This is the first in a series of articles highlighting the folks that made the golden age of slashers so great. Future articles will deal with actors, directors, and make-up wizards. I thought it best to start off by saluting the much maligned people that helped make slasher films so profitable at the box-office, the audience.
If you were a slasher fan during the late 70’s, early 80’s it helped to have a thick skin. N.O.W. not only protested outside theaters showing slashers, they also slandered the fans on the nightly news. Roger Ebert couldn’t write a review for a slasher without telling his readers about the “vicarious sex criminals” (I Spit on Your Grave) in the audience or bemoaning the party atmosphere and large crowds in the theater during showings of Prom Night and Friday the 13th part II. What Ebert never realized is the party atmosphere is what made viewing slashers in a theater so much fun. Those early slasher crowds were made up of different races, social classes, and ages but they could all come together and enjoy a good scary movie when the lights went down and the curtains opened. The critics and other intelligentsia could only look at the slasher audience as a dangerous unwashed mob that worshipped death at a bloody cinematic alter.
There were many different types of people in a slasher audience. The best audiences had several banshees, a few yellers, and at least one human spring. The banshees were usually college girls that screamed at the slightest false scare and really howled when the action got intense. I suspect these girls behaved in such a manner so their dates would hold them a little closer. The yellers shouted advice to the characters on screen, as if the actors could actually hear them and would deviate from the script because Tony Ray in the third row told them not to drop the knife or not to go up those dark stairs. The human spring is my all time favorite audience member. You can actaully see these folks sink lower and lower into their seats as the suspense on screen builds. When the scare finally hits, they spring at least two or three feet into the air. The human spring is fun to watch but can cause serious injury if they don’t land in their seat.
The slasher audience has never really died out. They will still turn out in droves for special occasions. My last encounter with a slasher audience was Freddy vs Jason. The party atmosphere made the whole experience feel like a reunion of old friends. It was like Father Time had reversed the hands of time. I was a little kid again gazing at the screen with awe and wonder while two anti-heroes made a bloody mess out of the cast.