It’s hard to surprise people when putting together a list of the best slasher movies and, in the interest of doing so, I thought I’d exclude all the genre mainstays from the list. This list doesn’t necessarily represent the “ten best”, but rather some of the slasher subgenre’s more ‘overlooked’ offerings.
10. The Mutilator (1985)
It can be argued that this film’s greatest asset is its amazing tag line (By Pick, By Sword, By Axe, Bye Bye!), but that’s doing a bit of disservice to director Buddy Cooper’s only attempt to run with the slasher big dogs.
First we’ve got one of the most preposterous killer motivations in the subgenre: a child, cleaning his father’s gun in an attempt to gleam his daddy’s affections, accidentally shoots his mother dead. Dad comes home, flips his lid and viola! Instant slasher!
If you track down the uncut version, you’ll get the goods when it comes to slasher mayhem – especially in that infamous hook scene. And dig, if you can, that annoying Fall Break song. I can’t say I love it, but it makes me laugh every time.
9. The Deadly Intruder (1984)
Unless you can’t get enough of them 80’s slashers, you’d do best to mosey on away from director John McCauley’s attempt to turn Halloween into a domestic thriller.
Following one of the most implausible institution escapes you’ll ever see, a psycho killer sets his sights on a small dinner party (populated by none other than Danny Bonaduce). There’s gratuitous nudity (courtesy of our heroine, Molly Cheek), ridiculous red herrings and some of the most ill-fated slasher fodder I can recall (check out the fate of the poor telephone line repairman). And if that’s not enough, you’ve got some of the most “hands off” cops ever seen – complete with farting dog!
Deadly Intruder isn’t great, but it’s a wholly entertaining slice of 80s slasher madness, with all of the violence and nudity you could hope for. Why, oh why, isn’t this on DVD yet?
8. Hospital Massacre aka X-Ray (1982)
The early 1980s weren’t the best time to be in the healthcare industry as it seemed like every few months another slasher was busy carving up the staff members of their local hospitals. In between Halloween II and Visiting Hours came Hospital Massacre, in which a diabolical madman targets Playboy Playmate of the year, Barbi Benton.
Barbi checks into a hospital for some routine tests but soon finds herself at a madman’s mercy. Having switched out her results for some that will keep her confined (against her will), he comes after her with a vengeance. There’s some solid gore on display through decapitations, stabbings and a nasty ‘axe to the head’ bit, and Benton shows us the goods in a gratuitous examination scene.
If you can swallow the notion that Benton somehow becomes trapped against her will, Hospital Massacre brings its A-game and slasher fans will not be disappointed.
7. Intruder aka Night of the Intruder / Night Crew: The Final Checkout (1989)
Having spent ten years of my life working in a grocery store, I’d often find myself thinking back to Scott Spiegel’s night crew-based slasher flick when my least favorite co-workers would work night crew. In this movie, a small town grocery store is slated to close down; only somebody doesn’t want that to happen!
Raimi brothers, Sam and Ted, are on hand as victims in this fast-paced slasher flick (with Sam’s death being one of the most vicious). Our killer’s identity isn’t especially difficult to determine, but the wide variety of gory deaths more than make up for the lack of surprises. Director Scott Spiegel makes great use of the setting and the 80 minute run time zips by.
This one’s as fun as they come.
6. Return to Horror High (1987)
In 1982, Crippen High was devastated by a series of brutal murders, but the killer was never caught. Flash forward a few years and a team of low budget filmmakers have descended onto Crippen’s grounds to recount the tragic story. Of course, that pesky, uncaught killer also comes a calling …
This one is plays it up for laughs, and the murder sequences are admittedly a bit on the silly side (the Biology teacher is pinned to his desk and sliced open), but these guys were trying to do something different within the subgenre. It’s not a high body count, but we’ve got more twists and turns than you can keep track of and the cast – yeah, Clooney’s in here – is fun to watch. Alex Rocco, in particular, is a standout as the sleazy producer.
I’m also a big fan of the theatrical trailer, which doesn’t have much to do with the movie but makes for one hell of an image!
5. Silent Scream (1980)
One of the most criminally neglected genre films, Silent Scream isn’t all about the body count, making a solid effort to build lots of ambiance through its ‘old, dark house’ setting, which means it’s worth a look for those among you who don’t revel in dead teenagers (shame on you!).
We’ve got the creepy house, a truly crazed slasher and an attempt to give Psycho a run for its money not only with a shower scene, but also in a young man with mommy issues. The pace is slow, but it builds suspense, unfolding into a very memorable climax.
One of the classiest of all slasher films, this one won’t please those who want an endless display of sex and violence, but it’s among the most well-crafted. Rumors are that we’ll be getting a DVD release sometime in the near future, let’s hope it turns out to be ture.
4. Slaughter High (1986)
”Marty majored in cutting classmates.” And that tagline doesn’t lie, either. Here, one of our most diabolical slashers somehow stages a dummy five year reunion and successfully manages to lure back all of those who wronged him.
Don’t watch this one unless you’re fully prepared to roll with the stupid: Characters react in ways which go beyond dumb, and this five year high school reunion is home to the oldest looking twenty three year olds of all time (a popular, but valid criticism). But Marty’s jester mask gives him an intimidating presence, despite the nonsense, and this one dabbles in some solid gore (just make sure you’re getting the uncut version).
Harry Manfredini, Mr. Friday the 13th, supplies us with a vaguely familiar score, and Caroline Munro is one hell of a sexy final girl. Plus, there’s enough hijinks here for three movies. Nah, it’s not really that good. It’s awesome.
3. Satan’s Blade (1984)
This slasher mixes elements of the supernatural in with the ‘stalk and slash’ formula and the end result makes for one of the best!
When some poor sod stumbles across an old, cursed knife, our soon-to-be madman becomes possessed by an evil spirit and goes on an immediate rampage at a nearby ski lodge. Lots of attractive college girls fall victim to the blade and there’s a really nice, claustrophobic feel within the isolated ski lodge.
This one has its share of clunky bits, but also enough mainstays to keep slasher fans happy. I’m not sure why this one has become so much of a rarity over the years as it’s worthy of rediscovery. If you’re a fan of masked madmen, track it down.
2. Madman (1981)
Okay, this one isn’t really that overlooked. It’s got a fairly steady following and the OOP DVD has become a highly sought after collector’s item on eBay. But, you know what? I’m such a fan that I’m including it here.
From the opening campfire story (distinguished because our main character sings it) to the genuinely creepy first appearance of Marz, right down to the classic ‘hood decap’, this one is a must see. You’ve also got a hot tub love scene that defies description and one of the very best endings in the subgenre’s history.
Marz is an intimidating killer, to be sure, and that’s more than enough reason to recommend this one. See it on the big screen if you can to realize just how much of a difference the theatrical experience can be!
1. Just Before Dawn (1981)
The Oregon mountains are the setting for this slasher flick, which pits five twenty-somethings against a backwoods, hillbilly killer. The deaths aren’t plentiful, but each of them memorable. Most notably is Jamie Rose’s ill-fated skinny dipping sequence. Gregg Henry is quite good as the tough guy survivalist who grows weaker as the movie gets longer and Deborah Benson’s short, short, short s are almost worth the price of admission alone.
Plus, you have to love the way in which our killer is bested in this one – one of the very best scenes the subgenre has to offer. Director Jeff Lieberman makes fantastic use of the nature setting and moves the action along quite nicely.
Suspenseful and bloody, it’s easy to forgive some of the nonsensical character behavior because everything else is executed so perfectly.
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