The premiere of “American Horror Story: 1984” confirms the authority of one of horror movie’s most fun and profitable facets
The recent premiere of the ninth season of American Horror Story, very aptly subtitled “1984”, has confirmed the slasher genre’s excellent health, despite some accusing it of being insubstantial. However, it is in fact one of the narratives that has portrayed generational trauma and political and sociological tendencies most often and with greater success. It’s not just about murderers seeking out and capturing absurd characters, or a string of atrocities designed to have the fans applauding in their seats. The slasher movie pioneered empowering heroines, has been instrumental in understanding common fears for decades, and has understood that in this never-ending race to save lives and the haunting question (“Hello? Is anyone there?” and the sinister statement, “Stay here, I’ll be right back“), lies a sense of the absurd that sums up our very existence. Or, are we the audiences not the slayers’ accomplices, thinking that the victims may have done something to deserve their fates? In the end, the slasher movie’s final girls teach us a thing or two about survival, but above all, they school us in morals. The final girl overcomes when we would have surrendered. That’s why we remember the executioner just as much as the victim who refuses to accept her fate. That’s also the reason why slasher movies have held up the mirror to the monsters that haunt us.
You can’t talk about slasher movies without mentioning three murderers who symbolize the three fundamental axes of our most intimate terrors. Michael Myers, protagonist of the Halloween saga, embodies everyday fear, the figure lurking in the corner, the faceless being watching us from a distance in broad daylight; Jason Vorhees of Friday the 13th is the murderer born of irrationality, the metaphor for the end of innocence, for the dangers of adult life; and Freddy Krueger, the bogeyman in the Nightmare on Elm Street saga who stands aloft as the defiler of our dreams, the face of the sins of our parents, the lullaby that shakes us to the core. Understanding how and what systems work, the slasher genre has learned to evolve towards new horizons of expression and become metalinguistic, flirting with comedy (black) and which survives today. Nowadays, the essence of the slasher pic, well aware that audiences have broken its representative codes, invites cinemagoers to reflect on their own way of explaining themselves. They did it in the Scream saga, a masterclass in filmmaking, and also in titles such as I Know What You Did Last Summer, Child’s Play, Final Destination (especially the first, third and fifth) or the two Happy Death Day movies. Not forgetting some outstanding B movie contributions, which in no way devalues their offering, including The Collector, Hatchet, Maniac Cop or the first Jeepers Creepers. All these movies and the faces of evil they feature, are essential for any Halloween night. But they should be vindicated beyond these specific days because the genre, like its protagonists, never dies nor will it ever.