FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Jul 3, 2007

List Time!

In light of the recent spate of crapola that I've dealt with lately, I decided to reminisce for a bit in order to remind myself that there really are good slasher flicks out there. After staring at the wall and thinking for an hour with a big dumb smile on my face and the slightest hint of drool at the corner of my mouth, a list started to formulate. "Yes," said I softly, "A list! Everyone loves lists. But oh, whatever shall I list? Worst Slasher Hairstyles? Top 6 Pairs of Leg Warmers? Best End Credit Songs? No, those are for another day. Today, I shall keep it simple. Yes, simple. Barkeep! Another Rusty Nail, if you please."

Anyway, yes lists like this are totally subjective and you're free to disagree with me, though I must tell you...disagreeing with me makes you a jerk. But you know, whatevs. Do whatever you want. And now...

The Top 10 Slashers That Aren't Halloween, Friday the 13th, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, or A Nightmare on Elm Street!

10. Terror Train (1980)

I realize that the last time I watched Terror Train (when I reviewed it), I wasn't terribly enamored. But guess what? I gave it another shot recently and I must say...I softened a bit. I still think the Gene Shalit mask is more hilarious than frightening, but the film does have some effectively scary sequences. While the film perfectly fits within the slasher paradigm, the setting (and yes, even the "illusion" theme running throughout) separates Terror Train from the pack.

See? I can change my mind.

9. He Knows You're Alone (1980)

There's a sense of...I don't know, maturity, maybe, that elevates He Knows You're Alone above the typical horny teen-style slasher. Maybe it's the quality of the acting (including a young Tom Hanks in he first onscreen role), or the fact that the women are about to become brides instead of camp counselors; whatever it is, it makes the film a slasher flick for people who don't dig slasher flicks.

Look for the 'movie theatre scene' that was later ripped off...errr, referenced in Scream 2.

8. Hell Night (1981)

Come on, people, let's gork out! This Linda Blair-in-a-poofy-blouse fueled flick is full of more gothic atmosphere and scares than your average episode of Dark Shadows. And you know what? I can't stand Dark Shadows. There, I said it. But I loves me some Hell Night. Often overlooked, it's one of the more original unoriginal films from that magical era.

That makes sense if you think about it.

7. House on Sorority Row (1983)

Here's another slasher film that's often overlooked. House on Sorority Row takes the oft-repeated "prank that comes back to bite you in the ass" formula and manages to make it frightening. Detractors bemoan the lack of gore here, but I'd rather have atmosphere and scares than graphic violence any day- even in my slasher flicks.

6. April Fool's Day (1986)

Folks seem to be fairly divided on April Fool's Day: they love it, or they're jerks.

I kid. The twist ending of this film doomed it at the box office and tends to turn people off...but hey, it works for me. The caliber of the performances really makes April Fool's Day something special- particularly that of the awesome Deborah Foreman. She should be in every movie.

Sorry, I can't find anything on YouTube for this film. YouTube are jerks!

5. The Burning (1981)

Rumor has it that The Burning will be soon seeing a DVD release, something fans have been clamoring for for ages now. The film sticks to the tried-and-true formula: a scary dude stalks teens at a summer camp. So what makes The Burning notable? Well, for starters, Cropsy- that "scary dude"- is actually scary. Add in some prime work from FX maestro Tom Savini, unusual and effective kill sequences (particularly the infamous "raft scene), and those damn garden shears and you've got a flick that's rightfully earned its cult reputation.

4. Just Before Dawn (1980)

From the isolated location to the eerie, perfect soundtrack to the damn crazy cuckoo nutso twins to George Kennedy, Just Before Dawn is unsettling and frightening. This film is a prime example of how effective formula can be when it's well-done all around.

3. My Bloody Valentine (1981)

Another example of getting the formula oh-so-right, this Canadian effort is helped along by a fantastic location (a dark and labyrinthine coal mine) and a truly frightening killer, pissed-off miner Harry Warden.

It seems so easy to get it right- how come so many slasher films get it wrong?

2. Scream (1996)

If spawning countless inferior copycat knockoff flicks is the hallmark of a great film, then it should be no surprise that Wes Craven's Scream is near the top of the list. This movie resurrected the dead and stale slasher genre as it managed to be both cheeky and truly fucking frightening. Unfortunately, the copycats only looked to Scream's self-referential aspects and overlooked the fact that the film also sticks to the formula and does it well. The laughs are balanced- outweighed, even- by some of Craven's finest work; the famous opening sequence ("Do you like scary movies?") is undoubtedly one of the scariest in any horror film.

In its wake, the slasher film quickly became diluted once more with inferior flicks and countless parodies- it's easy to overlook and/or forget how powerful Scream truly is. Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven managed to simultaneously update the formula and adhere to it- that's the sign of a true landmark effort.

1. Black Christmas (1974)

Was there any doubt I'd have this at number 1? It's scary and I love it. 'Nuff said.


