The horror genre is one of the most vast in the film industry, boasting several sub-genres. Through the years, the sub-genre has become a fan favorite with a very dedicated cult following.

What Makes A Horror Movie A Slasher Film?

'Halloween' [Credit: Compass International]
'Halloween' [Credit: Compass International]

The slasher film contains a few elements that are unique to the sub-genre:

  • A psychopath/killer
  • A "final girl"
  • A very specific set of survival rules

The Psychopath/Killer: Generally, the villain of a slasher film has a tie to a specific person, place or both, and an agenda based upon a traumatic childhood experience, i.e. Jason Voorhees and Norman Bates. There are even vengeful slasher ghosts (Victor Crowley) and some whose motives are never given (Chromeskull). The killer picks a victim and usually spends the entirety of the film picking off their target's friends one by one until our "final girl" is left to confront the villain in an epic showdown.

The "Final Girl": This is typically the virginal good girl in the film. She's the one that's not partying like the rest of her friends and following the "rules" of a slasher film. She becomes the target of the killer's blood-soaked rage and watches helplessly as her friends get picked off one by one until her own rage fuels her to become the heroine of the film. Inevitably, she ends up being the one that saves the day by confronting the killer and defeating him (or so we think).

The Rules: There are several rules to a slasher film. Fans of the franchise may remember Randy rattling some of them off in the first film. Here are some of the most popular "rules" that, if followed, just might keep you from getting your head chopped off:

  • Never stand with your back to a dark hallway, the woods or anywhere else a killer could pop out of.
  • Don't investigate the strange noise.
  • No premarital sex.
  • No drinking.
  • No drugs.
  • Never split up.
  • Never say "I'll be right back."
  • Always check your backseat.
  • Everyone is a suspect.
  • Never say "that sort of thing only happens in movies."
  • Don't be a jock, cheerleader, "easy," or the jerk — you'll be the first to go.
  • Don't be a hero.
  • No heels — wear shoes you can run in.
  • Never assume the killer is dead.
  • Don't read aloud from that weird book you found in the basement.
  • Be prepared for anything.
  • No matter how fast you run or how well you think you're hidden, the killer will find you.

The Birth Of The Slasher Film

'Psycho' [Credit: Paramount]
'Psycho' [Credit: Paramount]

and the slasher sub-genre can be traced all the way back to the late 19th century. Plays produced at the Grand Guignol during this time period held a lot of influence for the early slasher films. For example, Maurice Tourneur's The Lunatics, produced in 1912, is a silent film adaptation of one of the plays.

The slasher film began to evolve with time and became more vicious with each production. It wasn't until the 1960 release of Alfred Hitchcock's that the slasher sub-genre would make a lasting impression on horror fans. The slasher film continued to gain steam with the 1974 release of Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the 1978 release of John Carpenter's Halloween. The slasher film reached its peak and in the 1980s with the continuation of the franchise and the emergence of films like A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, April Fools Day, Prom Night, My Bloody Valentine and many more. The slasher film continues to be a fan favorite sub-genre and modern slashers continue to spread their gore covered entertainment to eager fans.

The Modern Slasher Film

'Hatchet' [Credit: Anchor Bay Entertainment]
'Hatchet' [Credit: Anchor Bay Entertainment]

The rules and the "final girl" trope have stayed the same, but with the modern slasher film the killers have become stronger, faster and more brutal. Unfortunately, many of today's horror films are just "re-imaginings" of the classics, but directors like Adam Green, Robert Hall and the new generation of independent filmmakers have given horror fans new, original slasher films they can be proud of.

Examples of modern slasher films include Adam Green's trilogy, Robert Hall's Laid To Rest and Chromeskull: Laid To Rest 2, the franchise, , the franchise and a long list of independent films like Red Eye, Headless and more.

Slashers On TV

'Bate's Motel' [Credit: A&E Networks / NBC Universal TV]
'Bate's Motel' [Credit: A&E Networks / NBC Universal TV]

The slasher sub-genre continues to gain notoriety with television adaptations of popular films. Shows such as and MTV's have introduced a new generation to slasher film.

Other shows like Slasher, , , Hannibal, and Dead of Summer have touched on the slasher sub-genre.

As the horror genre continues to grow, the slasher film is here to stay.