Very broadly speaking, a horror movie is one in which the audience identifies with the victims. As they struggle to get away from the supernatural (or otherwise) awful occurrence, the audience sees itself reflected in the eyes of would-be slain, and is rooting for them to get away.
In a slasher movie, we’re rooting for the killer.
In order to make this plausible, we have to hate victims. Maybe they did something last summer, or are general douchebags, or had bullied the killer all his life. The slasher is a modern embodiment of the Greek Erinyes, and we’re along for the ride. The most recent Friday the 13th movie is quite a ride.
A basic outline of the plot: A bunch of teenagers go into the woods to party, screw, smoke, and have a good time are picked off one at a time by a guy named “Jason”. A few weeks later, another group of teens goes off into the same woods to do the same thing. Also: the brother of one of the girls from the original group is trying to find his sister. Also: there are tits. Lots of them.
Amazingly*, the tits are attached to women with actual and distinct personalities. Also, the guys fondling the tits have actual and distinct personalities. And the guys who only wish they could do said fondling? Yup. What about the girls who don’t get naked? Them too. This is actually a problem.
Remember what I said about needing to hate the victims? I didn’t. I can’t hate teens for the crime of being up in the woods to party, smoke, and screw. Unless you’re Pat Roberson (or Osama bin Laden), you can’t either. The result is that we’re left identifying with the bare breasted woman who just took a machete through the top of her skull. The guy who left the (relative) safety of the house to fetch his (stoned) friend? That’s the heroic guy I want to be. Well, the hale and hearty version of him, anyway. Not the version of him with an ax in his back screaming for help.
And so the movie is horrific. Over and over again we see normal American Teenagers killed for the crime of being normal American Teens. 97 minutes of pain. The only conclusion I can draw is that we’re so decadent that just living here is worthy of death. Or the writers didn’t think about what they were doing.
The movie isn’t awful, though. It’s has some very sharp camera work and film editing. This isn’t faint praise– despite the fact that I knew exactly what was coming and what to expect, the tension was maintained and I was consistently shocked to find Jason somewhere he shouldn’t be. Very well done, folks.
Rating: 3 machetes out of 5 Hockey masks. Mechanically great, but the writing is a mess. Scary, scary, scary…
*for a slasher movie