Sorry it’s taken me so long in coming up with a new article for this blog, especially considering that I honestly have no good excuse for my tardiness aside from writer’s block and getting myself tied up with other goings-on in my life (work, family, my novels, etc.). However, after noticing what’s been going on in the entertainment world over the years, one question has been on my mind that I’ll admit to being painfully slow on the draw in asking, yet have nonetheless wanted to ask all the same for quite some time:
Ever notice just how many old franchises have received—and, in some cases, will be receiving—either full-blown reboots or some other kind of revival?
I’m sorry, but while I myself have been guilty of adding fuel to the fire from 2012 to 2015 with my reimagining of Bloody Roar, I’ve since become more and more disenchanted by the year with this whole trend in the entertainment industry in which a certain production studio brings back an intellectual property from the past to create a new motion picture, television series, or other form of entertainment for modern audiences. Granted, doing so—when handled with a healthy amount of finesse and respect towards the original property—can be a great way to introduce those who didn’t grow up knowing said franchise to its characters and themes. On a similar note, this whole trend of IP recycling isn’t exactly a brand new one that only started rearing its head at the very beginning of this decade or even the last. Comic books, for instance, have undergone such a treatment over several decades with each new generation of readers, writers, and illustrators that comes along as an effort to keep the characters and, subsequently, the brand alive for that generation’s entertainment. I can say the same for popular video game lines like Super Mario Brothers, The Legend of Zelda, Resident Evil, Final Fantasy, Mortal Kombat, Killer Instinct, and so forth in that the developers of these games and the franchises that they’ve spearheaded continue to develop new and oftentimes more advanced games as a means of building on the legacies that the original titles had established back in their respective time. Even so, I swear that there have been times in which the people responsible for bringing back these old IPs did so either primarily or, worse yet, solely for the money. Now, to be fair, every intellectual property—regardless of what form it takes or whether it be a stand-alone title or the beginning of an entire brand—exists, has existed, and will exist for the sake of making money for the people behind it. That’s just conventional wisdom talking. Still, I’d at least like to think that it takes more than just monetary desire to produce a good product. After all, some of the most successful IPs ever made, no matter which form they’ve taken—be they literary, cinematic, televised, or interactive—have had plenty of time, effort, and especially love dedicated to them to see to their creation, and even though some of these properties haven’t aged as well as they could have over the years, one can nonetheless see the care that the creators had put into them prior to their ultimate production.
That being said, what’s with all these remakes, belated sequels, adaptations of decades-old properties to other forms, and so on? Have these studios really run out of ideas? Is creating a new property really that much of a risk for them? Are they just that desperate for a quick buck? Because look, I get it: Writing a new story is far from easy at times, and not all original properties are as successful as they otherwise could be, including the well-made ones. Nevertheless, how necessary is it for the entertainment industry to rely on the past to make money in the present and ensure a strong future? Let’s especially take into consideration that most remakes, reboots, remasters, reimaginings, retellings—whatever one wants to call them—aren’t even as good as the original version of the same product, much less any better. Sure, there are exceptions to this rule, such as when the initial product never lived up to whatever reputation it was trying to make for itself whereas the remake, on the contrary, did. The two Judge Dredd movies are a perfect example of this, what with 1995’s Judge Dredd with Sylvester Stallone having proven itself to be a critical flop while 2012’s Dredd with Karl Urban—while far from the financial success that critics and movie goers generally felt it deserved to be—nonetheless gained enough of a cult following to maintain the possibility of a sequel, even in the wake of its low theatrical gross. Such exceptions do nothing, however, to refute the notion that human beings like to experience new things, and in this case, that means reading, watching, and even listening to new stories. Plus, if one were to take a closer look at whatever books, movies, TV programs, video games, and so forth that humanity has produced over the course of its very existence, one can easily spot familiar elements in each of these products that one can use as the foundation upon which to create a brand new compelling story of his or her own. What makes each story feel different from the rest, however, is the unique personal spin its creator has put on it to make it stand out from others of its kind. Truth be told, this whole notion of premise establishment is only the start of producing a worthwhile story, and it’s ultimately said story’s execution that makes it memorable when all is said and done. However, if a tale’s idea manages to snag an audience member’s interest from the word go, then there’s at least a chance for it to succeed in captivating people’s minds and hearts for years to come.
