40. Madman (1982)
Director: Joe Giannone
Stars: Gaylen Ross, Tony Fish, Harriet Bass, Seth Jones, Jan Claire
Madman (aka The Legend Lives) follows a group of campers who are stalked and killed after summoning an axe-murderer of local legend. Originally based on the upstate New York urban legend of the Cropsey maniac, the film’s central premise and main antagonist were changed last minute due to conflicts with a similar film which was in production at the same time (which we’ll get to in a minute).
Madman is essentially an early ’80s retread of the summer camp slasher genre as a whole. It’s got a big bad villain with a huge axe. It’s got an attractive cast and it’s got a decent amount of gore. Most surprisingly however is the cinematography. While most slashers from this era were pretty low-budget, Madman looks incredibly good. The use of dark blue colors works great and really manages to create an effectively creepy atmosphere. All in all, Madman is a film that definitely deserves to be remembered.
39. I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)
Director: Jim Gillespie
Stars: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Freddie Prinze Jr.
Four teens share an ominous pact one fateful July 4th evening. After accidentally colliding with a mysterious stranger crossing a barren, secluded portion of highway, they dispose of the body rather than face their responsibilities and report the tragic incident. Now on the anniversary of wicked indiscretion a mysterious force has returned with redemption in mind and terrifying taunts of I Know What You Did Last Summer.
Today, telling somebody “I know what you did last summer”, and meaning it as a threat just wouldn’t fly. Everybody knows what you did last summer – it’s all over Facebook and Twitter, there are probably a thousand selfies on Instagram of you holding a cocktail the colors of a sunset, and a Vine video you took from a plane window. Back in the GeoCities land of 1997 though, things were different; it was almost possible to keep things private. Almost.
38. Final Destination (2000)
Director: James Wong
Stars: Devon Sawa, Ali Larter, Kristen Cloke, Tony Todd
We debated long and hard as to whether or not to consider Final Destination a slasher, and we finally said, “Why not?” After all, just because the villain isn’t human or even visible doesn’t mean that he/she/it is any less of an unstoppable killer.
The killer in question is Death itself, and it’s a tricky, heartless bugger who seeks to claim the lives of the high school French class members who got off a plane before it crashed. Since they had been fated to die on the plane, they broke Death’s plan, and now it’s got unfinished business, picking off the kids one by one in extravagant, red herring-filled “accidents.” It’s an ingenious concept and one that’s perfectly executed – although diminished somewhat by the derivative sequels.
37. The Final Girls (2015)
Director: Todd Strauss-Schulson
Stars: Taissa Farmiga, Malin Akerman, Adam Devine, Nina Dobrev
While Wes Craven’s classic Scream brought a movie-like slasher to the (then) present, The Final Girls takes a somewhat different tack, sending its characters back into an ’80s slasher movie. That may sound like a recipe for disaster, but the filmmakers actually pull it off.
Max Cartwright is a high schooler whose mother, Amanda, was once a famous scream queen but has never managed to get past those projects, particularly one called Camp Bloodbath. Before Final Girls truly gets started, Max loses her mother in a car accident and is still coping with the loss three years later. On the anniversary of her mother’s death, Max decides to attend a screening of Camp Bloodbath and for reasons never explained, somehow finds herself, along with friends who were also at the screening, inside the movie. Much of Final Girls takes place in this film-within-the-film. Basically, this is a fun mash-up of then and now, and any slasher fan should find themselves enamored with its nostalgic touches, new tweaks and pure enthusiasm.
36. Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers (1988)
Director: Dwight H. Little
Stars: Donald Pleasence, Danielle Harris, Ellie Cornell, George P. Wilbur
Including sequels, remakes and sequels to remakes, there have been ten Halloween movies so far. But let’s face it, there’s only one truly great film there – the original, John Carpenter classic.
That being said, Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers stands out as another great film in the series. Intended to revitalize the brand, following the unsuccessful, Michael Myers-free Halloween III, the 1988 sequel – released ten years after the first film – did what the title promised and brought back the masked serial killer. With original protagonist Laurie Strode’s days fighting her homicidal brother behind her (for the time being), the character was killed off-screen, as Michael set his sights on his niece, a young girl given the in-joke name of Jamie. In short, the film is better than any fourth sequel in a slasher flick franchise deserves to be.
35. The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)
Director: Amy Holden Jones
Stars: Michelle Michaels, Robin Stille, Michael Villella, Debra Deliso
Eighteen-year-old Trish decides to invite some friends over for a slumber party one night when her parents are out of town. The new girl Valerie, who lives next door to Trish, is invited to the festivities but declines to take care of her younger sister. It’s going to be a long night for all of them, though, because a crazed murderer armed with a power drill is in the neighborhood – and he wants to join the party.
