Two teenage girls are sipping rum with coke and heading to a party when they are bludgeoned to death by a baseball bat. Their small seaside town is shaken by the deaths, and residents are warned to be vigilant about a serial killer on the loose. The graphic novel “Slash Them All” is creator Antoine Maillard’s tribute to American horror movies of the 1980s. However, the book’s black-and-white panels weave a grim tale that evokes a sense of the bygone “talkies era,” which may feel anachronistic to some readers.
While the clean, stark, pencil-sketch-like grayscale illustrations in this novel are well-suited to the story’s themes, the plot tends to be rather haphazard, bordering on aimlessness. As a result, “Slash Them All” adopts a post-modern nihilistic tone. Despite its horror genre, it only manages to be mildly unsettling and lacks a truly gripping narrative. The absence of a clear protagonist made me feel a little restless while reading the book, although Antoine Maillard does attempt to center the story around a trio of high school students: the reclusive Daniel, who contends with a domineering mother; the carefree and talkative Ralph; and Pola, who yearns to escape her town and her alcoholic mother.
All the characters are very typical of the kind of teens you’d still find in horror movies (and not just American ones) and they verge on stereotypical representations. I was hoping for a more coherent plot, but “Slash Them All” was nothing more than a collage of some random teen experiences, stringed with a bunch of random murders. Given the novel’s concise length of 152 pages, there wasn’t ample room for character development. However, certain incidents in the story seemed to lack relevance to the plot, serving merely as mild shock elements. For instance, there is a scene where a girl is date-raped and even though this incident does play a role in the overarching climax, it fails to seamlessly connect with the overall narrative.
You should pick up “Black Hole” by Charles Burn if you are looking for an American teen horror graphic novel, it’s a lot more visceral and memorable.
Rating for Slash Them All: 2.5 on 5.
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