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Slasher Movies

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Posted 17th April 2009 at 08:26 PM by cloud
Updated 28th April 2009 at 10:34 PM by cloud
Tags slasher

As a kid growing up my first love was always slasher movies and even today it's still my most loved sub-genre. Its simplicity is what sets it above films of other genres, I'm open minded when it comes to films and especially when they're in the horror family but with this kind of film it's always so accessible and as a result my first port of call.

If you've been living in a cave for the past few decades then the formula is simple: a group of people get together, normally get drunk, often get laid and are usually not the brightest of people. After an unknown psychopath shows up then he/her usually knocks them off in a systematic - and inventive/gory - way. Once the victims are dispatched then it's normally one person who after a lengthy chase fights off the assassin and survives after learning of the killer's identity and motives. Not all follow this formula and some only have characteristics of that but one thing they do share in common is a body count.

Slashers aren't generally considered as anything above being 'entertaining trash' and to be honest it is hard to look at a lot of them and rate them as anything above being a guilty pleasure. With the godawful acting on show, the dodgy hairstyles and dress sense, the tacky dialogue, stupid actions performed by the characters and sometimes illogical plot twists it becomes hard to regard a lot as 'good films' - The Godfather these are not! But as mentioned before the name of the game with slashers is to entertain and if on some level they do then it's mission accomplished. A lot of slasher fans tend not to argue and pretend the films they love are something they're clearly not but if you're having fun then that's all you can possibly ask for and with the often simple storylines, huge amount of female flesh on show and excellent gore effects then what's not to like?

They have come in all shapes and sizes and it's tricky to pinpoint where exactly they started. Perhaps the most famous early examples of the genre came in 1960 with Michael Powell's hugely controversial and downbeat Peeping Tom and Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, which upped the ante and delivered a neat plot twist by killing off its central character in the middle of the film. While it remains debatable as to whether Psycho is actually a slasher there is no doubt on the impact it had after it spawned - to date - 3 sequels and a tame TV movie. Hitchcock would later go on to revisit the more violent side of cinema with a loose slasher of sorts called Frenzy which showed some quite nasty sequences of violence and again offered plenty of plot twists and vivid imagery. One director who's always been a shameless copycat of anything Hitchcock-related has been Brian De Palma who has released more psychological plot-driven slashers such as Sisters and the excellent Dressed To Kill which owed more to the Italian giallos of the time than it did the likes of Halloween and Black Christmas. Other notable entries in the '60s are Francis Ford Coppola's Dementia 13 in 1963 - a film that to this day continues to be released via public domain companies only - and Andy Milligan's Ghastly Ones and Seeds Of Sin (the former being an ex-video nasty).

With the influx of giallos - which were made ten a penny from 1965 - 1975 - and Herschell Gordon Lewis' (Blood Feast, The Wizard Of Gore, The Gore Gore Girls etc) loosely entertaining and trashy gore movies as well as Wes Craven's nasty debut feature The Last House On The Left, the shape of slasher movies was forming and with Black Christmas and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre the slasher movie had finally been formed.

In the '70s the general formula was more psychological and less happy-go-lucky than what was later to be seen from the '80s onwards. That decade was full of solid, off-beat and less appreciated entries such as the underrated S.F. Brownrigg movies Poor White Trash II, Don't Look In The Basement and Keep My Grave Open. The Ed Gein inspired 3 On A Meathook, The Redeemer (a set up later ripped off in Dick Randall's excellent Slaughter High), the uber weird Tourist Trap, the absorbing Town That Dreaded Sundown, the revenge seeking Psychic Killer, the oddly paced The Toolbox Murders, as well as the criminally underrated Deliverance-type movie Rituals. With British directors Pete (The Flesh And Blood Show, Frightmare, The Confessional Murders, Schizo) Walker and Norman J. Warren's Terror (and later Bloody New Year) adding to an already impressive collection of titles it kept interest up the end of the decade with Wes Craven's masterpiece The Hills Have Eyes and John Carpenter's Halloween coming at the tail-end to finish it on a real high until Friday The 13th became a huge sensation in 1980 and generated tons of sequels and even a (crappy) spin-off. From then on the slasher film once again evolved.

