Slashers: The Monsters are…Human!
These are by far the most frightening due to the fact that the creatures that are causing so much fear and killing innocent folks are OTHER PEOPLE! This area of horror can be straightforward slash and gore or more psychological in nature.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre(1974). This movie was THE BIG MOVIE. It was often talked about as I was growing up, referenced by adults and older children that had seen it. Nothing was as scary as this movie because it had actually happened. It didn’t, but it became this sort of urban legend that endured due to marketing strategy. This movie has scared some people I know that don’t scare easy. All of that gave me high expectations of the movie when time came for me to watch it. I was not disappointed. It was scary. There is nothing quite like the sound of a chainsaw that can really make my blood run cold with terror. (Brief side note, one that is probably more interesting to the author of this post than to the readers: the first time I played Resident Evil 4 and encountered the village’s flour-bag-masked-chainsaw-wielding-doctor, I screamed like a little girl, dropped the controller and covered my eyes while Leon Kennedy promptly had his head removed by said chainsaw.) I do love the ending of this movie, the scene where Sally escapes in the back of a truck. I felt sorry for this girl who went through so much, and was very glad that she escaped with her life. Her companions did not fare as well.
The Strangers(2008). I don’t remember seeing this advertised at all. In fact the first time I did notice it was on a bargain shelf of a big box store. Ever on the look out for a good horror movie, I picked it up and read the back. And replaced it on the shelf. I had “seen” those movies, needless violence and gore, all for shock value. A couple of years later, I was discussing horror movies with a friend and she mentioned that there was a really good horror movie called The Strangers. We share similar tastes in scary movies so I thought that I should give the movie a proper chance. I am so glad that I did. It is one of my favorite movies. It’s subtle at times, eerie and foreboding, and atmospheric. It centers on two main characters who are going through a very difficult time in their relationship. James takes his girlfriend, Kristen, to his family cabin. It’s awkward between them and James calls his friend Mike to come pick him up since there is only the one vehicle and James doesn’t want Kristen to be stranded there. But Mike did not answer his phone and the message was left on his voicemail. Things start to get interesting when a knock sounds on the door sometime in the very early morning. It’s a young woman, her face obscured by the lighting, asking for Tamara. She leaves when Kristen and James says that she does not live there. After that, James leaves to pick up a pack of cigarettes for Kristen. From that moment on, they become plagued by a trio of masked, psychotic tormentors. Never once during the course of this movie do you see the assailants’ faces. They remain anonymous. I highly recommend this movie, it’s very well made and quite scary with little gore. Be sure to lock your doors before watching it, though. I know that the premise of this movie haunted me long after I watched it.
Them(2006, French-Romanian) Like the first two movies, this contains the “based on real events” tag, and this movie was also suggested to me by my good friend. This movie is very well made but since it isn’t in English, there is some distraction with subtitles. Lucky for me, I don’t mind subtitles (some of the movies I have really enjoyed have subtitles). It has a very surprising ending, that is all I am going to say and I know that it both shocked and horrified me. It is fast-paced, the running time is less than an hour and a half (in fact I think it is just a little over an hour total). It starts out with a mother and daughter riding along after dark. They are arguing and during the course of the argument, the mother crashes the car. There’s no cell service, and no way on that deserted county road, for them to get help immediately. They are almost playfully and invisibly attacked. The movie then goes on to concentrate on a school teacher, Clementine, and a night in her life. A night that is full of torment for her and her boyfriend. I won’t give anymore of this movie away. For those of you who loved The Strangers, this might be one you will enjoy as well. It has a similar atmosphere. I highly recommend seeing this.
Halloween(1978). The music scored by the movie’s director and co-writer, John Carpenter, is truly haunting and very appropriate for such a movie. It concerns Michael Myers who was put away when he was 6-years-old for killing his older sister. He escapes some fifteen years later to revisit the old homestead where he begins to stalk a baby-sitter, Laurie. A great movie which reminds me of those urban legends centered on the dangers of baby-sitting and “local killers escaping”. A horror movie classic, and a Halloween staple around here. It is, interestingly enough, one of the highest grossing independent films in history, and stars a then unknown actress, Jamie Lee Curtis.
Scream(1996). Very inventive while playing with common themes and elements from a long line of slasher movies. It contains a combination of horror and dark comedy and while being gory, frightening and tense, manages also to be funny and playful. There is also a wink to Freddy Kruger in one brief scene. The janitor mopping the floor is wearing a green and red striped sweater and is called either “Fred” or “Freddy” by the principal. The janitor is actually Wes Craven in costume, the film’s director. The main character is a high school student, Sidney Prescott. She is at times vulnerable and tough, and always intelligent. I think she’s a kick-ass heroine. I remember being very impressed with Sidney when I first saw this movie. And every re-watch just reaffirms that admiration.
Other favorite slasher/human as “monster” movies:
I Know What You Did Last Summer(1997) – Also written by Scream writer Kevin Williamson
Silence of the Lambs(1991)