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8 Slasher Slang Terms, Dissected

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Thirty-five years ago this month, the first Friday the 13th was released, two years after that other slasher classic, Halloween. Since then, both have spawned numerous sequels, remakes, video games, at least one mashup, and countless imitations and parodies. They've also unleashed a whole of host of slasher slang. Here are eight of the most definitive in slasher movie history.

1. SLASHER

We know slasher movies as those that involve a killer, often masked, that murders his victims with some kind of blade (or perhaps a chainsaw). However, in the early-to-mid 1970s (and before the release of Halloween and Friday the 13th), slasher was synonymous with snuff, a disturbing film “genre” that involved the actual killing of a woman.

But whether or not snuff movies actually exist is questionable. In his 1971 book The Family: The Story of Charles Manson's Dune Buggy Attack Battalion, author Ed Sanders says that Manson wanted to make a movie called "Easy Snuff" that would involve an actual murder. However, since then, the existence of snuff movies has only been rumor.

The word snuff, which originally referred to extinguishing a candle, came to mean "to die" by 1864, and by the early 1930s, to kill or murder. The meaning of slasher changed from "snuff film" to the one we know now in the late 1970s.

2. PSYCHO

When we hear psycho, we probably think of someone like Norman Bates. But when the word first originated in 1914, it was shorthand for all things psychology and psychiatry, including psychopathic behavior.

It was in 1919 that the word came to refer specifically to someone who behaved in deranged way—in other words, like a psychopath. By 1945, the word had also gained its adjectival form.

Many think of Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 film as the first slasher movie, or at least a very strong influence. Either way, you probably can't hear screeching violins without thinking of Janet Leigh meeting her unfortunate end in the shower.

3. GIALLI

The Italian giallo movies of the 1960s and '70s also had a big impact on American slashers.

A suspense genre in general, giallo translates as "yellow" and is named for the bright yellow covers of popular mystery novels published in Italy beginning the late 1920s. (The American equivalent of such novels are pulps, named for the cheap pulp paper they were printed on.)

Sometimes called spaghetti slashers (playing off spaghetti western), gialli often feature gratuitous sex and violence. Perhaps one of the more slasher-esque is Blood and Black Lace, in which a masked murderer picks off models, one by scantily-clad one.

4. LEWTON BUS

You know the scene: the heroine has entered a darkened room where the killer might lie in wait. Improvised weapon raised, she carefully, quietly creeps in when—SCREECH! YOWL! "OH MY GOD, WHAT—" ... Phew, just a cat.

The Lewton bus is named for filmmaker Val Lewton, who used a hissing yet harmless bus to startle his heroine—and the audience—in his 1942 film, Cat People (although some say it was actually film editor Mark Robson who invented the technique). While the method didn't debut in a slasher movie, the Lewton bus, also called the cat scare, has been used—or overused—in many since.

This same Cat People scene, by the way, also features the Lewton walk, in which the heroine suspects she’s being followed when she hears footsteps behind her that stop when she stops, and speed up when she hurries. This technique was hilariously parodied in Bowfinger.

5. SPLATTER

The splatter film is the slasher’s gorier cousin. While 1970s movies The Wizard of Gore and The Last House on the Left are considered part of this gruesome genre, the term splatter film didn’t originate until about 1980.

Because of the graphic and sensationalist nature of the genre, splatter films are also referred to as gorno, a blend of gore and porno, as well as torture porn, especially when referring to movies like Saw, Hostel, and Audition.

Splatter films also share qualities with shocksploitation movies, which explore “taboo” subjects for pure shock value. Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is a prime example.

6. VIDEO NASTY

In early 1980s Great Britain, a "moral watchdog" called the National Viewers' and Listeners' Association coined the phrase video nasty to describe what they considered particularly offensive horror movies.

Such movies were distributed on videotape and had never been released in theaters, says the BBC. The National Viewers' and Listeners' Association blamed such videos for violent crimes. Now video nasty seems to mean any negative or disturbing video.

7. FINAL GIRL

Final girl refers to the last female survivor in a slasher pic, like Laurie in Halloween, Alice in Friday the 13th, Sidney in Scream, and many others.

