, Splatter Camp, which is already facing competition from Mighty Rabbit Studios's Summer Camp.
- Last Year, where the players control a group of stereotypes pitted against a masked murderer, also player-controlled.