Saturday, January 5, 2008

My Slasher Film Top 10

So by now you know that I love slasher films. Since I've shared with you the "why" behind my appreciation for the genre, I thought I share the "which ones" part of the equation. So here is my own personal Top Ten of slasher movie favorites ~ in descending order.

  1. Halloween ~ The one that ushered in the "golden age' of slasher films and introduced me to the incomparable Jamie Lee Curtis must sit atop my list. This low-budget tale of a masked killer stalking babysitters on Halloween night would go on to become the highest-grossing independent film of all-time and introduce the world to the talents of director John Carpenter and actress Curtis. This one set the standard.
  2. Friday the 13th ~ Another slasher classic from 1980. Camp counselors stalked and killed in increasingly inventive ways by an unseen killer. From throat slittings to axes in the head, a then-unknown Tom Savini's special make-up effects gave us the classic hand-from-under-the-bed-arrow-through-Kevin-Bacon's-neck scene. Future movie maniac Jason Voorhees makes his debut by film's end.
  3. Terror Train ~ College fraternity rings in the New Year with a costume party aboard a speeding train while a killer out for revenge for a past prank walks amongst them. Great setting, terrific performances by Jamie Lee Curtis, Hart Bochner, and the late Ben Johnson, and a chameleon-like killer who assumes the costumes of his victims all make for a terrifying trip. Notable for its mystery-like plot, as the doomed partygoers suspect one another of the killings and paranoia prevails.
  4. Prom Night ~ Jamie Lee Curtis again, this time as a high school senior whose friends begin dropping like flies at the titular event. Begins eeirly with a scene that shows just how cruel children can be to one another. Another slasher that keeps the identity of the killer a secret until the final frames. Notable for Curtis' unintentionally funny disco dance of death!
  5. Happy Birthday to Me ~ A superior Canadian entry in the slasher genre with a group of snobbish blue-blood students being killed off at the elite Crawford Academy. Film boasts the provocative tag line "Six of the most bizarre murders you will ever see," which it delivers with the infamous shish-kabob scene, the scarf-in-the-motorcycle-chain death, and the weights-to-the-crotch killing. Memorable for an uncharacteristic turn by TV good girl Melissa Sue Anderson, this nifty little slasher-mystery also boasts an early performance by underrated character actor Matt Craven (Blue Steel, Jacob's Ladder, A Few Good Men, Crimson Tide) and supporting roles by genre vets Lesleh Donaldson (Funeral Home, Curtains, and the rats-run-amok opus Deadly Eyes) and Lenore Zann (Visiting Hours, Def-Con 4).
  6. Curtains ~ Another Canadian contribution to the slasher genre, this one plays very much like Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians with a group of actresses vying for a coveted movie role at the home of the film's mysterious (and possibly sinister) director. This film has one of the most memorable death scenes in which one of the actresses (Lesleh Donaldson) is brutally slain with a scythe while ice skating by a hag-masked killer who chases her across the frozen pond on skates! The scene is all the more harrowing because it takes place in broad daylight. Chock full of red herrings, better-than-average backstories, an intresting cast, and a creepy doll that makes numerous appearances, and Curtains is one of the most underrated entries in the slasher genre.
  7. Hell Night ~ The Exorcist's Linda Blair weighs in with this simple-premised slasher entry in which she and three fellow college pledges are forced by their fraternal brothers and sisters to spend the night in a notoriously creepy haunted house. What they don't realize, of course, is that the house isn't haunted at all ~ it's just inhabited by your run-of-the-mill, deformed mutant psycho-killer who really,really hates drop-in guests. Atmospheric, well-acted by Blair, Peter Barton, and World Poker Tour host Vincent Van Patten, and featuring a hideously deformed killer, Hell Night is a great choice for rainy night viewing.
  8. My Bloody Valentine ~ Ah, a heart a heart cut out of your chest. At least that's the way it goes in this holiday-themed slasher entry (again out of Canada) from 1981. After a gruesome history, the young 'uns of Valentine's Bluff are fixing to hold their first Valentine's Dance in twenty years. But someone is soon coming after the inhabitants of this fictional mining town, pickaxe and miner's hat in tow. The classic slasher formula benefits nicely from a great locale (as the hapless partiers soon ditch the dance hall for a trip into the mines) and the whole Valentine's Day theme. The killer, whose identity is again kept hidden until the end of the film, is genuinely frightening as he breathes Darth Vader-style through is miner's apparatus and carries his pickaxe menacingly. With blood-soaked hearts in candy boxes, I highly recommend spending next Valentine's Day curled up on the couch with your special someone watching this thrill fest!
  9. The Funhouse ~ For anyone who's ever fretted over what really lurks around the corners of those cheesy carnival funhouses, this one is for you. Happy-go-lucky teens out for a night of harmless pot smoking and sex find themselves trapped in Tobe Hooper's titular carnival attraction. Soon the barker's fanged and long-clawed mutant son is stalking them through the funhouse and murderous mayhem ensues. Great setting and above-average performances (including a fun turn by Sylvia Miles) sets this one apart from the pack.
  10. Just Before Dawn ~ George Kennedy toplines this underrated 1981 slasher in which five campers journey deep into the wilderness to check out some property one has just inherited. The group is soon terrorized by two machete-wielding inbred brothers who pick off the campers one by one. With shades of Deliverence, director Jeff Lieberman does a terririfc job of establishing the characters' isolation early on and really embraces the wilderness setting to maximum effect. Co-stars another of my all-time favorite actresses and friends, Jamie Rose, who I had the pleasure of interviewing for Autograph Collector magazine in June of '06.

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