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Monday, November 6, 2017

TV Review: Slasher: Guilty Party (2017), Justice, Death and Punishment of Sin

"There are some people on the forks in the road of life who persistently choose the wrong one."
Starring: Rebecca Liddiard, Paula Brancati, Melinda Shankar
Created By: Aaron Martin
Streaming/Airing On: Netflix
Release Date: October 17, 2017
Creator Aaron Martin cites a William Faulkner quote as the core for the second season of his hit TV show, Slasher. "The past is never dead. It's not even the past." This quote is a perfect reflection for this season as everyone has something to hide. Though the "guilty party" has tried to forget them, those secrets have marked them for death. The premise revolves around the reunion of a group of young adults five years after the death of one of their fellow co-workers. They return to the scene of their last meeting that has now become the home to a small community of people that have chosen to seclude themselves in the middle of nowhere. Though the group initially welcomes them into their home, they find themselves at war with the young adults over their overtly apparent secretiveness and the reasons for their sudden return. 
After a strong first season, Slasher returns following a clever formula that true classic horror fans will find quite appealing. From the classic camping ground setting taken straight from Friday the 13th to the cheesier lines reminiscent of films like I Know What You Did Last Summer, it could have been easy for this show to fall flat due to its plot and the many other generic convention it preys upon to keep things familiar. However, the show provides much more insight into the lives of the "guilty party" to keep everyone watching. There's mystery, suspense and gore all done to a certain degree, but it never seems to be done in vain as everything seemingly occurs for a reason: to keep things fresh. Some tropes are flipped on their heads. This includes killing the assumed "final girl" in the first episode and exposing not only her backstory, but those other seemingly important characters only to have them brutally murdered within in the same episode. Though the horrific, teen "whodunnit" has been done time-and-time again, we typically really get a sense of who unlucky victims are outside of their character tropes. Not only is the cast of this story diverse in the sense of their sexuality, but their motives are tested in ways that make everyone question not only why these people are doing what they're doing, but what we would do if we were in their shoes. 
Flipping between scenes from the characters' past and those of the present, the most interesting aspect of the show this season is just how much the past tends to reflect itself in the present. Death, retribution and justice are some of the primary themes of the show, but interestingly this is depicted primary through the character development rather than physical motifs or red herrings. One of the characters states that it's quite easy for someone to kill someone under the circumstances, which is not just a reflection of the blood on his own hands, but just how easy it comes to the other characters in the show as they're pushed closer to their limits by a senseless killer. Characters are slitting one another's throats, locking friends out in the cold, manipulating one another, and sleeping with each other's significant others all because they feel threatened or fearful of something. However, most of that fear stems from something that previously happened to them, which is why there's an exuberant amount of pathos in the show, regardless of how they choose to act. Even though they have chosen to let their secrets lie and move on, these people are unconsciously letting their past define their behavior in the present. In a sense, the past is repeating itself because they chose to run away instead of facing their consequences head on. Even the way in which their bodies are found reflect the way crime in which their crimes were committed. One character choose to ignore her part in someone else's dead and tried to run away again once the bodies start to pile up. After an encounter with the killer, her body is then found with her eyes gouged out with one hand over an ear and the other over her mouth. This is not only a direct reference to turning her turning a blind eye to an evil comitted in the past and the "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" ideology, but a symbol for a punishment that's seemingly fitting for that specific crime. Another character assaults another character in the past. Not only is he visibly assaulted late on, but his body is found with the dead body of the woman he assaulted on top of him as a symbol for another punishment seemingly fitting the crime.  While the only characters that seemingly atone for their sins are the survivors even they have to pay at some point for letting them go on for so long in the first place, which makes us question the motives of the show itself, amongst other existential concept. Who determines what sort of sins should be punished? And with what crime? Does the idea of karma truly exist and if so, to what extent should we expect to be punished once we're found out? For example, even after the Final Girl turns herself in for the crimes she's committed, there's still the lingering threat of death surrounding her. Even one of the characters seemingly with the least involvement in the main crime whose felt the most remorse over the past five years is still horrendously punished. And for what reason? 
Season One of Slasher dealt with sin in quite an interesting fashion. People were murdered off in accordance to the Biblical sin that they represented and that was that.  Though audience members weren't obviously rooting for the killer by any means, there was a lack of emotional connection to the cast. Their ends justified the means to the killer, and even to the audience at times, but there was no sense of an ethical discourse due to the fact there was no exploration into the motives of these people's supposed crimes to an emotional extent. Though there were basic ethical obligations to be held because most of people are decent human beings, in Guilty Party, the ethical discourse present in the form of excellent character development is what makes the audience wonder whether or not the characters were truly getting their "just desserts."
Obviously with shows like Scream airing on mainstream television networks like MTV, the idea of a long-form slasher seems a bit contrived. The question that remains in the back of all of our heads whenever this kind of idea is proposed is how does the creator prepare to deal with longevity of the show if a majority of it's cast is killed by the season finale? Aaron Martin has the perfect solution to this problem with this creative anthology that serves to both transcend and highlight the very genre it's paying homage to.

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