Slasher Movies: The True Story | NowThis Nerd

– [Moose] Happy October everybody and welcome to week one of NowThis Nerd's Monstrous Month of Halloween Horror – [Creepy Voice] I'm glad you'll be able to watch it

– [Moose] Here at Nerd, we're big fans of slasher cinema, and after nearly forty episodes of 'How to Kill,' I think we got a pretty good grip on the gory greatness of the genre, but what defines a slasher movie? Where do they come from? How did they dominate an entire decade? And why did slashers fall out of fashion for a few years, only to rise from their grave stronger than ever? I'm Moose, and this is the True Story of Slasher Cinema (horror music) Now, there's no set definition for what separates slashers as a sub genre, but they tend to involve a serial killer terrorizing a middle class community, picking off unsuspecting victims one-by-one until they are defeated by a sole, usually female, survivor The quote unquote, final girl Now, there's obviously a lot of wiggle room within that spectrum, and a lot of different stories you can tell, which is why slasher movies can be about everything from homicidal ice cream men (screaming) (crunch) to living urban legends made out of bees – [Male Voice] Beads! (single, loud tone) – [Moose] The formula is so perfect it's practically timeless

Let's see how it formed with a look at the slasher's ancestors Blood and guts have always been a box office draw All the way back to ancient Rome, where they packed the Colosseum for gruesome gladiator battles and horrific half-time shows, where hundreds of helpless victims were murdered on mass, just for the fun of it (people fighting) (crowd cheering) As we move through the millennia, society develops substitutes for actual slaughter that nonetheless satiated our deeply ingrained blood lust, played out on the theater stage Violent plays were all the rage throughout the centuries

Even Billy Shakes got in on the action with grizzly classics like ;Titus Andronicus' – [Creepy Voice] Hark, villians! I shall grind your bones to dust – [Moose] But you'd be hard-pressed to consider them horror The genre was finding it's feet in literary fiction, but the themes tended more towards the supernatural Stories of ghosts, and monsters, and vampires that were spooky but not exactly relatable

Horror needed a human element and the Grand Guignol gave it to us along with buckets and buckets of blood (eerie piano music) (screaming) Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol opened in Paris in 1897 and quickly established itself as the home for horror They specialized in naturalistic nightmares that reflected society at large The scares didn't come from sterile ghosts but the danger that lurked in the deranged heart of every human; our basest and most brutal instincts laid bare in a Paris playhouse Grand Guignol's gore paved the way for horror cinema, pioneering special effects staples, like bursting blood bags and gimmick knives

(short yelp) – [Andy] Goddammit, Shelly, why do you always have to be such a jerk? – [Shelly] I beg your pardon, I'm not an jerk, I'm an actor – [Moose] Early horror films drew a ton of inspiration from Grand Guignol, and even though Hollywood instituted the haze code in 1930, severely limiting how much sex and violence can be depicted on screen, you can see the early stages of slashers take shape in movies like 1932's, 'Thirteen Women,' where members of a sorority are picked off one-by-one by a mysterious killer Or, 'The Spiral Staircase,' where a serial murderer stalks a mute woman Throughout the decades, the censorship was slowly chipped away, setting the stage for the first slashers (static) Alfred Hitchcock's classic, 'Psycho,' shocked the world when it debuted in 1960

It showed an unmarried couple sleeping in the same bed It dared to depict a flushing toilet, a first in cinematic history, and more importantly, it introduced us to a sympathetic protagonist, played by a famous actor, and killed her off in a legendary three-minute symphony of shower stabbing (running water) ('Psycho' theme playing) (screaming and yelling) 'Psycho' forced audiences to confront how vulnerable they really were, and how death can come from the most unlikely source 'Psycho's' violence, intensity and shocking twist caused a ton of controversy when it came out (shrill screaming) While it no doubt played a massive role in forming the slasher film, a more obscure movie from the same year may have had an even bigger influence

Micheal Powers' masterpiece, 'Peeping Tom,' featured a voyeuristic killer who filmed his victims' death throes with a camera, leading to the first-person POV shots that'd become a hallmark of the genre (screaming) 'Psycho', 'Peeping Tom' and similar cerebral thrillers helped strip the haze code of its power, but there was one important X-factor missing from the mix The sauce that makes a slasher film so satisfying, the splatter European filmmakers didn't have to deal with Hollywood's crushing conservatism, leading to the glamorously gruesome films of the Giallo movement, like 'Blood and Black Lace,' which featured a killer with a blank mask for a face, hunting a group of gorgeous victims with their black-gloved, bare hands Back in America, times had changed, but the haze code was still holding the entire art form back

But smaller studios began to push the envelope with ultra-violent films – [Alex] A bit of the old ultra-violence (dramatic music) 1963's, 'Blood Feast,' was an unrepentant exercise in excess and along with other amazingly titled movies like, 'The Wizard of Gore' and 'Two Thousand Maniacs,' it kick-started the splatter genre (high-pitched tone) (clapping and applause) Splatter films gradually evolved into grind house, low-budget exploitation movies that appealed to our baser instincts with gratuitous nudity and blood by the boat load Best exemplified by 1974's, 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