It has become my belief as a writer over the years that every generation deserves its share of fresh new material to captivate their attention and that younger generations shouldn’t have to be cheated out of quality fiction to instead be made to grow up on carelessly rehashed versions of time-honored classics that fail to live up to the legacies that their original versions had established. Yes, there may still be room for readapted work here and there along the way, but such material shouldn’t have to be produced to the point where the masses are led to overlook and pass on new, creative ideas in favor of that which has already been around for some time. That being said, in this article and each of the subsequent entries in this latest intended mini-series of mine, I hope to take a genre or subgenre in modern film, television, literature, or gaming and deconstruct it in a way so as to show how aspiring creators can create their own stories in that specific category. In doing so, I hope to give fellow writers, official and aspiring alike, a method by which they can create their own properties that they in turn can have fleshed out into actual movies, TV programs, novels, and video games that the masses can come to enjoy for years to come. I furthermore intend to produce these articles as a means of teaching myself as an author to produce the kind of work that I believe the public deserves. After all, every writer is a student of the craft, and I’m no different from anyone else in learning it. Needless to say, I hope everyone who chances to read this gets something out of this entry and any and all that I happen to publish afterwards, regardless of whether or not they’ve had the good fortune of having their work translated into something for the eyes and ears of the general public.
All this in mind, let’s examine this whole notion by applying it to one of the most targeted subgenres of this whole reboot frenzy that’s been going on for so many years.
One particular type of film that’s been a favorite of movie fans for decades that Hollywood has been desperately trying to revive is the slasher flick, and seriously, why not? This theme amongst the horror genre has given audiences some of the most memorable villains in cinematic history. Be honest, folks…who can forget the likes of the dream-dwelling child killer Freddy Krueger with his signature razor-fingered glove, the supernaturally driven and resilient madman Michael Myers, or the predatory and nearly invincible revenant Jason Voorhees? Certainly nobody who’s seen the likes of A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, or Friday the 13th, that’s for sure, and it’s thanks to the massive cult following that each of these films and many others just like them have made their mark in pop culture. Unfortunately, Hollywood’s efforts in the past decade-plus to reinvigorate interest in this select style of film and its signature variety of antagonist has resulted in a number of poorly received reboots and sequels that, according to critics, fail to live up to the original. Many are the criticisms levied against these newer versions, from an overemphasis on blood, gore, and jump scares over suspense and genuinely unsettling atmospheres to the lack of character development and hence sincere sympathy for each of the antagonists’ intended victims. At other times, these movies try desperately to make audiences of their original counterparts invest themselves into them by copying the originals scene per scene and ultimately failing on account of the inevitability of viewers to draw comparisons between these scenes as they’d taken place in each version of the film. Such a direction further proves the futility of trying to reboot the story in the first place if the people behind it are only going to make bare minimal changes in their retelling and as such not put all that unique of a spin on it. This is especially true when said changes have little to no positive effect on the movie in the first place, specifically when it comes to smoothing out whatever flaws the original story may have had to begin with. Even changing the actor who portrays the movie’s villain can damage the reputation of a slasher movie reboot, regardless of how unintentional said damage may be. This is especially true in the instance of a more talkative slasher villain like Freddy Krueger and the first actor to portray him, Robert Englund, whom many a Nightmare on Elm Street fan consider to be—and understandably so—the definitive Springwood Slasher.
All this in mind, it baffles me as to why many movie studios still believe in reviving the slasher subgenre by trying to revive the popular decades-old brands that have made it so beloved to begin with. Sure, the remakes of these classic pictures may have garnered themselves a pretty penny when they first came out, but considering the backlash that each of these later films has received since their theatrical debut, one would think that the infamy connected to slasher film reboots would come to such a head that studios would find themselves pressed to reject the whole idea of remaking the classics and instead create new films to carry the subgenre into the future. Granted, the simplicity of this kind of film can easily be exploited to the point where one can end up creating something that’s so run-of-the-mill that it’ll bore even the most gore-crazed horror fan to tears. Even so, this very simplicity also works to this subgenre’s advantage in that storytellers can easily play around with the formula and put their own unique twists on their respective stories’ plots, protagonists, and especially antagonists.
