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  • Writer's pictureRob Freese

Slashers of 2023

The Slashers of 2023

By Rob Freese

Does it seem like I’m preoccupied with the slasher genre? My dad always thought so- said I didn’t have any damn good sense. He was probably right.


What is it about slashers that I can’t get enough of? Is it the constant thrill of facing my own mortality? I don’t think so. I can look in the mirror and see how old I am. I know the score. Is it an attempt to understand the darkness that resides in the hearts of men? No, I don’t care what makes a slasher villain snap- as long as he comes back years later with an arsenal of weapons and some creativity. Is it maybe, that fifteen-year-old slasher fan that will always live inside me that still gets a thrill watching brain dead teens get gratuitously snuffed by a masked executioner in gory fashion, in between rampant nakedness? Ah… now you’re on to something.


It Came From Hollywood Book 2 was our big Salute to Slashers edition. Within it’s pages I contributed interviews with participants from some of my favorite golden age era slashers, as well as with people currently in the slasher game. We talked about slasher music, forgotten slashers, Cannon slashers, slasher novelizations… hack, slash, stab! I could talk about slashers all day long if you let me.


2023 has shaped up into a memorable year for the genre. Slashers are still around, on screens big and small. I believe they are still being made because A) They are still relatively reasonable to make and B) There will always be victims deserving of the slayer’s preferred weapon of destruction.


Slashers reflect our times, and take on issues that other movies don’t touch, because they hide them within the tropes of the genre. They can hide a message within all the carnage, or they can just be dumb fun.


The year started with the big screen release of Scream VI. Taking place in New York City and on Halloween, there’s nothing special about Scream VI to differentiate it from any other entry in the series, and that’s fine because it delivers the Ghostface thrills we expect from the franchise. Basically, I don’t go to McDonald’s for a Big Mac because I’m hoping it’s different from the last hundred Big Macs I’ve eating, I go to McDonalds for a Big Mac because it’s going to taste exactly like the last hundred Big Macs I’ve eaten. (This is the rule of franchises. Always add something new but deliver the same movie as last time.)


Scream VI did sport a 3-D release theatrically, but the gimmick was never really put to good use. (Patrick Lussier’s 2009 remake of My Bloody Valentine is still the only new-century 3-D slasher to understand how to use the cheap gimmick for dimensional-shock properly.)


Alabama filmmaker Jay Burleson gave us the two “lost films,” The Third Saturday in

October Part V and the “original,” The Third Saturday in October. They’re based on the true story of a young Burleson renting movies/ watching movies on TV, and sometimes coming to a slasher franchise well into the series instead of following it from the beginning.


The idea is to watch Part V first, and then the first one. Part V is structured like most “Part Vs” in that it dispenses with a lot of the lore, gets to the basics of the premise with a prologue of scenes from the previous movies, and drops the viewer straight into the action. This is the fun of sequels, just cutting to the “good stuff.”


The title refers to a college football rivalry. If you don’t live in the south, you probably don’t realize how popular college football is. The entire state shuts down when there’s a big game, providing rows and rows of victims in every neighborhood so Jakkariah Harding never runs out of fodder for his blade.


After Part V was completed, Burleson and company had money to do another flick, so they put together the “original” film that started it all, suggesting that it was made in 1979 just prior to the surprise success of Friday the 13th, which helped it gain success. It’s slasher silliness that goes over the top, but I found both films incredibly endearing. A regional winner!


Another regional slashfest, Camp Blood 666 Part 2: Exorcism of the Clown is actually Part 12, continuing the series started with the original Camp Blood 3D in 2000.


I’ll be honest, the Camp Blood movies don’t offer any “big thinks.” But I don’t watch a movie called Camp Blood for “big thinks.” If you do, you are probably not a very fun person to be around.


Camp Blood 666 Part 2: Exorcism of the Clown is kind of a continuation of Camp Blood 666, which is Part 6, and centers on locals wanting to release the souls of past victims in the hope of sending the Clown Killer back to hell for good. We wouldn’t have a movie if that was easy. (Screenwriter and actress Julie Anne Prescott delivers a great performance.)


