In America, youth is eternal. At least, Americans want youth to last forever. Therefore, men refer to themselves as “boys” and women call themselves “girls” well past middle age. Often, their behavior matches their concepts of themselves as wild and crazy “young people.” The teenage years spill over into the senior years. Even when the body no longer permits all-night (or weeklong) drinking binges, dance marathons, clubbing, and the other activities associated with the party life, adults like to pretend they’re up to such larks. One way to do so is to watch movies starring teenagers and young adults involved in such activities. The slasher is a type of horror movie that provides such an opportunity, because its characters tend to be teenagers or young adults. Unfortunately, most of them, during the course of the drama, die horrible deaths. Still, a party can’t go on forever, even in the movies. One need not be glum, though; there are always books and television shows featuring young people in deadly, not to say compromising, situations!
Novels, TV series, and movies make the most of teen angst. They’re also not above (or below) making issues out of the hopes and fears of young adult life. Carrie, Christine, It, and a host of other Stephen King novels feature youngsters on a rampage. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Charmed, Smallville, and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch center upon the antics that pass for teenagers’ lives. Movies with teen or young adult protagonists (and antagonists) abound. Scream, Urban Legends, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and so many other horror movies star adolescents and twenty-somethings that Hollywood satirized its own over-reliance upon the subgenre, releasing Scary Movie and other parodies.
Hard to believe? Here are a few more horror movies, sequels excluded, that include fresh faces (and fresh meat):
- Blair Witch Project, The
- Blood Beach
- Faculty, The
- Final Destination
- Final Stab
- Friday the 13th
- I Was a Teenage Werewolf
- In Crowd, The
- Joy Ride
- Nightmare on Elm Street, A
- Pool, The
- Prom Night
- Soul Survivors
- Wrong Turn
The list could go on ad infinitum (or ad nauseum).
Teens and young adults make especially tantalizing victims because they’re ignorant, they’re arrogant, they’re brash, and they have a never-say-die mentality that denies their mortality. They think they’ll live forever. They think they’ll never die. They think they’re immortal. The monster or the madman begs to differ.
Besides the characteristics we just listed, teen and young adult characters are obnoxious for other reasons. They’re young. They’re relatively good looking (at least the ones in the TV series and movies tend to be). For anyone over forty, those are two unforgivable offenses that demand a sentence of death, preferably after extensive torture. It gets worse, though. Not only are the girls beautiful and the boys handsome, but they have way too much sex, even in a relatively permissive (and promiscuous) society like that of the United States.
The teenage characters shouldn’t be having any sex at all, nor should young adults before they’re married, adults cry, and those who write novels and script TV series and movies have conspired to ensure that anything more than a chaste peck on the cheek merits a horrible and, preferably, prolonged and excruciating death. (Some critics explain the death-ensues-sex theme of teen/young adult horror flicks as symbolizing the dangers of sex--pregnancy, STD’s, and the like--but it seems more likely that it derives from the jealousy of writers who write about such scenes rather than starring in their real-life equivalents.) If young folks are going to have sex, the writers of horror novels and films have decided, it’s going to cost them--dearly.
Therefore, it’s a requirement in slasher flicks that anyone under twenty who has sex (and many who are in their twenties, too, especially if they’re unmarried) must die a horrible death.
There’s also another reason that teens die. They’re rebellious. When Kendra suggests to Buffy Summers that they return to Buffy’s mentor for “orders,” Buffy tells her, “I don’t take orders. I do things my way,” which elicits a terse reply from Kendra: “No wonder you died.” (Buffy drowned in her encounter with a vampire king at the end of the TV series’ first season, but she was resuscitated by her friend, Xander Harris.)
From a guy’s perspective, there’s something good about teen and young adult horror TV series and movies: they give careers to comely cuties known as scream queens. Without trashy slasher flicks, there wouldn’t have been an Adrienne Barbeau, a Pamela Green, an Ingrid Pitt, a Linda Blair, a Natasha Kinski, an Yvette Mimmieux, a Jamie Lee Curtis, an Elisha Cuthbert, a Sarah Michelle Gellar, an Eliza Dushku, a Kate Beckinsale, a Mercedes McNab, and a host of others. If not for novels, there wouldn’t have been as many movies starring scream queens, either.
“Everyday Horrors: Teenagers and Young Adults” is part of a series of “everyday horrors” that will be featured on Chillers and Thrillers: The Fiction of Fear. These “everyday horrors” continue, in many cases, to appear in horror fiction, literary, cinematographic, and otherwise.