5 Oct 2017


Film genres have formulas and rules, but what are the rules for Slasher Films?

Another update to the Slasher Film Rules, after the first set and the first update.  New rules or updates to old rules in italics.

Visit the first time the rules were explored, we'll watch this video while we're waiting for you to do that.

Halloween: Resurrection (2002)


The Unheeded Warning.

1a.  Warnings will not be believed...

i.  because they mostly come from people who can easily be dismissed: Local Legends, The Elderly, The Insane, The Mentally Handicapped, Children, Animals, The Stoned, Newspaper clippings, Radio & TV Broadcast, Obsessed Expert or someone with mental problems.
ii.  Easily dismissed animals, children and the mentally absent have a special sense about these things.
iii.  because parents/authorities are generally unreliable (see 6e below), and may have a reason to hide the truth.  At the very least teens will have been disobedient/law breakers to discover the truth.
iv. because the stories are actually usually pretty crazy.
1b.  Even if this has happened before, the warnings will be ignored, either because the original killer is dead (see Rule 9), the same thing is unlikely to happen twice, or it's just bad for local business.

1c.  General eerieness - the films will try to create this from the beginning to keep the audience tense.

Jason X (2001)


Sex & Nudity.

2a.  Nudity -
i. Female Nudity - Usually lots of female nudity (or scant clothing), especially from the victims.

ii. Male Nudity - Some, usually less the the females.

iii. Nudity Equals Death - See Rule 3b.

iv. Public vs Private Nudity - There will be public "transgressive" nudity (skinny dipping), however the private nudity (changing clothes, showering) will be salacious and not feature the eventual survivors (even though they must do those things)

2b.  Sex -
i.  Death - In most cases sex will mean eventual death.  See Rule 3a.
ii.  Random Sex - A lot.
iii. Relationship Sex - Even relationship sex will be seen as bad (the eventually survivors won't have it on-screen and may even have to wait until after the film).
iv.  Rape - Rape probably won't happen.  May be part of the back-story as an instigating incident for the killer.  The killer may even save a character from being raped, killing the potential rapist.  That said it will sometimes occur.

There are always ways to imply these things without actually showing naked women.  But the audience doesn’t want that.  (See also Rule 10c.)

Wolf Creek 2 (2014)


Death will be a punishment for...

...Transgression.  While this seems obvious that death is a punishment, it includes the fact that all those dying deserve punishment.  Obviously most of the “crimes” don’t really deserve death the characters still are being punished for something.  Sometimes the killer is deliberately punishing for this actions, other times it is a more subtextual thing (The characters are being punished by the writer, not the killer).

3a.   Sex - If you have sex you will die.  Woman are being punished for being slutty and men for being undeserving of the sex they get.  Bonus points for death during sex or while naked.

3b.  Nudity  - However,  nudity also is punishable by death.  This goes hand-in-hand with sex=death in a lot of cases, but also just nudity itself can be punished.  The more “unnatural” the nudity the bigger the punishment.  Skinny dipping, for example, will be more likely to result in death then showering naked.  Note, however, even a shower is unsafe and it often said that showering=death.  Whether sex or nudity is punished or not, the final girl is unlikely to participate.  

3c.  Drinking - An adult having a strong drink may get away with it.  Even an alcoholic adult may be given a free pass.  But underage and especially teen binge drinking is certainly punishable by death.  

3d.  Drugs - Drugs are even worse, drinking is far more socially acceptable than drugs. The altered state of being drunk or stoned may, of course, lead to unknowingly walking directly into their death. 

3e.  Hitchhiking - Accepting a lift, even with someone you know, will get you killed.  Giving someone a lift can almost be as bad.  There are entire films built around the premise.

3f.  Other Criminal Behaviour - Pretty obvious and direct.  The set-up may require all the participants to be committing a crime, but the main perpetrators are the one to be punished.  If they are breaking into a haunted house, the person who suggests it and who does the actual breaking are doomed.  The Final Girl will counsel against and only enter grudgingly.

3g.  Being annoying/being cowardly/being a sleazy guy - Sure these aren’t actual crimes, but it is satisfying for the writer, audience and possibly killer to see an annoying person die.

3h.  Being a bystander.  Following the rules, an innocent shouldn’t be killed, but sometimes they do, just to make up numbers.  Also, if someone doesn’t break an above rule, perhaps there is another reason they were punished.

