The Vermont Cynic

You can’t kill the boogeyman


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The most important thing to remember about the psycho-killer is that they never stay dead for long.

And just like the unstoppable monsters they showcase, slasher films have also refused to curl up and die.

For the past decade, American horror movies have been dominated by the “torture-porn” genre, flicks that focused exclusively on the graphic depiction of pain and suffering.

Recently however, things have changed. After a seven year absence, machete-wielding Jason Voorhees has made his triumphant return to theaters, slicing his way to a cool $64.6 million in ticket sales according to boxofficemojo.com.

What’s more, Jason’s success comes hot on the heels of remakes of Halloween, My Bloody Valentine and Sleepaway Camp. Sequels are already in the works, along with plans for a new Nightmare on Elm Street movie.

Just don’t call it a comeback. They’ve been here for years.

Horror movies are, as UVM English professor and horror movie buff Tony Masgistrale describes them, “barometers for measuring social anxiety.”

Hence, the origin of the modern slasher film can be traced back to the 1970s, a tumultuous period in American history.

Television sets brought the brutal violence of the Vietnam War into households all over the nation, while the traditional nuclear family disintegrated.

Up until this point, the monster had always been an external force, a dangerous outsider. Now the monster was an internalized menace, a serial killer who stalked our suburban neighborhoods and summer camps.

At the same time, slasher films draw from the same primal stories that humans have been telling each other for thousands of years. At their core, slasher movies are cautionary tales, warnings against violating social norms.

The victims in these movies are always teenagers who engage in taboo behavior, the kids who smoke, drink and engage in pre-marital sex.

The setting is contemporary, but it’s the same old message from our fairy tales – don’t stray off the forest path or the Big Bad Wolf will eat you.

After nearly thirty years of hacking teenagers to death, the great movie slashers have reached the same iconic status as Dracula and the Wolfman. It makes sense that during this period of cultural transition, when the Next Big Thing still remains uncertain, filmmakers would resurrect the slashers for another rampage.

So for god’s sake – extinguish that joint, hide the booze and quit the hanky-panky. Jason and the rest will be with us for a long time to come.

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You can’t kill the boogeyman