Slashers are a particular subgenre of horror films that are not always original. The formula can be very simple; somebody in mask comes and kills everybody one by one. However, recently, as obvious from “Happy Death Day” films, it’s always possible to put an original spin into it. “Texas Chain Saw Massacre”, “Black Christmas” and particularly, Carpenter’s “Halloween” created a certain slasher formula that many other films followed.
They don’t always have great acting or clever plot but the shocking deaths are used effectively to give us the viewers a tension and we might get interesting characters (and some dumb ones as well) through the storyline, up to the final which is usually our hero facing with the villain. If we’re lucky, we might get a good twist too. Villains are often mysterious and scary.
Sometimes it looks like most of them are very similar to each other but no, creativity of kills and the way they handle the story can be totally different. And who says cheesiness/camp can’t be art? Here are the ten slasher films that may not necessarily appeal to general crowd, but can please the fans of the genre. They all stand out for different reasons.
10. Tourist Trap (1979)
Supernatural elements doesn’t always work in slasher film but when it works, it may add some unexpected originality to the whole thing. It might be stretch to call the whole film “original” but it’s unpredictable enough. Five young people find themselves in the backcountry in a house in which Mr. Slausen (Chuck Connors) keeps life-like dolls. One after the other, the tourists fall victim to him before they too are transformed into mannequins.
The film doesn’t start that involving but once Mr. Slausen appears, then it gets more and more interesting with a great conclusion in the end. The dolls are pretty scary too. Not on the level of Vincent Price classic “House of Wax” but still fine enough. Mannequins are something that some of us may have phobia of and the horror films used it effectively from time to time. It has some of the cheesy elements you expect from the genre but it’s surprisingly creepy also. Pino Donaggio is the master of scoring music to such films and he’s done an excellent job here. The cast is mostly good; special shout-out to Tanya Roberts, whom we lost earlier this year.
9. Girl House (2014)
It only makes sense to follow “Tourist Trap” with this because there’s a possibly one small homage to that film in here. Not your average slasher film, “GirlHouse” is one of the finest modern day slashers unless you expect some kind of masterpiece out of it. Yes, it has supporting stock characters that doesn’t get much to do other than being killed and yes, there are very unrealistic moments, some of the plot feels rushed but the movie works on so many levels. You have a charming lead, creepy villain, and the story is not your usual one. It actually raises questions about internet age we live in and it uses the “someone dangerous might be watching you” to a great effect.
The movie doesn’t take itself too seriously, there’s some nice humor to be found here and there. While it sticks to formula for most part, it also overcomes some clichés to a degree. Like the guy who runs that GirlHouse is usually some weirdo or creepy in such films; here they portrayed him as someone totally normal. It just doesn’t want to go to the camp level, it tries to balance out things and it works. The cinematography also deserves a praise because unlike many modern day slashers, this one actually doesn’t look cheap. Only the plot is bit rushed at some points and they could develop few things better, still, it’s a fun ride.
8. Stage Fright (1987)
Michele Soavi is perhaps best known for his “Cemetery Man” (1994) but even that film is somewhat underrated. “Stage Fright” or “Deliria” is about couple of musical actors. While rehearsing a horror musical, a serial killer breaks out from a nearby clinic. It soon becomes clear to the young actors that things will get scary but the obsessed theater director has the building locked and the key hidden.
This is a brutal film, its scares doesn’t necessarily comes from the plot but that one works well also. Soavi is great with the camera use and his techniques makes audiences uncomfortable. Score is always important in horrors, no wonder it had been one of the key elements for John Carpenter and some others. We have a good one here which adds to the creepiness of the atmosphere. Soavi makes the best use of its low-budget and his style wonderfully mixes Hitchcockian thrills with giallo cinema. The pacing is very good, there’s no dull moment. If there was a “whodunit” plot, the movie could have been even more effective and the ending would probably be even better but it’s good enough as it is and those who appreciate giallos will have a certain fondness for this picture, especially for its visuals.
7. Cherry Falls (2000)
You know how Hollywood machine works. They take a risk from time to time, when it pays off then they make thousand films in the same vein. When “Scream” became successful, no doubt that Hollywood went for other teen-themed slasher films. Some of them did well at the box office, some of them didn’t. “Cherry Falls” is one of the better films and probably disappointed some fans who expected little more serious tone from it probably. It’s very witty, with some truly funny moments from here and there and its tone goes between smart and dumb but one thing for sure the movie is always entertaining for some reason. The story is set in the small town of Cherry Falls, where suddenly, a mysterious figure begins to kill the virgins in town.
While not as strong, “Cherry Falls” is a rare case that does justice to what “Scream” made popular in horror films; mixing the satire with the genre. It also has a subtle tone, doesn’t necessarily become cheesy, but yet, it’s a very self-aware movie also. Those who’re interested in mystery aspects of those films will also get a fine twist in the end. The film went with some production troubles, so not every scene from the original script made it into film and they were not able to re-shoot some scenes in a way they wanted and they also cut down some things for not to clash with MPAA. As It’s not a popular film (it didn’t even get a proper release in US), we probably won’t get director’s cut which is pity because while it’s a very good film as it is, we might even get a great one. The acting is mostly good and reminds us that Brittany Murphy was a talent we’ll miss.
6. Alone in the Dark (1982)
Taking advantage of a blackout, four criminals (the paranoid Frank Hawkes, the arsonist Byron Sutcliff, the child molester Ronald Elster and the homicidal maniac John “Bleeder” Skaggs) escape from the psychiatric hospital that hosts them and after obtaining weapons, they go to the home of their psychiatrist, Dr. Harry Merton, in search of revenge. Jack Palance, Martin Landau and our “Halloween” favorite Donald Pleasence are good enough names to attract us to this picture. Those three bring so much gravitas and almost depth to their parts.
This one is more slow-paced compared to some other titles on the list. It takes its time to develop, but there’s nothing off-putting in the narrative. It’s not boring or anything, in fact it builds its tension step by step. Sometimes the whole thing gets very darkly comic, or even silly but you don’t mind it but at the same time, maybe this is why the film didn’t get much attention. It’s not too atmospheric to be too serious and not too gory or not too cheesy. Despite it struggled to get an audience, it’s actually one of the better-reviewed slashers of the 80s and wel-worth to check out. Have to note that, everything concludes with a terrific ending that you won’t see it coming.