8. Opera (1987)
Giallo/thriller fans will scream that Opera also known as Terror at the Opera isn’t a classic slasher in the sense. But Opera is a masterpiece with some of the most inventive kill scenes in horror film history.
Our killer is perverse; he makes the central character watch his next victim squirm. Dario Argento is of course behind the lens for arguably his finest moment in film. Shot in an opera house, Argento uses every nook and cranny and angle to make Opera stand out. The flat scenes give us a sense of urgency and a nightmarish world. The bullet through the keyhole has to be one of the greatest deaths put to screen.
Argento’s killer seems unstoppable and relentless. Opera has that rare distinction of getting under your skin, you have been warned.
7. My Bloody Valentine (1981)
A crazed ex miner is out and about in Valentine’s Bluff because a Valentine Day’s dance is going ahead after a 20 year break. The dance was stopped because of a tragic Miner accident, which could have been averted had the supervisors not decided to leave their posts and join the dance.
We need to talk about the G word for this movie, that G word is of course, GORE. Dedicated fans had waited nearly 30 years to see this movie uncut and Lionsgate who released the movie on both DVD and Blu ray would not disappoint those that had waited in hope.
The deaths in this movie are inventive and bloody- and for a fan of slasher gore movies, you simply can’t go wrong with My Bloody Valentine. Indeed Quentin Tarantino rates this as his favorite slasher movie of all time.
6. Black Christmas (1974)
The Canadians strike gold again with this exceptional slasher directed by Bob Clark.
Now with slasher movies, usually the killer stalks from outside when we talk about a sorority house, but here things are slightly different. That’s right, our killer is inside the house, somewhere in the attic and is making obscene almost inaudible phone calls to the girls as through the night he dispatches them one by one.
John Saxon plays the detective in arguably his best horror role that he has ever had. The script for Black Christmas puts the movie in a different level to most slasher movies and the acting is very good.
There is a moody atmosphere throughout and an ending that will mean you won’t want to be going to bed on your own, or at least with the lights out!
5. The New York Ripper (1982)
Possibly Luci Fulci’s most controversial film ever, The New York Ripper follows a serial killer who is dispatching women in brutal ways in Manhattan.
The film was written off by critics on its release, but fans have since been drawn to the film. This Fulci effort isn’t simply a slice and dice film. The use of camera, lighting and angles are superb. Check out the first kill scene as evidence to this.
The New York Ripper will forever though be remembered for the eye and breast slit scene- a scene that is still heavily censored in England today. Fulci knew how to shock and surprise but what the critics of the day never learned is that Fulci also knew how to make a great horror movie.
4. Maniac (1980)
William Lustig’s directorial debut is still a sleazy, slimy and downright dirty old movie. Maniac is the type of film you watch and then feel a little guilty for doing so, the type that will drive you to go and have a shower just too cleanse yourself.
Joe Spinell plays a serial killer in seedy New York who has issues that would require the attention of a thousand psychologists. He kills women then scalps them and uses their hair to dress up his mannequins of which he has many in his small flat.
Spinell is perfect as the killer, he has the right look and the mood, the scenes where we are in his room watching his every move is terrifying.
Caroline Munroe also stars, and Spinell’s character Frank falls for her. This is a real middle 8 for the movie where we see another side to the characters and Spinell’s acting talents. Now Frank plays the seducer rather than the killer.
The scenes of death are graphic, though more than the all out gore is Spinell’s realistic face expressions that give the film a real and very raw feeling.
3. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
How could it be that a killer who specialized in murdering children could have become so popular in the movies? But Freddy Krueger did just that and in inventing him Wes Craven gave us an iconic horror figure to rival Dracula, Frankenstein and The Wolf Man.
Freddy Krueger is burned to death by the parents of his victims after his court case falls through. But Freddy isn’t really dead. Now he stalks the residents of Elm Street through their dreams- and all the kids are dreaming about a man in a fedora hat, a red and green striped jumper and those razor fingered claws.
Here’s the catch, if you die in your dream, you die in real life. Nancy Thompson watches helplessly as her friends are dying around her and now she is the only hope to take on Freddy and kill him once and for all. Robert Englund is exceptional as Krueger- it’s a role he almost turned down and Craven was willing to give it to David Warner!
The kills are fantastic and inventive. Jonny Depp’s screen debut. Who could have guessed another 8 movies would follow?
2. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)
Based loosely on real life serial killer Henry Lee Lucas- Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is the most realistic and raw slasher film ever made.
“Yeah, I killed my mama”, says Henry at one point in the movie played by Michael Rooker which sums up his acting debut in one word: terrifying. So much so that nearly 30 years on it’s still easy to be terrified by the man in real life. He has that glint in his eye and that seriousness which at times can cloud his humor.
Rooker gives an incredible performance as Henry who plans out his killings with Otis a man he met in jail. Otis’ sister comes to stay with him and Henry and that’s when things really start to go downhill for their friendship.
The violence and the randomness together with everyone pulling together on this low budget John McNaughton piece is what separates this slasher from so many others. Even hardened critic Roger Ebert praised the movie.
Be warned Henry is a dark movie, it starts bleak and ends bleak.
1. Halloween (1978)
Halloween is simplistic in nature but highly effective and quite simply terrifying.
The film starts with a little boy who murders his sister, we then fast forward two decades and that boy has grown up. He escapes from a secure unit and returns to his childhood town intent on continuing his killing spree.
Shot in just under three weeks in the spring of 1978, Halloween went on to become the slasher movie of a generation.
At 30 years old director John Carpenter had made a movie that could exercise all of our inner fears and emotions so much so that after 90 minutes we were left exhausted. He had help of course.
Co writer Debra Hill scripted all of the female characters accurately. Carpenter was able to bring in Donald Pleasence as Dr Loomis a man possessed just like Michael but in different ways and Jamie Lee Curtis who would become a Hollywood A star.
The music plays a significant role in installing total dread throughout the movie and of course to also warn us, the viewer, that something bad is going to happen.
The real success of Halloween is the way it is played out. All of a sudden middle class suburbia is a terrifying place to be. The first half is shot in daylight and the second half in darkness. The movie is reminiscent of the B movie classic The Vampire (1957) for this technique.
Surprisingly there is next to no gore in the film. Halloween never has to rely on that, Michael’s expressionless mask together with his movements speak more volumes than all out blood could ever wish to do.
There are many outstanding scenes in Halloween, but you know them all, do yourself a favor and go stick it on right now.
Author Bio: David Bronstein loves horror movies with a passion, be it watching the first ever horror movie, The House of the Devil or the latest independent slasher. He is a freelance writer in movies, music and sport. David can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org