Christmas Evil (1980)
People will die when they go…

4a.  Down to the Basement - Dark, dangerous, seldom used and few easy exits.

4b.  Upstairs - The exit to multiple story buildings are on the ground floor.  Going upstairs limits escape routes to dangerous window and roof exits.

4c.  For a Shower - Showering requires being naked (rule 3b) and in most cases alone (rule 4f).  If the character is not alone, (rule 3b) counts double.

4d.  Into old sheds or out buildings - Think of these as outside basements.

4e.  Running off to the “safety” of the forest - The forest isn’t safe, and the character is probably alone (rule 4f), being cowardly (rule 3g) and in danger of tripping and falling (rule 6d).

4f.  Anywhere alone - Splitting up is bad.  Going anywhere alone just allows the character to be picked off one-by-one.

4g.  Anywhere Remote, Isolated or Confined - Cabins in the woods, spacecraft, anywhere that you are in a small pick-offable group 

4h.  Any Old, Abandoned or Presumably Haunted Buildings - That's where evil lives.

Leprechaun 4: in Space (1997)


The Order of Death

There is a rough order that makes when deaths occur predictable to a certain degree.

5a.  The First Person on Screen - Quite often the first person to appear on screen is the first person killed.  It may be as part of a set-up death, a death right at the beginning of the film to establish that a killer is out there.  However, the Final Girl or extreme close-ups of the Killer’s hands, feet may be the first character on screen.

5b.  The Black Man dies First -  One of the standard clichés is:  The black man (or other minority if no black man is available) will die first (or very early) in the film (discounting, possibly, the set-up death).  Even the minority characters don’t die first, they have little chance of surviving the film.  If there even is one.

5c.  The Stoner - The slow dopey stoner usually die fairly early as a punishment for using drugs (see Rule 3d).

5d.  The Bimbo - Dumb, blond and female equates to slut and thus, Rule 3a is involved.   However, more than just being sexually active she is most likely to be dumb and blonde.  And probably has the biggest breasts.  Will be usually killed soon after the stoners (as they will be having the death-causing sex while the stoners are being killed) but can be killed before the stoners.

5e.  The Nerdy/Funny Guy – These characters are somewhere in the middle of the kill-list (unless he is a funny stoner – then all bets are off).  However, the more annoying/cowardly/sleazy the character is, the sooner he dies.

5f.  Macho jerks - Are either killed off with (or instead of) the bimbo or last until near the end.  The more bullying they do, the sooner they will probably be killed, the more sensitive they are the longer they last (and may become Rule 5h).

5g.  The Strong Female Character - Not dumb enough or sexual enough to be considered a bimbo (although my do some dumb things or may be sexually active in a more positive way) these characters are potential final girls until they are killed (although focus on the real final girl usually gives away the fact that they aren't).  Mainly I've added this because I was sick of having to choose between the virgin or whore stereotypes.

5h.  The Protector - This is usually an older male character.  Possibly the one giving warnings (rule 1a iii) either Elderly and Insane or an Obsessed Expert.  If the character is too crazy they may die early, maybe even as the set-up death.  If not they may last until near the end or even survive.  Despite Rule #1 they may in fact be or become a father or father-figure for the Final Girl and/or be in a position of authority (a policeman or doctor) contradicting (Rule 6e).  He may appear near the beginning of the film, and only reappear when needed near the end.  While he will save the character, it will be at great expense and may be killed, appear to be killed or be very badly injured defending her.  If surviving and injured will need to be defended/saved by the Final Girl.  The character may not appear in all films.

5i.  The Sensitive Guy - This character will act as a possible love interest for the final girl.  His chances of survival may be directly related on how much he hits on her.  He will protect her for much of the film, but while not being absent as much as The Protector (Rule 5g) he will probably have a similar end-game, with injury/death and needing to be saved.  As such may or may not die.

5j.  Children and animals – These purely innocent characters will usually survive.

5k. The Final Girl - The name sums it up.  The character will last until the end and (usually) “kill” the killer.  Other characters will survive, but will not necessarily be active in the final kill.  While the Final Girl is usually looked upon as a survivor, they may end up the Final Victim in an everyone dies scenario.  The final girl will either die early in or survive the sequel (or sequels).  See Rule #7 for further details on The Final Girl.

My Blood Valentine 3D (2009)


Especially When They Are Most Needed, The Following Things Cannot Be Relied On…

...Anything.  But especially:

6a.  Communications devices - Phones, Radios, and Mobile Phones, these are usually the first things to fail.

