Book Review: Slasher Films

slasher-filmsSlasher Films: An International Filmography, 1960 Through 2001
By Kent Byron Armstrong
Published by McFarland, 2009. 376 pages.

Spoilers, spoilers, spoilers.

I have to say one of the key elements in many slasher films is the mystery of who the killer is. While in the later day Friday the 13th films, we all know who it is, but in the first entry, it really is a mystery until the ending. Sure, there are a few where the killer’s identity is given away early in the film, but for the most part, it is hidden from the viewer until the filmmaker decides to let you in on the secret. That really is a key part of the fun with some of these, even ones that are low budget and/or cheesy.

But the first thing that I noticed here is that Armstrong gives detailed plot synopsis for each of the titles covered, including who the killer(s) is. So if you haven’t see a particular film, you’re not going to want read his review of it since it will spoil the surprise. If you have seen a particular title, then there isn’t a real point to reading his review of it because about 90% of it is the synopsis with the last paragraph being his thoughts on it, which sometimes are just a sentence or two. Not a lot of meat on the bone for the reader to chew on here.

Armstrong has done his work, and then some, watching a ton of slasher movies and taking quite a bit of notes to be able to go through all the basic plot points of each of them. But isn’t that part of the fun when watching these, not to know what is going to happen next?

I did enjoy his introduction, where he explains how he defined what he considers a slasher film, from the killers, victims, and even weapons of choice. Defining any type of sub-genre is not an easy task and is up for argument and discussion with just about any other serious fan. But he does do a good job explaining himself and what guidelines he set for himself to narrow down the list of films. So I will give him credit for that.

Unfortunately, it would be tough to recommend this book to any fans, especially if you’re a newer fan and haven’t seen many of these pictures. It might be one thing to talk about Hitchcock’s Psycho and talking about who the killer is, mainly because just about everybody in the world already knows this. But there are plenty of titles out there where the killer is not common knowledge, and you do want to keep it that way. You’re going to want to go into them fresh and reading this book is going to spoil every single one of them, which would be a damn shame.

You can order your own copy of this book directly from the publisher, McFarland, through their website (, or ordering it by phone (800-253-2187).


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