8. My Bloody Valentine (1981)
Valentine’s Day might be a sweet holiday filled with love, flowers, and chocolate, but My Bloody Valentine’s blood and guts differs a bit. The film shows the consequences of defying a legendary murderer’s demands when a group of people decide to celebrate Valentine’s Day.
My Bloody Valentine does a fantastic job creating the atmosphere for the perfect slasher flick. Along with a well-portrayed small-town feel, the scenes set in the mine shaft cause terror and tension among viewers. These scenes are extremely claustrophobic. It is plausible to see someone, including oneself, getting lost in the dark mines and meeting a grisly fate. There are also genuine scares that do not rely entirely on camp like other slasher films. Between a death scene involving a shower system and an upsetting laundromat incident, the movie’s body count rises along with the intensity.
Before checking out the remake, put 1981’s My Bloody Valentine on the film bucket list.
9. Alice Sweet Alice (1976)
For any lover of Italian horror, Alice Sweet Alice is a must-watch movie. In the film, favorite daughter Karen (Brooke Shields) is killed during her First Communion. After this incident, the girls’ aunt, Annie (Jane Lowry), is later stabbed. Worried about another attack and with suspicion falling on Karen’s jealous and emotionally unstable sister, Alice (Paula E. Sheppard), Alice is sent away. Unfortunately, the attacks do not stop. These continuous attacks prompt Father Tom (Rudolph Willrich) and Alice’s dad, Dominick (Niles McMaster), to find the killer.
The movie may not be a Giallo film directly, but it borrowed the qualities that make Giallo movies spectacular. The use of color is unique as it does not appear in many American slasher movies. Alice Sweet Alice has the killer in a bright yellow raincoat. There is also a barely transparent mask that killer wears that appears to have gaudy blue makeup around the eyes and red lipstick around the mouth. It may seem horror always works better in the dark, but this is not always the case. The bright colors are so unnatural and jarring that they create terror amongst spectators.
Lastly, there is impressive camera work and solid direction from Alfred Sole that is reminiscent of Italian horror. The shots of the camera peeping through windows and corners in the distance add to a sinister type of voyeurism found in Giallo staples like Deep Red and Blood and Black Lace.
Alice Sweet Alice’s distinctive Italian influence makes this a must-see film of the slasher genre.
10. Silent Night Deadly Night (1984)
As another Christmas entry on this list, Silent Night, Deadly Night knows how to make the holidays and horror work. After the murder of his parents and abusive upbringing from some sadistic nuns (Lilyan Chauvin, Gilmer McCormick), a traumatized Billy Chapman (Robert Brian Wilson) becomes more than just a scrooge during the holiday season; He becomes a killer.
Before addressing the quality of the movie, the backlash from the release of this movie must be discussed. The scrutiny the film received was intense and advocates of censorship were livid. The major controversy came from the idea of making Santa Claus a psychotic murderer. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the creation of a killer Santa being in bad taste, Silent Night, Deadly Night does provide some interesting ideas for a B-list slasher film. The reasoning behind Billy’s insanity and hate for Christmas is psychologically interesting and strongly developed. In addition to the overall concept, there are great practical effects. The deaths and gore tend to be extremely creative. There may be a few times where the carnage can wink at audiences by being holiday-themed or exceedingly elaborate, but it is still very much appreciated.
Silent Night, Deadly Night is unwholesome fun that will slay any moviegoer.
11. Motel Hell (1980)
Applying sleaze, horror, and humor with ease, Motel Hell is so unapologetically entertaining, no viewer can ignore it. Vincent Smith (Rory Calhoun) and his sister Ida (Nancy Parsons) run a hotel but make most of their money from their world-famous sausages. However, the pair’s brother, Sheriff Bruce (Paul Linke), eventually uncovers the grotesque details of his siblings’ successful business and the origin of their meat source.
