Dear Hollywood: Why Horror Films Don’t Need Origin Stories


When it comes to origin stories in horror movies, are they necessary, or even something horror fans want?

Recently, a new trailer was released for the upcoming film Leatherface. While discussing the new trailer, a conversation was started amongst those of us at 1428 Elm about slashers and their origin stories. While this may not be a popular opinion, I believe that origin stories take away from the character and are unnecessary.

Tobe Hooper’s seminal classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre  is a benchmark in slasher history and a terrifying film. What made the character Leatherface so terrifying was that an origin story was never given. All we knew was Sally Hardesty and her van full of friends unfortunately stumbled upon the cannibalistic clan and were systematically slaughtered.

Leatherface existed as a force of nature. Evil personified who destroyed everything in his path. We never knew why his weapon of choice was the chainsaw and we didn’t need to know why. The ending left us in a state of suspense as Sally escapes and laughs maniacally after surviving her horrific ordeal while a deranged Leatherface dances with his chainsaw in the rising sun.

via Bryanston Pictures

The rage slasher killers feel when the ‘final girl’ gets away.

The character of Michael Myers in John Carpenter’s horror classic Halloween was given an origin story, albeit a very small, effective one. The film opens with 6-year-old Michael Myers brutally stabbing his sister. The origin story we get is from his psychiatrist, Dr. Loomis. Loomis dramatically tells us:

"“I met him fifteen years ago. I was told there was nothing left; no reason, no conscience, no understanding; and even the most rudimentary sense of life or death, of good or evil, right or wrong. I met this six-year-old child with this blank, pale, emotionless face, and the blackest eyes… the devil’s eyes. I spent eight years trying to reach him, and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized that what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply… evil.”"

That is all the audience needed to know. No rhyme or reason, beyond the fact he is pure evil, is given. We did not need to know of a dysfunctional upbringing that drove him to murder like in Rob Zombie’s version of Halloween. We do not need to know what drives the psyche of our favorite slashers.

Some fans were really displeased with the film.

The recent trend in horror seems to be to trying to get an audience to sympathize with the monster by telling a tragic back story. Leatherface and Michael Myers are not the Phantom of the Opera. They are killing machines, terror in the physical form. Their blood lust cannot be quenched and the only thing we need to know is how to survive it.

Origin stories hurt the mystique and legend around which our favorite slashers are built. When you give the monsters a reason for being monsters you take their power away. We just need to realize that chaos exists in the world and it comes in the form of our favorite monsters. Regardless I will still check out the new Leatherface film, and hopefully I will be pleasantly surprised.

Next: Last Slasher Standing: In a world of reboots, be a Chucky!

When you give the monster a beginning story, you’re preparing him for an end. Until the origin story, the slasher and the evil that engulfs him seems to have always existed and therefore, will always exist in the future. We no need to put a human face on a larger than life character.