Monday, 18 January 2016

The Terminator: Science Fiction Masterpiece or 80s Slasher Film?

A.J. Waters

Many a time in my years of being a film buff have I had to endure the friendly (though sometimes not so friendly) debate on what genre a film comes under. Though we live in an age where sub-genres are the new black and basics are somewhat old hat, we still seem keen to fit certain movies into a single genre. Is SAW a horror or a psychological thriller? Is Star Wars sci-fi or fantasy adventure? Is Melancholia a drama or just pretentious wank?

These debates, and hundreds just like them, continue to pop up in my life and I’ve decided that I want in! So I ask you, is The Terminator sci-fi, or just another 80s slasher? Now before we dive into it, I would just like to make it 100% clear that I am not trying to slag off this film by any means. No! I am a HUGE fan of The Terminator and I always will be, however…I present my point of view.

The Scream-Queen

Linda Hamilton plays the sweet and ditzy, down on her luck Sarah Connor. No husband, no kids, a job that she hates, and she lives with a lizard & her pet iguana. Also, like all of our favourite scream-queens, she shares a lot of their traits that make you wonder how they made it this far into the film: on the one hand she’s sweet and likeable, but she breathes way too loudly when she’s supposed to be hiding. What's more, she can’t run for shit, falls over all the time and of course, as the name suggests, she screams a lot.

The Antagonist

An unstoppable killing machine (quite literally in this case) that fits the bill for slasher films old and new. Who is he? Where did he come from? What is his story? What the fuck is his problem? These questions and more are the sorts of things we ask ourselves when we watch him carry out his deadly pursuit, killing everything in his path to get to our aforementioned scream-queen. But it’s not just that that puts him in the running for slasher baddies - Oh no, sir! You can bet your bottom dollar on that, me ol’ mucker! Let’s take a closer look shall we?

He’s a supernatural being, much like our friends Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street, Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th, The Candyman in (shockingly) The Candyman, Chucky in Child’s Play and more! What else does he share? Well, he also wears a mask. While it's not the conventional kind sported by such classic film nasties as Leatherface, Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers, it is a mask all the same in the sense that it covers his true identity (living tissue over a metal endoskeleton).

The Supporting Male Hero Figure

If there is one thing a scream-queen needs to survive, it’s a strong male figure to let her know that it’s all going to be okay (it was the 80s, alright? It was a different time back then). Child’s Play had Detective Mike Norris, A Nightmare on Elm Street had Glen Lantz, The Burning had Todd, and The Terminator has Kyle Reese. Granted, our Kyle is hella more badass than the former, but there he is, fulfilling his duty by travelling through time to hold the hand of our leading lady (n’aww). Kyle Reese puts life and limb on the line to make sure she’s okay, but for some reason keeps getting slowed down by her insistent need to fall over every fifteen seconds (sound familiar?) only to have the roles reversed when he cops a boo-boo.

Those idiot cops who just won’t believe our hero’s story

If there’s one thing a good slasher loves it’s a skeptical cop, and this bad boy has two of the bastards! Our heroine will turn on the waterworks and try her damnedest to convince our boys in blue that something is trying to kill them, whether that thing be a cyborg from the future, a serial killer reincarnated as a doll, a paedophile in a stripy jumper (though that last one isn’t too far-fetched), or if it really is just the Boogeyman. Don't forget of course that there’s that dreaded line that they all use: “You have to believe me.”

The “the bad guy is dead lol jk not really” routine

Slasher films *love* making us believe that our leading lady, despite her misery and turmoil, has finally prevailed and come out on top. She did it! She killed the bad guy and now she can live happily ever after! However, just as she begins to relax with heavy breathing and exhaustion, the antagonist jumps out of nowhere and shouts “surprise, cockfags!” and grabs her or emerges from the background or leaves some sort of hint that that shit ain’t over until it’s over, ya heard? The ‘false sense of security’ tactic is about as overused as the ‘per animal jump scare’, but hey, whatever works.

So there we have it folks. Stacked up side-by-side, we may have another horror contender in our midst and it was right under our noses this whole time. You may even find more similarities yourself! Of course, you are in no way inclined to agree with me, it’s just one fan’s interpretation of one of the greatest films of our generation. But it never hurts to have a fresh view on a classic that so many of us hold dear. What do you think?


Well, what do you think folks? Is The Terminator sci-fi, slasher or does it not matter as long as we're all having a good time? Let us know in the comments below! Don't forget, if you like the cut of Mr Waters' gib, you can find his works at the links below. E14 encourages you to give his stuff a go!

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