In the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, American horror movie fans were exposed to a new genre in horror films. We saw the emergence and peak of the slasher film franchises. What is the cultural significance of this genre, and why was it so important at the time?
Before the late 1970s, Americans had an enemy that haunted their dreams at night. Many Americans feared the power of the Communist nations, and feared the possibility of either a nuclear war, or an invasion.
The War in Viet Nam caused many people to question what the true purposes were to fighting Communism. These questions caused people to question the US Government. These questioners wanted to know if the Communist nations were truly our enemy.
The Reagan Administration brought a new era into American thinking. One of the goals of the Reagan Administration was to make it so that Communism was no longer the enemy of the American way of life. This left some people distraught because for the first time in their lives, they did not have a concrete enemy to stand against.
Enter the slasher film franchises. People now had a new series of enemies that were being portrayed in these films. Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, and Freddy Krueger all held traits that would make up an enemy of the United States. While there were other slasher film franchise characters, they all held similar traits.
These horror movie villains were all either difficult, or impossible to kill. This is very similar to an enemy of the United States. In World War II, the enemy that was known as the Nazi Army was difficult to destroy, and kept coming back to reek more terror.
Communism was a creature that was extremely difficult to kill. No matter what the United States would do to kill the beast, it would still be around, and would appear to grow more powerful all the time. Even at the end of one of these movies (or a war) there is still a good chance that the killer will return once again somewhere down the road.
Another common aspect of slasher film franchises was that you could run from the enemy, but you would not truly hide from them. This was also true with the enemies that made up the enemies of the United States. The reach of the Nazi Army had been very long, and the reach of Communism had been even longer. There was no place in the world that you could hide from these evils.
Slasher film franchise characters always attacked teenagers for a reason. Teenagers have very impressionable minds. All through our teen years, our parents will try to convince us not to make the wrong decisions. If we do not follow what our parents are saying, there could be deadly consequences.
Teenagers are likely to go against their parent’s wishes. Many of the Nazis and Communists that were in the United States tried to influence and recruit teenagers into following their ideas and ideals. Those that did, were usually effected in some way for the rest of their lives.
In the slasher films, those teenagers that do things against their parent’s wishes (such as doing drugs or having sex) are usually the first ones that die. The teenagers that do follow what their parents have requested are usually still alive at the end of the movie.
Think of drugs at the time as being the slasher film franchise killers. Many of the teenagers that experimented with the drugs of the time ended up as dead as the teenagers that had just come in contact with one of the killers from the movies. Some teenagers got this message when they first saw these movies, but most did not.
Often, horror films will tell us a lot about the history of the time in which they are made. They will give us a view into the minds of the common people that are living their day-to-day lives in the era that the horror film came out. Slasher movie franchises do a great job of telling us a little bit about our history as a Nation.