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  • Writer's pictureRob Freese

Decades of Terror: 1980's Slasher Films

Decades of Terror: 1980's Slasher Films

By Steve Hutchison

I'm going to be honest here. Hutchison's Decades of Terror: 1980's Slasher Films is one of the most frustrating "film reference guides" I think I've ever read. This book perfectly illustrates the divide between young fans who zip through streaming sites, going from one "slasher" title to to next, and older fans who where there, in the front row, when "slasher flicks" were a thing.

My comments here are not to slam or smear Hutchison and his effort. But it is deliriously disorienting when you come to a book called Decades of Terror: 1980's Slasher Films and the very first "slasher" film mentioned, his idea of the best "slasher" film ever made, is 1987's Evil Dead II. I scratched my head and said, "Huh?" (I later came to find that Hutchinson has written literally dozens of film related books, including one called Camp of Terror: Movies So Bad They Are Good and guess what film is featured on the cover? Give up? Evil Dead II.

A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 3: The Dream Warriors is next, and is then followed by A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 4: The Dream Master, Child's Play, the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, the original The Evil Dead, Psycho II, Aliens, Predator and John Carpenter's The Thing round out Hutchison's top ten slasher films of the 1980's.

Sure, the films considered by most fans to be classics of the early 80's slash are present, but not rate that highly and most are almost dismissed as "so bad they are good," which is a phrase I hate with my whole heart. Before you get to any of those classic titles, you have to wade through entries for flicks like Night of the Demons, Killer Klowns from Outer Space, Christine, Clue (yes, Clue!), The Blob, Terrorvision and Jaws: The Revenge & Piranha II: The Spawning(?).

This is like that conversation where someone can figure out a way to rationalize every movie ever made as an "exploitation movie." But not every movie with a body count is a "slasher film."

I think had Hutchinson made an effort to explain in a short introduction that he was going to look at how slasher films affected the entire horror genre throughout the 80's, this would have been a much better reading experience. Since that was not made, I have to assume he really does think Jaws 3-D is a "slasher film."

I wonder if "slasher film" has taken on a new definition over the years. When I was a teen, "slasher movie" was a war cry for bloodthirsty horror fans. Those two words would get your parents telling you you'd rot your brain watching them and get film critics like Gene Siskel

and Roger Ebert tied in a pretty tight knot. (Even though they hated them, those guys understood what slasher movies were.)

Hutchinson looks like a nice enough fellow. His picture is in the front of the book with a banner that says "critic." I looked him up on line and could not find him anywhere except on Amazon, where he literally has dozens of film books available. I cannot speak for any of his other titles.

This was independently published, and I understand what an effort that is, but for such short write-ups on each review, more time should have been spent proofreading and fact checking before sending it along to be made available.

A solid effort was made and I appreciate that. I just feel like this effort was way off the mark. Like, in my opinion, it not only missed the board, but somehow it missed the wall. If anyone has read any of Hutchinson's other titles, I am interested to hear what you thought of them. Dozens are available through Amazon with a dozen or so offered for download through Hoopla. (Writers are paid each time their books are downloaded on Hoopla, and this is a great option to check out all kinds of books out there.)

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