I picked up a Blu-ray of the first 11 Camp Blood movies early in the year and got caught up with the series, so I knew what I was getting into when I came to this entry. It is dumb fun that did not disappoint, but I wasn’t expecting Friday the 13th or The Burning, so that helps.


It’s worth noting that December 12, 2023, saw the release of Camp Blood X: Animated. It may be the first animated slasher film (an innovation for the genre!) but it claims to be Part 14, so somewhere between this and Camp Blood 666 Part 2: Exorcism of the Clown, I missed something. (I haven’t caught up with it yet.)

The Blackening poses the question, “If you’re entire cast is Black, then how can the Black character die first?” Playing off all the familiar tropes, The Blackening is a wildly funny, inventive, smart, and thrilling slasher that has a lot to say and delivers a number of genuine surprises along the way. It benefits from a knowledge of the genre and a cast that uniformly knocks it out of the park every time at bat.  


The trend for 2023 slashers was taking beloved characters or stories and transforming them into deranged, spastic slasher movies.


Easily the best of this group is Totally Killer, an excellent made-for-Prime flick from Blumhouse that sees a young girl sent back to 1987 to save her parents and their dumb friends from the Sweet Sixteen Killer. It’s the slasher version of Back to the Future with exaggerated (yet oddly correct) observations by a Gen Z character sent back to the world of Gen Z.  Funny and thrilling- it hits all the right buttons, presenting a high-concept slasher that delivers the goods.


I enjoyed It’s a Wonderful Knife, a Shudder release riffing on the Frank Capra favorite, when I caught it during it’s limited theatrical release. While pulling in above average reviews from both viewers and critics  during its run, it slowed down once it hit streaming. There’re two factors I attribute to that, the sexual orientation of numerous characters and the fun the filmmakers have with an egomaniacal political figure who lords over the town.


When I think of all the straight canoodling queer horror fans have watched over the years, it seems only fair they are represented on screen too. Also, that’s not what the movie is about. As for the maniacal mayor, if your political affiliations keep you from enjoying it, then don’t watch. Really though, to have such a vehement reaction to characters’ sexual orientations and political satire, I feel I must remind you that you bought a ticket to watch a flick depicting the wholesale extermination of innocent people during Christmastime. You may want to have your moral compass recalibrated.


The Mean One is another Christmas slasher tale, this time taking it’s cues from the classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas. It’s a live-action holiday slay-a-thon featuring the Grinch (although he’s never referred to as “The Grinch,” for copyright reasons) doing some pretty awful things. David Howard Thornton plays the Mean One, bringing the character very much to life like he has Art the Clown in the two Terrifier movies. (Which, by the way, both Terrifier movies received limited theatrical runs in 2023, preparing us for next year’s Terrifier 3- a Christmas slasher movie!) Although it received a limited theatrical release in December of last year, most of us caught up with it this year.


Winnie the Pooh- Blood and Honey is the one out of this group that didn’t really work for me.  Give it a watch, it may work for you. While well made, I just never clicked with it. (I was told to give it a second watch, but do I really have enough time left on earth to rewatch movies I don’t like? Wouldn’t that time be better spent watching something new, or re-watching something I already love?)

That’s a Wrap is another new slasher I found streaming (on Hoopla). It concerns a film director’s wrap party with cast and crew and an unseen stalker joining the festivities. Graphic mayhem and shenanigans ensue. This one benefits from a fantastic performance by Monique Parent, an actress who became popular in early 90s erotic thrillers (what slashers turned in to for a while). She brings pathos and an authenticity to the film, playing an aging actress being edged out of the industry by the constant influx of younger actresses. Her performance elevates That’s a Wrap above most of the streaming titles being offered.


The big splash in slashers was Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving, a film finally giving its namesake holiday major representation. (I know there are other Thanksgiving-themed horror flicks out there, but Thanksgiving does for the fourth Thursday in November what Halloween did for October 31st.)


Fast paced and recklessly gory, the story and execution may have been a bit of a jumble in parts, but it is an enjoyably rambunctious holiday slasher that fulfilled the requirements for classic holiday-themed stab-a-thons. (While not a feature length adaptation of the fake trailer that appeared in Grindhouse in 2007, this serves as a proper “remake” to what that film would have been.) It was enough of a worldwide success that Roth and writing partner Jeff Rendell will be back with a second helping in 2025.


