When we talk about “slasher movies” as a sub-genre of horror, what is it exactly that comes to your mind? Is it that creepy stalker in a mask? Does it have to take place in an isolated place like a Summer camp or a cabin in the woods? Honestly, not really. By the rule of horror followed by most, slasher movies have to have three things: A villain who is human; a high body count; and, in my mind, the brutality of the kills.
For the purpose of this article, I’ll preface with the notation that home invasion films are not on this list, nor are films that border on the science fiction realm. That said, here is my list of Horror’s Best Slasher Movies.
- Halloween (1978) – This is a movie that most people remember exactly what was gong on when you saw it. I remember making out with a girlfriend in a car in the parking lot of a game and continually looking around outside the car for fear Michael Meyers was close by. It had that same paranoia effect that Jaws had on me when I saw it. John Carpenter’s cinematography and direction was brilliant in this film. He made you scared of what might be behind the bushes or what might be behind the doors. Michael Meyers was quiet but menacing in his size, strength and brutality. There is no doubt that Halloween is the Godfather of all slasher films, even those that predate it.
- A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) – Wes Craven created a masterpiece with Freddy Kruger and this movie. And the social issues that were underlying themes were shocking. Misogyny, child molestation, abuse were all beneath the surface. AT the core, however, was just good, old fashioned slashing and killing and Freddie Kruger was one of the best. While the rest of this franchise doesn’t come close, this original was incredible and important in the slasher sub-genre.
- Black Christmas (1974) – Violent and bloody, a psychotic killer terrorizes a group of sorority girls over Christmas break. Released four years prior to Halloween, the cinematography was excellent in this one too, using point of view from the killer’s eyes frequently, much like Carpenter did with Halloween. This is a must see if you’ve never watched it.
- Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) – Perhaps the most brutal horror movie filmed in its error, TCM used gore, blood, and vicious brutality through its villain, Leatherface, to terrorize the audiences. Gunnar Hansen, who played Leatherface, was absolutely explosive in the violent scenes. I had the opportunity to work with him on another film and sitting down and talking to him, you would never guess that the guy playing Leatherface was such a charming and intelligent man. This is one of those timeless classics.
- Friday the 13th (1980) – This movie was set at a summer camp and produced one of the greatest slasher horror characters in film, Jason Vorhees. This movie had the blood, the kills, and one of the more shocking endings of any of the films in that time period in this genre. It also launched a slew of imitations, proving its worth to the genre, as imitations truly is the greatest form of flattery.
- The Burning (1981) – A movie definitely from the vein of Friday the 13th, Using the summer camp setting and based on an urban legend of “Cropsy”, a disfigured camp counselor who returns from the grave to seek revenge on other counselor, The Burning is about Cropsy attacking a group of campers/counselors and killing them one by one. Blood and body count and the cinematography get this one on the list. Much better than any of the other Friday the 13th imitators.
- My Bloody Valentine (1981) – Very campy and very gory. This movie makes the list on blood and gore in the most violent of ways. A killer, whom the town teens wrote off as a “legend” to simply scare them, turns out to be real and terrorizes and brutally kills again. This movies has some really great kills in it and if that’s the kind of horror you’re into, this is the movie for you.
- Child’s Play (1988) – This is one of those that could actually be a possession movie as an evil spirit inhabits an ugly doll, “Chucky” and turns him in to a killer. Admittedly, I’ve never been a big slasher fan, and even less of a Chucky fan, but the cult following he has and the body count that he’s generated have to be respected in this genre.
- Candyman (1992) – Based on Clive Barker’s “Forbidden”, the plot follows a graduate student named Helen Lyle who did a thesis on the local urban legend of the “Candyman” who was the vengeful specter of a slave and artist that was executed by a lynch mob after falling in love with and impregnating a white woman and he could be summoned by having his name repeated five times in front of a mirror. The Candyman uses a hooked appendage to do his slashing.
- Psycho (1960) – I don’t think I could close out the list without what many say was the first “slasher” movie, given to us from Alfred Hitchcock. Norman Bates was not the typical “slasher” villain; he was somewhat mild mannered in appearance and sympathetic to his victims. But make no mistake about, Norman Bates was a killer, killing eleven people in the course of the series following his “slasher” career.
Others on the list in no particular order
You’re Next (2011)
Urban Legend (1998)
Prom Night (1980)
I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)