The '80s were the real golden era for slasher movies and not only was the bar raised but also the sheer number of films released with it. It's fair to say that the '80s peak was up until 83-84 time and after that they slowly tailed off towards the end of the decade. The highlights of this era were the likes of Friday The 13th 1-4, the brilliantly shot My Bloody Valentine, the Halloween-like Bogey Man, the trashy Bigfoot slasher Night Of The Demon, the snowy set Curtains, the ambitious Happy Birthday To Me, the atmospheric Final Terror and other notable films like A Nightmare On Elm Street, Honeymoon Horror, Hell Night, Maniac, Savage Weekend, Silent Night Deadly Night, Pieces, The Prowler, Mortuary, Madman, Absurd, the decent if slightly overrated likes of The Burning, Just Before Dawn and Nightmares In A Damaged Brain as well as the truly ****ed up Sleepaway Camp. The films produced towards the end weren't so much bad but very lacking in new ideas though personally speaking I tend to enjoy a lot of the later efforts such as Slaughter High (perhaps my most watched of this genre), The Mutilator, The Stepfather 1 & 2, Blood Tracks, Stagefright, Body Count, and Aerobicide to name only a few. It did produce some real stinkers though such as Horror House On Highway 5, Halloween 5, and Return To Horror High.

With the less than stellar end to '80s slashers there would be a very small amount produced during the '90s with the only notable entries being sequels to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, A Nightmare On Elm Street, Friday The 13th, Halloween, Child's Play, The Slumber Party Massacre, Leprechaun, and Sorority House Massacre. It wasn't really until 1996 when the slasher film was to be reborn with Wes Craven's tongue-in-cheek Scream that went on to spawn a couple of unexceptional if mildly entertaining sequels as well as a few rip offs – most notably, I Know What You Did Last Summer 1, 2 & 3, Urban Legend 1 & 2, Valentine and Cherry Falls. The '90s were a dire time not only for slasher films but horror in general and it'll probably be remembered mostly for the obnoxious – and not in the least bit amusing – Scary Movie (and its countless sequels). It was a poor end to a forgettable decade as far as this genre goes.

Things have picked up since 2000 and this brings me onto the new wave and evolution of slashers once again most notably in the shape of the Saw and Hostel movies – which I personally love. The formula now has the bleakness of the '70s with a dose of the '80s style output with Alexandre Aja's gory and uncompromising High Tension helping to start a trend. How can anyone not have enjoyed the Wrong Turn movies, The Devil's Rejects. The Hills Have Eyes, House Of Wax, My Bloody Valentine, and Halloween remakes. Creep, Wilderness, Them, and The Descent etc. Naturally, not every recent film has been all too good – Jason X, Freddy Vs. Jason, Slash, and Shredder anyone? But all in all the present is good and the future is looking bright.

Whether you’re a fan of these films you can't deny that on a visual level they deliver with some incredible kills on show. Just to touch the tip of the iceberg who can forget the raft scene in The Burning, the explosive finale in Sleepaway Camp, the ice skating kill in Curtains, the knife through the skull in The Prowler and the meat hook scene in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre etc. For some people the lack of plot and characterisation sometimes kills the film before it really gets going but for me I absolutely adore these weird and wonderful films, I just can't grow out of them and nor do I intend to.

Honourable Mentions ('70s and '80s only and in no particular order):

'70s: Devil Times Five / The Comeback / Welcome To Arrow Beach / Have A Nice Weekend / Blood Voyage / Axe / Alice Sweet Alice / Silent Night, Bloody Night / Scream Bloody Murder / The Demon / The Driller Killer / The Hollywood Strangler Meets The Skid Row Slasher / Killer's Delight.

'80s: Home Sweet Home / Alone In The Dark / Prom Night / Pranks / Visiting Hours / The Slayer / Dark Night Of The Scarecrow / The Funhouse / Terror Train / The Forest / Hide And Go Shriek / Bloody Moon / Chopping Mall / Hunter's Blood / Don't Go In The Woods / Lady, Stay Dead / Graduation Day / Fatal Games / The Initiation / The Majorettes / Splatter University / Blood Sisters / Horror High / Hell High / The Outing / The Lamp / Mountaintop Motel Massacre / Silent Scream / Schizoid / Unhinged / Final Exam / X-Ray / Iced / Intruder / Satan's Blade / Terror Eyes / Nightmare Maker / Don't Open Till Xmas / Anguish / April Fool's Day / He Knows You're Alone / Mother's Day / Eyes Of A Stranger / Christmas Evil / Don't Go In The House / Whodunit? / The Slumber Party Massacre / Terror At Tenkiller / New Year's Evil / Humongous / Blood Rage / The Hills Have Eyes 2.

