Analyzing Slasher: Guilty Party

I just finished binge watching season 2 of Slasher and wow. Fair warning spoilers abound for both seasons of this series but I highly recommend it to any horror fans – especially those who appreciate the slasher subgenre and diversity on and behind the scenes. (I have to say it still feels sad to realize if a show creator is intentionally putting multiple queer people in a show they are probably gay themselves. But at least Martin is pushing for an inclusive storyline).

*****SPOILERS AHEAD*****

Creator Aaron Martin clearly likes to show that everyday people are all capable of unspeakable cruelty when driven to a breaking point. Most of the characters in The Executioner are guilty of something whether it be Dylan being warped by pride and professional desire or Sarah’s drawn out stabbing of Cam at the conclusion of the series.

The intro credits seemed so similar to American Horror Story it couldn’t be coincidental and indeed it wasn’t – the show runners admit to AHS being an influence on Slasher and its anthology aspirations. But any misgivings I have about season one are forgivable – it was still a twisty and engaging ride. Plus this cameo happens in the last episode:

I eagerly launched myself into season two and found it hard to tear myself away.

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Guilty Party at first glance feels like the videogame Until Dawn – a group of friends trek into an isolated woods in the winter to try and put a terrible chapter in their past to rest at last. This article on the Televixen sums up many of the plot points that made me love this season and find it far superior to the first.

The twists aren’t even the best part of this season in the conventional sense – it’s how the show slowly pulls back more and more layers of previous scenes until the truth and our feelings becomes increasingly murky and muddled. The way the show toys with our allegiances and sense of morality is delightful and a clever, refreshing way to explore this type of story. Not to mention the ways the series makes us care about so many of the characters. Our sense of empathy for the people in this situation makes the gory deaths even more painful to watch.

The circumstances surrounding the death of Talvinder is a great example of this. In the very first scene of the show we are almost led to believe this group of teenagers is in some bizarre cult where they consistently put each other on trial. Then we realize it’s just Talvinder they are putting on trial. We are led to believe they purposefully tried to murder her before learning her death came from a freak accident when she injured her head while running away from them. When they realize she’s still alive but horrifically injured they take turns bashing her head in with a rock. During this process they go from feeling angry at her dying words (which sound like they could be a lie till we realize later are true), to despair, and finally back to anger at how difficult it is to kill her again. Once she is finally dead, we realize none of the friends in this group could be the slasher – their disgust and incompetence at killing says as much. We also see through flashbacks Talvinder’s overwhelming desire to belong and fit in – like another character, Glenn, she is trying to build her castle brick by brick. In early scenes we just see her manipulative side but in later flashbacks we realize there is an incredible vulnerability there, coupled with a naive ability to make mistakes and burn bridges in misguided attempts to self preserve. She isn’t perfect but she isn’t supposed to be – she was only 20 years old.

Another powerful example of how this show builds layers is how we see Noah. And it is hard to discuss Noah without also discussing Glenn. Glenn is an example of the correct way to create a gay villain.

Even more so than the first season, Guilty Party shows a variety of queer characters seamlessly blended into the story. Renee and Antoine are opposite gender gay soulmates. They have built their isolated intentional community together after forsaking the cycle of empty heartache they experienced in the city. Antoine is revealed to have some skeletons (one literal) in his past but is generally a good person in the Slasher universe.

Glenn, on the other hand, is revealed to be a former inmate who pushed another inmate into a nonconsenual relationship. Glenn then stalks that man when he’s released from prison.When the man finally rejects Glenn’s advances Glenn murders him in a fit of rage. In the present, Glenn stalks Noah to an isolated place and brutally rapes him in the final scene of episode four, shouting that if Noah won’t scream on cue he will give him something to scream about. The scene and the aftermath are difficult to watch, as is Noah’s struggles to get himself clean and rested afterwards. At those moments we hate Glenn (now revealed to be Benny) and feel for Noah. Thinking Benny is the killer after learning this information, Renee snaps and tortures him with a a box cutter. Thus we see a lesbian torture a gay rapist & murderer mainly for misplaced revenge for the murder of her gay male husband.The torture is difficult if not impossible to watch at times – including a moments when we see her casually peel off strips of his flesh before finally slitting his throat.

Meanwhile we are treated to a new flashback from the night of Talvinder’s death. Noah, feeling led on by Talvinder and insulted by her in front of his friends, grabs her and tries to rape her in front of the group. The friends are in such a state of shock it takes them a few moments to react and throw Noah off before he can actually execute the horrendous act. In the present day Noah encounters the killer and is roasted nearly to death – dying a few hours later from choking on his own blood. It’s a brutal 24 hours for Noah but when we are shown his actions towards Talvinder we have to ask ourselves do we still feel bad? Was it an eye for an eye, or was happened to him worse than what he tried to do? Or do two wrongs not make a right? Or is it different only because he tried to do something terrible vs. Glenn who actually accomplished it?

As for the killer’s reveal I do and don’t like the ending to the show. It is an interesting twist that sort of reinforces the group’s true sin: even if what happened to Talvinder was accidental, framing their fellow camp counselor Owen for her death was a conscious decision. The Judith/Owen/Wren reveal plays on the Friday the 13th series in a fun way even if I hate the feeling of being tricked.

This show is queer, diverse, and delightfully gory. I can only hope they get to do a season three.

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