In keeping with the topic I re-introduced yesterday, I give you the next element of the slasher film: the setting.
Because the characters in these films are most often teenagers (so is the audience, predominately), the location is usually in accordance: the mall (The Initiation), college (The House on Sorority Row, Black Christmas), high school (Graduation Day) and of course...summer camp (Friday the 13th, The Burning, Sleepaway Camp). In fact, a majority of the Friday the 13th films feature one of the most well-known horror movie locations: Camp Crystal Lake.
While slashers can obviously take place anywhere, they are most often set somewhere remote or isolated. The less isolated the spot, the easier it is for people to get away- and that would ruin all the fun. Still, it's a take-it-on-faith situation for the audience, because in a majority of these films, the characters could get away if they really tried. In Halloween, when Laurie Strode's knocks go unanswered at one house, why didn't she keep trying? On occasion, the location itself does prevent escape: in Terror Train, for example, the teen revellers are on...a train. In April Fool's Day, everyone's trapped on an island. Despite the title, Friday the 13th VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan is set largely on a boat. It's only in the final act that finds Jason loose on the streets of New York City.
And what of this? What about slashers that take place largely in urban settings? Given the need for isolation as a plot device, the big city setting seems to go against logic. Films like F13 VIII, Night School, and Maniac work largely because they rely on the perceived indifference and anonymity afforded one in the city. The victim may be surrounded by thousands of people, but none of them will go out of their way to help. It's not that far-fetched...I remember the "Death Rides the 6!" headline on the front page of the New York Post. A man died in his seat on the subway, but everyone around assumed he was just sleeping so he rode the rails all day.
Just because a location may be familiar to the film characters, don't expect the intimate knowledge to always give them a leg up on the killer. Sometimes characters can use the setting to their advantage- think of Nancy's booby-trapped house in A Nightmare on Elm Street. But more often the killer will know all the shortcuts and ins-and-outs that the victims know, and he'll still get 'em! That's movie magic for ya!
These silly movies can even have an effect on perceptions of locations in the real world. Sure, Jaws had audiences freaked out about hitting the beach...Psycho changed the way people felt about the shower...but who hasn't almost immediately thought of "ki ki ki ma ma ma" when in the woods after seeing Friday the 13th?