The Cultural Significance of Slasher Films

Horror films are defined by their primary aim to horrify. But can they offer us more than the obvious? Though the horror film genre blossomed during the Golden Age of Hollywood, with James Whale’sFrankenstein (1931) and The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), it was Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) that became the appointed ancestor for a new subgenreof horror that would develop in the 70s – slasher films. Since then, the genre has enjoyed a steady popularity among young viewers with recent slasher classics such as Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013). Still, no other movie genre polarizes people’s opinions and views asmuch as slashers.

Slasher films have endured heavy criticism for scenes of graphic sex, violence and victimization of women. At best, critics contemptuously dismiss or ignore slashers; at worst, they claim these films appeal primarily to sadistic misogynists. This rationale has provided an excuse for slasher films’ status as low culture, the most disreputable form of horror film, undeserving of study and analysis. However, film writer Sarah Trencansky argues that the people slasher films aim to speak to most are women, feminists and adolescents, and the “unprivileged other” groups of society. It therefore comes as no surprise that the biggest fans of the slasher genre are African-American and Hispanic audiences.

From a sociological perspective, slashers offer a scathing criticism of American society. They probe deeply into the dark side of a seemingly perfect and idyllic American suburbia, exposing what is hidden behind the cloak of a safe home or community. But according to Pat Gill, a professor of Media and Gender & Women’s Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, they also reveal a nostalgic longing for a conventional family and family values. In slashers, home is not a safe retreat from a corrupted world. There is no functional family: most parentsare divorced; they are physically and/or emotionally absent from their children’s lives; and the adolescents are left on their own to deal with the evil… Click To See Full Article