Four decades of horror movie franchises have allowed us to chart the exact cinematic career path of any new teenager-murdering icon. It's not entirely dissimilar from the career trajectory of a 1980s teen heartthrob -- all of the Freddys and Jasons and Leatherfaces of the world enjoy a meteoric rise to stardom, a drug-fueled "Two Coreys" flash in the spotlight, an embarrassing slide into irrelevance, a misguided attempt to reinvent themselves, and finally a VH1 Behind The Music special in the form of a tear-jerking cinematic origin story.
To help illustrate this journey, let's create our very own horror movie slasher. And by that, I mean I will create this character on my own with absolutely no input from any of you. I'm sorry for any confusion that errant contraction may have caused.
Our supernatural slasher is The Bone Fiddler, an undead tumbling clown from 17th-century Paris who turns his victims' bones into fiddles. You can tell when he is about to strike, because you will hear the unmistakable sound of someone trying to play a fiddle made of bone, which, for the uninitiated, sounds almost exactly like a Haddaway cassette being eaten by the tape deck of an Oldsmobile Cutlass.
6For Some Reason, Horror Movies Are Star Magnets
New Line Cinema
Horror films are really good at luring bright-eyed young actors with dreams of stardom into their franchises, because hopeful young people are notoriously easy to murder, and art imitates life in powerful ways. But slasher movies seem to have a disproportionate tendency to propel the careers of the next generation of A-list actors. Rubbing elbows with Freddy or Jason can be better for your acting career than going to a pool party at Robert Evans' house and helping him inject cocaine into his penis.
First on the scene was Michael Myers, the Shatner-masked villain of John Carpenter's Halloween. That movie was the big-screen debut of Jamie Lee Curtis. Dana Carvey showed up in Halloween II four years before he joined the cast of Saturday Night Live. Paul Rudd had a starring role in Halloween: The Curse Of Michael Myers the same year he was in Clueless. And Josh Hartnett, Michelle Williams, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are all in Halloween H20, although JGL gets improbably murdered with an ice skate about six minutes in. Adam Arkin tried to make the leap from television to the big screen in the same movie, but he gets stabbed to death halfway through and went immediately back to television, where he is stabbed no more.
"Save yourself, Adam Arkin!"
Leatherface (whose first film appearance actually came before Michael Myers', but nobody in the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre ever amounted to anything) jump-started the careers of Viggo Mortensen in Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, Jessica Biel in the Texas Chainsaw remake, and Renee Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey in The Return Of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (also known as Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation). In true McConaughey fashion, he does not remember which Texas Chainsaw film he appeared in, although he presumably has no trouble recalling Reign Of Fire.
New Line Cinema
"Wait ... which one is this?"
Freddy Krueger detonated Johnny Depp in Depp's first-ever appearance as an actor in A Nightmare On Elm Street. Academy Award-winner Patricia Arquette debuted in Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. Rooney Mara was in the Nightmare On Elm Street reboot the same year she was in The Social Network and one year before she got an Academy Award nomination for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.
Jason may not be in the first Friday The 13th movie, but Kevin Bacon totally is. Corey Feldman makes his feature film debut in Friday The 13th Part IV, which also features Crispin Glover in nothing short of a star-making performance as a spasming goofball trying desperately to eliminate the concept of heterosexual sex from the minds of every female in the room.
He is supposed to be dancing in this scene.
Even the bullshit horror franchises helped out the careers of some now-familiar faces -- there's Jennifer Aniston in Leprechaun, Adam Scott in Hellraiser: Bloodline, Henry Cavill and Katheryn Winnick in Hellraiser: Hellworld, and Katherine Heigl in Bride Of Chucky. (That last one made it in at the buzzer; there isn't a single fucking person in those goddamned Chucky movies.) And you can thank Scream for Jamie Kennedy, but why would you want to?
And those are just the slasher films. George Clooney and Clint Eastwood both began in shitty monster films as well -- Clooney fought a killer ghost and giant tomatoes, and Clint Eastwood flew a fighter jet at a colossal tarantula, which is still only the second-most ridiculous thing he has ever done in a movie.
This made more money than any of the Dirty Harry movies.
The point is, if you find yourself getting your head twisted off by a wildly eccentric supernatural murderer, you have an equal chance of becoming an international superstar as you do of going back home to Ohio to work at a Jiffy Lube.
So, the first film in The Bone Fiddler franchise will feature at least one future Academy Award nominee, one or two future comedians, the future star of a wildly successful sitcom, and Ke$ha.
5Slashers All Come From (Totally Ignored) Bad Parenting
Freddy Krueger is a child-molesting murderer who is burned alive by a mob of angry parents. Jason drowns in a lake because his summer camp counselors couldn't bother to pay attention to him. Scream is about a kid violently reacting to his father's infidelity. Leatherface is the product of an insane father and mother. Samara, the ghost in The Ring, was tossed in a well by her mom. Norman Bates was driven insane by his mother, whom he probably had sex with both before and after she transformed into a dusty mummy.
Something hollowed out those eye sockets.
There's a clear thread of abuse and neglect through all of these films. With the exception of Freddy Krueger, every single one of those killers was turned into a monster by forces beyond their control, and almost none of the original movies recognize this. The abuse is always a quick side note, briefly mentioned in a stretch of expositional dialogue explaining why a man in coveralls and a bleached Halloween mask is Solid Snaking his way through a sleepy suburban neighborhood, carrying bodies back and forth between houses like he's refereeing a game of hide-and-seek that nobody else realizes they are playing.
We're not meant to feel sympathy for these characters. The fact that they started out as neglected, terrified children is meant to make them even more scary, because the implication as presented in these original films is that the killers have been monstrous lunatics for pretty much their entire lives. The last time they were anything close to normal was back when they were children. So if you're looking for mercy now, you are barking up the wrong tree.
Jason doesn't give a fuck if you're in a wheelchair.
We would learn from an early scene in The Bone Fiddler that the titular fiddler of bones was a young Parisian boy who loved the circus, but his parents would never allow him to go. So he snuck out one night to see the dancing clowns, only to accidentally knock over a lantern in his attempt to creep inside the main tent and burned the entire circus to the ground, killing hundreds. He was sent to a children's workhouse for his crimes, where he died of cholera. Also, he played the fiddle. That's an important detail.