Before I get ahead of myself, however, I find it only wise to bring up a few noteworthy areas from which a slasher movie can benefit or falter. One of these areas that I’ve already briefly mentioned, for example, is the film’s atmosphere—an aspect of fictional media that has given many a horror movie over the years the power to tingle the spines of audience members and in turn give said movies much staying power. It is within each of these specific films that the story starts out just like any other drama until things take a turn for the worse. Then, once they do, the grim realization that things aren’t what they should be soon settles in with the audience and grows steadily stronger with each new and disturbing sight, sound, and other sensation and occurrence that takes place following the initial turn of events up until the moment when things finally reach a resolution. Lamentably, many more recent films have forsaken the idea of establishing such a palatably grim atmosphere in favor of merely startling their viewers with cheap jump scares. True, the nature in which slasher villains strike their prey practically out of nowhere at times and dispose of them in decidedly brutal, gory, and all-around nightmarish ways more or less makes jump scares a necessary evil at times for the subgenre as a whole, but rarely—if, in fact, ever—has a good slasher film relied solely on the nowadays predictable spontaneity of the common jump scare. Rather, it takes the a dark, grim, and often bleak atmosphere to truly unsettle a movie watcher with its subtle undertones and creepy vibes to get under the subject’s skin and truly remind him or her of the gravity of the situation he or she is watching.
It’s also important for the writer to demonstrate different ways in which a slasher can murder his or her victims in order to keep the movie fresh and exciting from beginning to end. After all, if the antagonist were to simply kill each and every one of his or her victims in the same exact way time after time after time, he or she would quickly become calculable and dull as a murderer, thus making the movie boring and predictable in turn. Why else, then, would certain slashers rely upon a variety of methods to claim the lives of their prey, from using a different weapon here or there, tricking a hapless sot or two into an ambush, or even relying upon a spell of sorts or his or her own bare hands? They needn’t even be flashy kills necessarily, either, with gobs upon gobs of gore or otherwise rooted in a logic that lies outside the established rules of the story’s setting. Rather, the kills simply need to be different enough from one another to make the villain seem that much more versatile and unpredictable, thereby making him or her come off as more of a threat to those trying to thwart his or her killing spree and as such keeping the audience invested in the narrative at hand.
Something else that creators need to keep in mind when concocting a great slasher story is establishing characters with whom his or her audience can relate—not just the murderer himself or herself, but also his or her potential victims. Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s still important for slasher movies to get their viewers to understand why their antagonists are roaming about and ending people’s lives left and right. All the same, it cannot be emphasized enough that without a strong cast of identifiable and relatable characters for the killer to prowl upon with whom the audience can sympathize, a slasher movie’s antagonist in turn suffers in his or her role. Think about it: Slashers, whether they be supernatural or mundane in nature, are essentially monsters—beings whom we, as their stories unfold before us, are supposed to terrify us in one way or another. As such, how are we audience members supposed to fear them in the slightest when the stories they’re in don’t make us feel for or even care about the people the slashers stalk and kill? Worse yet, what if the characters whom the movies’ writers want us to support only come off as annoying, pitiful, or otherwise unappealing? Sure, certain audience members are going to want to root for the villains one way or another based on the “badass” antiheroic mystique that comes with their archetype, and many is the slasher victim who, prior to meeting his or her untimely end, is guilty of some form of morally questionable behavior. Even so, if a slasher’s fanfare comes based off all of his or her victims—potential and actual alike—being amoral, dim-witted, cowardly, irritating, or otherwise just plain repulsive or forgettable rather than the slasher himself or herself simply being charismatically monstrous, then there’s something notably wrong with the script to which the characters are adhering.
Then again, if there’s one definite cornerstone that every great slasher film has built itself upon, that cornerstone would most certainly be its antagonist. It only makes sense, too, seeing as the antagonist in this type of movie is the element that gives the entire subgenre its identity and the fact that slasher films generally follow the exploits of their villains far more so than they do their heroes, especially taking into consideration that many slasher film franchises have experienced a change in protagonist from one installment to the next. That being said, I won’t deny that creating a villain for a brand new slasher story can be a pretty daunting task for fear that one might end up rehashing the same old tired character tropes that audiences have seen over and over. Regardless, the whole process doesn’t have to be as hard as one might make it out to be, assuming that one understand the elements from which the time-honored slashers of yesteryear have been made. Here…let’s take a closer at some of them and find out what makes each of them so legendary.
Norman Bates (Psycho): The openly shy and mild-mannered owner and operator of the Bates Motel who is under the control of his possessive mother on account of artificially reconstructing her personality as an act of guilt after he’d killed her ten years prior to the events of the original film. Known for dressing up as his mother prior to claiming his victims’ lives (often with a kitchen knife), he himself is known for being the original mentally disturbed killer who changed the face of horror movies forever by moving the genre’s focus away from monsters and towards potentially real, mentally disturbed human beings. His story is likewise said to be the earliest example of a slasher film.