' (chainsaw revving) It's debatable whether it's a slasher, per say You have a single antagonist, you have a whole family of crazy cannibals and it kind of has more in common with hillbilly horror films like, 'The Last House on The left' and, 'The Hills Have Eyes,' but it's gritty, low-budget approach to horror, clearly influenced what was to come, as did, 'Black Christmas' Before he directed, 'A Christmas Story,' Bob Clark had already left his mark on the horror genre with this holiday classic (dramatic, creepy music) (buzzing power tools) (yelling and screaming) Inspired by an urban legend, 'Black Christmas' depicts a sorority stalked by an unseen killer While it's clearly the closest thing to a slasher movie we've seen so far, it would take another four years for the genre to really take shape, and I do mean shape because in 1978, John Carpenter's, 'Halloween' ushered us into the golden age

So many films came before 'Halloween' that it's hard to call it the first slasher, but it was the first to bring everything together into one perfect package A small suburban town, a cast of promiscuous teens, a final girl who's purity prevents her doom, and, of course, a heavy breathing boogie man with a big ass butcher knife (heavy breathing) "Halloween" wears it's influences on it's sleeve paying homage to 'Pyscho' through character names, like Dr Loomis, and casting Jamie Lee Curtis, the daughter of the shower scene star, Janet Leigh, as the patron saint of final girls, Laurie Strode (female whimpering) But 'Halloween' stands on it's own as ground zero for the slasher craze

It cost a mere 300 thousand dollars to make and went on to gross well over 70 million dollars (dramatic sound effects) An economic equation that is a big part of the genre's appeal from a studio's standpoint They're dirt cheap and they make a butt-load of money – [Male Voice] Trade tickets 'Halloween's' success spawned a string of imitators, most of which turned a profit but failed to start a successful franchise, save for one, 'Friday The 13th

' (intense thriller music) Director Sean Cunningham saw just how much bank Micheal Myers had brought in, and quickly began work on a slasher of his own Before the script was even completed, he took out a full page ad in Variety boasting that 'Friday the 13th' would be the most terrifying film ever made Now, I don't know about all that, it'd take the franchise kind of a few tries to find it's feet, not to mention it's signature star, but 'Friday' was a huge hit, too, and it came at the perfect cultural moment In 1980, Ronald Reagan had just entered office, ushering in a new era of conservative values and panicked pearl clutching about sex and violence in cinema – [Male Voice] And the summer and fall of 1980 are the worst yet

– [Moose] As a result, 'Friday' caused a big fuss Critic Gene Siskel even gave away the twist ending in his review just so people wouldn't go and see it But all that controversy, that just led to cash baby, and 'Friday's' success allowed it to innovate another hallmark of the slasher genre, the first slasher sequel The early 80's were saturated with so-so slashers, but as the box office returns began to shrink, studios turned to desperate gimmicks like, 3D – [Creepy Voice] I am (mumbles)

– [Moose] And, began churning out even cheaper films direct to the brand new home video market instead Still, there were plenty of bright spots amongst all the blandness and badness, – [Male Voice] Freeze, hold it right there! Make one more move toward that girl and I swear I'm going to hang your head on my wall! (dramatic, eerie music) (sudden yelp) And by 1984, slashers had arguably reached their creative peak Not only did that year see the best Jason movie, 'The Final Chapter', we were also introduced to the demonic dream master, who would push the boundaries of the slasher genre and, arguably, bring about it's doom Wes Craven's, 'A Nightmare on Elm Street' changed the game in more ways than one Freddy Krueger had a personality and a presence lacked by Micheal Myers, Jason Voorhees, and so many other silent, hulking monsters

And his surreal dream-scapes raised the bar for creative filth (screaming and yelling) Unfortunately, he might have raised it a bit too much Freddy's arrival heralded a new era of supernatural slashers, like Chucky, Candy Man and Pin Head, all of whom required a higher caliber of special effects that cut into the cost effective appeal of slasher movies Don't get me wrong, slashers were still a cultural phenomenon, just ask Will Smith and Jazzy Jeff ♪ I can't believe that there's a nightmare on my street ♪ – [Male Voice] Oh dang! – [Male Voice] It's so sick (loud beeping) – [Moose] But the genre was clearly on the decline and by the early 90's, they were all but dead

Wes Craven's creation nearly killed slasher movies but in 1996, he brought them back to life bigger than ever The story of 'Scream' and the post-modern slasher revival is sadly beyond the scope of this video but next time we'll take a look at how the decades of terrifying tropes that gave birth to the genre helped it evolve and thrive in a whole new millennium – [Urgent Voice] Go, go, go, go, go! Happy Halloween! (loud splat)

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