In the US: Fridays, 9pm ET, Chiller
In the UK: Not yet acquired
Look left. Look right. Look left again. What do you see?
Another US cable network making scripted TV shows, that's what. It's all Netflix's fault apparently, with its $5bn content budget forcing cable to up its game to compete.
It's got to be good, right? More choice for the consumer n'all? Certainly, we've had some good results from the likes of SundanceTV, History, WGN America and more.
But as we've seen with the likes of Crackle, WE tv, the Playstation Network, etc, there appears to be only a certain amount of talent around, both in production and commissioning, and they've already been used up. When you're starting from scratch as these networks are, you almost have to reinvent everything and if all the good people are already occupied elsewhere, you're going to be left with the inexperienced and less talented to do that.
Slasher is I think the best example of this problem so far. A Canadian-American co-production, it is the first venture into scripted TV by horror channel Chiller and is basically a distillation of every slasher movie and TV show you've ever seen, made by people who want to homage but don't have any real idea how to create something new.
It starts in the 80s with a figure wearing Zoom's mask from The Flash visiting a house at Halloween (stop me if you've heard this one before…). There he carves up a family with a great big knife, leaving only the baby daughter alive.
Fast forward to the present day and the grown-up daughter (Katie McGrath from Merlin and Dracula) returns to her home town with her husband (Brandon Jay McLaren from Graceland) and indeed her home, as she decides it's a cunning plan to move back into her parents' old house. Wouldn't you know it - no sooner does she do so then a series of copycat murders start occuring, performed by someone dressed just like her parents' killer, who is still in jail.
Visiting the bad man in question to find out more,
ClariceKatie learns that maybe her parents weren't as innocent as she thought, having filmed all kinds of sex tapes in their basement with various members of the local community. Were they being punished for their sins? And are the new murders similar punishment for those who would commit one of the Se7en seven deadly sins?
Slasher is intensely stupid at pretty much every level. McLaren is a freelance journalist but gets made editor-in-chief of the local newspaper, which was instituted by a bunch of go-getting youngsters from scratch. That happens all the time, obvs. McGrath, in turn, is an artist who wants to open an art gallery. Because if you want to make the big bucks, small town art galleries are where it's at, aren't they? McGrath discovers all those hidden video tapes in her parents' entirely dust-free basement after nearly 30 years because they've been cunningly hidden until now behind a piece of cardboard. She doesn't even have a reason for visiting the mean murderer in the first instance - she just goes to see him. Because when you're moving house and setting up a new business, that's the thing you do first, isn't it? After getting the utilities set up, obviously.
You'll be wondering if she decides to move out of town once the killings start. Have a think about that one.
Anyway, as well as the sheer lack of originality and terrible writing on display, we also face the low budget, low rent cast of the average co-prod. The almost entirely Canadian cast gets 10/10 on the Maple Syrup-ometer by containing not just one Being Erica alum in the former of McLaren, but also Erica herself, Erin Karpluk. But since cash apparently doesn't stretch to having a dialect coach, most of them can't even say 'about' without making it rhyme with 'loot'. Meanwhile, I think McGrath manages to get out only one line in 10 without sounding like she's auditioning for a remake of Father Ted.
Like all those early originals for the Sci-Fi channel, TV Land et al, Slasher is unchallenging comfort food for its target audience. As the show's web site says itself: "Slasher is a mystery/horror/thriller. Think Friday the 13th meets And Then There Were None." It gives horror fans exactly what they want, which isn't really things that horrify - it's a list of tropes from every horror movie ever made that they can check off as they recognise them.
That set-up's a bit Halloween. That punishment for sexual transgression must be Friday The 13th. That outfit looks a bit Hellraiser. That scene's a bit like Silence of the Lambs.
Check, check, check, check.
However, as a piece of drama, rather than a pub quiz for horror nerds, it's dismal. Just don't go there.
- March 14, 2016: What have you been watching? Including Flaked, The Intern, Lucifer and Billions
The TV I watched in the week ending Monday 14th March 2016