Slasher fiction is almost exclusively a teenage medium. It could be said that this comes from an economic necessity: back in the 1970s and 1980s, teenage dollars were the ones purchasing horror movie tickets.
While the more urbane, introspective horror of films like Rosemary’s Baby were by no means extinct by the rise of the slasher pic — Philip Kaufman’s incredible and politically sensational Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake was released the same year as John Carpenter’s Halloween, the film that many acknowledge as creating the slasher genre — studios were embracing smaller budgets and unknown directors and cast in the hopes that they could lead to boom investments in a younger, less discerning market.
The money angle is a strong enough reason for the genre to skew adolescent, certainly, but I think there are much more profound reasons for anchoring an entire genre in adolescence. The first is that it alarms those stuffy adults by confronting them with their children’s vulnerability to violence.
The second, and biggest, reason might very well be that, in a very real way, adolescents are confronting their own mortality all the time.
Antoine Maillard’s Slash Them All captures something distinctly honest otherwise neglected in the slasher films to which it pays tribute: the constantly unstable mental ground on which real teenagers stand.
Kids began to understand, in their teens, that their world is not made up of constants. Their bodies changing, their understanding of themselves changing, children begin to turn inward for the first time only to discover that their existence might not be universal.
Once a kid understands, for instance, that their mother’s drinking problem is unique to their mother — that their friend’s mothers are different, their home lives different — they might be faced with a further horrible question: are all these other bad feelings mine alone? Am I different, broken, bad?
Set against the bleak backdrop of a post-oil spill seaside town, Slash Them All layers on divergent personal developments. Reluctant protagonist Pola is living with that emotionally absent, alcoholic mother, with being the girl from the wrong side of the tracks, while her friend Daniel chafes against the over-attentiveness of his own mother and struggles with horrible urges. On the other side of the social spectrum, teacher’s daughter Laura suffers from recurring nightmares born from an ongoing trauma she doesn’t quite understand.
As with anything experienced at a young age, these harsh realities might take on the illusion of permanence: it has always been this way and so it will always be this way. They — like the kid’s tragedy of a town — are only things they can aspire to escape, even if they feel inescapable.
The appearance, then, of a serial killer only compounds their feelings of youthful entrapment. Plodding along, baseball bat gripped in his fist, the killer feels as elemental and permanent a force as any of their individual struggles. Like Mike Myers or Jason, the killer is an ever-present reminder that they must escape; if they don’t, the constants of their lives will mean their death.
Rendered in grays, often silent even in violence, Maillard’s Slash Them All is a book that that captures a more earnest teenaged experience. It presents real horror after real horror, most of which might plague any teenager, and then adds the killer nearly as an afterthought. It understands the why of the genre’s adolescent trappings better than the films which inspire it. It’s alarming, it’s sensational, but isn’t youth?
Join the AIPT Patreon
Want to take our relationship to the next level? Become a patron today to gain access to exclusive perks, such as:
- ❌ Remove all ads on the website
- 💬 Join our Discord community, where we chat about the latest news and releases from everything we cover on AIPT
- 📗 Access to our monthly book club
- 📦 Get a physical trade paperback shipped to you every month
- 💥 And more!