Netflix Horror Spotlight brings you Wicked Horror’s top picks for what to watch on Netflix, whether it’s the latest indie darling, a classic masterpiece or a silly slasher that deserves a bit more attention. In this edition, Joey Keogh heralds the burgeoning slasher resurgence with the brilliant second season of anthology series Slasher.
Last time I wrote about Slasher, almost three years ago now, I heralded it as a strong and consistently scary little endeavour but worried that when Season 2 rolled around it would fall apart the same way American Horror Story (rather spectacularly) did. Happily, series creator and frequent writer Aaron Martin has done it again. Season 2 is nasty, suspenseful, and keeps its mystery tight over eight more terrific episodes.
This time around, the action is relocated to a summer camp, re-imagined as a cult-like yoga retreat populated by the kinds of people who roll crystals around in their hands and find the smell of cooking meat personally offensive. The story actually begins five years previous, with a bunch of twenty-something camp counsellors partying hard in the woods only for something terrible to happen.
Back in the present, the clearly damaged core group returns to the scene of the crime, as it were, to further cover their tracks. Unfortunately, aside from tussling with the aforementioned kumbaya types they also have a masked serial killer on their tail who, as bloodied graffiti intones, knows what they did last, well, you get the picture. Evoking Urban Legend with the killer’s furry hood getup, but set in the snowy wilderness of Until Dawn, things get very bad very quickly.
There’s been something of a slasher resurgence in cinema lately, from feminist teen movie Tragedy Girls to Adam Green’s surprise Hatchet sequel Victor Crowely, and last year’s devilishly clever Hell Fest. But it’s still pretty incredible to see a TV series, with close to eight hours of screen-time to work with, establish a premise, killer, and cast of characters as well as the best 90-minute horror movies, if not better.
Not one moment of Slasher Season 2 is wasted, which is quite the achievement considering much of the action takes place between a couple of snowy cabins in the woods. Martin circumvents the one-location trappings by flashing back to the camp days (annoyingly noting “5 years ago” every single time — we get it, they’re in camp uniforms and that one chick looks more alternative, it’s clear), simultaneously fleshing out the story and the characters.
While we’re used to slasher victims being one-note walking body bags, ever since Scream, the trend has moved more towards featuring characters we believe in and like, whose survival we can root for (this logic obviously doesn’t apply to the likes of Texas Chainsaw 3D, which I still kind of love regardless). Slasher keeps us on our toes by offing a couple obvious final act survivors early on, swiftly establishing that nobody is safe.
The kills are gory AF. The first involves a chainsaw slicing through someone with such ratchety precision, the shot held for much longer than anticipated, guts spilling all over the place, that it’s stomach-churningly brilliant. The FX aren’t always seamless, but it hardly matters when characters are being murdered with screwy mechanical tools or, in one hilarious moment, a snowmobile.
In what could reasonably be called an homage to The Return of the Living Dead, one poor character lays dying on a table for what feels like forever, struggling to breathe, near constantly whining in pain. The decision not to make the murders quick and easy, and to refuse to cut away so the audience gets some respite from the violence, further elevates Slasher above the standard fare. Martin manages to both pay homage and pave his own way — no small feat in this sub-genre.
The performances are strong from an impressively diverse cast. The premise isn’t stretched too thin, rather tempers fray and allegiances are formed and destroyed via the claustrophobic, often desperate mountainside setting. There’s plenty of people walking outside alone when they really shouldn’t, but Martin and his various writers, along with director Felipe Rodriguez, play with our expectations often enough that nothing feels too predictable.
The killer’s reveal will work for some more than others, but it comes impressively late in the proceedings and delivers a gut punch that I, as a long-time slasher fanatic, didn’t see coming. Likewise, via this reveal, Martin once again pays homage to typical slasher conventions without giving the game away too soon. If you’ve seen enough of these things you’ll probably work it out just in time, which is always part of the fun.
For a sophomore season, Slasher: Guilty Party (as its weirdly thoughtless subtitle goes) is strong, surprising, and hugely inventive. The gore is brilliantly disgusting, the setup believable and devilishly constricting, and the characters run the gamut from mouthy queen bee to a nerd with hidden darkness but, crucially, none of them are all-out assholes. It’s also frequently scary — genuinely, bone-chillingly so, not just fleetingly.
Two seasons in, Slasher has proven itself as top-tier stuff within this sub-genre. Binge all eight episodes in one sitting for maximum exposure. If you’re brave enough.
Slasher: Guilty Party is available on Netflix now, along with its predecessor,
The Executioner, which also kicks all kinds of a**