One of the greatest things about Motel Hell is the villains of the film. Justly, cannibals in many movies are portrayed as violent and wild brutes. They are mean and completely ravenous. Motel Hell decides to take a different approach when depicting its cannibals, and make them smiley, resourceful, happy, and cheerful. They are of course still doing inhuman and disturbing things, but audiences cannot help but be amused by their demeanor. There is also no denying its silliness that surprisingly brings levity to its slasher qualities. Between a fight of dueling chainsaws or Famer Vincent’s hilarious confession, it is impossible to not have a blast watching this movie.
Motel Hell may not be full of deep meaning, but its unprofound message is the exact reason it is a memorable addition to the slasher genre.
12. Tenebrae (1982)
Visiting Rome for his new novel, writer Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa) gets involved in a murder mystery as an admirer of his work begins to kill. The police investigate the crimes while Neal investigates the mystery on his own with the help of his assistant, Anne (Daria Nicolodi), and a local boy named Gianni (Christian Borromeo).
With the impeccable skill of Dario Argento behind this film, Tenebrae does an amazing job with style and mood. Tenebrae, which is the Latin word for darkness, is a dimly lit film that makes viewers feel continuously uneasy. There is a somber mood derived from the lighting. Argento and the cinematographer, Luciano Tovoli, also adds tension by making Rome feel a bit cold. The lack of shots with the well-known attractions of Rome and the empty spaces build the isolation and increase that danger with every passing moment. As per any slasher film, Argento allows his signature stalking camera to run free. His camera tricks not only give audiences the killer’s point of view, but it makes the killer even more threating as he scales houses and follows unsuspecting victims.
Argento’s talent and understanding of terror wonderfully introduces creative style and atmosphere to Tenebrae.
13. Pieces (1982)
There are many ways to introduce Pieces, but there is no better introduction than the film’s tag line, “It’s exactly what you think it is!” The plot of Pieces sees a Boston detective investigate a madman responsible for mutilating several university coeds.
This is a film that achieves its value from its execution rather than its plot. The narrative is completely basic, but the director, Juan Piquer Simón, knows how to live up to the promise of the tagline. Pieces checks all the boxes of a slasher film. There is bloodshed and female and male nudity. There is unintentional hilarity with its bizarre non sequiturs and comically strange exchanges. The comedic element could hurt the movie, but these elements just make Pieces more enjoyable. It can also be said that Pieces is a surprising movie. The end of the film is odd but something audiences will never see coming.
It cannot be reiterated enough. Pieces is “It’s exactly what you think it is!”
14. The Funhouse (1981)
The Funhouse is what happens when a slasher film decides to take a trip to the carnival. In the movie, Amy (Elizabeth Berridge) defies her parents and goes to a trashy carnival with her boyfriend, Buzz (Cooper Huckabee), and their friends Liz (Largo Woodruff) and Richie (Miles Chapin). While at the carnival, the teens decide to spend the night in the “Funhouse” horror ride. Their fun is quickly ruined when they witness a murder by a masked, deformed worker. Amy and her friends soon realize they need to escape before they are next in line to be killed.
Directed by Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s Toby Hooper, The Funhouse’s positives come from the subtlety and grittiness Hooper knows so well. Unlike other slasher films, the movie does not contain many extravagant kills. One of the better ways to describe this film would be a slow burn. The movie spends a lot of time building terror through the setting rather than a ton of gruesome murders. Hooper takes full advantage of the carnival environment and creates a confined and disorientating feel.
The Funhouse may not be as distinct as other movies on this list, but it does not deserve to be forgotten.
15. Maniac (1980)
As an under-appreciated slasher film punished for its subject matter, Maniac deserves to have its strengths recognized. The film follows Frank Zito (Joe Spinell) as a man who kills and scalps women due to his troubled upbringing.
This is another performance-driven film. Spinell convincingly plays a man who is awkward but can appear sweet in public and turn on the crazy once he returns home. Spinell also does not make his character a one-dimensional killer. His pain and psychosis are truly terrifying.
Besides the performance, the movie was released without a rating, and its graphic nature implies a seedy realism that gets under audiences’ skin. With Tom Savini’s effects and direction from William Lustig, the movie does not worry about censorship, which allows viewers to never feel like the film is holding back.
Maniac may have not received a warm welcome upon its release in 1980, but a reexamination of this movie will show its effectiveness.