The Slumber Party Massacre is what happens when feminist writer, Rita Mae Brown, and director Amy Holden Jones parody the slasher genre which, to this day, is mainly focused on half-naked women running from a psycho in a mask. The film is also notable for introducing us to future scream queen Brinke Stevens, who makes a brief appearance gracing us with her gut wrenching memorable shriek.
34. Alone In The Dark (1982)
Director: Jack Sholder
Stars: Jack Palance, Donald Pleasence, Martin Landau, Dwight Schultz
Dan Potter is a new doctor at an asylum run by the wacky Dr. Leo Bain. Several inmates believe Potter killed their old doctor and vow revenge. The gang escapes when a massive blackout strikes. As the Potter family prepare for a quiet candle lit dinner with friends, the psychopaths move in for the kill.
From the description above, it becomes fairly obvious that Alone In The Dark doesn’t follow the standard slasher formula. It borrows less from Friday The 13th or Halloween and more from Straw Dogs or Assault On Precinct 13. Even though we do see the hallmarks of a slasher flick at some points (like horny, half naked teens meeting their demise), Alone In The Dark plays out more like a thriller. Whereas most slasher flicks usually employ violence as a centerpiece, this film rarely relies on it. While it does feature a few good gore shots, it never feels gratuitous; instead, it simply feels natural, for lack of a better term. With that being said, Alone In The Dark is definitely a must see for slasher fans. Check it out and cherish it before Hollywood inevitably gives it the remake treatment.
33. Prom Night (1980)
Director: Paul Lynch
Stars: Jamie Lee Curtis, Leslie Nielsen, Casey Stevens, Eddie Benton
The second of Jamie Lee Curtis’ trio of follow-ups designed to cash in on her scream queen breakthrough two years prior in Halloween (The Fog and the aforementioned Terror Train being the other two), Prom Night is a cult-classic, enjoyable little slasher romp. Certainly not the groundbreaker and earthshaker that Carpenter’s classic is, but really, that’s an unfair comparison for just about any slasher flick.
Jamie Lee is dependable as always in the role of Kim, one of a group of high schoolers who must live with the accidental death of one of their pals (and Kim’s sister) some six years previously. However, there’s a ski-masked, glass-shard wielding lunatic on the loose with some horrible telephone etiquette, and he/she doesn’t seem anywhere near as willing to let it go.
Prom Night is a fun ride that features an interesting plot, nice death scenes, and just an overall ominous tone that most slasher flicks today are sorely missing. It also has some great ’80s cheese as well; which includes the typical horny high school students, bad hair, ugly ass clothes, and some pretty goofy disco music.
32. Pieces (1982)
Director: Juan Piquer Simón
Stars: Christopher George, Linda Day, Frank Braña, Paul L. Smith
In 1942, a boy is piecing together a puzzle of a nude woman, only to be discovered by his father-hating mother who wishes to burn the sinful plaything. Angered, the young kid takes a mental turn for the worst, brutally attacking his mother with an axe and chopping her up into little pieces. Tricking the authorities into believing that it was a grown murderer who committed the act, the boy is sent to live elsewhere. Forty years later at a university, murders start up again as a mystery killer cuts up pretty girls with his chainsaw, stealing specific body parts.
Nobody is ever going to confuse Pieces as a “piece” of classic horror cinema, but more of a “classick” of the nauseating kind of dirty filth that once dominated the exploitation cinema chains across the US. The over the top zaniness, the illogical actions of the characters coupled with the disturbing violence makes for a great slice of entertaining trash – if you enjoy that sort of thing (which we assume you do).
31. Just Before Dawn (1981)
Director: Jeff Lieberman
Stars: George Kennedy, Mike Kellin, Chris Lemmon, Gregg Henry
Five campers arrive in the mountains to examine some property they have bought, but are warned by the forest ranger that a huge machete-wielding maniac has been terrorizing the area. Ignoring the warnings, they set up camp, and start disappearing one by one. If that sounds too run-of-the-mill, there’s a genuinely shocking plot twist half-way through.
Just Before Dawn is a well above average backwoods slasher with several ingredients that set it apart from the pack. The film has a deliberate pace, which is usually a death knell for this sort of movie, but rather than becoming dull the story builds up pleasingly to the inevitable slaughters. The better than expected acting helps maintain interest, and there are some very well done eerie moments. The forest setting creates a claustrophobic feel and the killer’s wheezy laugh is also an effective tool to generate unease. The characters do some stupid things, which is commonplace in these types of films, but they’re not so terribly stupid as to be implausible, which is virtually unheard of in this genre.