6b.  Lighting - First the lights will go.  Then the flashlights/torches and candles.  Banging on the flashlight may or may not fix them briefly.

6c.  Vehicular Transport - Any vehicle that does not break down getting you into this situation, will in the most cliché way possible fail to start when needed.

6d.  Your Own Legs - Stumbling and falling will happen when being chased.

6e.  The Authorities – Unless they are The Protector, the police and other authorities will not believe the crazy claims of the heroes or The Doomsayer.  If they do arrive during the film they will probably be killed.

6f.  Weapons – Obviously, weapons will break or fail in a crucial moment during the showdown.

6g.  Escape Routes - Especially Bridges and tunnels.


The Final Girl

There's been a lot of legitimate research done on the phenomena of The Final Girl, so let's just throw together a few random ideas:

7a.  Final - Often thought to be the only survivor, although sometimes there will be others, especially the love interest or children and there are times when there are no survivors and the “final girl” is the last to be killed.  However, the Final Girl will usually be the only one active in the final show down with the villain.

7b.  Girl - Usually, as the name implies, a female, but not always.  However…

7c.  Boyish.
i.  Often has an uni-sex name.
ii.  Often dresses the most masculinely.
iii.  Often the most flat-chested (or dressed to appear that way).
iv.  Short-haired.

7d.  Well Drawn - She will be the least 2 dimensional of the characters, rather than being dumb, she will be:
i.  Intelligent.
ii.  Curious & vigilant.
iii.  Talented.
iv.  Have a dark past.
v.  Have/gain inner strength.

7e.  Virginal & innocent - Either explicitly stated as a virgin or assumed so by refusing sex.  Will also show refuse to participate or be reluctant to participate in the other “crimes” of Rule #3.

7f.  Will be reborn - During or just prior to the final showdown she will go from being a frightened girl to a masculinised killing machine.

Friday the 13th: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)

The Killer has a Connection to…

...Something.  Everything has a reason no matter how deranged or tenuous.  The reason the killer does what s/he does will be connected to (one or more of):

8a.  The Location.

8b.  The Final Girl -  Often a family connection.

8c.  The Protector.

8d.  The Other Victims.

8e.  Femininity - The villain, they say, is often a male who has been feminised in some way.  (As opposed to the masculinised Final Girl).

8f.  A Specific Look.

8g.  A Specific Weapon - although anything that comes to hand, especially the most creative thing possible may be used.

8h.  The Camera - at some point the audience will be shown things from the killer's POV, or close-ups of part the POV.  (Then again, the killer POV may not be "honest")

Friday the 13th IX: Jason Goes to Hell (1993)


Evil Never Dies

9a.   You Always Have to Kill the Bad Guy Twice - In Horror and Action films the Bad Guy will be down and defeated, clearly dead.  And, while then when everyone feels safe they will attack again.  In Horror films this may occur a number of times, including the final scare (Rules 9b).

9b.  Even then the Bad Guy lives on - After all is said and done there will be a final scare for the audience (that the characters may not be aware of).  This is often accused of being a sequel hook, but is in reality to create a lingering fear in the audience.  In some cases this will involve the death or apparent death of the survivors of the film.

9c.  Evil is Immortal – Either the initial set-up or increasingly as a series progresses the villain will be or become an unkillable supernatural entity.

Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 (1989)

RULE #10

The Sequel Will Be Bigger/More Formulaic

There are really two reasons that there's the old adage about sequels never being as good as the original and that is that the films either revisit the say idea and are unoriginal or they try to change-up too much.  Either way the they will be bigger and more formulaic as the makers try to target the things that they think the audience liked from the previous films.

10a.  They will follow the rules more - especially than earlier films, before the rules were established.

10b.  They will be more formulaic - Not only will they follow the rules more but they will follow their own internal rules more.  However, some films will try to avoid their own formula and go new places, this usually leads to a cycle of changing-up followed by returns to formula (which sometimes ignore the change-up).

10c.  There will be more T&A - because that's one of the things the audience likes.

10d.  There will be more and bigger deaths of the victims.  See Rule 10c.

10e.  The killer’s death will be bigger - This may be necessitated by Rules 9b & 9c.

10f.  The killer will be less real - The killer will become stronger, be able to suffer more damage, and will most likely be more supernatural and come back from the dead (Rule 9c).

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