The term was coined by American film professor Carol J. Clover in her 1993 book, Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. Since the mid-1970s, Clover says, the last survivor in slasher films has been female. She is often virginal, or at least unavailable, following the first “rule” of surviving a horror movie, at least according to Randy in Scream. She’s paranoid yet resourceful, and she puts off the killer long enough to be rescued or to kill him herself.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer may be considered a send-up of the final girl trope. The TV show is full of "final girls" who survive to kill the killers, and who even after being killed (twice!) refuse to die.

8. SCREAM QUEEN

A scream queen is an actress who has appeared in a number of horror movies, such as Jamie Lee Curtis and Heather Langenkamp of, respectively, the Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises.

The term scream queen may have originated with the 1978 book, Scream Queens: Heroines of the Horrors by Calvin Thomas Beck. Beck published a horror film magazine called Castle of Frankenstein from 1962 to 1975, and may have been novelist Robert Bloch's partial inspiration for Norman Bates (the other part being serial killer Ed Gein). Beck apparently had a domineering mother who followed him everywhere, including his college classes.

Bloch's novel of course became a very famous movie starring one of the original scream queens, Janet Leigh, mother of Jamie Lee. Curtis, by the way, will be appearing in an upcoming TV show called Scream Queens.

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Shout! Factory
10 Surprising Facts About Mr. Mom
Shout! Factory
Shout! Factory

John Hughes penned the script for 1983's Mr. Mom, a comedy about a family man named Jack Butler (Micheal Keaton) who loses his job. To ensure their three kids are taken care of, his wife, Caroline (Teri Garr), goes back to work—leaving Jack to fight off a vacuum cleaner and learn why it's never a good idea to feed chili to a baby.

In 1982, Keaton turned in a star-making role in Ron Howard’s Night Shift, but Mr. Mom marked the first time he headlined a movie, and it launched his career. Hughes had written National Lampoon's Vacation, which—oddly enough—was released in theaters the weekend after Mr. Mom. But Hughes himself was still a relative unknown, as it would be another year before he entered the teen flick phase of his career, which would make him iconic.

In the meantime, Mr. Mom hit home for a lot of viewers, as the economy was on the downturn and more and more women were entering (or reentering) the workforce. But some people think that the movie's ending—which sees the couple revert to traditional gender roles—sidelined the movie's message. Still, on the 35th anniversary of its release, Mr. Mom remains an ahead-of-its-time comedy classic.

1. IT'S BASED ON A TRUE STORY.

Mr. Mom producer Lauren Shuler Donner came across a funny article John Hughes had written for National Lampoon. Based on that, she contacted him and the two became friends. “One day, he was telling me that his wife had gone down to Arizona and he was in charge of the two boys and he didn’t know what he was doing,” Donner told IGN. “It was hilarious! I was on the floor laughing. He said, ‘Do you think this would make a good movie?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, this is really funny.’ So he said, ‘Well, I have about 80 pages in a drawer. Would you look at it?’ So I looked at it and I said, ‘This is great! Let’s do it!’ We kind of developed it ourselves.” In the book Movie Moguls Speak, Donner mentioned how Hughes “had never been to a grocery store, he had never operated a vacuum cleaner. John was so ignorant, that in his ignorance, he was hilarious.”

The players involved with the movie told Donner and Hughes they thought it should be a TV movie. Hughes had a TV deal with Aaron Spelling, who came aboard to executive produce. “Then the players involved were upset because John was writing out of Chicago instead of L.A.,” Donner said in Movie Moguls Speak. “They fired John and brought in a group of TV writers. In the end, John and I were muscled out. It was a good movie, but if you ever read John’s original script for Mr. Mom, it’s far better.”

2. JOHN HUGHES REJECTED THE IDEA OF DIRECTING MR. MOM.

Stan Dragoti ended up directing the film, but only after Hughes turned it down, because he preferred to make his movies in Chicago, not Hollywood. “I don’t like being around the people in the movie business,” Hughes told Roger Ebert. “In Hollywood, you spend all of your time having lunch and making deals. Everybody is trying to shoot you down. I like to get my actors out here where we can make our movies in privacy.” Hughes remained in Chicago and filmed his directorial debut, Sixteen Candles, there.

