Slasher movies are a horror staple. It's the sub-genre that continues to survive and constantly reinvent itself and is one of the most iconic. When you think of Horror you think of Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees which in itself proves it's longevity. In this interview we chat to Russell Hillman of Freaktown Comics who has brought the slasher to the graphic novel with his exciting new Kickstarter project, Slashermania, an 80's inspired, meta-narrative yet original story that is guaranteed to satisfy fans of machete-wielding maniacs and buckets of blood!
1. What can slasher fans expect from your upcoming graphic novel, Slashermania?
We've got ten slashers working their way through fifty teenagers, so a high bodycount of brutal, violent deaths is definitely on the cards. I'm hoping there will be a few laughs along the way too, mostly intentional ones. If it helps people learn to love slasher movies as much as I do, I'll be very happy. I just hope they enjoy it.
2. Slashermania is inspired by films such as Cabin in the Woods, what is it about meta horror that appeals to you?
I'm one of those annoying people who always wants to look behind the curtain, to see how things are done and why they work the way they do. That's why I end up getting lost down the internet rabbit hole that is TV Tropes, and why I love meta horror like Cabin in the Woods, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon and the Scream films. A good meta horror film will show you what the cliches are, what purpose they serve, how they work and why. Behind the Mask is especially good for this - the whole film tells you what is going to happen, and then it happens and not only is is still enjoyable, IT'S STILL SURPRISING.
3. You have come up with a complete soundtrack for the novel, why did you choose these particular songs and how do they fit within the narrative?
I always write to music, usually period-appropriate and character-appropriate music. It helps me set the mood mentally. I wanted a soundtrack that would evoke 1983 so I opted for a soundtrack of mostly punk and post-punk tunes. Even the poppier stuff like the Go-Go's and Josie Cotton have that new wave feel to them.
Some tunes are very much on the nose - a conversation about a character's sexuality is accompanied by the song Johnny, Are You Queer, and a scene of two stoned teenagers is backed with the pop reggae of Uptown Top Ranking. Other times it's an ironic counterpoint - there's a massacre near the end which I've matched up with the wonderful Boxerbeat by JoBoxers.
4. Tell us a bit more about the Slashermania Kickstarter Campaign?
I want some money.
The book is almost complete, the campaign will allow me to get the book physically published and start to recoup some of my initial outlay. Getting over 100 pages drawn and coloured isn't cheap - I won't say how much I've spent on it so far but I could have had a very nice holiday and a reasonably priced used car instead.
I've opted for a very basic campaign with very few extras - there's the book itself in digital and physical formats, a digital copy of the original script and pencils, and a few titles from my back catalogue.
5. What are your overall goals with the project?
To have fun, basically. I wanted to write something that would be as much fun to read as it was for me to write, and I wanted to write a slasher story on a larger scale than usual.
I'd like this to be the start of a run of slasher stories - I already have two other full scripts completed, a more traditional slasher tale set in a snowed-in high school, tentatively titled Shelter From the Storm, and a collection of 13 short stories called Slasher's Dozen. If they're successful, I'd love to turn this into an ongoing series.
6. What are your personal favourite slasher movies and why?
How long have you got?
In no particular order, the ones that spring to mind when you say "favourite slasher movies" would be the ones that really started it all, Black Christmas and Halloween, the best Friday the 13th films, part II and part 6, the best non-franchise film from the first golden era of the early eighties, My Bloody Valentine, the one that started it all for me, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, the meta fun of Scream, The Final Girls and Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, and the underrated 90s "classics" Urban Legend and Urban Legends: Final Cut.
I would write an Urban Legend comic book sequel for whatever tiny amount was offered to me. I'm plotting it anyway for my own amusement, and I can guarantee you one of the grossest death scenes ever. Get me those rights and I'll write the hell out of it.
7. Slashermania is a collaborative project, are the images created by Ron Joseph, Jake Isenberg and CJ Camba representative of how you envisioned the story/characters when writing it?
Ron and Jake drew the first third of the book, and then CJ took over after Ron started doing work for IDW. Ron designed the main cast based on my descriptions, and they're all so much better than I could have imagined them. One of the greatest joys when writing comic books is seeing your words turned into art. I couldn't be happier with what they've done.
8. What do you think makes a good slasher?
Slasher movies are very formulaic, but that's not as restrictive as you might think. You take the basic elements of a killer, frequently masked, and their victims, and you twist them and you polish them and you turn them on their head until you get them to do what you want. Murder mystery? Terror Train and Scream have got that covered. Comedy? Bride of Chucky and The Final Girls. Gore? The Hatchet series has enough of that for any horror fan.
A good slasher is any one that takes the formula and presents it entertainingly. It doesn't need to reinvent the wheel or win Oscars, it just needs to be 90 minutes or so of fun.
9. Which characters did you enjoy writing for the most?
It's the big writing cliche, but whichever one I was writing at the time. The Unknown Doctor's medical mayhem, Todd and Sanguine's twisted daytime TV pleasantries and the March Hare's stream-of-consciousness weirdness were all a joy, as were the silent looming of Franklin Frost. Also, setting up my final girl and mapping her rise was a joy.
The most fun single moment was working out how to write the Virtuoso's strangulated scream. I had it in my head, but I didn't know how to get it on paper. So I sat at my computer and made a bizarre noise over and over again until I finally knew how to spell RRRRRRAAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHAAAAAAIIIIIIEEEEEE!
Thank you so much to Russell for taking his time to speak with us. You can support Slashermania on Kickstarter by clicking the link below. The Campaign officially ends on the 13th September.
Interview by: Hayley Alice Roberts & Caitlyn Downs.