Between 1980 and 1989, the horror genre gave us well over 200 slasher flicks; most of them were cheap, and very few of them had much of a lasting impact on audiences (aside from rabid horror fans like us, that is). Flaws and all though, we loved most of these horrific endeavors.
Taking the format of ‘70s classics such as Black Christmas, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and, of course, the quintessential slasher movie, John Carpenter’s Halloween, studios realized they could make a lot of money chopping up teens. So much so that the genre would collapse in on itself like a dying star before the decade was done.
With that being said, it’s time to take a look back at the decade that birthed endless horror icons, tropes, and cheesiness. This is the 30 Greatest Slasher Films Of The ’80s.
30. He Knows You’re Alone (1980)
Director: Armand Mastroianni
Cast: Don Scardino, Caitlin O’Heaney, Elizabeth Kemp, Tom Rolfing, Lewis Arlt, Patsy Pease
After a jilted lover kills his ex-bride-to-be, he decides justice has not been served and decides that all women preparing for their upcoming nuptials need to meet the sharp end of his knife. The killer has arrived in a new town looking for a young lady named Amy and her wedding party to make perfect, voluptuous targets in his sick revenge. Amy’s spotted our killer, but everyone just laughs it off as getting cold feet.
For a long time people have said that getting married is like a death sentence. Well, maybe it’s true, maybe it can be hazardous to your health after all. He Knows You’re Alone is an intriguing film in several respects, and rollickingly entertaining to say the least. From a ingeniously meta movie theater scene early on (which resembles the beginning of Scream 2) to the on-screen debut of Tom Hanks and an overall deliriously 80’slicious experience, it’s all win-win.
29. Night School (1981)
Director: Ken Hughes
Cast: Leonard Mann, Rachel Ward, Drew Snyder, Joseph R. Sicari, Karen MacDonald
Someone is killing off the female students who are taking night classes at a local college. Each victim is decapitated and has her head thrown into the nearest body of water for reasons unknown. The detectives working the case discover a connection between the victims and a certain professor at the college, which makes him their prime suspect. Is the professor really responsible for the murders or is someone else to blame?
Best known as the co-writer and director of the 1968 film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Ken Hughes is not the director you’d expect to see helming a slasher flick involving a psycho decapitating women. However, thanks to this, Night School proves to be a classier affair than most of these types of movies. The influence of giallo is painted all over this flick, including the mysterious masked psycho, the slightly kinky tone, the older characters and the stylistic look of the film. Indeed a must see for any slasher fan.
28. Terror Train (1980)
Director: Roger Spottiswoode
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Ben Johnson, Hart Bochner, Sandee Currie, Timothy Webber
Any legitimate slasher movie list needs to have multiple Jamie Lee Curtis films on it – that’s just common sense. Terror Train stars Curtis as Alana Maxwell, a graduating med student who is celebrating New Year’s Eve at a costume party on a chartered train. Haunted by a three-year old practical joke that went wrong and drove a fellow classmate insane, Alana and her fraternity friends’ evening of booze and sex is interrupted when they find themselves the target of an anonymous killer.
Firstly, yes, Terror Train is an atypical slasher, giving away its killer’s identity almost right away. Without any whodunit mystery trappings to worry about, the film instead makes you guess what silly costume will the killer wear next (every time he offs someone, he dons whatever get-up the last victim had on). And because of that, Terror Train is the only slasher to ever have someone butcher a co-ed while sporting a giant lizard suit.
27. Evil Dead Trap (1988)
Director: Toshiharu Ikeda
Cast: Miyuki Ono, Yuji Honma, Hitomi Kobayashi, Shinsuke Shimada, Aya Katsuragi
TV host Nami Tsuchiya is the hostess of a late-night TV program called, appropriately enough, “Late Night With Nami.” The show plays homemade blooper videos sent in by her viewers. One day she receives a disturbing snuff film of a woman being horrifically tortured in a local abandoned factory that contains an image of Nami shown at the very end. Taking a camera crew out to investigate, Nami finds the factory deserted. As Nami and her crew begin to scour the factory, they are murdered one-by-one in grisly fashion.
As a loving Japanese take on the slasher genre, Evil Dead Trap kicks the ass of many of its fellow cookie-cut J-Horrors. Rather than being a supernatural tale steeped in folklore and overrun by long haired apparitions (as we have come to expect from Japanese horror), Evil Dead Trap is more reminiscent of non-Asian horrors of the era such as the works of Henenlotter, Argento and Fulci. Evil Dead Trap has a grim and gritty anti-charm that’s almost endlessly entertaining.
26. Final Exam (1981)
Director: Jimmy Huston
Cast: Cecile Bagdadi, Joel S. Rice, Ralph Brown, DeAnna Robbins, Sherry Willis-Burch
Lanier College is getting ready to conclude its current semester. Fraternity pranks are at a fever pitch and everyone across campus is studying hard for their final exams. Everything seems pretty normal, right? Wrong. Dead wrong. A mysterious stranger driving an ominous van has entered the idyllic grounds of Lanier. This person has a chip on his shoulder and isn’t exactly concerned with whether or not he will pass his Chem final. This individual has murder in mind, born of an agenda all his own. Will the jocks, brainy nerds, and buxom bimbos of Lanier make it out alive, or will they all fail the ultimate test of human survival that only a killer this deranged could create?
Final Exam truly does not get enough credit. As a slasher picture, it’s a slow burner, but it has got enough eerie cinematography and ominous atmosphere to engage long before the body count starts to rise. The film is a splendid exercise in subtle spookiness, and you’ll likely never find an empty college campus so unsettling.