Slasher – Seasons 1 & 2 (2016 & 2017)
Starring: A lot of people you (might) have never heard of.
Directed by: Craig David Wallace and Felipe Rodriguez. Created by Aaron Martin.
When I was a kid, being sick in bed guaranteed some things: soup, 7-up, saltines, Vicks vapo-rub, blissful school absenteeism, and an infinite run of game shows and syndicated programs. Nowadays being laid up on the couch now encompasses pretty much the same ingredients, but now classic TV is replaced with streaming pretty much whatever the hell you want.
A recent ground acquisition war with my digestive system lead me to binge the first two seasons of the Canadian TV show Slasher. Probably not one’s first choice of medication, but I have been hearing about this show for quite some time now and since it was burning a hole in my horror queue – I decided to give it a shot. Couldn’t make me feel any worse right?
Right? Well, let’s see.
Minor spoilers ahead.
Slasher debuted on the now-unfortunately-defunct horror channel Chiller three years ago. It then went to where every canceled TV show goes nowadays – Netflix, which is where I found it.
And probably should have left it there.
Riddled with scenes that are almost carbon copied from the old days, and more red herrings than the fucking Pike Place Fish Market – Slasher ends up being something that could have been destined for greatness but was not. Carbon copied? How fucking old am I? Since I’m talking about 16 episodes of a show that amounts to almost 16 hours including fast forwarding, I’ll try to paint with broad strokes here.
Subtitled The Executioner, season one starts off with a decent enough bang on Halloween night in 1988. A young couple is brutally murdered in their home by an assailant dressed in a long robe and a pretty sweet looking hood-mask thingy. I had no idea how much you can get away with on Canadian broadcasting – there is no shunning away or jump-cutting from the gore. The Executioner saws his way right through the husband’s chest with a serrated machete in full Technicolor all-effects-in-lense extravagance. The 9-month pregnant wife then enters the room, slips on her husband’s blood, and takes a full-throttle plunge right on to her stomach. Watching her belly flop on to the hardwood floor that pregnant, I have to admit made me shout out a few expletives while holding my balls. The killer then carves open the wife’s abdomen, delivers the baby, and coddles it in a rocking chair while waiting for the police. That, ladies and germs, is one helluva mood setter in anyone’s hometown.
Moving right along to the present day, we meet Sarah (who is the couple’s non-conventionally delivered daughter) and her husband returning to her hometown and moving into the house in which her parents were slaughtered. -Insert any Amityville Horror joke you like here- As soon as the two set up shop and get settled, people start to get killed by The Executioner again regardless of the fact that the original one is serving a life sentence; and we are off and running head-first into this mess.
Now before any more hell-fire is rained down, let me say that there are a couple of things I did enjoy. For one, the mystery of the killer’s identity is pretty good. Like I said before there are a shit load of red herrings and characters making misleading faces before a commercial break, but the process in getting to the killer’s identity is actually pretty fun despite the fact that I guessed correctly after only three episodes. Second, again as mentioned previously, the gore is definitely a winner. Until now I always considered the Hannibal show and Dexter the reigning kings of TV gore. I know, I know, Walking Dead fans. I hear you. I’m just not a fan despite Nicotero’s genius. Lastly, I enjoyed the small town with terrible secrets vibe. It was very reminiscent of Salems’ Lot and Dead and Buried.
Now for the roasting.
I thought the acting to be pretty bad. The lead actress who plays Sarah is obviously very Irish and whenever she screams her brogue breaks through like the Kool-Aid pitcher on a summer day. She forms a relationship with the killer of her parents by visiting him in jail to get answers/closure, and it comes across so much like Clarice and Lecter that Jodie Foster and Sir Anthony should have gotten residuals. The guy playing the original Executioner wasn’t too terrible regardless of the fact that he looks like Brad Dourif and David Bradley had a kid. At one point after he escapes from prison, Sarah and the Executioner sort of bond and share a laugh over a campfire and I swear I thought I was watching an episode of The Blacklist. The town sheriff is played by the guy who is married to Tori Spelling and he probably did the best acting job. The sheriff is, of course, the stereotypical aloof and incompetent idiot who is always two steps behind the killer, but it is later revealed that he harbors a disgusting secret and is a total piece of shit. Towards the end of the season he is dispatched by being thrown alive into the town’s cremating oven, so you know – comeuppance and all that.
