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 Facebook. He 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…
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.
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.
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.
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.