Leatherface (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre): A physically deformed, mentally handicapped, chainsaw-wielding murderer and cannibal who wears a mask made of human flesh (hence his name) and takes orders from his older, abusive/manipulative family members in the name of the family meat business. The creators if his film, Tobe Harper and Kim Henkel, based his character (as well as other details in the movie’s plot) on the crimes of real-life murderer and body snatcher Ed Gein and is also known as the unwitting founder of the “chainsaw dance,” one of the most iconic moments in horror history.
Michael Myers (Halloween): A masked hulk of a man often referred to as “The Shape” and “The Bogeyman” who began claiming victims at the tender age of six when a mysterious force began manipulating him through dreams and voice to kill his older sister Judith. He has since killed one hundred eleven people—the second-highest body count in slasher flick history people—and usually claims his victims’ lives with a simple carving knife, although he has been known to use a variety of weapons in his kills, including his own bare hands. Horror fans also know him for his signature pale-faced mask, his tendency to display the bodies of his slain prey for future victims to see for themselves, and his gifts of possess superhuman strength, stealth, endurance, and durability of an unknown limit, all of which make him the first supernaturally powered murderer in slasher history.
Jason Voorhees (Friday the Thireenth): A facially deformed and mentally handicapped camper at Camp Crystal Lake who was shoved off a peer by bullies one fateful day and drowned in Crystal Lake while two of the camp’s counselors were off having sex in the woods. His mother Pamela went off on a killing spree to avenge his untimely death, only to die herself at the hands of the sole survivor of her rampage. His mom’s death has since only further fueled his own desire for revenge along with his rage over his drowning as well as the immoral (e.g., sexually promiscuous) actions of his victims, and while he has handled many a weapon in his quest for vengeance and has even killed his victims with his bare hands, his weapon of choice is usually the very machete that Camp Crystal Lake counselor Alice Hardy had used to decapitate his mother. He is also superhumanly strong, quick (both on land and in the water), and durable and can suppress whatever pain is inflicted upon him. Similarly, he can regenerate any lost and damaged body tissue he may have at any given moment at an elevated rate, be resurrected via lightning and supernatural forces (psychic manipulation), and even switch bodies and even switch bodies and souls with certain victims to ensure his own survival. He is further known for his iconic hockey mask, which he only started to wear in Friday the 13th Part III, and having killed a total of 158 victims (including his version from the 2009 remake of Friday the 13th), the most career kills of any slasher villain as of this article’s posting.
Freddy Krueger (A Nightmare on Elm Street): The son of rape survivor Amanda Krueger (a.k.a. Sister Mary Helena), also known as the “bastard son of a hundred maniacs,” whose history of abuse and dismissal from many a foster home (allegedly on account of his psychopathic tendencies that he displayed even at a young age) eventually led him to become “The Springwood Slasher,” a title he received upon him killing twenty children until his victims’ parents ultimately had him burned to death inside a shack behind the power plant he once worked at. He is known for his ability to enter the dreams of his prey, change both his body and his surroundings as he sees fit, and bring about his victims’ demise in the real world upon killing them in their dreams—all of which were gifts he’d received from the Dream Demons following his initial death. He’s also known for his sadistic sense of humor and the consequential creativity of his kills, the burn scars on his face, and of course, his signature razor-fingered glove.
Pinhead (Hellraiser): The leader of the Cenobites, a race of amoral extradimensional beings (sometimes demons, depending upon which lore one follows) who resemble ritually mutilated humans and can only reach our reality via a schism in time and space as controlled by the opening and closing of an innocuous-looking puzzle box known as the Lament Configuration. Though not a slasher villain in the true sense of the term in spite of often being grouped together with the likes of the horror icons previously mentioned in this list, the aptly named Pinhead (also known as The Hell Priest in Clive Barker’s The Scarlet Gospels, the direct sequel to his original novel from which Hellraiser had been derived, The Hellbound Heart) and his “Order of the Gash” perform “experiments” in extreme sexual experiences on the humans whom they bring to Hell under the watchful eye of their leader, The Engineer.
Chucky (Child’s Play): A “Good Guy” brand doll possessed by on-the-run serial killer and voodoo practitioner Charles Lee Ray (a.k.a. “The Lakeshore Strangler”) who transfers his soul into said doll upon having Chicago homicide detective Mike Norris fatally shoot him in a toy shop. Foul-mouthed and hot-tempered, Chucky prefers using a kitchen knife to dispatch his victims, although he—like Freddy—has been known for his murderous creativity as well as his continuous efforts to transfer his soul from his present and distinctly recognizable doll body into the body of a regular human.
