For the last few years, I have done nothing but bask in the light as the rest of the television-watching public embraced the horror genre as a prime form of storytelling. Since I was a child I have always enjoyed a close kinship with horror; the darkness it contained and what it said about the warped psyche fascinated me both then and now. In 2016, I cannot help but love how so much of society has embraced horror as a mainstay of 21st century television after having shunned both the genre and its devoted fans for so many years. One of the most recent exercises of the genre comes courtesy of Slasher, one of the cable network Chiller’s first forays into horror television. While the sum of the show’s parts ends up amounting to essentially American Horror Story-lite (a fact obvious from the opening credits), the series is still engaging enough to signify that horror television is here to stay for a while.
In Slasher, art gallery owner Sarah (Katie McGrath) has returned to her small Canadian hometown with her journalist husband Dylan (Brandon Jay McLaren) to move into her deceased parents’ home. But Sarah’s return can’t help but drudge up a series of dark memories beginning with the Halloween night Sarah was born immediately following the brutal death of her parents at the hands of the now-imprisoned Tom Winston (Patrick Garrow). As Sarah tries to start her life anew, a copycat killer known as “the executioner” begins picking off the town’s citizens one by one in methods inspired by the various sins the victims have committed. Frantic and desperate for answers, Sarah has no choice but to turn to her parents’ killer for guidance.
If there is one main problem with Slasher, it’s how it clings so hopelessly to all of the factors which make fans of the genre shake their heads in shame and sadness. A truly unoriginal killer who kills people in relation to whatever sin they’re committed, coupled with laughably trite dialogue such as when Sarah baffilingly states, “It was the right decision coming here,” point to this. Meanwhile other aspects feel uncomfortably forced, such as Sarah’s first encounter with Tom and their ensuing relationship. The most egregious crime, however, is how Slasher ends up being very little besides a combination of things we’ve seen done before, and in a much more spectacular fashion. Throughout the course of the first season, the show mimics Seven, Scream, The Following, and Twin Peaks in an effort to feel like its own entity.
If the above sounds like a harsh criticism, it’s only because I myself am such a fan of the genre that I approached Slasher with a sharper than normal critical eye. That being said, because I’m such a genre fan, I am able to spot when true love, admiration, and respect are infused into a project such as Slasher. For all its faults, this is a series made by people who have a genuine fondness for horror, and that love more than shines through. The initial set up is so nice, and Sarah and Dylan as a couple are so sweet, that it make things devilishly excruciating to watch their tranquility be torn apart. More importantly, though, Slasher does a good job of not shying away from the gore factor where the killings are concerned, even if they can get a little cartoonish in a good-natured way. Finally, there are scenes which wonderfully blend comedy and horror in a way most other efforts can’t. A scene in an early episode in particular sees a young man who has just annoyed his girlfriend by being a jerk sappishly proclaim, “I love you.” As they lean in for a kiss, a partially-mutilated boy emerges from the ground, scaring the two in one of the series’ scattered yet potent moments. It’s easier to forgive a lot of shortcomings than one would think when a production is made by people who know and love the genre in the way that the makers of Slasher do.
In keeping with the majority of other such similar horror efforts, the performances are literally nothing to write home about. Apart from Wendy Crewson, who turns up in a fun role as Sarah’s grandmother for a couple of episodes, no one in the cast is necessarily a stand-out due to the fact that their characters offer no new territory in comparison with the many past archetypes which came before. That’s not to say that everybody here is necessarily bad, they’re just not really given the chance to be anything other than bland.
For all the areas within Slasher which could use some definite improvement, it cannot be argued that this is a series made by people who, although they fail to offer anything remotely original, are clearly in love with the genre their show belongs to. Interestingly enough, while there’s no denying the horror side of things, there’s enough characterization and genuine conflict in each episode to suggest that the show has the makings of what could have been a worthwhile drama. Slasher is not bad for one of Chiller’s early stabs (no pun intended) at original programming, but in the world of Stranger Things and Scream, they’re going to have to step it up majorly if they want to succeed.
A standard behind-the-scenes featurette featuring cast and crew interviews discussing characters and the show’s overall ideology, is the lone special feature accompanying the release.
There’s some definite cheesiness to much of Slasher’s execution (again, no pun intended), which is more or less forgiven thanks to a subtle twisted element that runs throughout.
Slasher Season 1 is now available on Blu-ray from Scream Factory.