I like slasher movies. I think I’ve made that abundantly clear by now. Anyway, here’s a rundown of some favourites, skipping out most of the better known franchises. For films with sequels, I’ve always picked the first instalment. Read on...
1974 Black Christmas
Casual articles tracking the history of the slasher movie tend to miss this one out, going from Psycho to Halloween with an occasional stop off at The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Big mistake – this one is a key element in the development of the sub-genre, and shouldn’t be forgotten.
1981 My Bloody Valentine
Class of 81, part 1. 1981 was a big year for slasher movies – look here for a list. http://www.hysteria-lives.co.uk/hysterialives/Hysteria/reviews1981.html This was one of the better ones – setting that’s isolated for good reason, not just focussed on teens, scary-masked killer with a workable costume, and some brilliant set pieces. So much better than the remake, though I quite like that one too.
1981 The Burning
Class of 81, part 2. A video nasty (ooooh), and the film Tom Savini picked over Friday the 13th Part II. It’s also really, really good, and does a lot more with the summer camp setting than any of the Friday the 13th movies. I’m surprised there’s still not been a remake and/or sequel to this one.
1983 Sleepaway Camp
Another film that uses the summer camp setting well, with a ton of really young kids as well as the usual teens. Ten bonus points for the bizarre use of hair tongs, but minus a few thousand for the other characters’ acceptance of the paedophile cook. It’s very rare to find someone talking about this film without mentioning the ending. Followed by two sequels with Bruce Springsteen’s sister as the killer, which surprised me by not being totally abysmal.
1984 Girls' Nite Out
A great soundtrack of sixties classics and an utterly bizarre but completely logical costume for the villain are amongst the reasons I rate this film. It’s a bit of a mess at times, but the reveal of the killer works and there are some good character moments. I have absolutely no idea what the trailer has to do with the film – that girl isn’t even in it.
Originally given the far better name of Night Crew: The Final Checkout, this film was made by frequent Sam Raimi collaborator Scott Spiegel. Raimi and his brother ted appear in the film, which is elevated above others from the genre by clever camerawork and some great death scenes – band saw, anyone?
1997 I Know What You Did Last Summer
More than anything, this showed that Scream wasn’t just a one-off and that the slasher genre was heading back. You can moan all you like about the presence of a bunch of TV teen faces in the movie, but they’re actors with a proven track record and a built-in fanbase, two things which will bring in an audience. The chase scene with Sarah Michelle Gellar’s character is brilliant, and for all the complaints about The Fisherman and his outfit, it blends in whilst working as a disguise. Good enough for me.
1998 Urban Legend
I didn’t see this when it came out, only catching it later on a recommendation. It’s actually really good. Great stunt casting of genre icons, a batshit loopy killer and some very inventive death scenes. OK, so the killer’s disguise is a bit lame, but that’s completely redeemed by their completely over the top villain rant at the end. Also see Urban Legends: Final Cut, which is pretty good but has a terrible motivation for the killer and a mask stolen from 1981’s Graduation Day. They went in a different direction for the third one, but I’d love to write a follow-up. Any idea who owns the comic book rights?
Probably best known for being “The gay slasher movie”, though it should just be recognised for being a good low budget slasher movie. I can’t think of many other examples of a film where the killer’s appearance has been used as an asset when hunting (without going into spoiler territory).
2006 Behind the Mask
Scream meets Man Bites Dog is a far from accurate description of this film, but it gives you an idea of the territory and that’s a start. Walks the thin line of dark comedy and horror without ever really falling down into parody. If I had to pick one film on this list for you to see, this would be it.
2006 Cold Prey
I’m not really up on Norwegian cinema these days, so I don’t know if any of the cast are big names, or if they’re all first timers or what. I do know that this film is really good. It’s nothing special, it’s not really all that innovative, but it does the job and it does it well enough. Followed by two sequels, the first of which follows the Halloween II/Nightmare on Elm Street 3 tradition and is set in a hospital.
I’m a big fan of Adam Green’s Hatchet trilogy, and this opening instalment is lots of fun. Mixing Sam Raimi/Peter Jackson levels of gore with a vaguely Madman-esque hulking brute monster means slasher gold, well worth anyone’s time. Check out the sequel too.
2009 MTV’s My Super Psycho Sweet 16
Yes, I know. Don’t give me that until you’ve seen it. More than pretty much anything I’ve seen since, this takes the feel of an early eighties slasher and updates it to the present day. Ever see a clip from My Super Sweet 16 and wish that horrible things would happen to everyone involved? Well, this movie proves that I’m not alone in thinking that – and, given that it was made for the same channel where the show appears, I’m guessing MTV know how many people think that too. Followed by two sequels.