On Friday, Chiller unveils its first original scripted series, Slasher, a horror anthology that will feature a new killer every season. Season one stars Dracula’s Katie McGrath as a woman returning to the same house and small town where her parents were brutally murdered when she was just a baby. Things don’t go smoothly.
The show is the brainchild of creator-showrunner Aaron Martin, who has a prolific resume that includes running the first four seasons of Degrassi: The Next Generation. The Canadian writer talked with us about his soapy past, the Zodiac killer and horror.
What were your horror influences growing up? How did they seep into Slasher?
I grew up in the 80’s, so I watched all the original slasher movies like Friday the 13th and Halloween. It was a rite of passage growing up. That was obviously one inspiration. The other one was, I’d been a lifelong fan of Agatha Christie novels, so when I wrote this on spec, I wanted to combine a slasher movie with an Agatha Christie novel. Obviously the seminal one would be And Then There Were None, which is sort of the framework for all slasher movies.
Congrats on a creepy slasher villain in The Executioner. Chicken or the egg question: did the idea of The Executioner come before you conceived the killer’s motives, or did The Executioner spring from the plot?
I did a bunch of research on different serial killers. It doesn’t necessarily translate to what the final product was, but the Zodiac killer was my inspiration for the idea behind Executioner. In my early drafts, the Executioner looked more like that than the look that ends up in the show. In terms of crime, I’ve always been horrified by stories about women who kill other women for their babies. That was the first thing I thought of when I was thinking of a show. What if you showed that on TV?
What was the process like in creating his look?
If you make the Executioner too much like an Executioner he just looks too much like the Zodiac killer. Or it looks like a guy or gal with a paper bag over his or her head. Which isn’t scary. We always knew we wanted to do the long cloak of a priest. That always made sense to us. It was more the head that we struggled with. We went back and forth with our costume designer and our prosthetics artist to get the look that we ended up with.
This is Chiller’s first original scripted series. Has that meant a lot of oversight to make sure it’s done right, or less oversight because they trust someone who’s done it before?
They were awesome. There was just the right amount of oversight. They had feelings or thoughts but they were always in line with what we were trying to do. We actually have two broadcasts, Chiller in the United States and Super Channel in Canada, so we had two different masters which can oftentimes be difficult, but everybody wanted the same thing that I initially put in the script, which is awesome.
It’s hard to find a better place for Slasher than Chiller.
Exactly. They know, more than I do, what makes a good horror show. This is my first foray into horror as a writer.
It’s clear, given your resume, that you’re familiar with teen drama. What’s your favorite?
90210 is my favorite. The original. It was very exciting having Dean McDermott on the show because I told him I am an unabashedly huge Tori Spelling fan [McDermott’s wife and costar from Tori & Dean: In Love]. That was very fun.
This show takes place in a town called Waterbury. It never explicitly states that it’s Waterbury, Vermont, but in my head it is indeed the home of Ben & Jerry’s. When this show becomes a hit, what will be the Ben & Jerry’s Slasher ice cream flavor?
Oh god. I guess it would be called Red Velvet. But I’m not sure it would taste that good, because it might taste a bit bloody.
What lessons from running shows like The Best Years did you take to Slasher?
It’s interesting because The Best Years was obviously a totally different show. CTV asked me to come up with a college version of Degrassi.
The problem with these shows is that they don’t have many stakes, so I had to come up with stakes and if I’m looking back now ten years later, there was a lot of melodrama, and not necessarily in a good way. That’s been a worry of mine ever since, especially with a show like Slasher, which you can go crazy melodramatic or unreal or ungrounded. That’s definitely something I brought to the storytelling: making sure no matter what we did on the show, it never crossed into melodrama.
Do you still keep tabs on Degrassi?
I worked on Degrassi from 2000 to 2004 and it’s now in its 16th season, which is amazing. It was really important to me. It was my first job in TV, and I ended up running the show, which was a weird confluence of events. It was, right from the get go, something that was well received in Canada and the United States. It’s always been an important show for me in terms of messaging for teenagers. I think it’s awesome that they keep finding a way every few years to reinvent a show that’s been on since the late 70s and keep it relevant and important for teenagers. The big issues in the show that they’re doing now are stuff that wouldn’t have been issues when I did it in the early 200’s.
Is there a difference between Canadian and U.S. audiences?
It’s hard to say. The top-ten shows in Canada are generally American shows. Canadians are willing to push the envelope more than Americans are. Especially when it comes to sexuality and sex. We don’t have the same kind of restrictions that Americans do. Degrassi is as Canadian a show as you can get, but it’s been hugely popular in the States, so it’s not something that American audiences don’t want to view, it’s just something that we maybe come to with less restrictions.
Loosen your restrictions America: Slasher premieres at 9 PM ET on Chiller TV.
[All images courtesy of Chiller]