First though, there are some rules, as there often are with internet lists. These are the rules of exclusion:
*As you can read in the title, the big boys aren't in play here, so this list does not include any Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, or Friday the 13th films. This is simply to give some lesser known slashers some air time, as films from those franchises would take up five or six spots on this list, including the top two.
*The slasher film era really existed from 1978 to about 1988 (and that's being generous) and films from that decade are what I'm focusing on, so also not included are any proto-slashers (Psycho, Peeping Tom, Black Christmas, Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Alice Sweet Alice) or neo-slashers (Scream, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil). Italian giallo films (A Bay of Blood, Deep Red, etc.) are their own subgenre, so while related and similar to the slasher, they too are not included.
*And finally, I have to exclude films like Maniac, Don't Go in the House, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, and others of that ilk because they don't really fit the definition of what a slasher film is. These are serial killer films (or if you like, "stalker films)"and they focus more on the killers themselves, drawing your sympathies towards them in some cases, while barely focusing on the victims. Slasher films follow victims terrorized by a killer, while these films follow a serial killer terrorizing his victims. It's a small distinction but an important one (to me, at least) and it led to one surprise omission on the list....
So that's the ground rules. Enough with the set-up. Without further hesitation, here it is:
THE TOP 15 BEST AND GREATEST SLASHER MOVIES!* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
15. Slumber Party Massacre (1982)
This is one of those goofy/fun slasher movies, which also happens to be noteworthy for being written and directed by a pair of women, which is a rariety for the subgenre (when mentioning this film you are obliged to bring up this fact). Their feminst leanings are definitely present (the killer's HUGE drill is his source of power), but the producer-mandated nude scenes are cheesy and gratuitous. Speaking of cheese, anybody else want pizza?
14. The Prowler (1981)
In a way, this is a run-of-the-mill slasher, but it does boast a great looking villain as well as some amazing special effects work from Tom Savini. The finale is explosive.
13. Sleepaway Camp (1983)
If this was a list of the greatest endings in cinema history, this film would be top-tier material. Otherwise, it's kind of a shitty movie. . .in a fun kind of way. That ending though, whoa, what a doozy.
12. Hell Night (1981)
Recently watched this for the first time; Linda Blair is a lot of fun in this, but I love the guy Seth (Vincent Van Patton), who's dressed like Robin Hood. His reactions to everything, especially when he tries to get help, are priceless. Plus, the chick he's with keeps forgetting his name! Classic.
11. The Funhouse (1981)
From director Tobe Hooper; can you believe this is the movie he made right before Poltergeist (1982)? Come for the creepy and weird amusement park setting, stay for the creepy and weird mutant killer.
Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
Don't Open 'Till Christmas (1984)
So Silent Night, Deadly Night is on everybody's slasher list. It's the quintessential Christmas slasher film, but the more I thought about it the more I realized how it is Billy's story and doesn't really follow any of the victims. So, in sticking to my rules, I struck it from the list. Luckily, I really like one of the other Christmas slashers, Don't Open 'Till Christmas, which is a sleazy British slasher in which a psycho is killing guys who are dressed up as Santa. From the people who produced Pieces (and directed by that film's star, Edmund Purdom), so you know there might be some penis-trauma in this holiday terror treat (spoiler: there is).
9. The House on Sorority Row (1983)
Another one I just recently watched. It has a really good set-up, a decent set of characters, cool and gory kills, and some unexpected turns. What more do you want from a slasher?
8. Terror Train (1980)
Slasher classic with Jamie Lee Curtis, Ben Johnson, and David Copperfield, all taking place on a train! Also, it's great that the killer keeps changing costumes. This is a fun one.
7. The Burning (1981)
Summercamp slasher with the supremely ugly Cropsey. His garden shears are an iconic weapon amongst slashers. Features great effects by Tom Savini and early performances by Jason Alexander, Fisher Stevens, and a blink-and-you'll-miss-her Holly Hunter. Also, this is one of the rare slashers that has a Final Boy instead of a Final Girl, a break with convention that maybe doesn't work quite as well as the convention itself, but is still appreciable.
6. Just Before Dawn (1981)
Filmed in Silver Falls State Park in Oregon, which makes for a great setting, this is from director Jeff Lieberman and features Chris Lemmon (son of Jack) in a pair of the whitest, tightest slacks ever seen in a movie. Also features an early role for Gregg Henry and a pop-in appearance by George Kennedy. The ending of this one has what has got to be the supreme denouement in slasher film history.
5. Don't Go in the Woods (1981)
Another wooded slasher film, this one filmed in Utah, and this one decidely loopy, weird, and completely wackadoo. The killer in this is a gross mountain man who doesn't like trespassers up on his mountain (or whatever) and he racks up quite the body count as victims stumble into the movie only to fall dead at a very rapid pace. The synth score sounds like a keyboard dying. I love it.
4. Pieces (1982)
I wrote extensively about Pieces HERE, and while it straddles the line of slasher and giallo film, I think it's heart (and liver, and intestines...) resides much more in the slasher side of the family. Plus, it gives me an excuse to post the "YOU BASTARD!" video:
3. Visiting Hours (1982)
Ooooooohhh, a hospital set slasher starring a wicked insane Michael Ironside and a mostly adult cast?!?!? Stylish and terrifying??!??! William Shatner?! Sign me up! Seriously though, this one caught me by surprise by how good it is. Solid and uncelebrated slasher.
2. My Bloody Valentine (1981)
This movie also features an adult cast, as all the potential victims work at this old mine. The miner killer is one of the most iconic killers in all of slasher films. The all black suit, the lamp-helmet, the pick-axe, it's great and terrifying, and it keeps with the mystery until the very end. This is a great one, works the slasher formula to near perfection.
1. Happy Birthday to Me (1981)
Oh, man. How I love this movie. First off, it's really well made for a slasher film. Great direction and photography, good characters, Melissa Sue Anderson from Little House, a mystery that keeps you involved, its got "six of the most bizarre murders you will ever see" (maybe they're not that bizarre, but they are pretty cool), but what sells me on this one is the same thing that turns a lot of people off: the batshit insane ending. I love it. It's what puts this one over the top for me, landing it in the top spot. Happy Birthday, Ginny.
Almost made the list:
Intruder (1989), Tourist Trap (1979), Blood Rage (1987),
April Fools Day (1986), Stage Fright (1987), The Boogeyman (1980)
So there you have it folks. What do you think of these turkeys?
What did I miss? What are some of your favorites?