What Was the First Horror/Slasher Film?

A Nightmare On Elm Street

New Line Cinema

Wes Craven, Producer/Director/Writer/Actor, Dies

When Wes Craven passed away at age 76, it sparked controversy. Well, at least in my household. Because on the Today Show, we heard Matt Belloni with the Hollywood Reporter credit Craven as “helping to invent a genre in the 80s with A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), which Craven then turned on its head and poked fun at that genre with the “Scream” series in the 1990’s.”

I don’t necessarily disagree with the assertion that Craven rebooted the horror genre in the 90s (although I never stopped watching horror films, at least at home on DVD).

My beef with what Matt said is, that there were several “slasher” films before A Nightmare on Elm Street (which is one of my all-time favorite movies–as a matter of fact, ON Sunday I had had a “craving” for “A Nightmare on Elm Street”–as happens this time of year as we head into scary-movie-season, and I had no idea Craven had passed that day).

Can We Define What A Slasher Film Is?

The internet says it’s “a horror movie, especially one in which victims (typically women or teenagers) are slashed with knives and razors.” Wikipedia defines it as “a sub-genre of American Horror films which typically involve a violent psychopath murdering several victims…with an established set of characteristics which set them apart from other horror sub-genres, such as “splatter” films and “psychological thrillers.”

Thank you, Serena at Horror-movies.ca for having this discussion for me! Serena’s friends all had different answers. She says “One defined slashers as movies with masked killers murdering groups of people with or without reason. Another suggested slashers are horror films which have the killer battle the Final Girl (and now boy) archetype at the end…Hell, Roger Ebert bluntly describes slashers as “dead teenagers movies.””

I first thought of John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978). However, according to Serena, Carpenter has stated that 1974’s Black Christmas inspired Halloween. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was also 1974. But then I thought back even further to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960).

Do We Have A Contender?

Serena continues… “The term that I think accurately sums up the slasher genre can be found in Carol J. Clover’s engaging novel, ‘Men, Women and Chainsaws.’ She states that slasher movies are horror films which have murderers that use weapons other than guns and have startling and sudden attacks registered from the victim’s point of view. If horror fans were able to agree with this term, that would mean the first slasher film was Alfred Hitchcock’s all-time classic, Psycho.” Well put, Serena!

Although Craven was influential in the horror movie genre, he could possibly be credited with the creation of Johnny Depp, but not necessarily “slasher” films.

What do you think the first slasher film would be?


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