In a fun bit of personal serendipity, I finished the second, revised, and expanded edition of J.A. Kerswell’s The Teenage Slasher Movie Book the same day I got see John Carpenter’s 1978 classic Halloween for the first time on the big screen, in the new 4k remaster, no less. Made for only $300,000, Halloween changed the game for horror. It may not have technically been the first slasher, but it certainly launched the boom of the 1980s. Funny enough, Kerswell and I each saw our first slasher movie at the age of twelve and it was Halloween II for both of us.
Critically speaking, outside of Halloween, the slashers of the golden age (1978-1984) were essentially a step up from porn. Siskel and
Ebert famously attacked Friday the 13th multiple times on their TV show. But the money rolled in, and given the advanced box office numbers the new Halloween, the slasher is far from dead.
Kerswell’s excellent and lovingly written tome is a gorgeous and colorful, oversized book that charts the slasher from its deepest roots to its current status. The main focus of the book is the aforementioned golden years, 78-84, but the overview post-84 is fairly extensive and spans the globe. Nearly every page features classic posters, many international, and with asides and reviews of the genre’s high points. Not only that, Kerswell gives body counts, box office numbers…everything you could need to know!
As a long time slasher fan, I felt pretty knowledgeable about the genre, but Kerswell digs deep and offers up titles I’d never heard of and gave me a perspective on others I’d long assumed were probably not worth my time. As a result, I finished the book with an extensive list of slashers to track down and maybe a couple I need to rewatch with some fresh eyes.
Aside from a wealth of knowledge, though, The Teenage Slasher Movie Book is an entertaining and fun read. J.A. Kerswell approaches his subject in an open and un-cynical way and when he does have to go negative, it’s always fair. Put this book on your reading list.