The slasher movie is an interesting beast. Long neglected and dismissed, it has lately seen something of a resurgence of interest in both current slasher movies (the likes of the “Hatchet” series to more recently “Final Girls” and the TV series “Scream Queens” for example) to something of a critical reassessment from both horror fans and some in the critical community as well.
So, the question could be: what is the best slasher movie of all time? Well, I hope to probably answer this question. By that, I mean give my humble opinion that I’m sure some will disagree with. Without further adieu, her is numbers 10-6 in my list of the best slasher movies of all time.
Slasher movies are usually known for how bloody they can be. How outrageous the kills are. So, how to you make an efficient slasher movie with very little blood? Well, you can look at “Curtains” as a prime example.
The tale of six actresses who find themselves being stalked by a killer in a creepy old woman mask, “Curtains” is a rare example of a slasher movie that relies more on suspense and eerie atmosphere instead of splatter and gore. This actually fits like like a glove, as director Richard Ciupka relies more on a sense of potent dread, with the snow covered Canadian landscape creating a sense of unease, and the actors (all of whom give better than one would expect performances) constant bickering and paranoia actually adding to the proceedings instead of hindering them. Oh, and of course the highlight: a damn near heart stopping set piece on a frozen lake. I don’t want to spoil it, but it’s a perfect example of how to do a murder set piece in a horror movie without relying on gore.
Of course, it wasn’t the final chapter. There were several sequels, an entry in space, a fight with Freddy Krueger and a remake, with another one expected for next year. However, if this had been the final chapter, then it would be a hell of a way to go out.
Featuring some assured direction (Zito had previously directed the slasher classic “The Prowler”), top notch gore FX by make-up legend Tom Savini, and a few genuine surprises along the way (including *spoiler*the surprise death of a mother*end spoiler), this movie remains the high point of the franchise, and has influenced everyone from Adam Green (the “Hatchet” series often feel like an homage to the movie IMO) to movies like the “Wrong Turn” series. Also of note is Jason Voorhees himself. While he’s always been a notable figure in horror, this is the killer at his most imposing and even frightening. At times, he doesn’t even feel like a human being as much as he does a force of nature that kills indiscriminately. He’s been around before and after, but never was he as much of a figure of malevolence as he is here.
After the surprise success of “Maniac Cop”, director Bill Lustig (who also directed the infamous film “Maniac”) and writer Larry Cohen (who directed films such as “It’s Alive!”, “God Told Me To” and “Q the Winged Serpent”) were given a bigger budget and more creative freedom to do a sequel. The end result is not only the best movie Lustig has ever made-it’s also probably the best slasher sequel of all time.
Featuring more action, bloodshed and a cast of cool character actors (the late Robert Z’Dar as the titular killer, as well as Bruce Campbell, Robert Davi, Michael Lerner and Danny Trejo), “Maniac Cop II” is a movie that effectively mixes the slasher genre with the action genre in a way that makes you wonder why it hadn’t been done like this before. It’s also one of the last true exploitation movies, and a fine way to help cap off such a genre. In an era in which home video was replacing drive ins and had pretty much wiped out Grindhouse theaters, this sucker is a great last hurrah that entertains from beginning to end.
A reporter receives a disturbing video-a snuff film to be exact. Taking her fellow reporters to a seemingly abandoned factory, they soon find themselves being knocked off one by one. However, the killer has a weird little motive of his own. One that involves a very pissed off brother…
On paper, a slasher movie made by a guy who admits he’s not a horror fan that stars a cast made up entirely of porn stars seems like a terrible movie. How wrong that assumption would be. Clearly inspired by the films of Dario Argento and Lucio Fucli (with some “Evil Dead” style camera work and some almost David Cronenberg style body horror thrown in for good measure), “Evil Dead Trap” makes up for it’s lack or originality with style and sadistic horror. Oh, the style of this movie. The whole thing is brimming with horrific, Fulci like unease in which anyone can die at any moment, and in a gory and shocking manner to boot (including two kills involving traps that made me wonder if the directors of “Saw” saw this). Add a fun, Goblin like score and a bonkers conclusion, and you have a movie that’s a must see for fans of slasher movies and 80’s horror. It really is the best horror movie Italy never made.
Speaking of Italy…
A group of actors are rehearsing a stage play about a murderer. Locking themselves in the theater, they soon find themselves at the mercy of an escaped psychopath who proceeds to kill them in some rather messy ways.
The late 80’s weren’t the best time for Italian horror. Lucio Fulci’s best days were behind him. Mario Bava was dead, and his son Lamberto failed to do a worthy follow up to his two “Demons” movies. You can forget about Umberto Lenzi and Joe D’Amato (who produced this movie, with a script from Italian genre acting fixture George Eastman) making anything good. Basically, unless you were Dario Argento, you weren’t doing anything worthwhile. So, thank God for Michele Soavi, whose directorial debut “StageFright” was a much needed kick in the ass to both Italian horror and the slasher genre as well.
Whilst the story isn’t that original, it’s what Soavi does with it that counts. Amidst the spectacular death scenes are some of the most beautiful images in the history of 80’s horror (the scene where the killer sits down, cat in his lap and the fan blowing away feathers and blood is actually quite poetic), at times bringing together both the slasher genre and amazingly enough, the world of art-house cinema. It’s beautifully directed, and also has a welcome sense of humor that pops up, especially in the conclusion that affectionately spoofs the “the killer is dead…or is he?!” ending. An absolutely essential viewing experience.
And that wraps up the part one of the list. Tune in soon for the top five!