Matt Cordell (Maniac Cop): A cop sent by his superiors to Sing Sing Correctional Facility for closing in on corruption in city hall as well as alleged police brutality who was stabbed in the showers by three fellow inmates, presumed dead, and returned to avenge his unjust incarceration while maiming numerous innocents along the way to make the system seem even more corrupt than it already is. He possesses supernatural strength and endurance and is armed with his trusty regulation sidearm and a billyclub that conceals a thin, straight slashing blade.
Candyman: A slave’s son and prosperous post-Civil War artist named Daniel Robitaille who ended up falling in love with and fathering the child of a white woman, whose wealthy landowner father hired a lynch mob to publicly execute him by cutting off his painting hand, smearing him with honey, and subjecting him to the stings of countless angry bees. His death has since spawned an urban legend in which one can summon him—albeit with fatal consequences—by saying his name aloud five times while looking into a mirror. Driven by a desire to keep his legend alive and claim the lives and souls of his descendants (as well as that of Chicago researcher Helen Lyle, who is implied to be the reincarnation of his late lover Caroline Sullivan) so that they may join him in the afterlife, Daniel is armed with his signature hook prosthetic and a ribcage full of angry bees and is known for killing those closest to his intended targets—which have, according to the original film trilogy, have been exclusively female—and framing said targets for the murders prior to claiming their own lives.
Ghostface (Scream): A primarily mute entity portrayed by several characters within the Scream series, all of whom don a similar costume of a black cloak and a rubber mask with the countenance of the figure from painter Edvard Munch’s The Scream and use a voice-cloaking device in an effort to kill protagonist Sidney Prescott on account of a series of events indirectly caused by Sidney’s mother Maureen. Thought he killers’ motives range from revenge to fame-seeking to “peer pressure,” they all operate under the same modus operandi by calling their victims on the phone while equipped with their voice changer, then slay them with a buck knife. Likewise, though all of Ghostace’s alter egos are ultimately human, they all seem to possess superhuman levels of durability and strength and a supernatural propensity for stealth upon donning the Ghostface costume.
Jigsaw (Saw): Alias John Kramer, former civil engineer who suffers the loss of his unborn son Gideon, endures a divorce from his wife Jill Tuck on account of his bereavement, and develops an inoperable frontal lobe tumor that developed from the colon cancer he’s contracted. After a failed suicide attempt, he develops a new lease on life and makes it his mission to teach others life’s value by designing a series of elaborate and gruesome traps within which he lures his victims, each trap designed to reflect a problem in the life of its intended prey in order to test their “survival instinct” and teach them the value of appreciating (rather than squandering) their lives. He also operates through Billy the Puppet, who delivers recorded messages to his victims as well as through a number of accomplices, including Amanda Young, the first survivor of his traps; Mark Hoffman, a police detective whom he kidnaps and blackmails into becoming his apprentice after Hoffman had used an inescapable Jigaw-esque trap to avenge his sister’s death at the hands of her boyfriend; and even his own ex-wife Jill.
As you can see, the finer points to each of these villains are what set them apart from the rest, specifically in the instances of those whom one can describe as hulking, supernaturally gifted brutes (e.g., Jason, Michael, Cordell). Some have different powers (or lack thereof) from the other slashers. Some have signature weapons (e.g., Freddy’s glove) or other features (e.g., Jason’s mask) that not only define them as characters, but have also become iconic with slasher film lore. Some even stand out from the rest according to the way in which they slay their victims (i.e., Jigsaw’s traps). However, when stripped down to their basic components, there are six essential elements that define each of these killers and illustrate their lasting appeal with movie audiences even today. Those essential elements are as follows:
Motivation: What (or who) is behind the murderer’s killing spree? Whom or what is he or she seeking? Is anyone spared from his or her rampage? If so, who and why?
Personality: How does the slasher behave when he or she is out on the prowl and during and between each kill? Are there any people with whom he or she tries to get along/cooperate along the way? If so, to what capacity?
Powers: Does the slasher have any supernatural powers to aid him or her in his or her crimson quest? If so, how similar or different are they from those of other slashers?
