Shakespearean Slashers: An Homage to Romantic Horror
There never was a more tragic tale than of Juliet and her Romeo. As we know from the myriad of Shakespearean tragedies true love never dies. In fact in many cases it manifests itself into a force and form driven by its tragedy and hatred at those who scorned it. Of course I’m speaking of slashers. Decades of these masked, tool wielding murderers whose weapons and attire reflect the tragedy of their untimely demise or in many cases what changed them from lover to killer! Of course we have the tragic tale of the miner in My Bloody Valentine, a staple in the annals of scorned romantic killers but there are many more over the decades that have worn their heart on their sleeve only to have it torn away from them and in turn hang their lover’s heart along with entrails for devilish decorations! In the festivities of the love filled season I give to you other tragically Shakespearean slashers whom just wanted romance but it seems bloodbath red becomes the color of the holiday!
Joseph Zito’s The Prowler is a Savini painted slash fest with a nice body count infused with eighties goofy characters. However it is the tragic tale of our Prowler that gives it its lasting ability among notorious killers.
A young man sent to war across the world during WWII to protect the ideals of freedom and the loved ones he’s left behind. War is one of the greatest horrors in all human life that alone can change any person for better or worse. Often times sitting in dirtied trenches while fast bolts of steel and metal zoom above your head trying to kill you, you’re only solace, the feeling of love you receive in each letter from her. Replacing feelings of dread and despair with hope that you’ll feel that touch once again instead of a bullet piercing flesh. Hear that comforting voice again instead of dying screams.
To stare into eyes of passion and love once more instead of the barrels of guns and eyes of hate trying to kill you. It’s the only thing keeping you alive and she’s more important to you than anything because she feels the same way. Until she didn’t. Unbeknownst to you or her, the war is drawing to a close yet it has dragged on so long. Another day another letter to get you through, only this letter pierces you just as badly as any bullet. No longer are her words comfort. She’s decided to move on and that she can’t wait anymore for you. You wonder what you have left to live for. Returning home a “hero” to a congratulatory graduation dance held for you and others who didn’t risk their lives for your country. There she is, your Rosemary, arm in arm with someone else. Someone who has been speaking ill of you and is so tough to defend your love from you. To hear that is heartbreaking and to see that is angering. Dressed in the fatigues that kept you safe and armed with the weapons you used to protect what you loved you strike!
Killing both your Rose and her new lover, leaving a Rose behind at the scene of the murder. You creep into seclusion living with all that’s transpired. Years go by without another graduation dance until finally they hold another. Just as you have tried to forget the horrors of the war you too have you tried to forget the horrors of that night and dance. Enraged you don your garb again and go on a killing spree at that dance. Their love is your enemy just like in war. Their love has no right to live as yours didn’t. In that last letter the Prowler’s last attachment to humanity was severed. With the return of the dance his vengeance would return and he would go back to the only life he knew when he lost his love, violence. When the last tether to your normal life is severed your two worlds blend and love is construed in chaos.
Sean Byrne’s The Loved Ones is one of the best examples of a scorned love turned grizzly creating a slasher that hits every stage of a young person’s romantic life. A tragic tale of a young man whose life turns bleak after a car crash takes his father’s life. Unable to deal with the grief he turns to seclusion and drugs to numb the pain. In this time a young girl pining over him decides to ask him to the school dance but he declined as he has a date already. Unbeknownst to the boy he is not the first to decline her and she never takes no for an answer. She and her father kidnap him for a night of torture and romance the likes of which none of them will forget.
A child born into a small poor home with an unstable father. It’s not her fault she’s timid and confused. Growing up she must have been bullied and shunned. She only ever wanted to feel like she’s good enough and loved like her father loved her, but it was her father’s love that was her ultimate undoing. Lola Stone grew up wanting to find love and crushing on boys who all spurned her for many reasons. Her father for wanton desire to please her, kidnapped these boys one by one torturing them into loving his daughter. Each time they kidnapped a boy she thought this was the norm and it chipped away at her sanity. As she became more unstable over the years she tortured these boys physically to match how they tortured her mentally. Keeping a book of these lovers over the years depicting her sadistic torments upon them and explaining how they tormented her in her quest to find her prince that would match her father’s love for her.
We aren’t given a background to her just snippets of brutality and insanity to piece together what made her. As the film progresses we discover that she obviously didn’t have good role models for love in her parents. Just think of all that would’ve changed had someone loved her.
