As a young boy, French-born illustrator Antoine Maillard spent his weekends at the local video store. He’d search the racks for his favorite genre of movies, which included a variety of American horror and slasher flicks from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.
He fell in love with classics like “Halloween,” “The Thing,” “Christine,” the films in “The Friday the 13th” franchise and newer releases of that time including Wes Craven’s 1996 slasher-reviving movie, “Scream.” While the now 32-year-old admits that he may have been a little too young for some of these gory films, they ended up having a lasting impact on Maillard as they served as inspiration for his debut graphic novel, “Slash Them All.”
“I started this project as a way to mix all the things I like,” he said during a phone interview from his home in Toulouse, France, ahead of the Sept. 20 release of his hardcover novel, which he wrote and illustrated.
“The thing that was the most fascinating for me in these movies is that there was a big focus on mundane, everyday life,” he continued. “In ‘Halloween’ or ‘Scream’ you see teenagers in everyday life.”
Much like the movies he loves, Maillard focused his book on teens living in the idyllic beach town of Playa Falsa, which translates to “fake beach.” The students at Playa Falsa High School are getting ready for summer break when, in classic horror film fashion, two teens are found dead. They’d been bludgeoned to death by a baseball bat.
Maillard doesn’t hold anything back as he jumps into the story with a violent start and blood being shed by the third page.
“I wanted, at the beginning, to catch the attention of the reader,” he said. “And this was also a trend in many movies; a very violent introduction and after that, a more atmospheric rhythm.”
Following the brutal murders, rumors of a serial killer on the loose begin to circulate around the high school and panic grips the small town. News crews even show up to cover the killings and nickname the suspect the “Bloody Batter.”
If that all sounds a little familiar, it’s because it’s similar to the “Scream” storyline, which Millard said was one of the biggest influences on this book.
“I was also really inspired by David Lynch and ‘Twin Peaks,’ so I think it’s a mix between a slasher and David Lynch films,” he added.
There are other elements that create a unique and uneasy atmosphere that set the book apart from the films its inspired by. As people keep dying, Maillard adds more of a sense of depth and dread to his story with both his writing and illustrations. For example, he keeps readers wondering about the true intentions of the main characters as a darker side of their personalities is revealed, blurring the lines between the heroes and villains.
One of the protagonists in the book, Daniel, is a quiet bespeckled loner whom Maillard described as the “nerd cliche.” His only friend is Pola, also an outsider, and both have issues with anger and resentment towards their mothers, which in turn bonds them. The Daniel character, Maillard said, was actually influenced by real life serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, who was convicted of murdering more than a dozen people.
“I used a lot of archetypes and I think for Daniel, Jeffrey Dahmer was a cool archetype and I mixed it up with people I knew as a teenager,” he said.
Meanwhile, the illustrations are done in black and white, with shadows and shading that give the book more of a film noir feel rather than a bold and bloody slasher.
“I tried to develop a language with lights,” Maillard said of his technique. “I tried to create an atmosphere in the drawings.”