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Home | Books | Book Reviews | Book Review: Slasher Films – Author Kent Byron Armstrong

Book Review: Slasher Films – Author Kent Byron Armstrong


Written by Kent Byron Armstrong
Published by McFarland & Company
Publication Date: 2007
Format: Black /White – 376 pages
Price: $45

First let me point out that if you decide to pick this up you’ll definitely want to get it directly from the Mcfarland site as Amazon lists this title for $75.

Slasher Films is a film comprehensive film collection of releases that occurred between 1960 and 2001. Like any good film book, you begin with a base that says…what is it that defines a book purely based on Slasher films?. Of course your pretty sure that films like “Amityville Horror”, Hellraiser” and Nightmare on Elm Street” wouldn’t fall into this category as they rely on more fantastical , supernatural and metaphysical aspects. Slashers is a product usually of real killers or the act itself.

Kent Byron Armstrong recognizes that fact as well. And so the 19 page introduction lays those thoughts out pretty well. It begins appropriately with “How is a slasher film defined?” While we think we have a pretty good idea, there are formulas, traits, signals and redundancies that form a base of alot of these offerings. Also while the act of slashing a neck clearly suggests a slasher film, does it if the slashing is done with demonic powers? What I enjoyed was his breakdown of the slasher film over the 19 pages and how it has been defined.

Such things come in the form of the catchy “opening scene” which somehow defines, introduces or give a flash back story as to who or maybe why the killer became the beast that he becomes in the films progression. How about the issue of a confined setting. Certainly there are exceptions in every case, though primarily this bit of setting is pretty common. A high school, A cave, a funhouse, a cabin, a supermarket, a mall, a prison ……. a slumber party? Well we get the drift, the setting in many ways provides an area of seclusion in which the killer can lurk about.

Armstrong also mentions the eyes. While again we have exceptions, it’s pretty fair to say that , many killers are masked, silhouetted, hidden and generally made to be obscured to de-humanize the perpetrator through most of the film. In the movie “American Psycho” alot of these traits were thrown out the window and made to run a different take on the genre. Of course this is also why this made this such a great film. Beyond it’s dark humor, it shifted the mold to another breed.

“Visualized killings that are not show” We as an audience have had our share of brutal realism that shows everything and the “hint” of the acts through clever after math shots or well placed victims. There is no one or the other, I’ve seen both done effectively and some not so effectively. My favorite example of this is the shot where the victim gets beheaded, and instead of showing the actual flying head we cut to a body laying out of view of camera shot against its victims head in the forefront. An easy gag, but still very effective.

Weapons are discussed, although the sharpened machete seems to be the reigning king in this genre style. Those as we have learned from ensemble style murder sprees, the deaths have to change to keep the interest up. Arrows in the head, razor to necks, saw blade accidents, window beheadings, bleach down the throat… shall we go on?

“Slasher films” makes every attempt to cover the gamut of famous, and less known contributions to the genre. Legendary inclusions such as “Psycho”, Halloween”, Friday the 13th”, Prom night”, Scream” and “Terror Train” make there noted appearances. But we also get alot of titles that while may be known , may not be known by lesser diehard viewers. What I found equally of interest was the additional names inclusion with some titles having several in there releases and re-releases. For instance “Alice, Sweet Alice” which also advertised under the names of “Communion” and “Holy Terror”. A good fact to know as I might of sought out 3 separate films not knowing they all came from the same origin.

The book is laid out like a dictionary of horror reviews on over 250 films. We get a nice listing of slasher actors, directors, and screenwriters in the back. It all adds up to a strong overview and pretty thick volume of information. Armstrong doesn’t get too over analytical, so the readers can get the premise on the collection of films. The conclusions range from short to more in depth depending on the film and its need for more deeper input. If you collect these books like I do, Slasher films should be one the many in your library as a helpful reference source.

Available at McFarland & Company
Available at Amazon

One comment

  1. Hi dear how are you m sam parker. i read your blog. very first thing is that the design of your blog is very good i like that. m also working on that kind of sites Slasher films/movies


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