With a name like ‘Slasher’ your tone is pretty much set straight off the bat. Slasher is a tight 8 episodes of gory, ‘deadly sin’ themed whodunnit. And yes, within the first 10 minutes we have a bloody slash up. The hooded ‘Executioner’ carves up an entire family, takes the baby but is later arrested in a rocking chair with the blood covered infant in his arms.
Thankfully, Slasher does pace itself excellently. After this pretty gruesome start things settle down into a slow burner with dashes of ultra violence. All grown up, Sarah Bennett (Katie McGrath) returns to the house of her slain parents to live with her husband. Unsurprisingly, no-one else wants to buy it. But a new ‘Executioner’ arrives to threaten her and bodies start to pile up. Each episode has at least one wince worthy gory moment for fans of slasher horror, but the series has strengths beyond this.
The sleepy (fictional) town of Waterbury is inhabited by a carousel of characters with dodgy looks and suspect pasts. What’s going on with the judgemental neighbour who shouts abuse as Sarah and her husband share a kiss in the street? Do the same sex landlord couple Justin and Robin have some shady secrets? And what about the arrogant and dismissive police chief who wants to bury new evidence in old cases? What Slasher does best is reveal enough tidbits of information throughout that you can have fun picking apart the clues as to who this new Executioner is. And just when you start to suspect someone the show delights in hacking them up to prove you wrong. Misdirection is the key to audience enjoyment and it is something Slasher fully understands.
Performances are well delivered throughout. Tom Winston – the original Executioner (Patrick Garrow) is played with more depth than just the ‘psycho’ setting. McGrath’s ‘Sarah’ has the usual horror determined damsel about her but she carries the backbone of the show well. This is all undercut by a malevolently bubbling score which leaps forward with clanks, strings and squeals at key points but is otherwise to content to sit in the subconscious and unnerve you.
For a very lean series there are some sub-plots that still fall a little flat. By focusing purely on the horror elements the show dithers around parts that don’t immediately contribute to that. Sarah’s husband, Dylan, is the editor in chief of the local paper. In Faustian style he finds his loyalties and ethics tested especially when the story of nasty deaths goes national.
But this arc kinda just falls flat once it’s served its plot purpose without ever really getting into the actual ethical or emotional dilemmas brought up. Similarly, one episode ends with a suspected character being caught in a shocking act which is then not mentioned again until much later. Just because it’s a sexy kink doesn’t mean that they aren’t still a suspect, guys! But no, plot line dropped.
And don’t get me started on the stupid horror logic of ‘I’m being stalked by a vicious murderer? Better follow a cryptic clue and hike into the forest without telling anyone where I’m going then!'. Slasher does push character action believability a bit far, but the limited run means that enough happens per episode for this to be mostly forgiven.
Ignoring the tonally weird picture perfect last five minutes of the show, the path of seven deadly sin murders kept me hooked throughout. Whilst I’m pleased to say I had the killer pegged early on, the show did do a good job of making me doubt myself by making several characters equally suspicious.
If you like your hack-and-slash movies and have a bit more time to get into a nicely crafted mystery puzzle, then Slasher is the series for you. Season 2 is already out in the US but coming to the UK later (same actors, different setting à la American Horror Story) so if this quality is kept up we should be getting twisted knives in the heart for seasons to come. And if you like Slasher then check out Bone Tomahawk another excellent horror movie.
Words by Michael Record