Answering this question is going to take more than a single article I am afraid. I decided to take a look at more than one franchise and in my attempt to answer this question I raised more concerns as I began comparing Halloween to Friday the 13th.
One of my all time favorite slasher films is a case study in the genre. It is called Slumber Party Massacre. Obviously it has a remake of the same name but I am referring to the original 80s classic. This movie has an escape murderer on the loose picking off teenagers in a house one by one. The killer rarely shows his face and relies on creative kills to snuff out his victims. The movie has a pretty standard body count while serving up a feature film that hits all the notes: right tone, scares, bloody, suspense and thrills and a final girl. It has all the tropes.
Another case study is one that also stars the same actress famous for surviving Halloween. Her name is Jamie Lee Curtis. The movie is Prom Night. Another movie that is a carbon copy of Halloween with a twist, young kids responsible for the death of one of their own inspires the killer in a story reminiscent to I Know What You Did Last Summer.
There is a subgenre of the slasher film, however, that requires a deeper look. This is the supernatural thriller. There are a number of slashers that fall under this banner. Ones where the monster is of supernatural origins rather than a mad stalker. The two most famous ones in this style are A Nightmare on Elm Street and Hellraiser. Now both of these franchises bear some resemblance to the slasher genre while also straying away from the tried and true trope in their own respects.
A Nightmare on Elm Street is my favorite movie of all time so I have written extensively about it already. Instead I want to touch on the supernatural elements then dig deeper into Hellraiser.
Freddy is a poltergeist haunting his victims dreams. He is not a man. He manifests in the shape of a human being for most of his kills but not always and not exclusively. Sometimes he is a giant snake monster. He also quite often disguises himself as people familiar to his victims, including their fallen friends from time to time.
Hellraiser is entirely different. It bares only a passing resemblance to the slasher genre. It does feature a final girl. There is a body count and the killer does hide in the shadows most of the film. That is where the similarities end. I still count it among the slasher ilk as it does feature the same tone as those films, at least the first one does the rest are a genre all their own.
Let’s take a detour and look at Phantasm for a moment. Here is another slasher-esque film that features a mixture of supernatural and science fiction elements. It has the tone and feel of a slasher movie, right down to a teenager surviving the ordeal, but it also fails to hit all the tropes.
Getting back to Hellraiser for a second the franchise is decidedly NOT a slasher series meanwhile the first film is enough of one to be counted among the faithful. AS for Freddy Krueger his movies are absolutely slasher in nature. Even right down to the razor blades he wears on his gloves!
Then we have the Friday the 13th Knock offs, such as Sleepaway Camp and Maniac. Again these movies capture the core essence of what makes Friday the 13th work, a serial killer while one is set at a summer camp, the other in the city, they both rely heavily on slasher vibes.
I don’t have some incredible insights into what makes the slasher genre enjoyable. Hell I can barely make passing reference to the ones I have seen. I don’t analyze movies well that is not my strength. What I can do is take a look at the genre as a whole and discuss the elements I enjoy while offering up examples. In a way I would be better served making a top 25 slasher films of all time list.
What Makes A Good Slasher Film Part One