3. MICHAEL KEATON GOT THE ROLE BECAUSE OF NIGHT SHIFT.

In 1982’s Night Shift, Keaton’s character works at a morgue and starts a prostitution ring with co-worker Henry Winkler. Donner had an agent friend, Laurie Perlman, who represented the not-yet-famous actor. She contacted Donner and pitched Keaton to her. “’Look, I represent this guy who is really funny. Would you meet with him?’" Donner recalled of the conversation. "So I met with him. Usually I don’t like to do this unless we’re casting, but I met with him because she was my friend. And then she said, ‘You have to see this movie Night Shift that he’s in.’ So I went to see Night Shift, and midway through I couldn’t wait to get out of that theater to give Mr. Mom to Michael Keaton. Fortunately, he liked it."

Keaton told Grantland that he turned down one of the main roles in Splash to play Jack Butler. “I just remember at the time thinking I wanted to get away from what I’d just done on Night Shift,” he said. “I thought if I do it again, I might get myself stuck. So then Mr. Mom came along. So I said no [to Splash] so I could set up this framework right away where I could do different things.”

4. THE FILM BROKE NEW GROUND.

Teri Garr, Michael Keaton, Taliesin Jaffe, Frederick Koehler, and Martin Mull in Mr. Mom (1983)
Shout! Factory

In 1983, more women stayed at home than worked, so it was a novelty for a man to be a stay-at-home dad. Today, an estimated 1.4 million men are stay-at-home dads, and 7 million men are their children's primary caregiver. “Mr. Mom became part of the vernacular,” Donner told Newsweek. “Mr. Mom represented a segment of men who were at home dealing with the kids who, up until then, really hadn’t been heard from. That’s what really told me about the power of film, because it spoke for a lot of men. It also helped women, because I think that women sometimes, if you’re a housewife, you’re not really appreciated for what you do. This sort of made women feel better about what they did because they knew that men were understanding it.”

5. TODAY, “MR. MOM” IS CONSIDERED A PEJORATIVE TERM.

More than 30 years after the film’s release, stay-at-home dads feel the term “Mr. Mom” should die. The National At-Home Dad Network launched a campaign to terminate the phrase and instead have people refer to men as “Dad.” In 2014 Lake Superior State University voted to banish “Mr. Mom” from the lexicon.

“At least, the pop-culture image of the inept dad who wouldn’t know a diaper genie from a garbage disposal has begun to fade,” wrote The Wall Street Journal, after declaring “Mr. Mom is dead.”

6. TERI GARR DIDN’T KNOW IT WAS A MESSAGE MOVIE.

The movie redefined gender roles, but when the producers pitched the premise to Garr, they hid the plot reversal. “They just told me it was about a guy who does the work that a woman does, because it’s so easy,” she told The A.V. Club. “And I went, ‘Oh, yeah. Ha ha.’ It’s so easy. All the women I know who stay home and take care of their kids, they go, ‘Oh yeah, this is easy.’ Hmm.”

7. MARTIN MULL IMPROVISED THE “220, 221” LINE.

The quote everyone remembers from the movie comes from Jack, holding a chainsaw, standing next to Ron Richardson (Martin Mull) and discussing what kind of wiring Jack will use in renovating the house: “220, 221, whatever it takes,” Jack says.

“We’re doing the scene and it was okay,” Keaton told Esquire. “And I remember saying to the prop guy, ‘Go find me a chainsaw.’ When he comes back with it, he says, ‘You wanna wear these?’ And he holds up some goggles. I go, ‘Yeah.’ You know, they make me look crazy. And when Martin shows up, I know I should look under control, I’m not sweating it. I’m a dude. So we’re standing there, Martin pulls me aside and says, ‘You know what you ought to say? When I ask about the wiring, you oughta just deadpan: ‘220, 221.’ I died. It was perfect. I may have added ‘whatever it takes.’ But it was his.”

“That was a little ad-lib that we just threw in, but every carpenter or construction person I’ve ever worked with, they’re always quoting that line from Mr. Mom,” Mull told The A.V. Club.