I understand that if you’re a horror fan who is also a horror director, it must be tough to make sure you don’t rip off your influences/favorites of the genre. But having a serial killer whose killings are based on the seven deadly sins pretty much instantly makes eyebrows rise with déjà vu. Opening a show with a jack o lantern and a title card saying “Halloween 1988” also looks like something you’ve seen before. During a flashback of the present-day Executioner (I won’t say who it is) as a child – he puts on a pig mask and walks down the hall to his parent’s room in a POV shot through the mask’s eyeholes while he breathes heavily. Are you fucking kidding me? Is this A Very Jigsaw Halloween? Look, we all love looking for cinematic Easter eggs nowadays. We are all guilty of liking homage so much it borders on fan service (cough, cough, the last four Star Wars movies, cough cough), but much like the street drug Nuke in Robocop 2, you need to use shout-outs sparingly.
The ending I guess isn’t that hollow. You get almost all of your questions answered, the killer is killed as always, and the final scene is a typical evil-attracts-evil sorta thing. However, just when you thought it was safe to go back into Canada we are given…
Massive spoilers ahead.
Subtitled Guilty Party since I Know What You Did Last Summer was already taken; this second go around introduces us to a group of teen camp counselors who did something bad one night at summer camp and swore to keep it a secret.
The douchebag counselors return to the site of their camp (which has since been turned into a hippie compound) to dispose of the body of the counselor they all killed five years previously since the land has been sold to developers. I was surprised DeNiro didn’t make a cameo by telling them, “That thing we did upstate, we gotta go get it out!” Although it isn’t a pregnant belly flop to the floor, the guide who takes the counselors to the site gets cut in half the long way with a chainsaw by a killer in an orange parka, and so begins the story.
Even though season one had some things to hold on to, I really can’t extract anything I liked from the second season. The acting was meh this time around but none of the characters are likable, and the whole premise of the season is such a pastiche of classic horror films it makes the first season look original. How so you might ask? Well, the killer turns out to be one of the women of the group of hippies whose son was framed for the murder the counselors committed and then hung himself while in jail. Since he died an innocent, his mom decides to kill those responsible.
No, that’s not Mrs. Voorhees at all.
If that weren’t enough, her son appears all over the compound and talks to everyone, yet no one talks to him except his mother – which is no way exactly like Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense. One more: everyone is eventually trapped in the compound by a vicious snowstorm and become stranded in the Canadian tundra. They all get suspicious, accusatory, and paranoid towards each other.
You don’t think of The Thing once.
There is a scene after the mom starts to off the counselors where she writes, “I know you did it” on a wall in blood. Why didn’t she write, “You are all guilty” or really go for broke and write, “Guilty Party” thus referencing the title of the series instead of using the same fucking words of the movie it’s ripping off from? I know What You Did Last Summer sucked, but from when it came out in 1997 to the end of time, you can no longer have a killer write “I know…” to anyone while taunting him or her. This is not Vietnam, this is the slasher genre, there are rules for chrissakes and this show seems to piss right on them.
There is also an overabundant use of flashbacks throughout the season, with some episodes having at least 2 or 3. The editor should have been convinced to pull a The Godfather: The Complete Epic trick and put all of the past in the beginning and let the timeframe run naturally with quick shots of the past in black and white if needed for some sort of explanation for a scene. But why nitpick at this point?
The biggest thing season two brought home for me was the classic 80’s slasher trope of wanting to root for the killer because you hate every character. It has been argued many times many ways that Halloween was something special because you actually rooted for Laurie and her friends and not Michael. Which is one of the reasons why I love it. But ask any F13 fan and they will tell you the best part of the movies is rooting for Jason to kill these asshole kids in the grossest way possible, I would know, I love F13 too. Not one of the characters in season 2 are sympathetic and you cannot wait for every one of them to get bumped off by what the fictional newspapers would have called – the Orange Parka Killer.
Before I sign off here, I have to give props to the special effects department once again. Some really good kills in season 2: a chainsaw kill from the chest to the anus, ice cutting machines making hippie smoothies, but unfortunately what would have been the greatest kill could only be heard over the end credits of an episode: the parka killer repeatedly running over a commune member with a snowmobile.
All in all, this show commits a sin worse than taking a phone call during Hockey Night in Canada: it disguises rip-offs as an homage. I for one hope the Canadian horror scene can get back to its glory days of the early eighties since I plan on spending my twilight years in The Great White North, or even sooner once democracy dies in America.
Where was I? Oh yes, if you’ve been putting off Slasher but want to get around to it, don’t let me stop you – I’m here to make fun of shit like this, not to start boycotts. But if you haven’t heard of it, there are much better things in the horror pantheon to get to before this.
Even if you’re sick in bed.
I read a few days ago that season 3 has started production, and while the plot is being kept under wraps – I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that it takes place in 1984 in a small Midwestern town, where a group of nerdy kids have to save a strange young girl from a government experiment gone horribly wrong, all done to a hip 80’s soundtrack.
Stop me if you’ve heard that before.
Score: 5 for season one and 3 for season two Canuck killers out of ten. Take off eh!