Anonymous said...

Wow, cool list. I'm not a slasher-flick guy, but I'll keep this as a reference if I ever need to rent one. I've seen—let me see, carry the four, divide by π, times e—10% of these.

Jesse Hammer said...

What? No Sleepaway Camp love, Stac? It's at least up there with The Burning as far as culty, campy goodness is concerned.

Angela is one of the greatest slasher/ stalkers ever. And that last shot. C'mon.

Stacie Ponder said...

Glad to be of service, Bill. You've got many an awesome hour ahead!

Jesse, I loves me some Sleepaway! It is undoubtedly a slasher classic, but I left it off the list because... well, I just don't think it's scary. At all. That doesn't mean I don't enjoy the hell out of it- I just don't think it belongs on this particular list. Angela is a great GREAT killer, but she's not really frightening. Sleepaway is sort of a list unto itself to me!

Anonymous said...

Cool list. I agree with most of it, especially number 2 and 1. Although personally, I would have included Prom Night too. I know you didn't exactly LOVE it though.

Speaking of slashers, here's a link to the trailer of the upcoming ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE, which looks brilliant.

Josh DeSlasher said...

To me, Sleepaway Camp is the only slasher that IS scary. With atmosphere, and stuff. But you're right, Angela is only scary in the end. Creep, creep, creepity disturbania! Here's my list, although it changes from tme to time:

10-Visiting Hours
9-The Prowler
7-Bay of Blood
5-Terror Train
4-The Burning
3-Black Christmas (the good version)
2-My Bloody Valentine
1-Sleepaway Camp

Jesse Hammer said...

Alright. Fair enough. You're right about it not being particularly scary. I think my view of the film is from the perspective of an 8 year old who was absolutely shocked by the imagery/idea of a transgendered-psycho-teenage-killer existing on film at all. That's what keeps that movie at the forefront of my slasher consciousness.

I also was and still am in love with the box art. It just screamed "Rent me!" at me for all those years at the video store until i actually had the balls to watch it.

Josh DeSlasher said...

Yes, knife impaled shoes are very agressive when trying to sell themselves to you.

I don't know. I still think it's scary. But once again, I say, not because of Angela. Because of pedophiles! :(

Anonymous said...

Wow...that's a great list.


spazmo said...

Good choices, Stacie. Black Christmas often gets lost in the shadows of its gorier peers.

Like you, I wish they'd do a beefier April Fool's Day DVD package. Some Amy Steel commentary would put me over the moon!

Josh- I've always had a soft spot for "Humungous". Loved that title! I swear there was a chocolate bar with the same name back in the seventies...

Anonymous said...

Well, I guess we know where Edgar Wright got his inspiration for 'Don't'. It's 'The Burning'.

Anonymous said...

The only slashers that ever scared me where Black Christmas, Scream and Halloween. And maybe the Friday flicks when I was a little kid, but I don't count them in since everything scared me as a kid.

Stacie, you should make a scariest movies or scenes list. Arachnophobia should be there. The scene where they invade the house and are everywhere. Brrr!

Anonymous said...

great list! is there any way to shoehorn HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME in there?

Amanda By Night said...

The only title I feel is missing is Madman, but I know not everyone is in as much love with it as I am, but that's probably because they're lame!

Nice list!!!

PIPER said...

Good list and good call-out on Hell Night. Quickly dismissed because of Linda Blair, it's actually a really scary goddamn movie.

beedubelhue said...

The scariest thing about Linda Blair is her liason with Rick James(!).Bleeeech.That's one ugly sunofabitch.


Unknown said...

Beware Harry Warden...

Anonymous said...

Great listt. I love to see He Knows You're Alone get some, er, love. Here's mine, in case anyone cares:

1) Sleepaway Camp
2) My Bloody Valentine
3) He Knows You're Alone
4) The Burning
5) Friday The 13th Part 3
6) The Prowler
7) The House On Sorority Row
8) Happy Birthday To Me
9) Friday The 13th Part 2
10) Black Christmas ('74)

Honorable mention: 1986 Slaughter High, for being not only my favorite bad slasher of all time, but my favorite bad movie of all time. Stacie, I beg of you, SEE THIS. You will never be the same.

Stacie Ponder said...

Slaughter that the one with Caroline Munro playing a high school student? If so, I HAVE seen it, and it ROCKED. I watched it just to watch it...though I should watch it again and write a review!

Nice list...I love seeing House on Sorority Row getting some love!

Anonymous said...

"black christmas" is indeed one of the best horror movies i have ever seen.the atmosphere is spot tops halloween for me just because it predates it.i saw it as part of a double feature with "the exorcist" and couldn't sleep for days!

littlecreamsoda said...

Awesome list, definately going to check out these movies.
Black Christmas is already making me go nuts, definately looks like a freaky one! Love it.