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(MICHAEL MADSEN & JOHN SAVAGE).
If you ask many fans of the Horror community what film started the whole Slasher subgenre of the 80's into present day, the answer you're most likely to get is John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN (1978).
This is rarely, if ever, disputed.
Michael Myers with his purloined, spray painted William Shatner, mask and butcher knife, has since that distant past film, hacked his way through the hearts and minds of fans worldwide to become one of the most recognized and revered Horror icons to ever grace the big screen. It is a place rightfully deserved, despite many of the sequels being complete piles of garbage, not worth a second go-around, much less one viewing.
Everybody knows this tale...
Myers was meant by creator/director/writer, John Carpenter, and producer/writer, Debra Hill, to be a one off character and story, and for every subsequent film bearing the title, HALLOWEEN, to be a whole and completely different chapter with its own standalone movie.
I won't go into the whole shit storm that followed the original plan. Suffice it to say, executive producer, i.e. "The Money Man" Moustapha Akkad, had other ideas. Like the saying goes, "You have to go where the money is," and reluctantly, Carpenter and Hill had no choice but to bow to studio pressure despite personal misgivings. It didn't help matters they were both under contract at the time and the proverbial gun was pointed at their heads, but I digress.
IF you ask me, however, where the modern Slasher really, started, I will, without hesitation, say 1980's FRIDAY THE 13th.
Why, do you ask?
This will be my last time invoking the former film, but here goes. Carpenter's HALLOWEEN had more in common with Alfred Hitchcock's PSYCHO (1960) than FRIDAY THE 13th and films in that franchise, or others in that subgenre that followed in their predecessor's footsteps.
Like Hitchcock, Carpenter wasn't out for a gory splatter fest. Both wanted to shock you, yes, but not at the risk of the audience turning their minds off to in your face violence and gore. They wanted your mind to work through the entire run of their respective films. This what makes their masterpieces stand out even after all this time. Sometimes, it's best to let the mind perceive that a horrifying death has occurred.
Think about it; though you didn't see Janet Leigh's death at the hands of Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) in the infamous shower scene in PSYCHO, are you likely to forget about it? How about Bob being pinned to the wall by a butcher knife in HALLOWEEN and then Michael Myers paying a visit to Linda, a few moments later, wearing Bob's glasses, concealed under a sheet to give the appearance of a ghost? I know I certainly won't, nor are you likely to. The Brain: It is the most powerful organ in the entire human body.
Sean S. Cunningham (CASE OF THE FULL MOON MURDERS, A STRANGER IS WATCHING, DEEPSTAR SIX) and Victor Miller (THE BLACK PEARL, A STRANGER IS WATCHING, ROCK PAPER SCISSOR)1 had no illusions what kind of a movie they wanted to make. The duo was out to make a Horror film and wanted to leave their bloody mark. They succeeded beyond anyone's wildest expectations. The budget for FRIDAY THE 13th (1980) was estimated to be $550,000. The final worldwide gross for its theatrical run was almost a cool $40 million. Back then, even now, that's not chump change.
The plot for FRIDAY THE 13th, is simple enough.
A kid drowned back in 1958 at a place called Camp Crystal Lake, a summer camp for juveniles. It comes to light that instead of watching the kids like they were supposed to be, the camp counselors were fooling around and makin' bacon. The couple who were responsible for this youthful indiscretion, one would assume, get whacked and the camp is closed permanently.
Fast forward almost twenty years later and it is reopening under the capable leadership of Lead Counselor, Steve Christie (Peter Brouwer). He has spent a fortune to get the camp up and running before the kids come rolling in and must whip new counselors into shape for the upcoming festivities.
Not long after the new arrivals, then the killings begin anew. They are carried out in the worst ways possible, until only one of the counselors are left. But it isn't for the killer's lack of trying. More than once, the remaining counselor is only mere seconds away from becoming worm food up to the bitter end.
A shout out goes to the amazing SFX wizard Tom Savini (MARTIN, MANIAC, DAWN OF THE DEAD, EYES OF A STRANGER, THE BURNING, THE PROWLER, EFFECTS, NIGHTMARE, MIDNIGHT, CREEPSHOW [all], DAY OF THE DEAD, MONKEY SHINES, ALONE IN THE DARK, TWO EVIL EYES, TRAUMA , NECRONOMICON, INNOCENT BLOOD, FROM DUSK TILL DAWN), who has reached godlike status in the entertainment industry for other Horror flicks he has been onboard for. Assisting him in this endeavor are Taso Stavrakis, Katharine Vickers, and Cecilia Verardi (HE KNOWS YOU'RE ALONE, FRIDAY THE 13th: Part 2, THE GHOST AND THE DARKNESS, PIRANHA 3DD, THE REMAINING). The team was responsible for their efforts in creating a whole new franchise that has reached mythical proportions and the effects some that hadn't been seen up until this movie.
I also want to acknowledge Harry Manfredini for the music he supplied for the film and the theme that has become synonymous with the series nearly as much as the character of Jason Voorhees has (More about Jason later).
So commercially successful was this film, that any and everything that came after it (Yes, even the HALLOWEEN franchise) took careful notes and upped the ante seeing who could be more shocking than the other before it by amping up the gore and most of the time at the sacrifice of the story and it shows. These Johnny-Come-Lately's have rightfully fallen by the wayside. One can only imagine the complete and utter fiasco if some of them had made it off the ground and been allowed to soar.
Yes, I think FRIDAY THE 13th (1980) is the godfather of the modern slasher. If not for Savini and crew it might not have been. But that, they say, is history. If all of you out there want to stay with your convictions that HALLOWEEN (1978) is the undisputed champeen, then by all means, I won't begrudge you that. I know what horse in this race I put my money on.
Let me tell you guys something about me here. If a Horror film has death by axe, animal attack, or shotgun blast, it automatically gets a full Shriek Girl (Future reference) even if the rest of the movie is complete rubbish. In this case, a character buys it via an axe in the face. Back then, that must have caused some screams from the movie audience.
Yes, I still enjoy this flick, though I have seen it at least a million times and I always get something new from it. I most likely always will. It often makes my FRIDAY THE 13th film fests on that day throughout the year. It certainly did this last time and I see it happening on the next such date.
Three Shriek Girls