The last cou­ple of years has seen episod­ic tele­vi­sion make a play for the slash­er gen­re, attempt­ing to rework the fore­most body count for­mat of sto­ry­telling into some­thing that can work on a week by week basis.  The two most promi­nent exam­ples of this trend are the Ryan Murphy-cre­at­ed Scream Queens and MTV’s small-screen Slasher-blureboot of Scream.  A lesser known exam­ple that popped up con­cur­rent­ly with the­se two is the blunt­ly-named Slasher, which was made for the Chiller Network.  Like its more promi­nent brethren, this show demon­strates the plea­sures and pit­falls of try­ing to cre­ate week­ly slice-and-dice pro­gram­ming.

Slasher begins with a macabre dou­ble-mur­der: a preg­nant wom­an and her hub­by are offed by a machete-wield­ing killer… but not before the baby is carved out of the mother’s stom­ach, sur­viv­ing to be found by the cops with the killer Tom Winston (Patrick Garrow).  That baby grows up to be Sarah (Katie McGrath), who returns home to inher­it the fam­i­ly house with her aspir­ing jour­nal­ist hus­band Dylan (Brandon Jay McLaren).  She wants to open an art gallery — and also learn more about her par­ents. Unfortunately, her arrival coin­cides with a masked killer who starts mur­der­ing the locals in ways relat­ed to the sev­er­al dead­ly sins.  With the help of child­hood-bud­dy-turned-deputy Cam (Steve Byers) and the still-impris­oned Winston, Sarah tries to fig­ure out who the killer is as the pop­u­la­tion is whit­tled down, episode by episode.

Slasher wearSlasher-01s its influ­ences on its sleeve: the sur­vivor-turned-detec­tive hero­ine is clear­ly mod­eled on Sydney from the Scream films, Sarah’s fact-find­ing vis­its to the impris­oned killer are an obvi­ous lift from Silence Of The Lambs and the “dead­ly sin”-themed mur­ders evoke Se7en.  Unfortunately, Slasher doesn’t offer twists or inven­tive recom­bi­na­tion of the­se famil­iar ele­ments — instead, Aaron Martin’s scripts (he wrote all 8 episodes) sim­ply graft them onto the equal­ly famil­iar “town with a secret” gen­re of t.v. dra­ma.

Slasher-02There’s a lot of prime­time soap-style melo­dra­ma and some too-soft satire of mod­ern jour­nal­ism hold­ing things down between the killings and cliffhang­ers in each episode.  On a pos­i­tive note, Slasher doesn’t get overt­ly cutesy with gen­re decon­struc­tion and hard­core slash­er fans will appre­ci­ate that it avoids being sar­cas­tic as it pur­sues its tropes.  Unfortunately, as the plot­ting gets loop­ier in the final three episodes it goes over­board with plot twists that betray both char­ac­ter­i­za­tions and believ­abil­i­ty with­in the story’s con­text, result­ing in a kind of mor­bid melo­dra­ma that laps­es into self-par­o­dy because it gets so ludi­crous.

All epSlasher-03isodes were direct­ed by Craig David Wallace and his work is pro­fes­sion­al but work­man­like.  He does good work with the open­ing shocks and cliffhang­ers that book­end each install­ment — one mur­der sce­nar­io involv­ing an iso­lat­ed corn­field and an IV bag is pret­ty effec­tive — but he only inter­mit­tent­ly cre­ates the kind of spooky atmos­phere the show need­ed.  A lot of the show is filmed in an odd­ly nat­u­ral­is­tic style that makes it feel more like a main­stream dra­ma than a hor­ror series.  As for the cast, McGrath is suit­ably pro­fes­sion­al as the lead but held back by a char­ac­ter­i­za­tion that requires sud­den changes in mood and a vague­ness of pur­pose.

The best work comes from the side char­ac­ters: Garrow does won­ders with his clichéd mur­der­er arche­type, under­play­ing to mem­o­rable effect, and Christopher Jacot does nice comedic and dra­mat­ic work as a real­tor who becomes one Sarah’s allies when the killer affects his per­son­al life.  A big sur­prise is cred­i­ble work by tabloid fix­ture Dean McDermott as a stub­born and inef­fec­tu­al sher­iff: he’s bet­ter known for Slasher-04his real­i­ty show work but he turns in a solid per­for­mance (at least until the plot starts demand­ing ludi­crous things from him and the rest of the char­ac­ters).

In short, Slasher is a mid­dling affair at best for hor­ror t.v. fans.  It deliv­ers a suit­able amount of shocks and a sur­pris­ing amount of grue for a basic-cable show but it nev­er suc­ceeds in tak­ing its inspi­ra­tions into adven­tur­ous and inter­est­ing ter­ri­to­ry.

Blu-Ray Notes: Scream Factory will release the full series run of Slasher as a 2 blu-ray set on July 12th.  The trans­fers look good, doing well by the sharp dig­i­tal imagery, and both 5.1 and 2.0 loss­less stereo tracks are includ­ed.  The 5.1 is suit­ably bom­bas­tic in its use of music.  The one extra is a short but fun pro­mo­tion­al video that not only pitch­es the show but has cast mem­bers talk­ing about their for­ma­tive expe­ri­ences with the hor­ror gen­re and their favorite slash­er films.