Modus Operandi: How does the killer execute his or her prey? Does he or she have a signature weapon? If so, how does it compare or contrast to other killers’ signature weapons? What other additional equipment does he or she employ throughout his or her mission outside of his or her supernatural powers or lack thereof?
Victims: What common thread do the murderer’s victims share with one another (racial/age demographic, deeds/actions, associations to the event that spurned the villain to become a killer, personal deeds, etc.)? Is there anything special about the victims’ mentality prior to or during the course of the movie and their ultimate demise?
Weaknesses and Downfall: What weaknesses does the killer have? Of those weaknesses (in the instance that there are more than just one of them), which one ultimately leads to his or her undoing?
To illustrate each of these elements more clearly, let’s apply them to a slasher villain whom I neglected to mention earlier on in this article: Scissorman from the Clock Tower video game franchise. To put it simply, more than one person has adopted the “Scissorman” identity throughout the course of the Clock Tower story, not unlike Ghostface. However, there is a connection between each of these killers: the fact that they are either descendants of the aristocratic Barrows family of England or—in the case of Ralph and Jemina the Scissor Twins from Clock Tower 3—were once henchmen of a member of the related Burroughs family. According to legend, Theodore Barrows, the first lord of the Barrows family and builder of the Barrows Castle, was a member of a demonic cult who praised a deity known as the “Great Father” and abducted children for use in demonic rituals—many of which included cannibalism and massacre—in an effort to attain immortality. The only thing these rituals accomplished for him, however, was bestowing a curse upon his family that ensured that a demonic child would be born into the family to continue the acts of unnecessary bloodshed that he’d begun. John Barrows was one such product of the curse, a member of the thirteenth generation of the Barrows clan and the first known to adopt the mantle of the Scissorman, abducting and murdering countless local children until his father Quintin, who opposed his son’s killing spree, put and end to his life. Sadly, the Barrows family curse continued on down the line to Bobby and Dan Barrows with the former taking on the Scissorman identity at nine years old in the first installment in the Clock Tower series, Clock Tower: The First Fear.
Now that we’ve established the basic gist behind the Scissorman persona, let’s take a closer look at the six essential elements that make the first Scissorman, Bobby Barrows, such a memorable slasher villain.
Motivation: As a product of such a long-preserved family curse that only the late Quintin Barrows dared to resist (only to have the cult of the Great Father eventually hunt him down and assassinate him for his “treason” in the end), Bobby’s demonic nature is usually enough to justify his murderous streak. Then again, there’s the incident in which his father Simon tried to thwart his cultist mother Mary and her brother from sacrificing a number of innocents for a black magic ritual they’d intended to perform, only to have Mary imprison him in the shed behind the Barrows Mansion for an indeterminate amount of time. As such, poor parental upbringing (i.e., the foul morals into which Mary has instilled into her two sons) could also be cited as a reason behind Bobby’s negligence to the idea of resisting his demonic heritage and hence his bloodlust.
Personality: Not only has Bobby has murdered many innocent people without a shred of remorse or mercy, but he furthermore seems to delight in playing with his victims prior to killing them, as players can see for themselves in Clock Tower: The First Fear when he dances for a short while after having knocked Jennifer to the ground via a failed physical struggle. Further evidence of his love for psychologically tormenting his prey comes from the way he snaps his scissors with each footstep he takes as he chases them, giving his targets the fear of knowing how close behind them he is.
Powers: Bobby is nearly immortal and impervious to all sorts of pain, as heavy objects coming down upon his head and second-story falls only knock him out for a brief while. He is also impressively strong for a nine-year-old boy of such a sickly physique, as he can to hold his own in physical confrontations against The First Fear’s fifteen-year-old protagonist Jennifer Simpson, effortlessly carry his massive scissors while climbing ladders, and dash forth short distances while holding his scissors high above his head.
Modus Operandi: Bobby is quite capable of setting traps for his prey, such as when Jennifer investigates the bathroom and manages to find the corpse of her friend Laura Harrington hanging from the shower and Bobby bursting forth from the bathtub full of water shortly after her grim discovery. Then again, he is far better known for his more straightforward approach of mercilessly stalking his victims (i.e., Jennifer) and, upon catching up with them, stabbing or slicing them with his signature shears. He is still incredibly persistent, too, and carries on chasing his victims with all of the might and patience at his command by simply walking, holding on to the belief all the while that no matter what his victims do, they’ll die all the same. In fact, the only times he stops walking or running after his prey is when they hit him with enough force to thwart him or when they hide from him, for it has been noted that as per the latter situation, he will not inspect the room in which she’s hiding until she continues to reuse the same hiding place time and time again.
