Killer Extinct: The Death of the Boogeyman
When you were a child, you always knew what was coming to kill you. You had just watched him dispatch several dimwitted teens about an hour ago on a fuzzy VHS tape from your local purveyor of slasher flicks. You could rest assured that whatever came out of the closet would live on past your doomed slaying in endless sequels of descending quality. We had killers like Michael Myers, Freddy Kreuger, Leatherface, and Jason Voorhees. Today’s kids have … Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, Leatherface, and Jason Voorhees. But where are our new boogeymen? What ever happened to the franchise slayer butcher on a budget? Have we run out of ideas for catchy killers like I’m running out of rhetorical questions?
We started with the classics: the Universal monsters like Dracula, The Wolfman, Frankenstein’s monster, The Mummy, the Creature From the Black Lagoon. These ancients earned their keep — like a Sinatra record, they never go out of style. Even with re-envisionings of their styles and stories, they’ll always be cool. And then the keys were passed over to a new generation of maniacs with axes and machetes and butcher knives. They took out teens like drunk driving. And they have taken their place in the hall of fame. But instead of getting a new rookie crop, we’re just getting re-envisionings. But I want my new league of extraordinary menace-men. It’s time for fresh blood.
As much as I lament the remakes, I understand them. It’s an easy buck in an unsure economy. No matter how terribly you make your film (and believe me, Bay, they’re shit) or how you swap atmosphere for speedcutting, you’re guaranteed an extra ten mil at the box office. But you can’t tell me that there’s not room for a new warrior on the mesa. The late seventies and early eighties gave us our best crop for the supernatural unstoppables, be they magical-mystic beasties or simple ghouls from the grave intent on chopping up teen proxies for them what done them wrong. Even as some of the Fantasmagoric Four were running into their fourth or fifth sequels, we were hitting hard with a decent crop of second stringers: The Leprechaun, The Tall Man — you know, the guys from my Boogeyman articles that you loved so much.
Around the nineties, we ran out of steam. I think the trend kind of capped out with Hellraiser and Candyman. Not that these were the death knell because of their terrible nature. Far from it. Well, the sequels were shitty, but shitty-delightful. I’m not sure whether Wes Craven killed them with Scream. You can’t really call Ghostface Killer a stalker per se, because he’s more of a mask than an actual stalker. Sure, as Craven was quick to point out, Jason’s mother donned the hockey mask for the first flick, but it was pure Jason from then on out. Well, Ghostface has never been a killer, but he’s been two or three or 27 different motherfuckers in the later flicks. But right around the release of Scream, our butchers went back to their watery graves. They disappeared on their shelves, only to be dusted off and hawked like yard sale merchandise to the highest rights bidder.
Now, I’m not saying horror films need to be exclusively slasher. I mean, we’ve been doing a great job with the atmospheric horror, more or less. I still think foreign shores are showing up the American filmmakers, who’s only response seems to be adding the kids who sing autotune on Disney or MTV, and the staunch refusal to hold a static shot for more than it takes to tweet. I’m even digging the trend for comic horror, as some of what makes Freddy king was his ability to quip. But we’ve got no slasher anti-heroes. Not even bad ones.
I think the closest we’ve got right now is Jigsaw, but he suffers the same cringing trend as Ghostface in that there’s no real Jigsaw but just steampunk ricky-tick that cuts people up. A case could also be made for Hatchet, as he’s getting the sequel, but really there’s miles to go before he gets even remotely close to the major leagues. And that’s pretty much it. When Leslie Vernon went to make his rise, did he realize there was no one to join? In the past two decades, we’ve got nothing.
I’m calling for a change. The next bad guy’s gotta be hiding under the bed of some twisted little miscreant, waiting to hit the pages of a poorly-typed screenplay. I don’t even want legendary. Almost all of our favorite baddies are completely derivative. They come from shamefully exploitative flicks. We don’t want quality. We want someone we can get behind — who’ll turn around at the last minute and eviscerate us. I’ve seen tons of promising horror in the indie circuits, but nobody’s bringing us the juicy meat. It’s gone torture porn or twitching kiddie, and I’m praying for someone new to keep the kids up at night. I don’t want to be grossed out, I want to go back to rooting for a maniac to chop up those goddamn Abercrombie ads littering the malls.
But who’s it gonna be?