8. MR. MOM OUTGROSSED HUGHES’S OTHER 1983 SUMMER MOVIE—VACATION.

Mr. Mom only opened on 126 screens on July 22, 1983, but managed to gross $947,197 during its opening weekend. Once the film went wide a month later to 1235 screens, it hit number one at the box office and spent five weeks at the top. By the end of its run, the film had grossed just shy of $65 million, making it the ninth highest-grossing film of 1983 (just between Staying Alive and Risky Business). National Lampoon’s Vacation, Hughes’s other film that summer, came out July 29 and ended its theatrical run with $61,399,552 (at its height, it showed on 1248 screens). Vacation finished the year in 11th place.

9. THE MOVIE LED TO HUGHES BEING CALLED “A PURVEYOR OF HORNY SEX COMEDIES.”

During a 1986 interview with Seventeen magazine, Molly Ringwald asked the writer-director why he never showed teen sex in Sixteen Candles or The Breakfast Club. “In Sixteen Candles, I figured it would only be gratuitous to show Samantha and Jake in anything more than a kiss,” he said. “The kiss is the most beautiful moment. I was really amused when someone once called me a ‘purveyor of horny sex comedies.’ He listed The Breakfast Club and Mr. Mom in parentheses. I thought, ‘What kind of sex?’ Yes, in Mr. Mom there’s a baby in a bathtub and you see its bare butt.”

10. MR. MOM WAS MADE INTO A TV MOVIE AFTER ALL.

In the beginning, producers wanted Mr. Mom to be a TV movie, not a feature film. But a year after the film came out in theaters, ABC produced a TV movie called Mr. Mom, with the same characters and premise. Barry Van Dyke played Jack and Rebecca York played Caroline. A People magazine review of the movie stated: “They and their three kids are immediately likable … But it goes downhill from there as the script lobotomizes all its characters. Here’s a textbook case in how TV takes a cute idea—and a script that does have some good lines—and leeches the wit out of it.”

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Ernest Hemingway’s Guide to Life, In 20 Quotes
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Central Press/Getty Images

Though he made his living as a writer, Ernest Hemingway was just as famous for his lust for adventure. Whether he was running with the bulls in Pamplona, fishing for marlin in Bimini, throwing back rum cocktails in Havana, or hanging out with his six-toed cats in Key West, the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author never did anything halfway. And he used his adventures as fodder for the unparalleled collection of novels, short stories, and nonfiction books he left behind, The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, Death in the Afternoon, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and the Sea among them.

On what would be his 119th birthday—he was born in Oak Park, Illinois on July 21, 1899—here are 20 memorable quotes that offer a keen perspective into Hemingway’s way of life.

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF LISTENING

"I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen."

ON TRUST

"The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them."

ON DECIDING WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT

"I never had to choose a subject—my subject rather chose me."

ON TRAVEL

"Never go on trips with anyone you do not love."


Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. [1], Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN INTELLIGENCE AND HAPPINESS

"Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know."

ON TRUTH

"There's no one thing that is true. They're all true."

ON THE DOWNSIDE OF PEOPLE

"The only thing that could spoil a day was people. People were always the limiters of happiness, except for the very few that were as good as spring itself."

ON SUFFERING FOR YOUR ART

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."

ON TAKING ACTION

"Never mistake motion for action."

ON GETTING WORDS OUT

"I wake up in the morning and my mind starts making sentences, and I have to get rid of them fast—talk them or write them down."


Photograph by Mary Hemingway, in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston., Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON THE BENEFITS OF SLEEP

"I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?"

ON FINDING STRENGTH 

"The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places."

ON THE TRUE NATURE OF WICKEDNESS

"All things truly wicked start from innocence."

ON WRITING WHAT YOU KNOW

"If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water."

ON THE DEFINITION OF COURAGE

"Courage is grace under pressure."

ON THE PAINFULNESS OF BEING FUNNY

"A man's got to take a lot of punishment to write a really funny book."


By Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. - JFK Library, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON KEEPING PROMISES

"Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut."

ON GOOD VS. EVIL

"About morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after."

ON REACHING FOR THE UNATTAINABLE

"For a true writer, each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed."

ON HAPPY ENDINGS

"There is no lonelier man in death, except the suicide, than that man who has lived many years with a good wife and then outlived her. If two people love each other there can be no happy end to it."

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