EXPLORING: Disco slashers

A couple of weeks ago on the Drive-In Asylum Double Feature, Bill, Gigi and I were discussing why there weren’t more disco-based slasher movies. Sure, disco died — or so they say, but it never went away and we all know and love this — during Disco Demolition Night on Thursday, July 12, 1979 in Chicago.

That said — Halloween came out in 1978 and disco-based films were still coming out as late as 1980. So why didn’t the slasher genre create more disco-based films?

Here are the few that are agreed upon disco slashers. Can you think of any other ones? We’d appreciate finding more!

Keep in mind — we’re not discussing rave movies or just movies set in nightclubs. And no, even though Phantasm has a flying silver ball, it’s not a disco slasher. Carrie has a disco ball too, but I just don’t think it belongs. This would also write off movies like Hellraiser IIITerminator and Blade. Nightclubs and raves don’t count.

Prom NightPerhaps the most well-known of all the few disco slashers, Prom Night came out in 1980, just at the time that there was that strange disco backlash. There’s a story that this movie was shot with the actors dancing to tracks by Gloria Gaynor, Donna Summer, France Joli and Pat Benatar, but according to composer Paul Zaza, the publishing rights to the songs were larger than the budget of a Canadian tax shelter slasher could afford.

According to the documentary The Horrors of Hamilton High: The Making of Prom Night, producer Peter Simpson had Zaza xerox those songs and do slightly different remixes of them for use in the movie. The resulting $10 million dollar copyright lawsuit was settled for $50,000.

The soundtrack was released — originally — only in Japan and the music made its way into other Zaza-scored movies like Ghostkeeper and Curtains.

You can get it from Synapse Fims.

Don’t Go in the HouseWith a psychopath who falls asleep listening to loud music on headphones finds himself leaving the safety of rock and roll for the sped up cocaine beats of disco, you can only imagine that the least of his sins is throwing a candle at a young dancer’s hairspray filled coif, an act that barely gets her friends to stop doing the hustle.

A truly mean spirited blast of sheer degeneracy — and therefore everything wonderful about the slasher form — Don’t Go In the House has songs like “Boogie Lightning,” “Dancin’ Close to You,” “Straight Ahead” and “Late Night Surrender” playing in between moments of women being set ablaze and a mother rotting somewhere in a house that has an impossibly huge torture chamber in the basement.

You can get this from Severin.

Bloody MoonLeave it to Jess Franco to embrace not only the slasher, but disco. Throbbing beats play over a poolside disco party, killers with ruined faces, incest, bladesaw butchery, kids getting hit by cars and roller disco. It’s one of those slashers that you keep on saying, “Surely there’s no way they’ll take things this far,” and then Franco says, “I’m actually kind of feeling restrained by this movie and you should see when I really go for it.”

Grab a copy from Severin.

DiscopathWhile made more than 25 years after the other examples on this list, this is all about a New York fast food cook who goes into a trance killing statue — murderdrone? — whenever he hears disco. After a series of killings, he runs to Montreal and begins wearing special clothing that cuts out sound and makes him almost deaf. But when a surprise disco party at the school where he works as an audio-visual tech goes down, the rage comes back.

House on the Edge of the ParkBefore their night of psychosexual madness, Alex and Ricky were planning on going to the disco. So when a disco party breaks out in Gloria’s house and she humiliates Ricky by making him strip and drink, is it any wonder that Alex remembers he’s David Hess and takes over the party, beating people, tying them up and pissing all over them?

Riz Ortolani is seriously astounding, the only music man I can think of that would pair cannibals impaling someone from ass to mouth with a gorgeous sad song. So beyond Cannibal Holocaust, the songs “Sweetly” and “Do It to Me” in this movie just flat out get me ready for the strobe light.

You can get this from Severin.

Eyes of Laura MarsAlright, this might be more disco giallo than disco slasher, but go with us for this. KC & the Sunshine Band and Odyssey are on the soundtrack, so that’s more than enough to qualify this for the list.

Actually, this is totally a disco slasher because beyond the music, disco is all about fashion. And this movie, well, it is fashion. It’s a movie that I want more people to see and appreciate, as it has some really wild moments.

You can get this from Mill Creek.

I’ve debated including The Disco Exorcist, but it’s not a slasher. Climax has some great dancing scenes and death as well, but it feels too EDM. Cruising is more punk rock and BDSM and murder mystery than slasher. Fright Night is more nightclub than disco. And Murder Rock feels more Flashdance than Can’t Stop the Music.

The sad fact is that there should be so many more disco slashers. Hopefully, you can think of a few more and put them in the comments.

Finally — something fun that I found as I was writing this:

Spacetoonz are awesome — making DJ video mixtapes of some of our favorite horror movies. Their new mix — Bloody Disco Balls — has a preview on Vimeo and you can buy it now from Diabolik DVD.

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