Far and beyond any other genre of movie, slasher horror comes away with the most sequels per franchise. While most movies see their sequel end around the 3rd of 4th movie, possibly squeaking out a 5th for nostalgia’s sake (thank you), slasher franchises can last well into the double digits before a remake is had. The reason? People love the villains. They don’t like to see teens get cut up for flinging their genitalia at the walls like so many modern artists with paint; they like to see Jason kill these teens. They want Freddy to put that sarcastic shit in his place. I couldn’t begin to guess why it is movie-goers support slashers more than heroes, but the trend seems to show just that.
Now, when you have so many sequels, you do so because the formula in the first film worked so well. So producers replicate the schematics over and over again to ensure they don’t mess it up. However, fans see the 10th Friday the 13th movie not because they want a new story – they see it because they want to relive the first story. In any case, after awhile the chemicals begin to get stale and the formula has to change. Sometimes new bits are added like an origin story if it wasn’t already there, new supernatural powers, rules, etc. Pretty soon, that’s not enough, and producers mess with the one thing that poses the most risk – the slasher himself. The easiest, and neatest, change is the appearance. So long as it’s just clothes, the killer can always change wardrobe if fans turn on the new threads. This is where the article kicks in.
I’m going to discuss, perhaps for my own enjoyment of organizing my random allotment of thoughts, the various changes in appearances for some of the best known movie slashers to date. I’m going to ask these killers who they’re wearing and hopefully it wont be me.
Jason Voorhees, “Friday the 13th”
Jason Voorhees is the summer version of “Halloween’s” Michael Myers (or Mike is the fall version of Jason). When he started out, he was his mother. Oh, yeah, spoiler alert. In the first film we find out that the murders being committed at Camp Crystal Lake are not the legendary drowned and deformed child Jason Voorhees, but rather his grief-stricken mother posing as this avatar of revenge. Now, at the end of the movie we get one last scare when the possible corpse of Jason hurls himself out of the lake like a rape-directed dolphin (see: ordinary dolphin) at the last surviving member of the Crystal Lake Crew.
Throughout the series Jason wears a pretty basic outfit (as most slashers do). His trademarks are, of course, his hockey mask and machete. Every slasher needs a weapon and a symbol, and for some they are one in the same. Given Jason’s basic clothing, it wouldn’t be hard for movie-makers to toy around with the outfit a bit. Now the mask has changed slightly and the clothes have gotten grittier and cleaner, torn up and patched up, but the set-up has remained the same.
Deep into the ocean of sequels, Jason got a bit different in appearance. In Jason Goes to Hell, we first see Jason a bit different than usual. For one, it seems his head is starting to overtake his mask. The flesh bubbles up and over the edges of the mask, as if to claim it as part of his self rather than a foreign object. What’s more, the mask is clearly made of metal now rather than the typical plastic. I’m not sure when the change in materials happened, and I’m not willing to go through all 10+ films to find out the answer – but the point is the mask has changed.
It doesn’t take long, however, for Jason to be put out of the picture and for the rest of the movie Jason’s spirit leaps from one person to the next, adding a new power Jason has (possession) but removing the face of Jason – thereby making it an entirely new slasher as far as the audience is concerned. Of course, Jason resurfaces in the end because by the next movie, Jason X (the X is there to tell you it’s okay to get a boner at how awesome this must be), we open with Jason in a frozen state.
During Jason X, or Jason in Space, Jason remains the same as he started in the beginning of the film. It isn’t until the lumbering killer is eviscerated by a hot cyborg chick that he begins to change. Nanobots, the token menace of any sci-fi movie, begin to rebuild Jason with new metal parts. I don’t know if the creators intended for Jason to stay this way, as it’s so obviously such a massive change that no one would consider accepting it. Of course, the end of the film ends like any other slasher movie – with the expressed idea that the killer is still alive and ready to start havok as soon as some teens start boning near his still warm corpse.
