The Spookeasy's Top Ten SLASHER FLICKS
In honor of the release of SLASHER, Scarlet Lane Brewing's Roasted Pumpkin Seed Ale, I have toiled and troubled to bring you my top ten favorite slasher flicks of all time. These aren’t necessarily “the best” of this gangrenous genre, but simply the stalk-and-slash subversions that have stuck in my subconsciousness like a spike to the skull. Read on, beware, and enjoy SLASHER, exclusively at Scarlet Lane locations HALLOWEEN WEEKEND ONLY. Once Sunday ends, the slasher retreats… until next year.
(Note: the opinions here are my own, and not the opinions of my employers; they are, however, the correct opinions on these films.)
10. The Prowler - 1981 - Joseph Zito
Marking the first of two slasher films combining the direction of Joseph Zito with special-effects work of Tom Savini (approaching his peak effect flick, 85’s Day of the Dead), The Prowler is a mean and gory slasher, and, while not too far removed from the next entry on this list, definitely secures a place on this list due to the sheer viciousness of the film, with Savini delivering some of the most brutal effects of his career. The visage of the film’s killer, a helmeted, masked soldier wielding a pitchfork is both iconic and frightening, and the violence dished out in this slice of 80’s sleaze is some of the most shocking in the genre, including a wild bayonet through the head, a brutal throat-slashing, and, one of Savini’s signature exploding head gags. The plot may not be the the most original or engaging, but The Prowler will definitely satisfy slice and dice fanatics.
09. My Bloody Valentine - 1981 - George Mihalka
It only took two entries in to get to the first proper holiday slasher flick on the list, and they really don’t come much better than 1981’s My Bloody Valentine, which combines excellent special effects, brutal kills, pitch black humor, and a very Canadian aesthetic with a decent script and an excellent, likable cast of middle aged pickaxe-fodder, as opposed to the genre’s usual staple of teenage deli meat. A respectable, 3D remake emerged in 2009, and, while this take was a fun slice of cinematic cheese, the original remains an effective and enjoyable slasher. Seek out the unrated cut!
08. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors - 1987 - Chuck Russell
The Elm Street franchise always seemed slightly beyond slasher to me; Freddy has more in common with Pinhead and The Tall Man, honestly (with the exception that Freddy does his dirty work solo), than with Michael or Jason, and reducing Krueger down to a simple slasher misses the whole point of his popularity. That being said, Dream Warriors is widely beloved for obvious reasons: it allowed Robert England to finally take full ownership of the character, and his performance in Dream Warriors toes the line between Krueger the comedian and Krueger the killer of children. Add to this a great teen cast, a fun script, and that fuckin’ Dokken banger, and you have, debatably, the best entry in the Elm Street franchise.
07. The Mutilator - 1984 - Buddy Cooper
“We’re goin’ on a Fall Break!” Ok, The Mutilator is pretty stupid, but, fuck me if it isn’t highly entertaining, starting with the chipper ear worm “Fall Break,” and ending with one of the best bloodbaths the dead teenager genre has to offer. This film was criminally unseen by my until I was a grown ass adult, but was still a classic to me, if only for the iconic poster and the tagline “By sword, by pick, by axe, bye bye.” Arrow Video released an excellent BluRay of this under-appreciated slasher, and I’d highly recommend you seek it out.
06. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter - 1984 - Joseph Zito
The Friday the 13th Franchise, as a whole (or, at least the Paramount years), may be the epitome of the slasher series, mainly coloring inside the lines for the first four entries, then branching out to explore slightly more supernatural slasher elements (telekinesis, an undead killer, a cruise ship that goes from Crystal Lake, New Jersey to Man-fucking-hattan) in the latter Paramount days. That being said, the fourth entry, the laughably-titled Final Chapter, serves as maybe the pinnacle of Jason’s slasher-king reign, with a fully likable cast, including Crispin Glover and pre-teen Corey Feldman, a great Jason Voorhees in stuntman Ted White, and a film combining the one-two punch of Zito and Savini, a teaming that, while not as popular as Romero and Savini, produced some of the 80’s greatest kills. “Hey, Ted, where’s the corkscrew?!?!”
05. Hell Night - 1981 - Tom DeSimone
Hell Night is either an Old Dark House flick masked as a slasher, or a slasher film set deep in the bowels of an Old Dark House. While the latter is probably the case, Hell Night remains an underrated and under-seen slasher, pitting Rock ’n’ Roll High School’s Vincent Van Patten, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter’s Peter Barton, and The Exorcist alum Linda Blair against the remaining resident (shush your spoiler-y mouths) of Garth Manor. Prepared to be totally gorked out by one of the more restrained and thoughtful entires in the slasher canon, with Blair and Barton both turning in grounded, likable performances as pledges spending the night fleeing death. It’s light on gore, but high in charm, and remains one of the most watched flicks in my collection.
