One of my biggest guilty pleasure when it comes to horror cinema is the slasher sub-genre. I’m not just talking about famous franchises like Halloween, Friday the 13thand A Nightmare on Elm Street: there are so many low-budget slasher flicks from the 80s, so many ultra-violent modern slasher movies that I love despite them not being objectively good.
Nowadays is, unfortunately, quite hard to come across a good number of decent slashers, which have been replaced in popular culture by the trend of PG-13 supernatural horror movies. Blumhouse, which is always one step ahead when it comes to understand the market and mass audience, recently tried their hand on the sub-genre with the Happy Death Day films: albeit quite different from the formula, those movies had loads of slasher-esque elements to them.
When Thriller, a Blumhouse produced modern slasher, dropped on Netflix a few days ago, I got genuinely excited. Could this be the first good mainstream slasher in years?
I can’t hold my answer to that question any longer: Thriller might be the worst slasher I’ve ever seen and one of the worst studio horror films of all-time. In the next few paragraphs, I’ll do my best to explain why Thriller sucks, why it represents a new low in the once-glorious history of slasher films.
Continue reading and check my final grade below…
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The story is very typical for a slasher movie, which isn’t a bad thing at all: a prank to a kid in South Central Los Angeles ends with the accidental death of one of the pranksters. However, they decide to blame the victim of the prank who ends up in prison. Cut to 4 years later and we get to see those kids grown up, about to finish high-school: their victim returns home during their high-school Homecoming weekend and people start being killed.
The opening scene is one of the worst I’ve ever seen: it features 4 (four!) fake jump-scares within 12 (twelve!) seconds, dumb exposition (“oh, the one who died was my sister!”), god-awful acting and obnoxious and unfitting dubstep music that’s overbearingly loud.
It’s worth noting that all the kids involved in the prank, including the victim, are African-American. Four years later, when we follow the same clique going through the last few days of high-school, we notice something strange (to say the least).
Every single character in the movie is either African-American or South-American, there are no white people! There are no white people in the streets, there no white people in shops or school. Where the hell does this movie take place? Is Thriller set in some sort of parallel universe? Is it based on Donald Trump’s worst nightmare?
It’s pretty apparent what first-time writer/director Dallas Jackson was going for: he wanted to subvert the slasher cliché of white people being both victims and villains in the sub-genre, kind of what the shitty movie Bright tried to do for body-cop films. However, his attempt fell on his face for one specific reason: Thriller is extremely racist and offensive.
Aside from the terrible performances given by every single actor involved, all the characters are stereotyped to the extreme. They all speak broken English, their mannerism is comedically over-the-top, they all have guns or weapons that they bring to school… are you serious? Who allowed for such an offensive, clueless piece of garbage to be made?!
Speaking of “characters”, Thriller features the worst dean ever put on film: RZA (yes, the rapper), plays the school principal and he can’t say a single line without spitting some stereotypical slang and looking like a twat. At one point, to show how tough he is, he takes one of the students to his office and beats the shit out of him. What?! What kind of school is this?
I guess it’s one of those schools where one of the teacher dresses like a prostitute and has sex with senior students without any of the parents (or the school board) questioning anything… yes, this also happens in this atrocious movie.
Besides being extremely racist, Thriller is, in fact, very inappropriate in regard to sexuality. There is an entire sublot involving a famous rapper and a recently-turned-18-year-old girl (by far the most annoying person in the whole movie) dirty talking to each other and having sex: this movie spends elongated scenes just to explain why this is fine and isn’t statutory rape! Are you for real?
Also, the awful child actors at the beginning didn’t look older than 10 years old, so how come they look 30 years old 4 years later, when they’re supposed to be 18? Who did the casting? Seriously, did any of the people involved in this atrocious product give a shit?
Setting all of these unbearable elements aside, a slasher movie should feature at least some satisfying and gory kills. Aside from a very uninspired one, all the kills in Thriller happen off-screen. I’m not joking: in this slasher there’s only one kill that the audience can witness, everything else happens off the effing screen!
Yet, the comedic breaks – that most slashers feature – only consist of burp and fart jokes, the laziest, least funny kind of humour you can come up with. Even when the script tries to insert some subtle jokes, these attempts fall flat due to the characters lacking any depth and the acting being terrible.
The ending of the movie – which I’m not going to spoiler, although you shouldn’t watch Thriller – is so stupid, it features a plot twist that makes no sense and panders to the lowest common denominator of people. It’s so insulting and manipulative that it should’ve never been allowed.
At this point of the review – and if you’re familiar with this website – you might wonder why I didn’t talk about the clichés in Thriller. The thing is that, with this supposedly being a slasher flick, you should expect to have some clichés: some jump-scares, a group of teenagers, a childish setting (prom night, in this case), and so on.
The fact that Thriller is cliched doesn’t bother me per se, it doesn’t make it a bad movie. What makes it a pathetic flick is that every cliché is poorly executed, every character is just unlikeable and stereotyped, every line of dialogue is forced, every social situation is awkward and offensive and racist.
Speaking of poor presentation, Thriller barely qualifies as a film; the filmmakers just put the camera down and set the focus: there are no wide shots (so the world feels narrow), the sets are cheap (they look like the ones from a soap opera), the camera movements are limited to shot-reverse-shot, the editing doesn’t add any meaning to the story, the cinematography is flat, the colour palette is boring, the extras aren’t given directions (so they smile and look at the camera many times), the lighting is wrong and shines unnaturally on the actors’ faces…
You should know I’m not fond of Blumhouse and their movies, but they still release at least one or two great horror films every year. Besides, 90% of their movies are at least watchable, even some of the ones I criticised hard in the past: Thriller, however, represents a new low for studio horror and for slashers. It’s not even so bad it’s good: this is an incompetent, pathetic and boring attempt at a scary movie that feels offensive and insulting. It doesn’t have redeeming qualities nor aspects I can point at and list as positives: the only reason why I’m not giving it 0/10 is that at least some basic rules of filmmaking (such as the rule of quarters) are respected. Besides that, Thriller is truly the death of slasher movies.
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