The big surprise of 2023 is a film you won’t get to see until sometime in 2024, Mutilator 2. Buddy Cooper is back, and he’s not messing around! Going for a meta vibe (a la Wes Craven’s New Nightmare), Mutilator 2 begins on the second to last day of filming the long-awaited Mutilator remake. A killer sneaks onto the set and soon mangled bodies are strewn all over Atlantic Beach, North Carolina.


I affectionately refer to Mutilator 2 as a Mad Magazine slasher movie parody, as Cooper and Co. go for some really twisted, sick humor while killing the cast in a variety of inventive ways. (Don’t worry thought, the scenes of slaughter are always played straight.) Cooper is still doing it the 80s way, loading the screen with blood, bare breasts, and body parts. (It was a crowd pleaser at Joe Bob’s Jamboree in October ’23, playing simultaneously on six drive-in screens. I can see this getting a theatrical release. If you see it playing, go watch it. It will be a party!)


Time’s Up is a New Year’s slasher from Dread Central about a group of teachers who gather for the holiday. There’s little to celebrate after the negative attention a recent student suicide has brought to the school, compounded by multiple tales of bullying by various students.


When the principal’s daughter is kidnapped, some of the teachers try to figure out what is happening while others play the killer’s scavenger hunt for clues to the girl’s whereabouts.


Another released-to-streaming title, this one offers some real surprises along the way, as well as a great performance by former Sleepaway Camper Jonathan Tiersten as the principal. His Camp cousin and costar Felissa Rose also appears (and co-produces), but unfortunately they don’t have any scenes together.


Other slashers I haven’t caught up with yet but released this year include Phantom Fun World (an amusement park slasher), Natty Knocks (a Halloween slasher by Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers director Dwight Little), The Jester (another Halloween slasher), Santa Isn’t Real (Christmas slasher) and Dark Window (teens in a cabin). I’m sure I missed something. There are more movies to choose from now than at any other time in history, and next year there will only be more. (Let me know what I missed.)


Some 2023 slasher movie Blu-ray releases worth mentioning include Lover’s Lane (1999- from Arrow), Evil Judgment (1984- Vinegar Syndrome), Nightmare (1981- Severin), Terror at Tenkiller (1986- Vinegar Syndrome), The Last Horror Film (1982- Severin) and the title I had long given up of ever seeing released, Fatal Games (1984- Vinegar Syndrome). All deluxe releases, packed with copious extras.


Turning to books, I had the absolute honor of adapting Richard Haines’ original screenplay to his 1984 slasher Splatter University. I was given the opportunity to add extra scenes and motivations to the characters to really put the “splatter” into Splatter University. I wanted to give it a real attitude, so I combined the bleak attitude of the students in the film with Roger Ebert’s scathing review of Friday the 13th- The Final Chapter, where he rants and says the movie (F13:TFC) “teaches teenagers there is nothing in life worth doing because you’re just going to die.” (I also wrote it during a weird time where I was under a ridiculous amount of stress due to a Moms for Liberty thing, so I purged a lot of that stress writing the book.)


The year ends with the arrival of Armando Munoz’ adaptation of Silent Night, Deadly Night from Stop the Killer. It is a naughty mix of gratuitous sleaze and gore that should not be missed! Munoz also wrote the 2022 My Bloody Valentine tie-in (which I missed) and is currently prepping Happy Birthday to Me for release in 2024. (Preorders are up now.) Quite the way to end the year. (Hopefully paperback versions of MBV and SNDN are on the way.)


What slashers did you see this year and what did you think? Are there any you’re looking forward to in 2024? (Obviously, Terrifier 3 is a big one on most fans’ lists.)


Are there any slasher films you’re hoping see released to Blu-ray/4K in the new year? Let me know. For me, I’d love to see deluxe editions of Home Sweet Home- 1981 (not very good, but how many movies feature Jake Steinfeld on PCP killing people at Thanksgiving?) Iced- 1989 (teens stalked on a ski trip),  Body Count- 1986 (Dardano Sacchetti and Ruggero Deodata’s version of Friday the 13th), Houseboat Horror- 1989 (an Australian slasher) and American Nightmare- 1983 (a Canadian slasher).

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