Those of us who came of age in the 1980's can tell you all about the era's generation-defining explosion of slasher films, but there's a lot of ground to cover and it's sometimes difficult to get across to today's younger horror fans just how impactful the craze was on American culture and world cinema. This documentary takes a very good stab (pun intended) at providing a comprehensive history and overview of the fascination with graphic violence as an entertainment form, going back as far as France's live Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol stage productions staring at the end of the 19th century, and rightfully citing PEEPING TOM and PSYCHO, both released in 1960, as the progenitors of the cinematic slasher genre. It then skips ahead to the impact of HALLOWEEN in 1978, which inspired the making of the surprise hit that was FRIDAY THE 13th (1980), the film whose success was what truly opened the bloody floodgates of the slasher genre as we came to know it.
Featuring commentary and observances by filmmakers and cast members of the iconic films from the genre, the documentary does as much as it can examine slasher movies both as populist entertainment and suss out exactly why they were so big during their heyday. It traces the deluge that began with FRIDAY THE 13th, calls bullshit on the parental watchdog controversy over SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984), marks the end of the first wave with the release of FRIDAY THE 13th: THE FINAL CHAPTER (1984) and the start of the second wave with A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1985), notes the decline and dormancy leading into the 1990's and the rekindling of the general public's interest in horror with the mainstream acclaim and success of THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991) before the rebirth of the genre proper with the knowing and comedic meta-commentary of SCREAM (1996). So, what we have here is an attempt to dissect a genre that contains seemingly hundreds of films spanning a nearly three-decade period, and for the most part it does the job quite nicely, but due to the sheer volume of content, it at times reads as a Crib Notes version of what could easily fill out a whole semester in a college film studies course. Even so, it's a fun trip down Memory lane for those of us who were there, and it's definitely recommended as a good starting point/primer for curious newcomers.