Last September, I hit the road for Parry Sound, Ontario on an adventure: a visit to the set of Slasher, coming this April to Super Channel, and beginning tonight on Chiller. It was a memorable couple of days, and after chatting with the cast, director and creator, I knew that Slasher was going to be something special.
I sat down with series creator and writer of all eight episodes Aaron Martin to find out more about Slasher. I’ve loved some of his other work, especially on Being Erica and The Best Years. We talked about what inspired the series, bringing the town of Waterbury and its residents to life, and why the series will appeal to more than just horror fans.
Here’s what you need to know about Slasher, straight from its creator!
Can tell me a little bit about how this project came to be? What inspired it, and what were you perhaps watching or working on that sparked it?
I had finished season one of Saving Hope, and I was really fascinated by the medical stuff. That was visually what I was thinking about, because I did two episodes where people got chopped up and I thought “How can I make that into a series?”
I wrote this on spec, so before I wrote it, I talked to my agents up here and in the US about a show, like a slasher movie as a series or an Agatha Christie novel as a series. They were like “Nobody really thinks of you that way,” because I’d done Degrassi and Being Erica and Saving Hope. I had time, so I wrote it on spec because I wasn’t getting anywhere with pitching it. I wrote it after Saving Hope and took the spirit of all that medical stuff we threw in the first episode [of Slasher] where some chopping goes on.
I wrote it on spec because I wanted to hopefully get it around and show a few people it, and also give myself a different writing sample, something different from what I’d done before. That was two or three years ago, and everyone really responded to it. Everyone really liked it but nobody jumped on it.
About a year and a half ago, Shaftesbury read it and they loved it. They optioned it, and then we went out and pitched it around. Nobody bit until Super Channel read it. They thought it was perfect because it’s a limited series. [They said], “It’s edgy, it’s sexual, let’s do eight episodes.” It went from just my own little project to “Hey, we got eight episodes.” Then Chiller came on board because it fits them perfectly.
With a title like Slasher, is this all about the gore, or does it play with your mind as well?
It does both. It plays on your mind, but it’s also pretty gory. Those are only the hits in the episode, one or two moments. It’s really more of a murder mystery. It’s like Broadchurch meets a slasher movie. There are a bunch of mysteries going on in Waterbury. The town’s a bit weird. Everyone has a secret, so they’re all dying because they’ve done something bad according to the executioner and his warped moral view. Everybody who dies has a reason for being killed. They’re not just killed indiscriminately. Sarah’s trying to figure out why her parents were killed, who’s killing the people now, and what had these people done to deserve being on the hit-list.
Now, I’ve heard that Sarah thinks she is immune from the killings.
She feels she is, yeah.
Is she being punished for returning to Waterbury?
That all gets revealed in Episode 8, but there is a grander reason.
You mentioned Broadchurch earlier, and there’s a parallel in a local newspaper coming into play. Sarah’s husband, Dylan, is a journalist, and joins the staff of Waterbury’s paper. Will he be torn between chasing a good story — exploiting what his wife is going through — and being supportive to Sarah?
It creates a lot of tension. Everybody has a secret in their background. Sarah has secrets, Dylan has secrets, and one of his secrets really comes down to why he fell in love with Sarah. Or how he fell in love with her.
Sarah makes a new friend on returning to Waterbury: Robin. Does this friendship add a bit of a lighter element to the darker tone of the series?
They’re best friends. [The series is] very intense, but there are a lot of moments of comedy. Robin’s definitely one of the big comic reliefs. They have a great brother-sister thing going on, which is really fun. Some of the killings tread a very fine line between “Oh my God, I can’t believe I saw that” and becoming campy, and we want to stay on the other side of that. I want people to say, “I can’t believe I just saw that,” versus “Aah, I’m terrified.”
Do you like working in this fixed-end format where you have eight episodes to tell this story?
What are the advantages of working with this model?
When I’m writing a script, I always like knowing what the end is. I was able to know what the end of this version of [Slasher] is, so that’s been a great. It’s one of the reasons why I was able to write all eight episodes because I knew where it was going. I like the idea of re-imagining it for Season 2 — if we get a Season 2 — with a whole different murder and a different killer. I also like burning through story because you don’t have to do a slow-burn. You can just keep it going.
The story jumps between different locations and even periods of time. What is your process for keeping track of it all?
I did Being Erica for four years [which] was all over the place. Erin Karpluk’s here today, and she’s a dear friend of mine. I’m used to writing shows that jump through time. We linked it thematically on Being Erica so we were knowing where we were going. [On Slasher] I figured out first why everyone’s being killed and that helped me keep track of what happens when.
How does filming in an actual small town add to the entire experience, rather than in a Toronto neighbourhood disguised as a small town or a studio?
It’s all about the reality. We don’t have sets, so everything is practical locations. It’s added a level of reality to it, because I’m used to doing studio shows. Everything is practical and looks more like a movie. We were able to get locations that you just wouldn’t get in Toronto.
So in many ways, this is essentially an eight-hour movie.
Exactly. They’re fun to watch, too. I’m a bit of a TV junkie. I watch quite a bit. I love Fargo, it’s just awesome. If [you] liked Fargo, you might like this show. Fargo had moments that were horrifying, but it didn’t dwell on that, and we don’t dwell on that. It serves a purpose, and is like exclamation points.
For potential viewers that aren’t horror fans, why do you think they should check out Slasher?
It’s very much a character drama and a mystery with moments of scariness and terror. If you’re watching, you’re going to see a heroic young woman who’s had everything going against her. Sarah’s definitely the hero and she’s fighting some dark force. I’m drawn to serial killers — well, not drawn to them, but they freak me out because they’re actually real. There’s nothing supernatural in this show. It’s very grounded in reality. We have a medical consultant who talks to us about how he’d actually kill people, which is bizarre. Everything is solidly real and we wanted to make it feel like it could happen to you.
So don’t watch this alone in a dark room.
No, don’t watch it alone in a dark room.