Born from Italian giallo films but distinctly American, the slasher movie has had its hold on audiences since the 1970s. Known established tropes like masked killers, black gloves, topless women, sharp knives, and “final girls,” these violent whodunits are sometimes a lot smarter than they appear. Imbued with collective cultural traumas, the slasher film digests our sociopolitical climate and spits it back into our faces. Topics such as war, gas shortages, capitalism, conservatism, sexuality, lost youth, sexism, and the family form a subversive subtext wrapped up in gore, screams, and sometimes even a laugh. The slasher “signature” has become so pervasive that, for better or worse, it has become synonymous with the very idea of what a “horror film” is, and other styles of genre films often find the comparison hard to escape.
This opening section of Horror: Messaging the Monstrous represents the slasher’s continuous cycle of influence and reproduction. Grounded by a pair of foundational works, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and Mario Bava’s Bay of Blood, this grouping of films includes beloved classics like Bob Clark’s Black Christmas, Amy Holden Jones’s Slumber Party Massacre, and Wes Craven’s Scream, and pairs them with neo-slashers like Amer and Knife + Heart, as well as films like It Follows and You’re Next, which mold the slasher principle into something new. We’ll be right back….
Organized by Ron Magliozzi, Curator, and Brittany Shaw, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Film, with Caryn Coleman, guest curator.