ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bill Van Ryn is the man behind the Groovy Doom and Drive-In Asylum. Whenever I have a question about a movie, he’s always my first resource. I’m so excited that he’s on board for these top tens, as his list is really well thought out and put together.
1. Halloween: I hesitate to even call this movie a “slasher”, which has certain implications that don’t really apply to a movie as well made as Halloween, but it did open the floodgates. I am old enough and lucky enough to remember when this movie was on everyone’s lips for most of 1979. Truly legendary!
2. Friday the 13th: There’s Halloween, a low budget movie made with great artistry, and then there’s this, a low budget framework for a series of gory shocks. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
3. Night School: One of the less successful early 80s slashers, this one actually has its own very interesting vibe going for it. If only it had some memorable gore shots, it may have been one of the all-time greats.
4. Terror Train: In terms of JLC’s post-Halloween slasher movies, I’ll take this over Prom Night any day. The gore factor is too low, but the characters are interesting, and actor Derek McKinnon’s dual role illusion is pretty mind blowing the first time you see the movie. He also manages to make his villain into a compelling character, something highly unusual in a film like this.
5. Maniac: The crystallization of everything Siskel & Ebert complained about when they railed against slasher movies, and also my favorite New York movie. A terrifying experience.
7. Curtains: Early 80s slasher Curtains had a troubled childhood, maybe that’s why it’s so batshit crazy. It confirms our worst suspicions about actors and directors, both in the film’s fictional world and in its own real production history. It gets a few scares in, too, especially the creepy first murder.
8. Psycho II: This clever sequel to one of the greatest ancestors of the modern slasher is actually restrained enough to pass itself off as a “classy thriller” for most if its first half. Then a sex-havin’, pot-smokin’ teenage couple are attacked by a knife-wielding figure in a costume, and we’re not sure if this movie is a true slasher after all. Then another character is stabbed through the mouth and the knife emerges from the back of her head, and we know for sure. Damn, Mother!
9. Halloween II: I may not be comfortable calling the original a slasher movie, but Halloween II is an authentic slasher movie, full tilt boogie. Whereas Psycho II wore a respectable disguise for its first half, Halloween II starts dirty lowdown (a random, meaningless murder right after the credits) and only gets more gonzo as it goes.
10. My Bloody Valentine: One of the most underrated of the 80s, this movie is totally sinister and often gut wrenchingly sick. It’s in desperate need of compelling characters, but tries really hard in the scare department and succeeds.