By: Ellis Keipper
Slasher movies are a subgenre of horror movies that were largely popularized in the 70s and 80s. They often featured a deranged killer who picked off their victims one by one in an orderly fashion. For this article, I have assembled my personal top-10 favorite slasher films. Obviously, I have not seen every slasher film to ever come out, so don’t be surprised if your favorite doesn’t find itself on here.
Before starting, let’s decide what defines a slasher movie. As previously mentioned, they include deranged killers who prey on “innocent” victims for sometimes unknown motives. There are two important aspects that can be used to differentiate a slasher from other subgenres of horror. The first being that the killer must be a human or metahuman. Movies like Alien or Child’s Play do not count because their main killers are extra-terrestrial or other wordly. The second most important aspect is that the killer must commit multiple murders. The movie cannot be centered around the death of one character–rather, a whole cast of characters must die between the beginning and end of the film . That being said, the movies are allowed to feature other worldly elements, their killers are just not allowed to use them.
With all that aside, here is the beginning of my list.
10. Slumber Party Massacre (1982)
Director: Amy Holden Jones
This movie is by far the most fun on this list to watch. It is the textbook definition of a movie that is so bad it’s good. I love how the writing and plot of the movie make little to no sense but so much thought and creativity went into each of the kills and performances of the actors. There is little to no exposition given to the kill nor any of the characters as the movie chooses to jump straight into plot. And the plot is exactly what it sounds like–a killer breaks into a house and kills a bunch of people at a slumber party. Despite this lack of structure or exposition, it was still the performances of the actors which kept me engaged as they all committed very well to this goofy, over-the-top film.
9. Halloween (1978)
Director: John Carpenter
While many will likely find it controversial to have it so low on a list like this, but I find it a bit disengaging. In my opinion, there are much better John Carpenter movies. Obviously, I have to give credit where it’s due. This movie is the definitive slasher film as it played a large part in popularizing the subgenre and its tropes. While it was not the first film to exhibit these tropes and plot structures, it was instrumental in familiarizing audiences with them. This movie is many people’s all-time favorite, and it spawned one of the longest running franchises in movie history. For that, it earns its spot on this list.
8. Hellraiser (1987)
Director: Clive Barker
This movie makes it onto the list based on a technicality. The killer in this movie is a woman who works in league with other-worldly beings. Essentially, this film is about a dead soul who convinces a past lover to kill people for him so he can use their blood to generate a new body for him again. This is by far the one of the most unique concepts I have ever seen for a horror movie. Upon my initial viewing of the film, I did not find much to love about it. As time passed, it began to dawn on me how unique of a movie this was. Unique is the only word that seems to do this movie justice when talking about it because this story is just so original and interesting.
7. Opera (Terror At The Opera) (1987)
Director: Dario Argento
This movie is about a killer who stalks a stage actress and forces her to watch as he murders her castmates in her upcoming production of Macbeth. This is the first Argento film to make it onto the list and for good reason. Opera is a prime example of Argento’s signature style of murder-mystery slashers that use bright visual tones and minimal writing to tell deeply engaging stories.
6. A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
Director: Wes Craven
What puts this movie so high on my list is that it takes a normal activity and gives it an added level of danger. The character of Freddy Krueger very distinctly exemplifies Wes Craven’s signature style of filmmaking as he is both humorous and terrifying. The character is very wacky and cartoonish but this aspect never comes at the expense of the fear he is able to instill in the audience. This movie is a perfect example of what makes Wes Craven so great at his craft as it is easily accessible but still manages to scare the audience in a thoughtful and unforgettable way.
5. Black Christmas (1974)
Director: Bob Clark
This movie, in my opinion, is the better version of Halloween. Most notably, the characters in this movie are much more distinct than in Halloween. This film conveyed a lot of tropes and styles that Halloween is praised for except it came 4 years earlier. Essentially, this film is about a killer striking a sorority house on Christmas Eve. This was also the first time the phrase “The call is coming from inside the house.” was used in a major film.
4. My Bloody Valentine (1981)
Director: George Mihalka
This movie is the holy grail of holiday-themed slasher movies. Essentially, the film is about a mining town celebrating Valentine’s Day while a deranged miner is on the loose, murdering townspeople. This movie came out in the shadow of Friday the 13th, but what separates the two is how MBV uses its setting and its gore to cement itself in the minds of audiences. (There’s also a really good band by the same name.)
3. Deep Red (The Hatchet Murders) (1975)
Director: Dario Argento
Most American audiences have likely never heard of this one, but, trust me, it is beyond worth the watch. This is the second installment of a Dario Argento film on this list and for good reason. This film is hailed by critics and fans alike as the greatest Giallo film of all time. Giallo is basically the horror scene that existed in Italy during the 70s. This genre has heavy crossover with slashers with an added level of mystery a large amount of the time. What makes Deep Red standout from the crowd is that it gives the audience a morbid curiosity with how the story will end. Argento’s use of the color red in his films is very distinct and often uncomfortable to watch, and this film is the prime example of that.
2. Scream (1996)
Director: Wes Craven
This film was originally number one. This is by far my favorite movie of all time. As previously mentioned, Wes Craven has a very distinct style of filmmaking and it shows best in this movie. On its own, this movie is a very good slasher about a killer(s) who is targeting a group of high school students. When considering the commentary this movie has about the genre, this movie elevates itself to a new level of quality. Each character in the movie has deep characterization and the sense of mystery that this movie creates draws attention to every aspect of the film. The ending and killer reveal is perfect. The twist is perfect. Nearly everything about this movie is perfect. I love this movie. I would 1000% recommend this to anyone looking to get into horror.
1.Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Director: Tobe Hooper
What is there to be said about this that hasn’t already been said. I originally had this at number 5, but after seeing how much I had to say about it, I realized it had to be number 1. I first saw this movie at a time when I felt like I had already seen the most disturbing things the genre had to offer. This movie absolutely subverted my preconceived notions going into this. I assumed it to be another Friday-the-13th-type-movie where a group of random teenagers I barely care about get slaughtered by a masked killer who I know nothing about. What I got was a film about an estranged family of human cannibals who lure hippies in to their abandoned house in the countryside and murder them. There’s so many great things to cite from this movie. It does an amazing job at visual storytelling; giving details about the family, their relationship with one another, and how they got there by showing instead of telling. The cinematography and visuals are stunning. The opening shot of the movie is absolutely iconic. But what truly sells this movie for me is the shere dirtiness that I felt when watching it for the first time. This movie is very gritty and raw in ways that are only comparable to a snuff film. Upon my first viewing of this movie, I reached a point where I felt like I was watching something I truly shouldn’t be watching. That is what horror should feel like to me.