04. Sleepaway Camp II - 1988 - Michael A. Sampson
Sleepaway Camp one is a fucking classic. Full stop. It’s Jersyplotation at it’s best; a politically incorrect, sexually frustrated flick sporting some of the most heinous short shorts in all of film history, and remains a classic for reasons beyond it’s absolute bonkers ending. That being said, the heart and soul of the Sleepaway Camp franchise, in my opinion, is the sunny performance of Pamela Springsteen (yes, the Boss’s sister) as Angela, now a fully wise-cracking slasher hero in the vein of Freddy or Chucky. The kills are gratuitous, the nudity is gratuitous, and Springsteen’s cheery sociopathy is both gratuitous and infectious. It’s a pity she’s not been around the convention scene or featured in interviews regarding her involvement in Sleepaway Camp II and III, because Pamela Springsteen as Angela remains a bright spot in the pantheon of cinematic slashers.
03. Intruder - 1989 - Scott Spiegel
Holy shit! A Supermarket Slasher film! Whodathunkit?!?! Scott Spiegel, Bruce Campbell, and a couple of Raimis (Sam and Ted, duh) deliver one of the most juicy, violent, enjoyable slashers in the genre, featuring some early and impressive work by KNB. Intruder - which shares it’s not-so-original title with a few horror flicks - is incredibly fun: it features a fun cast in a single, original location, and some of the most balls-to-the-wall, batshit splatter that should satisfy even the most bloodthirsty of gorehounds. The violence is pretty juicy, featuring the film’s most memorable kill, a bandsaw through the middle of a screaming man’s head. The filmmaking really helps elevate this slick-and-dice, with some De Palma-esque shot composition and crazy, giallo-flavored POV shots. Teenage body count film fans, seek this one out IMMEDIATELY.
02. Scream - 1996 - Wes Craven
I mean, c’mon, it was going to show up on this list. Sure, it’s a little easy, throwing one of THE MOST, if not arguably THE MOST successful and well-known slasher flicks of all time onto this least seems like a softball, but have you sat down and rewatched Scream lately? Fuck. It holds up, no matter how much it imitated flicks before it, or how much films after over-saturated the new era of teen slashers Scream heralded. Haters gonna hate, but it remains an incredibly well-written, well-cast, well-acted, and, of course, well-directed films this disreputable genre has to offer. Wes Craven, he of Last House On The Left, The Hills Have Eyes, and A Nightmare on Elm Street, staked his claim YET AGAIN as one of the best filmmakers capable of raising the slasher film above a mundane slice-and-dice. The film’s introduction to Ghost Face, first via the iconic voice heard only over the telephone lines, and then the absolutely perfect visage of Fun World’s “Ghost Face” mask, instantly brought to the world a new, iconic slasher villain to the moviegoing masses, even if the face(s) under the mask(s) changed with every subsequent film.
01. Halloween II - 1981 - Rick Rosenthal / Halloween II - 2009 - Rob Zombie
Yep, it’s controversial. Yep, I’m gonna get shit. I. Don’t. Care.
Halloween II, the 1981 follow up to John Carpenter’s Halloween - perhaps the best slasher film ever made - and Halloween II, the 2009 sequel to Rob Zombie’s reimagining to his remake of Carpenter’s classic, are brutal and mean, with the former serving as a cold-blooded slice and dice, and the latter being a phantasmagoric mind fuck that cranks Michael Myer’s murderous rage to 11.
Halloween II is a direct sequel to Carpenter’s flick, picking up exactly where the ’78 film leaves off - with Myers disappearing into the night as Laurie Strode is taken to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital, and Dr. Sam Loomis doggedly pursues Myers through the Midwest’s very own long Halloween. I’ve always loved this film, where the cool, detached killings of The Shape in the first film burn a rage-filled red, and Michael Myers now kills his victims with a brutal, angry violence that is nearly palpable. The film itself is a mean machine, not afraid to show children with razorblades jutting through their mouths, a parent being presented with the body of their dead child, and a slasher villain, while still masked and near-silent, not seems to radiate a palpable rage. When someone says “slasher film” 1981’s Halloween II is the first film that comes to my sleazy, warped mind. (Also, look back at this list; what the fuck happened in 1981?!?)
Rob Zombie’s Halloween II starts with a dream sequence (maybe at least partial flashback?) that honors the original 1981 sequel, but then forges its own murderous path, not unlike the bearded, homeless, mostly-unmasked Myers of this twisted mindfuck of a Halloween flick. Donning the mask only to kill, this Myers is brutal and extremely pissed off, growling and grunting through some of the most viscious kills of the franchise, including a head-stomping (predating 2018’s Halloween), a multitude of absolutely brutal stabbings, and Michael vomiting up one rage-filled cry of “DIE” before seemingly murdering Dr. Loomis. The filmmaking in this sequel is fantastic (fuck the haters) and has to be one of the most stylish, beautiful, and violent American slashers of the last two decades.
That’s it! That’s the list. Agree? Disagree? Have your own Top Ten? Let us know at the The Spookeasy on Facebook, and, of course, visit all Scarlet Lane locations, Oct 30-Nov 1, to get out limited, Halloween, roasted pumpkin seed ale, SLASHER… unless it gets you, first.
Enjoy Halloween 2020. Stay Safe. Wear A Mask.