Slasher S4E5 Review: Family Ties

by thethreepennyguignol

Truly, actually, factually: there’s nothing worse than an artist.

At least, that’s what this week’s episode of Slasher, Family Ties, seems to think. Sabrina Grdevich’s Florence is the focus of this episode, and fuck me, it’s what I’ve been waiting for all season. As someone who works in the world of pop culture, I have a special affinity for the kind of ar-tiste villain that Flo represents; I think every single person who has ever worked in any kind of arty field has those wonderfully selfish instincts to just delve into everything that’s ever happened to you and turn it into introspective, navel-gazing seriousness while making casual reference to Dante and comparing yourself to Lady Macbeth. But magnifying them – turning that pretentiousness, that snake-eating-its-own-tail bullshit into actually evil – has turned out what is probably my favourite Slasher villain to date.

This is not a subtle episode of Slasher. I wouldn’t want it any other way. No, Family Ties hits with all the subtlety of one of Flo’s hollowed-out art monstrosities; the episode opens with her slicing up actual cash to put into her latest collage, just in case things were getting too delicate for us, and it’s crasser and crasser from then on out.

Grdevich brings this tremendous Grande Dame energy to Florence that I am obsessed with; sweeping around in dreadful, self-conscious arty streetwear, lavishing her attention on her own painfully hollow point-of-view, delivering every painfully laboured metaphor like a high schooler doing Hamlet for the first time; it’s all very What-Happened-to-Baby-Jane-if-Jane-Was-Actually-Pamela Voorhees, and I’m obsessed with it. I had to go have a little lay down at her pronunciation of “Van Gogh”, which she managed to turn into fifteen syllables, though I will admit I felt a little called out when an critic told her to “go back to her Van Gogh puzzles”, because, well –

What are you trying to imply about my Sunflowers puzzle from the Van Gogh museum, Slasher? You’ll be receiving a strongly-worded letter in the mail from my cat any day now.

Anyway. Fitting this episode around Flo’s various forays into the art world is an inspired way to structure this story, and it works beautifully to uncover just what a morally bankrupt walking poncho hanger that she is. We start with her initial attempts, rejected for their hollowness and lack of perspective, and then, move to her first really accepted work; a recreation of the kidnapping of her son, using the recorded testimony of his traumatized brother and a blood-soaked dummy (Jesus, the screech I let out when the blood started pouring on to that child-sized mannequin – the height of Slasher’s camp, gleeful silliness, turned up to eleven) to get her point across.

And then, of course, we have to get to her children. Because, for Florence, her children are simply an extension of her art; her finest works, as she tells O’Keefe, and that means that they are just as disposable as her previous works when they don’t serve her anymore.

Spencer, of course, has set up another trial for the fam at large – hunting each other with rubber bullets through the woods, giving the show an excuse to do some real stalk-and- well, not slash, but you get my meaning. Liv, after discovering the loss of her mother, is on the rampage, and it makes for a great shift in Sydney Myer’s performance to actually turn on the people around her after being so restrained in the season thus far.

Florence and O’Keefe end up the winners, allowed to stay in a small safehouse bunker for the night, and it’s here that Florence starts to soliloquize (as I’m sure she would describe it) on the importance of her children. Unluckily for O’Keefe, however, that importance only stretches as far as when it interferes with Florence’s own wellbeing, and when the bunker turns out to be a poison-gas laced trap, it doesn’t take long for Flo to choose her own life over that of her child’s.

I genuinely found O’Keefe’s death scene pretty hard to watch, I think because they have been one of the main centres of morality and decency in the show thus far, and seeing them come to such a brutal, extended, and horrible end at the hands of their own mother feels particularly cruel. But Slasher has never been in the habit of sparing the righteous, and if anything, it makes a lot of sense for the show to take this step: morality is a little too straightforward at the moment, and taking out someone like O’Keefe is going to get a lot of the remaining cast – even the ones who’ve been somewhat grounded till now – ready to show teeth.

More than anything, though, it solidifies just what a horrendously effective villain Florence is – letting her own kid, and the Good One at that, die in her arms to save her own life – and finally gives her no place to hide from the rest of the characters. The last of her art that we see this week is the po-faced baby-doll statue that she created for the first episode, as she’s strung up inside it by an enraged Theo and left to make it through the night – if the killer doesn’t get to her first, of course.

I’m glad that this episode doesn’t end with her buying it, just because I’m so not done with seeing how else Sabrina Grdevich can spin dramatically towards camera wearing a pair of car air fresheners as earrings. But it is satisfying to see one of Slasher’s most absurd and fantastically nasty villains get a little comeuppance. I hope it’s not the last we see of her yet – and I’m really looking forward to seeing how things escalate next time.

If you enjoyed this article and want to see more stuff like it, check out my other blog, No But Listen, as well as my fiction work! You can also support me on Patreon to help keep this blog running and keep my very demanding little cat in treaties, and me out of her clutches for another month yet.

(header image via Horror Obsessive)