What is it about horror? It seems like every other month audiences are being bombarded with some other PG-13 rip-off of a Japanese horror movie or a sensationalized reboot of some of the horror classics that came before them. But what about the originals? Sure, you can play the “ugly American” card and claim cultural ignorance to some of the Asian horror movies that produce, but with the American (well, North American at least considering some productions are Canadian) slashers of the late 70s and early 80s, what’s our excuse?
I mean, forget the fact that some of these franchises only came into existence 30 years ago. 30 years ago, in the grand scheme of things, really isn’t that long, but considering that I myself am only 23, I’m willing to buy the excuse of “oh, but it was before my time.” Sure, it’s shitty, but whatever, I kinda get why people would use that line.
But my counter to that is that these movies aren’t singular events. You didn’t have to be around for the original release of Friday the 13th to appreciate the impact that it’s had. Lord knows I love it for what it is, but I’ll never know what it was like when the slasher craze first swept the nation. I can understand people that have watched these franchises evolve having more of an emotional connection with the movies, but like I said, it’s not necessary.
Chances are if you weren’t around for the first one, you’ve been around for at least one of the sequels. For those that are new here, my particular obsession with slashers knows no real bounds nor does it make much logical sense, but that’s neither here nor there. My particular loves are the big three; Halloween, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street. All three of these franchises (not including the questionable reboots of each one of them) have lived in America’s pop culture consciousness since Michael’s first stabbing in 1978 to Freddy and Jason’s “final” showdown in 2003. So, like I said, whether you watched them or not, these figures influences have been long lasting and surprisingly visible considering the low-profile origins of slasher cinema.
But what is it about these three villains that make them so memorable? Why are Michael, jason, and Freddy household names while others, such as Leatherface, are regarded as one hit wonders and largely ignored in studies of franchise horror? The fact of the matter is, this isn’t an easy question to answer. It may even be an impossible one to answer, but there’s something to be said about iconography. Sure, Leatherface has a certain screen presence, but Matthew McConaughey and Renee Zellwegger in that last one is enough to undo any positive aspects of these films.
For Michael, it’s his mask. For Jason, it’s his mask. For Freddy, it’s in his weapon of choice. These are such simple stylistic choices, but these are the ones that live with us. Tell me, whether you’ve seen the movie or not, you don’t understand who somebody’s dressed up as on halloween if they’re wearing a hockey mask and carrying a machete. It’s so seared into our minds that these three core villains are pop culture deities. It may be as simple as the fact that these films were on the forefront of the slasher movement, whereas movies like Texas Chainsaw massacre took 12 years to produce a sequel, or it may just be the fact that these franchise runners wouldn’t let us forget these villains by churning out yet another sequel every 2 or 3 years. Whatever the reasoning, halloween,/i>, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street have proven themselves to be indispensable in America’s ongoing pop culture love affair.