The conditions she was brought up in definitely helped make her a killer but had a bit of outside positive reinforcement been introduced things might’ve been different. How many times has she worked the courage up to ask someone only to be laughed at? How many times has she overheard a young man talking behind her back after declining her? In the film we even have a scene where she watches in anger as her newest crush has sex with someone else after crushing her dreams. There’s a lot to give way in the dialogue. She immediately injects her lovers with something in the throat to prohibit their speech obviously so they can’t scream but there’s also a subtext that in the outside comforts of her home she had heard people speak ill of her look and persona, especially those she falls for. She constantly chants with a smile, “We can’t hear you.” In her home is her ultimate power. Fueled by her father’s twisted love she had built a fantasy of her perfect romantic moments that glorify her sick deeds. Like any little girl growing up wanting that fantasy come true she probably has to imagine beautiful imagery and aesthetic when committing her atrocities. All in the name of Love. Those she loves, should they not become her Prince, fall victim to her “spell” becoming mindless slaves to her “enchantments” forever having her initials carved into a heart upon their chests. A siren song echoing in her home, “Am I not pretty enough?”
A young boy’s first love is his mother but that love itself can destroy the psyche in the right conditions. A cult of avant-garde film worshippers burn in a final act of live theater. Within the walls of the burning performance a young boy watches his mother, his first love, burn to a crisp. His cries of loss and sorrow combine with the searing pain and agony of his own flesh to create a murderer born of flame and spectacle. Years pass as he seeks revenge and the mystery of his character unravels, not just to avenge his mother, but to avenge the life of love in another companion due to his horribly scarred visage! The film is the cult classic, Mark Herrier’s Popcorn! Yes, it’s goofy and silly throughout with terrible 90’s one liners from its cast of kids but it’s the slasher himself that makes this flick stand out!
A film department decides to put on an all night horror-thon in order to raise funds for their students projects. The films chosen revel in the amazing gimmicks of William Castle with such gags as smell-o-vision, shock-o-rama and 3-D! Unbeknownst to the students there’s a nefarious puppet master at play that utilizes each gag to murder the kids in fantastical ways for showmanship. Not only does Popcorn lend itself to loves loss creating a vengeful being but due to its material it culminated into a final macabre and Shakespearean final live stage performance as all the kids in the theater watch the slasher take the stage with his victims! Holding our heroine in an Iron Maiden for one final death he exclaims, “Yes, yes! I was going to kill the wench! But not dear friends without the approval and the approbation of you my audience. My heart! My soul! My sustenance!” Its spectacularly insane film that keeps you guessing who our Slasher is as he is a artisan of many faces, a phantom walking among the crowd.
This phantom of many faces also represents a disconnection from compassion in many forms. Misplaced love from all around. It is his mother’s love for her cult and it’s leader placed blindly as if in Stockholm syndrome that shuns her son’s love and the tenderness we all should receive at a young age. The love of that spectacle becomes inherent within our future killer at a young age as he goes about killing off others in fantastical ways as if the morose and morbid deaths of those around him for the entertainment of others will finally get him the attention from his mother he so desperately sought, to finish the work of the cult leader she endeared to so much may bring him closer to her heart. He howls in heart’s agony near the climax of the film when his identity is discovered that he will never know the touch physically of psychologically of true love. Think of it. Years of that idea seared into your brain within moments you are told that you are indeed loved by another who would consider you a soulmate. It sends you off the deep end and into a spiral of insanity that you cannot escape as your morals and ideas of compassion and revenge that were for years one and the same now are in question thanks to the soft spoken words of a possible lover, but if she truly knew what you were, would she still be in love? Could you change your ways and repent into a new life leaving behind decades of anguish and twisted romanticized torture?
Whereas a lot of these slasher movies are indeed goofy and sometimes poorly made, we as horror fans love them for many reasons but, I myself believe one of them is our understanding of the base of these “antagonists” born of hatred and malice into the world they did not choose. Many of us have been scorned and berated if not from family then by peers for years growing up in places that deem us different for having found our hearts in horror. That is why we care so deeply for these slashers and their deeds because while we don’t condone what they do we do understand why. Their environments and torturous lives built them, yet those same environments and loves whom created them cannot take responsibility for what they’ve unleashed. These maligned stories of love teach us to better ourselves in some ways and teach us of how not to be. Perhaps, in this time where the aroma of romance is in the air we can show more compassion and less spiteful hearts for it is those same spiteful hearts that create the greatest bloodbaths of rage and revenge. Those tumored hearts create the slashers that just needed saving.