Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film
by Gary Schultz
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Starz Entertainment has a new original documentary premiering just in time for Halloween on their cable network channel. It’s called Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film, and you know what? It’s pretty damn good. In the style of Behind the Music, this documentary explores the world of the American Slasher film from its conception, over three decades ago, up until its current state as a mainstay in American pop culture. The focus in Going to Pieces is simple: our obsession with Slasher films, what separates Slasher films from other sub-genre horror films, and what propelled the Slasher film into the heights of pop culture, taking the Hollywood mainstream by storm, especially throughout the 1980s, when the Slasher film helped horror rule the box office. Going to Pieces takes you inside this cult world with brutal honesty and firsthand accounts.
Slasher films have always been the bastard stepchild of Hollywood and even the horror genre. They make a ton of money, but it’s like some dirty secret if you make them or obsessively watch them. Horror is a difficult genre to master and is very often not given the credit it deserves as a dynamic art form. Going to Pieces does a very concise job of analyzing the Slasher film throughout its history, starting with Psycho (1960) and continuing through the current trends of horror films. If Hitchcock’s Psycho was the seed that planted the Slasher film tree, then it was films like Texas Chainsaw Massacre(1974) and Halloween (1978) that helped the Slasher film come to age in the 1970s and set the standard for what would propel and entire genre into the mainstream. After Halloween, it seemed the Slasher genre became a competition to go further, gorier, and more demented than your predecessor. This was demonstrated with such hugely bloody successes as Friday the 13th (1980), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and then later, when the genre had slowly died out due to the overload of diluted knockoffs and sequels, Scream (1996) revitalized it.
Everyone knows the stories about these pinnacle Slasher films. What I liked about Going to Pieces is that it examines the entire genre including lesser-known films like SleepawayCamp, Black Christmas, and Silent Night, Deadly Night. This is all done through the accounts of the directors, producers and industry experts who created these films. Going to Pieces interviews Wes Craven, John Carpenter, Debra Hill, Tom Savini, Tobe Hooper, Rob Zombie and that really just names a few.
The bottom line: this is a must see documentary for horror fans. I can’t recall a feature-length doc devoted entirely to the Slasher genre. One may exist, but I cannot recall. I actually thought this doc could have been a little longer. It runs at a little over an hour and a half and is entertaining and revealing throughout. My negative criticism is on my personal press copy the sound needed a serious mix job. I’m sure the sound issues will get straightened out before airtime.
Check out Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film on Starz, premiering Friday, October 13th, 2006, 9pm ET/PT.
Yeah, that’s right—it premieres on Friday the 13th! Be there, horror fans.
Gary Schultz is a filmmaker living in Chicago, and he loves horror movies.
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