Victims: Aside from Jennifer, there are three other victims whom Bobby stalks in Clock Tower: The First Fear—namely, Jennifer’s fellow Granite Orphanage residents Laura, Lotte, and Ann. All teenagers at their adoption by Mr. Barrows, the four girls fit in with all the other victims that the Barrows family had claimed since Theodore first instated the family’s demonic practices in that their young blood could have very well (theoretically) given Theodore the immortality he’d sought upon first swearing allegiance to the Great Father. Bobby’s own father Simon could have very well fit on the list of victims as well in that he tried to interfere with his mother Mary’s plans of bloody sacrifice, save for the fact that it’s Mary herself who contends with her rebellious husband and not Bobby.
Weakness and Ultimate Downfall: The only thing that can kill Bobby is falling from the Clock Tower of the Barrows Mansion as its bell tolls, which disorients him to the point where he plummets to his death. It is also hinted at that the tolling of the bells signifies the restarting of time at the Barrows Mansion, which results in the deformities that scientifically should have killed him at birth finally doing so following his fall.
In addition to Bobby Barrows donning the mantle of Scissorman is his twin brother Dan, who took on the title himself a year later in the following Clock Tower game, which is known as Clock Tower 2 in Japan and simply Clock Tower elsewhere around the world. For the sake of completion, we’ll be analyzing Dan’s role as Scissorman in this second installment in the Clock Tower saga.
Originally a morbidly obese monster of a child with saggy purple skin and a massive body at least twice as long as Jennifer is tall, Dan Barrows initially haunts the Barrows Mansion with psychic powers such as telekinesis (e.g., keeping the elevator doors shut until his death and being able to “warp” Bobby all over the mansion in his attempts to find and murder Jennifer) from the sanctity of the caverns beneath his family home. There he resides within a giant bed that his father Simon (upon his meeting with Jennifer in his cell in the shed) and Jennifer’s late father Walter (via the letter he’d written prior to his ultimate demise) refer to as “the Cradle Beneath the Stars.” Interestingly enough, Dan’s malformed body was created using the blood and corpses of the Barrows’s young victims, which explains why Mary brings her intended sacrifices to the mansion. His resulting body serves him as a cocoon of sorts within which he matures a more perfect (i.e., humanoid) form, which the PlayStation One release of Clock Tower: The First Fear shows. His involvement within the Clock Tower story continues a year after his accidental incineration at Jennifer’s hands when he—after having fully developed his new human body—arrives at Granite Orphanage with apparent amnesia and the name “Edward,” the latter of which he’d received from his guardian Kay Satterwhite. Having come to believe that he’s one of two survivors of the events from the first story, Edward eventually learns the truth about who he is and everything that has happened in the past and decides to adopt the Scissorman persona and finish what his brother Bobby had started a year prior.
Motivation: Dan’s ultimate goal is simple: to carry out his family’s dark legacy and offer up more sacrifices to the Great Father in the name of his cult. However, upon regaining his memory, Dan learns not only his own identity, but also discovers a hidden truth about Jennifer: the fact that she, too, is actually a long-lost member of his family. As such, part of his master plan involves trying to get Jennifer to realize her true heritage and convince her to join forces with him in carrying out the “family trade.” Should she refuse to join him, however, he is not against spilling her blood in addition to that of anyone even loosely connected to his old family residence and the murders that took place there or the investigation into said murders.
Personality: As Edward, Dan starts off as shy and obedient yet determined, only to become cold and calculating once he discovers his true identity. He is also quite coercive and manipulative, not in the slightest above using others’ hidden secrets to force or otherwise persuade them into serving his agenda. He especially delights in manipulating people of weak moral fiber, as they in particular succumb to his whims rather easily. He is also very resourceful and therefore capable of analyzing and manipulating his environment to better carry out his objective, especially with the assistance of his psychic abilities.
Powers: Dan possesses the same level of strength and durability as Scissorman that Bobby had while retaining the psychic aptitude he’d had during his days living beneath the Barrows Mansion. Not only can he appear anywhere at any time in true slasher villain tradition via psychoportation, but he’s also clairvoyant and as such can read the minds and souls of his prey in order to better manipulate them into a position that would better serve his objective. His clairvoyance likewise grants him the ability to plan out his kills several steps ahead, which one can particularly see upon witnessing the manner in which he kills whomever criminal psychologist Samuel Barton sends the Demon Idol to between Rick and Sullivan in order to better understand its nature and influence over the Barrows family. Additionally, one can safely say in regards to these potential in-game scenarios that Dan also makes the most out of his telekinetic powers to better manipulate his environment and that it’s also possible for him to corrupt the minds of non-human creatures (i.e., Rick’s dog Victor) and have them perform his bidding.
