Slasher Top Tens: Donald Guarisco From Schlockmania

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Donald maintains the site Schlockmania and has contributed to Drive-In Asylum, Cinema Sewer, DVD Delirium 2 and All Movie Guide. You can also find him on Twitter and FacebookHe considers the slasher film to be the comfort food of horror cinema and had a hard time paring his favorites list down to ten, hence the copious “honorable mentions” that follow…

Bay of BloodThe unspoken godfather of the slasher cycle, complete with murders later aped in the Friday the 13th series. Bava gives it Italian style and oddball humor that leavens the bloodshed.

Black Christmas: a crucial body count predecessor to Halloween but with a more elaborate murder-mystery style plot.  Pioneering use of phone call tracing as a plot device in a slasher, a really unnerving psycho (those phone calls!) and a desolate ending. 

Halloween: From score to killer to the performances of Curtis and Pleasance, everything about this film is iconic. I wish newer horror movie directors would study this film’s techniques. It’s a masterclass in how to stage suspense in the widescreen format. 

The Toolbox Murders: The first 45 minutes is a pureblood slasher with a grim, sleazy edge and the second half is a psycho flick with a lovably bonkers performance from the surprise killer. Two for the price of one!

Prom Night: This is on the lighter end of the genre but benefits from clever scripting and a good motivation for the killer. Complain about the disco if you must (hint: you’re wrong) but the chase through abandoned school halls is one of the best setpieces in a slasher and the final killer reveal is almost DePalma-esque in its staging.

Happy Birthday to Me: The most wonderfully baroque/insane of the big slashers, with elaborate kills, a fun backstory for the killings that harkens back to ’60s Psycho knockoffs and a lovably wacko final set of reveals. The right blend of fun, lunacy and style. I bet William Castle loved this one.

This is from the awesome people at Pizza Party Printing.

The Burning: This is the movie the first Friday the 13th should have been: wild Savini kills, slick rock video-style camera work, powerhouse opening and closing sequences and even early roles for Jason Alexander and Holly Hunter. The raft scene is one of the all-time slasher highlights.

My Bloody Valentine: The mining town setting and use of adult leads instead of teens lends this a grit and drama unique to the genre. The uncut version has some jaw-dropping kills, the mine-set finale is staged with panache and the killer reveal/final moments offer one of the genre’s best, creepiest closers. Great end credits song, too.

Night Warning (a.k.a. Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker): The director of Beach Party made an impressive slasher with a jaw-dropping opening stunt, oedipal insanity, surprise police criticism and the progressive inclusion of a brave, likeable gay character. Susan Tyrell is a grand dame psycho here and almost matched by Bo Svenson!

The House on Sorority Row: DePalma protege Mark Rosman brings tons of style to this one and a clever plot that mixes in a dash of The Trouble With Harry plus a killer third act that kicks in some left-field twists, including medical experiment traumas and hallucination scenes. 

Honorable Mentions:

Alone In the Dark: As much a dark satire of the quietly insane ’80s as it is a horror movie, with a killer cast and a great final scene.

Maniac (1980) and Nightmare (1981): More psycho movies than slashers but both have paint-the-walls setpieces and a sinister sleaze ambience that will leave you in need of a shower afterwards.

Eyes of a Stranger: Also more of a psycho movie than a slasher but the final 20 minutes are rousing stuff.

Visiting Hours: Breaks the rules in fascinating ways, like having a middle-aged heroine and surprise commentary on misogyny in the backstory of its killer. 

Slumber Party Massacre: Starts as a classical slasher, complete with “male gaze” gratuitous nudity but mutates into something with oddball humor and a genuine feminist frisson during an ending where sisterhood takes down masculine rage. 

Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives: I never understand when F13 fans don’t like this one. It’s got the best script of the series, legitimately funny humor, genuinely likeable characters and a cool pop-gothic atmosphere. 

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