Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Greatest Slasher Flicks

If you've been here since the first of the month, you know that every October, horror flicks reign supreme for me. That makes this a perfect time to take on the slasher genre. What the hell is a slasher flick, anyway? For me, a slasher flick is a movie in which a deranged, homicidal, often masked and/or disfigured and possibly supernatural maniac leaves a trail of dead co-eds through a series of increasingly grisly murders that we get to watch. So borderline stuff that might make my greatest horror movie list like Psycho, Se7en, Silence of the Lambs, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and Saw don’t make the cut, pardon the pun. However, there are exceptions. The victims don’t always have to be teenagers.

With that in mind, let’s get down to bloody business…

Dell's Top 13 Slasher Flicks

13. I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)
Julie (Jennifer Love Hewitt) and her buddies run over and kill a man on the night of their high school graduation. Of course, they do what any of us would do: dump the body in the ocean and agree to never speak of what happened. Well, whaddya know? A year later and they all receive ominous notes warning them “I know what you did last summer” before being bumped off one by one by a pissed off version of the Gorton’s fisherman.

12. Final Destination (2000)
Yes, I’m counting FD as a slasher flick. After all, a supernatural killer leaves a trail of dead co-eds (and a teacher) through a series of grisly murders. Sure, its over the top, even for a DTM (dead teenager movie in Roger Ebert lexicon), but it’s so damn fun. Oh, the plot? Just before his senior class boards a flight to Paris for their graduation trip, Alex (Devon Sawa) has a vision that the plane goes up in flames. He causes a big fuss and he, along with a number of his classmates and one very sexy teacher, are kicked off the plane. Said plane does indeed blow up. Death…as in the actual entity Death…feels cheated and hunts them down in the order in which they were to be seated on the doomed flight.

11. Prom Night (1980)
A little girl is accidentally killed during a particularly vicious game of hide & seek. Six years later, on their prom night, the kids responsible begin dying one by one during the big event. This is Jamie Lee Curtis during her "scream queen" days and has grown into one of the more beloved slasher flicks ever made. Oh, and it gets extra points for the full-blown disco routine plopped into the middle of the movie when Jamie Lee and her boyfriend want to show his ex-girlfriend, of plunging neckline and ample cleavage, "what we can do". John Travolta, eat your heart out.

10. Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
My, oh my, what do you do when the kids are no longer afraid of you? If you’re child-killer Freddy Krueger, you go and draft another homicidal maniac to be your accomplice. In this case, that would be Jason Voorhees of the Friday the 13th series. However, there is a serious problem: Jason ain’t really the strategizing kind. He’s not the sharpest chainsaw in the massacre, if you get what I’m saying. So, of course, old Freddy has to try and put this dog down the old fashioned way. Is it ridiculously over-the-top? Sure. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

9. Child's Play (1988)
Okay, this stretches the definition of a slasher flick just a bit. But hey, it’s my list so shut up. Anyhoo, in this one Charles Lee Ray, AKA Chucky, is a serial killer who is shot by the cops and apparently dies from his wounds after running into a toy store. What they don’t know is that just before he died he performed a voodoo ritual to transfer his soul into a Good Guys doll. One thing leads to another and he winds up as the property of 6-year-old Andy. Why, yes, lots of people do wind up dead.

8. Haute Tension (2003)
Instead of going out partying for the weekend, Alex and her best friend Marie, head off to Alex’s parents’ house where it’s safe. That is, until a stranger barges in and starts killing folks. Thinking Alex is the last one alive in the house, the killer spares her life, at least for the time being, but loads her up in the back of his truck and takes off. Marie takes off in hot pursuit to try and save her friend. Lots of blood and lots of tension yank you to the edge of your seat. What’s that? One of the biggest plot-holes in cinematic history? Yeah, it’s got that, too. No matter, the rest of the movie is so damn terrific.

7. Candyman (1992)
While doing research for her thesis on urban legends, Helen (Virginia Madsen) learns of Candyman. Further investigation leads her to the Cabrini Green Projects where the Handy…er…Candyman is said to do most of his work. She also learns that no matter where you are, you can conjure this dude up by looking into a mirror and saying his name five times. Because of this, it’s a miracle that I, and most people I know who have seen this movie are alive. Why? Because right after seeing it every one of our dumb asses tried to make him appear the first time we were alone with a mirror. Hell, I’m still kinda thinking he’s gonna pop up and get me one day.

