Slasher - Season 1, Episode 1: "Pilot" TV Episode Review
Written by Giuseppe Infante
Directed by Craig David Wallace
Written by Arron Martin
2016, 42 minutes, Rated TV-MA
Episode premiered on March 4th, 2016
Katie McGrath as Sarah Bennett
Brandon Jay McLaren as Dylan Bennett
Steve Byers as Cam Henry
Slasher is the first scripted series from the cable channel Chiller, one of the rare networks dedicated to the macabre. For several months now, the marketing campaign has been hyping up the show with promotional trailers during every commercial break. I do love this channel, as they offer an alternative to SyFy and- well, it’s really the only other network to cater to our breed of cinephiles. Although at times the programming can be weak, it makes up slack by providing themed marathons (there is a slasher subgenre event coming up in honor of the new show), retro cult films on “Throwback Thursday”, and new premieres on Fridays. Accompanying these horror gems and cheesy D-movies are fantastic classic series like Friday the 13th: The Series, Tales from the Darkside, The X-Files, Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. My expectations for Slasher were not very high, so when I viewed the pilot episode, I’m happy to report I was interestingly pleased with what I saw.
The opening scene to Slasher definitely coaxes viewers to continue the episode. Without spoiling too much, the show opens with an appalling murder scene on Halloween night. Flash forward thirty years, Sarah Bennett (Katie McGrath) and her husband, Dylan (Brandon Jay McLaren), move back to her childhood town, Waterbury. She is opening up an art gallery, while he has a new job as an editor for the local newspaper. The couple move into the house where the murders took place, and they become the "talk of the town." This small town's eerie yet colorful characters are reminiscent of the inhabitants of a little show called Twin Peaks (we'll take a trip back to the Red Room real soon). Upon Sarah's arrival to Waterbury, murders start occurring by a copycat, mimicking the garb worn by the original killer, referred to as the Executioner. After confronting one of the main protagonists, her parents' past begins to unravel clues to the murderer and an array of dark secrets hidden by Waterbury's residents.
The elements of this program are borrowed from several differing genres. The slasher ingredient obviously comes straight out of late 20th Century horror films. But the show has dramatics and goes beyond kills. Characters are complex in Waterbury, and they swiftly develop during the pilot episode. You can bet your ass there will be a serial narrative arc emergent over Season 1's eight episodes. There are also echoes from Silence of the Lambs (no not cannibalism, ya sick bastard), but the dynamic relationship between Hannibal Lector and Clarice Starling. Like Clarice, Sarah visits her parents’ murderer in prison several times, and she gains and loses after each outing. Secrets lead to mystery and suspense, and keep that tone. There is a hindering on comedy, which is a bonus in this instance. For a show like Ash Vs. The Evil Dead, comedy works; in Scream Queens, it’s an epic fail. Combining the smorgasbord of elements composes a pleasant brew of contemporary horror fit for the small screen.
Along with an interesting plot and conflict, the show is beautifully shot and the actors are straight faced and serious. The filming location is a suburban town, in correspondence with Mother Nature for scenes in the wooded area. The vivid images of lush green forests, town streets, back alleys, striking homes and the customary bloodshed are clean, clear and crisp. Scenes take place during both night and day; the dark scenes illumine the picture, preventing viewers from squinting just to see what the hell is moving in the shadows. The actors deadpan tone keeps the show from feeling too millennial, especially with the HD clarity 2016 technology provides. This television program has film-caliber quality and care, and it shows through the appearance of the pilot episode.
Although Slasher uses elements and tropes from its cinematic predecessors, the show’s eclectic blend of genre, straight, solid acting from the cast and carefully captured motion picture keep me invested in watching the next episode. Creator and writer, Aaron Martin, and director, Craig David Wallace, may be onto something rousing in a sea of dull horror programs. As each episode of the series arrives, chatter for it will arise and dictate if a second season is in the cards. The fact Martin and Wallace are writing and directing all eight episodes of Slasher shows the TLC involved in the creation. Let’s see what episode two, which is interestingly titled “Digging Your Grave with Your Teeth,” brings to the table.