Slasher by Allison Moore and Horror as Analogue
Slasher, a play by Allison Moore is playing at the Las Cruces Community Theater Oct 2nd-18th. Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. For more information visit The Las Cruces Community Theater.
by Ryan Johann Perry
Slasher flicks exist in an area of movie culture now saturated with irony and lacking the creative budget to truly reboot. They are films which unabashedly target their cipher on the violence, gore and fear that occurs within the margins of our news broadcasts, in the periphery of economic woes and religious debate. These are stories that rarely occupy a footnote to larger 'national' conversations about constitutional rights, mental health, or some other vacuous ethical discussion. But they are stories that harken back to a primal fear many avoid at all costs.
Fans of slasher films see and enjoy the set pieces, the rules and the inevitable, horrific ending. Despite the formulaic nature of slasher films, fans enjoy them for varying reasons. Like blast beats in black metal, and extreme sports, it is not so much an acquired taste as it is a test of a willingness, of ones mettle, to witness something viscerally fatiguing yet voluntarily approached through headphones and cinemas.
This volunteerism in the culture of slasher film fandom upsets many. Whether it be the evangelicals, who view these films as gateways to Antoney Lavey, or the progressives, who see these films as prisms by which they can deride the supposed exploitative, misogynistic, nihilist aspects of these films as some corollary to the decline of society at large. These reactions are part of the appeal of slasher films, their goal being to upset, trigger and shake viewers. This is built into their very design.
Such ideas and more are the ventricles of play Slasher, performed October 2nd through 18th at the Las Cruces Community Theater. Written by Allison Moore and directed by David Edwards, the play is an ironic, comedic and cerebral homage to the slasher flick, albeit twice removed and distant. Much like the characters in Scream, there is a hysterical self awareness in the writing. The play spoils the all too human plot lines, disturbing the suspended reality and inherent knowing of where all this is going.
Slasher is not the now-standard trope of a movie in a movie, but rather it is a play about a movie: Bloodbath, which serves to undress the slasher film, and by doing so make it comedic. It is comedy which is the side effect of fear – in this case, the fear of approaching the slasher genre sans irony. The laughter comes from a tongue in cheek cleverness, the denouement has the obligatory gore, but there is something missing. The horror. Horror as a method by which we can view ourselves, horror by which we can approach certain distasteful subjects.
The closest we get is a plot line involving a drug dependent, feminist, 'disabled' mother and the way in which she drains her daughters emotionally and physically. The triumvirate of the Mckinney family – mother, two daughters (played by Gail Wheler, Savannah Rossseau and Kerrigan Sivils, respectively) is the most organic aspect of the play. Their relationship is the true horror, of familial dependency and guilt, that carries through and into the parallel plot – the filming of Bloodbath. This family relationship was played for laughs, competing with the more obvious laughs that surrounded the filming of Bloodbath.
In the play, Bloodbath is a film written and directed by Marc Hunter, played by Danny Wade, an Austin hipster who seems to craft slasher flicks and non-subtle pick-up lines with abandon. Danny Wade is a giant, (not literally, but he is a big motherfucker!), whose creeping eyes are noticeable from the back of the theater. Wade looms and lurches in his scenes and his inevitable turn becomes more threatening as we see his intentions and vision take form. When Marc Hunter describes the villain in Bloodbath, we see his understanding of repression and internal violence and can extrapolate how such a person can be created by the evangelicals and progressives who denounce them, and who appear throughout Slasher.
Peripheral characters are Jody Joshi, played by Joel Fisk and a plethora of characters played by Tory Castillo. Jody Joshi is the modern slasher fan, obsessed with cinema and cinematography, seeking to simply be involved in a film, and perpetually wearing a beanie. His character is the naivete that every slasher film needs, the one that hopes without realizing hope as an admission of defeat.
Tory Castillo plays pretty much everyone else, and she swift changes and pops out as an assortment of disparate characters. Castillo hearkens back to golden age character actors like Lucille Ball, emerging in scenes as a wholly different person and injecting varying personalities fluidly and entertainingly over the course of an hour and a half.
Slasher seeks to create the atmosphere of stark houses, drive-in's and cabins that are the architecture of many slasher films, but draws both attention and light to itself in a very modern way. The aperture eliminates the shadows of the play, of the characters, and turns them into parody. Modern horror movies are either speculative interpretations of real events or are winking at you the whole way through. Slasher winks and open carries the Chekhovian gun through the whole piece. The witticism and irony of Allison Moore's script prevents the visceral reaction that is the appeal of slasher films from ever occurring, equalizing areas that are ripe for vivisection and juxtaposition.
Self awareness in art and life creates stasis, from which theater has a chance of slashing through. This stasis is our new analogue to horror.
Slasher will be performed at the Las Cruces Community Theater Oct 2nd – 18th.