For many horror fans, an eight-hour slasher film sounds like a fantastic idea– at least on paper. In practice, results have varied historically. MTV tried their hand in 2015 with Scream: The TV Series, a frustrating effort that never came anywhere near the quality of the ’90s meta-slasher film franchise it was loosely based on (a recent attempt at a series reboot was even more disappointing). That same year, a little Canadian anthology series titled Slasher quietly launched on the [now-defunct] Chiller TV network. Reviews for the first season were lukewarm, and the show seemed to struggle finding an audience initially.
Cut to 2017: Netflix acquired the rights to Slasher and released a second season with a new story and set of characters titled Slasher: Guilty Party. That season garnered a more enthusiastic response from horror fans overall, and the show was eventually greenlit for a third season set mostly in an apartment building (titled Slasher: Solstice). Director Adam MacDonald (Backcountry, Pyewacket) was tapped to helm all eight episodes, and the season premiered in May of this year. Now, let’s dig in…
First, let’s talk about what Slasher: Solstice does right (which is quite a bit):
- Characters. This series has a really stellar cast of characters (some played by actors from previous Slasher seasons). Throughout the eight episodes, most characters get a considerable amount of development– a feat not often achieved in typical 90-minute slasher flicks. There’s also quite a bit of diversity in the cast in terms of gender, age, race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. So, yay for that!
- Themes. Solstice tackles many serious issues like racism, xenophobia, sexism, and more. And while the show doesn’t go too deep into any of these themes, the writing and dialogue are fairly intelligent and thoughtful throughout (always a nice surprise for a slasher).
- Kills. The kills in this series are seriously icky. I have a pretty high tolerance for slashers, and even I got a bit squeamish watching some of these gruesome deaths play out. I’m usually more interested in characters and plot than creative kill effects, but this series has plenty to offer in all those aspects.
- Pacing. This is the area that slasher TV shows typically struggle most with, but overall, I thought Solstice handled pacing pretty well. The entire series is set during a 24-hour period– with occasional flashbacks included. Each 45ish minute episode covers a 3-hour period throughout the killing day. This is smart because it keeps the story from sagging, and it makes the deliberately-paced character realizations and chaos surrounding the situation unfold in a generally believable manner.
- Cinematography. Director Adam MacDonald knows what he’s doing, and it shows in Solstice. The series is beautifully shot– especially scenes in the main, neon-lit apartment building setting. He brings a stifling, claustrophobic aesthetic to those scenes in particular, and that really beefs up the show’s creepy paranoia factor.
Now, as far as critiques I have:
- Representation Type. Overall, this series handles representation better than most horror films/shows (especially racial and queer representation). However, I find it a bit problematic that the overall plot revolves around a narcissistic and opportunistic bisexual male character. There are so few positive representations of bisexual and pansexual individuals on television, and bisexual men especially are typically portrayed in the same stereotypical way that Solstice shows them. I also struggled with a sub-plot where the show seemed to equate asexuality with past traumatic experiences (*cringe*).
- Killer Reveal/Aftermath. One problem with ‘whodunit’ mystery-themed slashers is that once the killer– or killers– is revealed, the story can easily sag until the end. In a whodunit slasher film, that is typically only a danger during the last 15-20 minutes, so it’s not a huge deal. However, in a series like Slasher, that event plays out over a more extended time period. As a result, the show loses some steam in its final episode, and I started to tune out a bit at times around then. The motivation given for the killings is also questionable, but it was far from the worst kill motivation I’ve seen in a slasher film/show.
Overall, Slasher: Solstice makes a compelling case that slashers can work as television shows. And while the series didn’t quite ‘stick the landing’ for me in the end, it was still a hell of a ride that kept me engaged throughout. At its heart, this is a series about people from all walks of life learning to live together and treat each other with respect (or face the consequences).