INTERVIEW: ‘Slasher: Guilty Party’ creator Aaron Martin on what’s *really* scary

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‘Slasher: Guilty Party’ showrunner Aaron Martin (image: Touchwood PR)

What scares you?

Producer/Showrunner Aaron Martin, creator of the Netflix hit, Slasher: Guilty Party knows what scares you. After all, he shared his fears with us.

“I think it’s the fact that there are people out there who are capable of doing the things that you see on this show that scares me. “

Slasher: Guilty Party is the second season of the Slasher series that first debuted on Superchannel last year. This time it’s on Netflix and the entire season is up and totally ready for a night of creepy, slashy thrill-seekers to love.

“It’s the perfect binge-worthy show”, Aaron tells us.

If you don’t know the premise of this shock-ridden series, it’s the story of a group of friends who worked at a summer camp and who are bound together by a sinister conspiracy. The consequences of their actions, along with their guilt, stay with them for years after the incident, and they have to reunite to deal with them. Their return, and stay at the old summer camp, do not go unnoticed, and one by one, they experience a brutal suffering that not only teases the inquisitive mind, but fulfills the need for justice.

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(image: Touchwood PR)

Martin has a distinctive rhythm to his writing style. The story is deceptively lulling. There’s an underlying layer of tension that is evoked by the gestalt tortured consciences of the former counselors, who have their own lives and have moved on to more adult concerns: families, careers, relationships. This layer is the perfect fermenting ground for the savage and brutal attacks by a mysterious avenger who knows of their secret and strikes without warning. It’s these conditions that create the perfect shock moment that leave us breathless and primed for the rest of the story to develop – until the next moment of terror.

Of course, that’s the formula for a perfect slasher film, right? Martin has a balanced distillation of sudden terror combined with consistent trepidation that keeps viewers on edge as they make their way through the eight-episode series.

“I never went to camp.” Martin says. Of course, when you look at the show, you get a good understanding why. That prompted a discussion about how he got the idea for this series.

“I just liked the idea of five people who were trying to cover up something they think they got away with, but the guilt never left them.”

The first episode completely deceives the viewer. The initial fifteen minutes of the first episode deceives the viewer into thinking that this is simply a Summer Camp Slasher film, yet afterwards the show sharply transforms into something far more sinister and ugly and the carpet is suddenly yanked from under the viewer’s feet. It’s viscerally pulse-pounding and you get this sense of constantly being on edge, waiting for the other shoe to drop. The dark is strong in this show.

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(image: Touchwood PR)

“I want the audience to constantly NEVER know what’s going on in this show. It’s the mystery of what happened on that night that plays out in the series, and while you will eventually figure out why the murder took place….” it’s the getting there that will keep you watching.

Shot in a former Boy Scout camp near Orangeville, Ontario, the show is set in the wintertime. It’s cold, wooded and gives a watcher the feeling of what an isolated camp in the Canadian hinterland would look like. It looks abandoned and the conspirators, and the people they meet up with, are completely on their own; easy prey for the vengeful killer who stalks them.

The cast really stands out in this show too. While mostly young, later-twenty somethings, there’s a great deal of natural talent in this ensemble. Leslie Hope stands out as the seemingly insecure and disturbed dweller of the commune the summer camp has turned into, as does Christopher Jacot and Emmy Award winner, Joanne Vannicola. These are the people the former camp counselors meet when they return to the camp and find out it has been turned into an “intentional community”: an alternative retreat that wishes to separate itself from the rigours of regular society.

I have favourites in this cast. First, Rebecca Liddiard (fans will remember her from Houdini & Doyle) plays the betrayed Andi and does a wonderful job of presenting a tormented character. Also, Melinda Shankar (formerly of DeGrassi and How to be Indie) admirably plays a juxtaposed character that we want to both feel sorry for and hate at the same time. Actors like Lovell Adams-Gray, Paula Brancati and Paulino Nunes all make stellar contributions to either maintaining the mystery or fuelling the terror engine that suddenly ignites to frighten us. It’s a great cast and these actors are definitely ones to watch for in upcoming productions. We asked Aaron to talk about the cast.

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(image: Touchwood PR)

“It made sense to have younger people on this show – people who had a past that they can regret. But the great thing about a show like Slasher is that we can get great names: people who I’ve either worked with in the past or people who I’ve always wanted to work with. We’ve got Jack Bauer’s wife, Leslie Hope; we’ve got Ty Olsson who I’ve always admired from other shows. We were really lucky to get him because he’s always doing shows in Vancouver (chuckle). We have a wide range of people who I’ve been lucky to work with!”

We asked about the rhythm. As I mentioned before, there’s a lull that precedes every savage attack that you fail to remember because of the relief in tension.

“I know that in terms of the structure of the show, I want something horrible to happen in the first twenty minutes. That’s conscious on my part. But, I do think that horror works when it’s unexpected. I want the audience to be shocked and you don’t want them to see it coming a mile away. You want them horrified. In slasher films, there’s a set number of deaths that happen in a 90 minute period. In this show, we’ve got eight hours to play with so I want to put in compelling character and mystery as well as the kills. Those are just as important, so you’re peppering that with terrible deaths.”

Best terrible moment in Aaron’s mind? I asked him to choose something that wouldn’t spoil it for the audience.

“The moments that are more graphic and horrifying are less terrible for me, personally. While I love them because they’re shocking and fun to pull off, it’s the moments that seem wholly real that are the most disturbing to me. Like in Season One, where Dean McDermott’s character kidnapped the young woman and kept her in her basement? Because I could see that happening in real life and that’s terrifying. But in this one, the moment that really bothers me the most is the moment when they turn on Talvinder (Melinda Shankar) and how brutal it is when they are going after her. My note to the director for that scene was to make it as awful and real as you can.”

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(image: Touchwood PR)

This show is a series of dark transitions. While the gore and the visceral episodes are truly gruesome, they can’t compare to the feeling of leaving the light and entering a world where the conceivable and actual is more horrifying than the imagined. People can be more terrifying than the monsters that can be imagined and both victim and perpetrator can be driven by their consciences to do the most horrifying things.

So, back to the question of what scares you? There are those people who walk amongst us who are real and do awful and secret things in the shadows, and that’s scarier than anything imaginable because those things exist.

Monsters are best left imagined.

Slasher: Guilty Party is now streaming on Netflix. Watch it now and learn what really scares you.

About Captain John K. Kirk

Captain John K. Kirk
John Kirk is an English and History teacher and librarian in Toronto, Canada. In addition to the traditional curriculum, John tries to teach his students to make sense of geek culture. And with the name "J. Kirk," it's hard for him to not inject "Star Trek" into his lessons. Comics, RPGs and the usual fanboy gear make up his classroom resources.