6. April Fool's Day (1986)
Rich kid Muffy St. John (Deborah Foreman) invites a bunch of her friends to her island mansion for the weekend to celebrate their final year of college. As luck would have it, they start turning up dead one by one. Not only do the remaining few have to survive but they can’t trust each other since one of them is obviously the killer. Before a certain other movie on this list, AFD spoofed slasher flicks while still being a pretty good one, in its own right. There’s also a very nice twist at the end that fits the title.

5. Friday the 13th (1980)
Twenty-plus years after Jason drowns at Camp Crystal Lake, the camp is getting ready to re-open. Seeing how, the counselors who were supposed to watching the kid were off somewhere having sex, Mrs. Voorhees has never forgiven camp counselors. It doesn’t help that this new batch of brat-watchers is all about partying and sex. So, of course, they start turning up dead…one by one. A young Kevin Bacon suffers a particularly nasty fate. Anyhoo, after 10 sequels and a remake, this one still stands up as the gold standard of the franchise. What’s curious about this particular series is that it’s most popular character, Jason, is not even in the franchise’s first and best movie. Well, he’s in it but not as the Jason we’ve come to know and loathe…er…love.

4. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Perhaps no movie in history has been ripped off more than this one. Its very basic plot construction has been reproduced in countless horror flicks over the years. It goes, a group of people either investigating something or just plain lost happen upon a peculiar group of locals and get all sorts of kidnapped and killed. That’s pretty much it. However, none of them did it as effectively as this ultra-low budget hack-flick. In fact, the low budget adds to the grit and helps make this all sorts of unsettling. Still.

3. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
So you thought it was over when you and the rest of the neighborhood watch chased down the local child-killer and literally fried him in his own boiler room? Not so fast. Now he’s haunting your kids through their dreams and killing them while they sleep. Nice. Okay, on paper it sounds kind of goofy. However, what’s more terrifying than not being able to sleep, ever? Like, Jason before him and Chucky after, a string of sequels would leave Freddy a mere caricature of the monster we loved to hate. Regardless, this movie remains as one of the genre’s true masterpieces. Oh, and even better than Kevin Bacon, a young Johnny Depp gets it in this one.

2. Halloween (1978)
Michael Myers gets his start early, killing his 17-year-old sister when he, himself, is a mere 6 years of age. Fast forward 15 years and he escapes from the looney bin he’s been kept in, returns to his hometown and starts hacking up babysitters. This is also known for being another of Jamie Lee Curtis’ scream-queen roles. Yes, she handles that quite well, as a matter of fact. This is the movie credited with creating the genre. It’s technically not the first slasher flick but it is the one that started the craze and a rush to emulate it (cough…cough…Friday the 13th…cough…cough). By most aficionados, this is considered the greatest slasher flick of all time. I tried really hard to put it as my number one. Oh well, I’m not most people. Forgive my blasphemy.

1. Scream (1996)
Sidney (Neve Campbell) is trying to cope with the loss of her mom due to a rape/murder only a year ago. Well, there’s also the fact that a couple of her classmates are brutally murdered and someone seems to be hunting down her friends. It’s a perfect deconstruction of the slasher genre while remaining faithful enough to its conventions and having a strong enough narrative to be a great one, on its own. Humor and horror are perfectly blended. It’s also a masterful whodunit. Unlike most other chop ‘em ups there is a real sense of suspense as we try to figure who is behind the mask. And that opening is just a brilliant piece of filmmaking. Setting aside what happens, it’s remarkable simply for who’s in it. With a cast full of nobodies plus that chick from Friends, Drew Barrymore is easily the biggest name on the bill. It only makes sense that before the film opened her name and likeness was used to hype it. She’s even on the movie poster. And that’s who you kill off first? Now, add back in what happened and it’s easy to see why her few minutes of screen time is among the most iconic scenes ever. Sorry for rambling. Go back through the first few sentences to see why the rest of it is great, as well.

Just Missed the Cut...
Happy Birthday to Me (1980)

Sleepaway Camp (1983)

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

Scream 2 (1997)

Urban Legend (1998)

Wrong Turn (2003)

House of Wax (2005)

My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009)


  1. DUDE! That picture being right at the top, the first thing that pops on the screen...ok, wasn't expecting that! Pretty dang on gross, glad I wasn't eating!

  2. Be thankful, I have about 10 more worse than that I was considering.