Sometimes Homage Just isn’t Enough
Most of my time scanning through Netflix is the equivalent of entering an entertainment black hole. The movies they normally have are worse than a badly stocked Blockbuster Video from 1996, and the good television series they have are ones I’ve already watched. They occasionally have some decent documentaries, but for the most part I stick with Hulu. Once in a blue moon, however, I will find a movie or television series on there that strikes my fancy. While scanning the wares a few days ago I came across a Canadian TV series called Slasher.
Slasher, created and written by Aaron Martin, takes the premise of a 1970/1980s slasher horror film, places it (mostly) in present day, and proceeds to take virtually all of the fun out of the genre. This isn’t to say that the series is without its charms, but labeling it a horror show is kind of like calling Limp Bizkit music.
The show begins with a flashback to the killing of Bryan Ingram (Dylan Taylor) and his wife Rachel (Alysa King) on Halloween in 1988 (the first of many obvious homages to John Carpenter’s Halloween). The murderer, dressed in an executioners hood and robes, kills Bryan first and then kills the very pregnant Rachel, only to cut the child out of the mother’s stomach before waiting for the police to arrive.
The show then jumps ahead to present day where it centers around Sarah Bennett (Katie McGrath), the daughter of the murdered couple, as she prepares to move back to her childhood home of Waterbury and into the house where the massacre occurred. Sarah is married to Dylan Bennett (Brandon Jay McLaren), a reporter who is taking a job as editor-in-chief of the local newspaper. Not long after the couple moves into town, a copycat Executioner starts murdering people after the seven deadly sins. The original Executioner, Tom Winston (Patrick Garrow), has been imprisoned since the original slayings.
The show is 8 episodes long and that’s probably about two or three too many. The series sets up a really good foundation over the first few episodes, but it loses steam by the finale. The supporting characters are pretty normal horror/thriller archetypes — the aww shucks deputy, the former crush, the asshole chief of police, the morally challenged reporter, the nosy neighbor, and so on — but Slasher makes them all so laughably unlikeable by the end that none of the deaths really carry any weight. Tom Winston is probably the most fully formed and relatable character of the bunch, and he is known from the first episode to be a cold-blooded murderer.
Slasher tries very hard to be a horror/mystery/thriller, but by trying so hard, it really fails at all three. The first couple of episodes are very similar to the beginning of Broadchurch, although Broadchurch maintains the tension and ends very satisfactorily. Slasher starts out well, reaches an absurd mini-climax by the sixth episode, and then blows the ending. Its conclusion really is one of the most predictable outcomes the series could have possibly explored; the motivations behind the killings are not only nonsensical, they are not very plausible given the framework of the story (e.g. Jason Voorhees teleporting would have been necessary to achieve some of the deaths, but there are no supernatural elements involved). It’s as if the set-up was all Aaron Martin thought about while working the premise out, and then just tacked on an unsurprising, uninspired ending.
Slasher has it’s positives though. The Executioner costume, for example, is terrifying. The wife mentioned that it was reminiscent of the sketch of the Zodiac killer, and it is. The tone of the first few episodes is very good as well, delving much deeper into the horror genre than the later episodes. The performances are good for the most part, although I never really got behind the way Sarah was portrayed — but that has more to do with wishy-washy characterization than with Katie McGrath’s performance.
Although I can’t fully recommend Slasher, it still gets higher marks from me than the most popular “horror” show on television, American Horror Story. For all its faults, Slasher does have a good look, good acting, and a scary-ass killer, so if you’re into horror/thriller shows, it might be worth checking out. Just be warned that it really fails in sticking the landing. And about that.
Slasher has one of the absolute dumbest end-tags in horror history. By this, I don’t mean the story’s ending, I am referring to the final scare/shock that all horror pieces feel they have to have. It is beyond nonsensical, has only the vaguest of passing connections with what has come before, and really introduces a supernatural element to the narrative that does little to enhance it. It is almost worth watching the show just to see how bad the tag truly is. I’m not going to spoil it, but it might be the worst ending of anything I have ever watched. It truly has to be seen to be believed. You have been warned!
Until next time…