The horror genre has a spotty history with television. It’s not that there haven’t been successful horror shows, it’s just that they tend to be few and far between. This is most likely due to the fact that telling long-form horror stories can be tricky when it comes to that particular medium. Nevertheless, when TV does try to do horror, it’s at least worth observing the attempt. Enter the Chiller Network’s new original series, Slasher.
Slasher, which premieres on March 4th, is nothing if not a genre exercise. Now, this doesn’t have to be a negative. In fact, if harnessed right, it can be a strength. Unfortunately, if the first two episodes of the series are any indication, Slasher is more interested in going through the motions than creating a truly compelling story.
Starting off on Halloween, years ago, Slasher begins in effectively brutal (and promising) fashion with the gruesome murder of a married couple by a masked killer. As an extra bit of nastiness, the killer then takes it upon himself to remove the wife’s unborn child from her womb. The killer in question will become known locally as “The Executioner.” He curiously sits, calmly cradling the screaming baby when the police arrive. The baby in question is Sarah Bennet. She will be our heroine.
When we catch up with Sarah (Katie McGrath) in present day, she is married to Dylan (Brandon Jay McLaren) and they’re heading back to her home town where she plans to open an art gallery, he has landed a job as Editor-in-Chief of the local newspaper. They plan to move into the very same house where her parents were murdered. The first episodes of the series take us around the town, introducing various colorful characters, all with strong opinions on Sarah’s return. It’s a small town vibe, and everyone kind of hates the fact that Sarah’s brutal beginnings made their humble city so famous for a spell.
Then, unsurprisingly, the murders start happening again. Simultaneously, Sarah literally sees The Executioner (in full garb) around town at night. This is curious because the actual confessed killer, Tom Winston, has been in custody for Sarah’s whole life. When she begins going to visit him to confront him about recent goings on and the possibility of a “Copycat” on the loose, Slasher tries very hard to use this foil to deliver a Silence of the Lambs/Se7en dynamic. It does not fair very well.
It’s not that going this route is a bad idea. However, a lot of what makes that dynamic work in the first place is in the aesthetic. It’s in the mood. Slasher doesn’t have one. Not only is the show’s overall look aggressively bland, but its tone is closer to a Lifetime Movie-of-the-Week than a psychological thriller.
As Slasher‘s first two episodes unfold, it begins untangling a web of secrets and lies involving Sarah’s late parents, The Executioner and various townsfolk (including her Grandmother played by Wendy Crewson), that I won’t spoil here. But none of it catches you in quite the way it should, or could if its mysteries were a little more compelling or original. And, really, that’s the problem. Slasher just isn’t that interesting.
Don’t get me wrong; Slasher can be kind of fun when it strays from the main story arc, in which it dresses up like a traditional slasher film, and a couple of the performances are admirable and capable. But despite some minor successes, it all goes back to the original problem of hitting the expected notes in disappointingly hollow fashion. Slasher doesn’t have a lot to say in the first place, so if you strip away the machinations of the plot, there isn’t really anything left to latch onto at all.
While in recent years, horror on television has had its notable creative hits (looking at you Hannibal and Supernatural) and misses (stand up The Following and Scream), its very presence has undeniably grown by leaps and bounds. This is a good thing. Lamentably, though, Slasher (despite its best intentions) falls on the losing end of this venture. It is possible that the series can find better footing and a more assured sense of itself as the season progresses, but its mission statement here is not one of promise, but of familiarity. That’s just not a good enough incentive to lose 8 hours.
Wicked Rating: 4/10