Freddy Krueger, “Nightmare on Elm Street”
Remember when I said that every slasher has a symbol and a weapon, and that sometime they’re one in the same? Well, here’s “living” proof of that – Freddy Krueger. I don’t need to tell you (but I will) that Freddy is defined by his blade-finger glove. While this is his weapon of choice, interestingly enough he doesn’t do most of his killing with it. It acts more as a symbol to let everyone know he’s not a nice guy. Instead, Freddy prefers to kill through his manipulation of the dreamscape his traps his teenaged victims in. Why teenagers? Well, because the horror genre demands it, but the movie itself explains it as the teenagers being the children of the parents who burned Freddy alive. He continues, of course, to target teenagers throughout the series rather than turning back to his first love – children. Still, we can excuse this because children are annoying and teenagers sometimes have sex on screen.
Like Jason, Freddy remains true to his style for many movies. His attitude alters slightly however. In the first movie Freddy would tease and taunt his victims, a wild idea when compared to the silent types like Jason and Myers. It was so popular that Freddy became more and more vocal. In addition, his dream kills became more elaborate. No longer was Freddy confined to the boiler room or alley ways. Now he took his teenaged victims to wild landscapes that morphed from whatever reality they came in from. It’s like Freddy started out a bit shy, but as the movies went on he became more comfortable to just be himself!
It was around this time that Freddy got a bit annoying. The one-liners were more groan inducing that scare inducing, and soon Freddy was killed off for good. As if. You can’t keep a slasher down, and after the 6th movie Wes Craven decided he had had enough and gave us “New Nightmare” – a very unique sequel indeed. The movie didn’t take place in the Elm Street world, and instead everyone just knew Freddy as we do, as a movie slasher, not a real one. Things start to go wrong for the heroine actress who played the heroine character of the first film, and she discovers that Freddy is indeed real.
When we see Freddy we see he’s a bit different than how we original saw him in his films. He still wears the old brown hat and green and red striped sweater, but now he also wears a long duster (it’s cold outside). The biggest change, however, is to his glove. Rather than being a leather and cloth glove with knives fixed on, the claw appears to be more part of Freddy himself (much like how Jason’s max was fusing to his head). In addition, Freddy was far more silent than in his other films. In essence, Wes wanted to take Freddy back to his roots and plant some new roses while he was there.
Chucky, “Childs Play”
In honesty, this list was inspired by our last character. I had been viewing the Childs Play series when I noticed what I really liked about Charles “Chucky” Lee Ray. He takes battle damage. All other slashers might take a cut, a hit, and get back up or shrug it off entirely. Chucky, however, bleeds. It’s a simple idea but a strong one. Chucky is often disregarded as a threat because he’s a doll, you can just kick him or lock him up easily. Well, guess what – that’s what his victims think too. They kick him, lock him up, and more and he keeps coming back and he remembers what they did to him. Most of his victims don’t know Chucky is alive until they’re dead, and they die because they treated him like a doll – banging him around and generally not caring about the well being of a doll.
Chucky is his own symbol. The Good Guy Doll, the item to which Charles Lee Ray implants his soul, is Chucky’s symbol. His weapon, or at least the weapon he’s often seen with, is a standard kitchen knife. Why a kitchen knife? Because Chucky is in your home. Jason remains in the woods for the most part, and Freddy enters your dreams and often makes his home the boiler room where he used to work. Chucky however is brought into your home by your children and your home most likely has some cutlery. His weapon is the symbol of danger in the home (true guns are more dangerous but guns are boring).
Unlike our other villains, Chucky changes his appearance early into his own series. After the 3rd movie, Chucky moved into horror-comedy; the series was now designed to poke fun at the idea of Chucky and slasher horror in general. In these new films Chucky appears considerably stitched together by the efforts of his busty girlfriend Tiffany, played by Jennifer Tilly (who gets her own doll later in the film). The new look keeps the blue overalls and red hair but comes with considerable battle damage. We see that Chucky has lived and died several times over and he wears it well. So rather than coming back with a new paint job, Chucky comes back looking like the beat up old junker he should appear to be.