Modus Operandi: Dan can just as easily chase down his victims and slay them directly as Bobby had, save for the limp with which he walks that consequently slows him down quite a bit physically. More importantly, though, he’s more apt than his brother to use his brains to make the most out of whatever situation he’s in, especially when it comes to setting traps and luring his prey into them as his brother had. His killing Baker—a coworker of co-protagonist Helen Maxwell—and use of his corpse to chase her off and discover her other coworker Rose’s dead body either in a stall in the women’s bathroom or on operating table in Professor Barton’s therapy room is one such example, similar to how Bobby used Laura’s corpse in the bathroom in the Barrows Mansion as a lure for Jennifer in the previous game.
Victims: Dan’s victims in Clock Tower/Clock Tower 2 are, as mentioned before, anyone and everyone connected to the Clock Tower murders or their investigation. As the game’s plot progresses, however, one will notice that he prefers to claim the lives of pedophiles, hebephiles, and adulterers rather than children as Bobby had. He specifically targets the likes of Harris Chapman, who secretly holds an infatuation for Jennifer (as his constant questioning in the game’s prologue shows); his own guardian Kay, whose pedophilic tendencies Edward detects and acts out upon with his psychic powers to make her mentally and physically inseparable from him; and Baker and Rose, who have an affair going on between them. Sexual /romantic deviants aren’t the only holders of dark personal secrets to fall prey to Dan’s murderous streak, however, seeing as he also uses Professor Barton’s desire to gain knowledge of the psychology of murderers against him by turning him into an unwitting Scissorman decoy in the Barrows Castle by drawing Barton into his own dark soul and merging Barton’s soul with it, hence the grim transformation.
Weaknesses and Ultimate Downfall: As with Bobby, physical attacks do nothing to stop Dan’s rampage and only slow him down at most, thereby making his ultimate weakness come in the form of a teleportation spell that both of the game’s chief protagonists, Jennifer and Professor Barton’s assistant Helen Maxwell, can learn to banish him from their reality. Sadly, even banishment isn’t enough for him to stop his plans, seeing as how certain endings in the game do show him dragging either Jennifer or Helen to Hell along with him, lest something is done to shake him off them. Regardless, the fact still stands that this spell is the only thing that can spare the reality of Clock Tower from Dan’s continued onslaught.
By breaking down the Scissorman persona in this fashion, it should be easy to see just how much he contributes to the success of the first two Clock Tower games and why, thanks in part to his creators, gamers still remember those installments in the series as fondly as they do today. Scissorman isn’t the only slasher villain who can be deconstructed in this fashion, though, and I wholeheartedly encourage every horror enthusiast who might be reading this little editorial to use this model on his or her favorite slasher villain as a fun little exercise to remind himself or herself of why he or she enjoys said killer so much as a character as well as the movies from which said killer hails. More importantly, however, I hope that writers will be able to make use of the template I’ve constructed here as a form of prewriting for their own slasher horror stories in hopes that they each can create an antagonist who can hold a candle to the likes of Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, and other such horror movie icons. Even if it’s not this specific template I’ve provided, I still hope that the writers of tomorrow will find some way to craft unique, interesting, and memorable villains like Jason, Michael, Freddy, et cetera to serve as the foundations of the next wave of slasher tales for the sake of the subgenre’s survival. After all, while slasher flicks might not be everyone’s cup of tea (and understandably so), their effect upon American pop culture is nonetheless undeniable, and people should be able to enjoy new stories of this nature—and, quite frankly, new stories in general—for years to come.
Once again, readers, I thank you all for being patient between my last article and this one, and again, I hope you’ve been able to get something out of what I’ve written here. Please forgive me for the wait, and if you’re interested in seeing this series of editorials continue, feel free to leave me your suggestions for the next genre of fiction you’d like me to tackle, as I do intend on making it a thing. Also, as always, I invite you to check out my author pages at Smashwords.com, Amazon.com, and Amazon.co.uk to see what I have available, and please stay tuned for more content in the near future. Until then, happy Holidays and happy reading!
Dustin M. Weber