And perhaps countless others I've not added. Thanks for reading.
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  1. Old Comment
    Almar@Cult Labs's Avatar
    That's one meaty entry - and a Vestron poster in there too - cool!
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 17th April 2009 at 11:32 PM by Almar@Cult Labs Almar@Cult Labs is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Peter Neal's Avatar
    Great topic as slashers are my favourite dish since my teens.
    It's the purity and simplicity of the formula, which really guarantee a certain degree of watchability for even the more lacklustre slashers.
    Long may they continue to stalk 'n slash, slice 'n dice!
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 18th April 2009 at 07:22 PM by Peter Neal Peter Neal is offline
  3. Old Comment
    Sam@Cult Labs's Avatar
    Great post Cloud!

    A nice overview of the whole genre. Cool pics. Packed with enthusiasm. Do you want me to post the link on the social sites?
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 21st April 2009 at 08:45 PM by Sam@Cult Labs Sam@Cult Labs is offline
  4. Old Comment
    cloud's Avatar
    Thanks for the feedback folks!

    Originally Posted by Sam@Shameless View Comment
    Great post Cloud!

    A nice overview of the whole genre. Cool pics. Packed with enthusiasm. Do you want me to post the link on the social sites?
    If you don't mind then I'd appreciate that a lot.
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 22nd April 2009 at 02:07 PM by cloud cloud is offline
  5. Old Comment
    Sam@Cult Labs's Avatar
    "tweeted" this the other day and just now. I get a kick out of posting on twitter then looking at the who's online option a few minutes later to see all the guests reading your stuff...
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 25th April 2009 at 09:11 PM by Sam@Cult Labs Sam@Cult Labs is offline
  6. Old Comment
    The Reaper Man@Cult Labs's Avatar
    Good history of the Slasher flick there Cloudy.
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 27th April 2009 at 08:38 PM by The Reaper Man@Cult Labs The Reaper Man@Cult Labs is offline
  7. Old Comment
    Almar@Cult Labs's Avatar
    When's the next installment Cloudy? This one is almost worn-out from reads I see!
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 28th April 2009 at 07:56 PM by Almar@Cult Labs Almar@Cult Labs is offline
  8. Old Comment
    cloud's Avatar
    I think I've just about covered everything though I could maybe expand it a bit if you gave me more than the 10,000 character limit.
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 28th April 2009 at 08:51 PM by cloud cloud is offline
  9. Old Comment
    Almar@Cult Labs's Avatar
    I thought we'd expanded that?
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 28th April 2009 at 10:25 PM by Almar@Cult Labs Almar@Cult Labs is offline
  10. Old Comment
    Stefan@Cult Labs's Avatar
    Yup, the limit is much higher now; if it still tells you that you can't write more then it's a mistake. If you get an error message then please forward it on to me via PM.
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 29th April 2009 at 08:42 PM by Stefan@Cult Labs Stefan@Cult Labs is offline
  11. Old Comment
    Sam@Cult Labs's Avatar
    Most popular blog on Cult Labs.
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 30th April 2009 at 03:57 PM by Sam@Cult Labs Sam@Cult Labs is offline
  12. Old Comment
    cloud's Avatar
    Oh sorry, yeah I expanded it a bit though it's nothing too significant, just a few more films crammed into the mix really.

    I'm thinking of doing an "underrated slashers" blog actually, it's about time the films that only I seem to appreciate get a bit of limelight.

    Most popular blog on Cult Labs? How so? Are you winding me up, Sam?
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 30th April 2009 at 04:56 PM by cloud cloud is offline
  13. Old Comment
    Pete's Avatar
    Nice one Cloud but i think Stagefright deserves an honourable mention.
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 3rd May 2009 at 10:18 AM by Pete Pete is offline
  14. Old Comment
    KPWNINJA's Avatar
    Awesome stuff Cloud!
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 8th May 2009 at 08:47 AM by KPWNINJA KPWNINJA is offline
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