The 50 Best Slasher Movies of All Time

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The 50 Best Slasher Movies of All Time

What do you think of, when you read the words “slasher movie”?

A killer in a mask, perhaps. A group of horny, not-so-bright teens in a secluded setting, sure. Gallons and gallons of red tempera paint or corn syrup—that’s almost a given. But more than anything, slasher movies are an exploration of intimacy—the intimacy and invasiveness of physical violence in our lives, and “the morbid intimacy in the act of killing,” as one Paste staffer recently put it in a discussion of the genre.

What’s more complicated is properly defining “slasher,” and deciding when exactly the genre began. From the time of Universal’s The Old Dark House in 1932, Hollywood has been producing films about groups of people being stalked by mysterious killers in a confined setting, and yet we don’t necessarily reevaluate that film as “the first slasher.” Films of the ’40s and ’50s such as And Then There Were None, House of Wax and The Bad Seed incorporated many of the same themes, but it might be fair to say that they lacked the lurid quality that truly makes for a “slasher”—the exploitative edge and shock factor mined by true slashers such as Black Christmas and Halloween in the ’70s and beyond.

So, then: Before we embark on listing the 50 best slasher movies of all time, our task is clear. We need a concrete “slasher movie” definition.

Defining “Slasher Movie”

1. Slasher villains are human

The likes of Ridley Scott’s Alien make for an interesting inclusion on slasher-centric lists, but the unknowable, alien intelligence of the xenomorph removes that intimacy we referenced earlier, which demands a human (or at least formerly human) killer whose actions are objectively “evil.” The xenomorph may be crafty and terrifying, but it’s still a “monster” or “beast” lacking human conscience, as is a werewolf, or The Predator, or a killer shark on the loose. They’re all horror films, but they’re not slasher films.

2. Slasher films have a body count

Slasher villains are never one-and-done. They need at least a modest group of potential victims, and they often need to rack up a few early kills to establish both their modus operandi and threatening credibility. A slasher villain may primarily stalk a single protagonist through the course of a film, but he cuts a path through others in order to get there, because it’s the kills themselves that the audience is there to see.

3. Home invasion movies are not automatically slasher movies

Many home invasion movies, such as The Strangers or Hush, share common elements with the slasher genre. The killers in both films wear masks, for instance, but in both cases they’re stalking a single woman in the confines of her own home, violating the group nature and “body count” rules necessary to slashers. As another Paste writer put it during our discussion: “I draw a big distinction between home invasion and slashers, even though they have so much in common. Home invasion movies operate more on tension than violence. The Strangers is an exercise in suspense rather than gore. Slashers generally focus on turning murder into a creative exercise.”

So with those parameters in mind, let’s get to the slashing.

50. Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 (1987)
Director: Lee Harry

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We’d like to start off with a film that both typifies the sequel-laden late ’80s slasher genre and illustrates its pitfalls: The woeful Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2, known more at this point for its infamous “garbage day!” meme fodder than anything else. As a sequel that was highly constrained by budget, it spends the vast majority of its runtime simply re-hashing footage from the run-of-the-mill original installment of this “killer Santa Claus” franchise, but it’s the sequences of Part 2 that venture off onto their own that truly make it an absurdist camp classic. In particular, actor Eric Freeman as serial killer “Ricky” leaves an unforgettable impression for how genuinely and haplessly out of his depth he appears to be throughout. It’s a bad performance for the ages—Freeman’s stilted and hesitant delivery of what are meant to be the menacing words of a psychopath can never hide the clear anxiety written on his face through every frame. As the film runs on, there’s an increasingly surreal thread that worms its way to the surface, exemplified by the scene wherein Ricky goes to a movie theater and somehow manages to watch segments from the first film on the screen, despite the fact that the original killer was supposed to be his brother. If you’re programming a “bad Christmas movies” lineup, Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 is essential viewing. —Jim Vorel

49. Pieces (1982)
Director: Juan Piquer Simón

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Pieces is the sort of silly, head-scratching early ’80s slasher wherein it’s difficult to decide if the director is trying to slyly parody the genre or actually believes in what he’s doing. Regardless, Pieces is a delightfully stupid movie, featuring a killer who murders his mother with an axe as a child after she scolds him for assembling a naughty adult jigsaw puzzle. All grown up, he stalks women on a college campus and saws off “pieces” in order to build a real-life jigsaw woman. The film’s individual murder sequences are completely and utterly bonkers, the best one being a sequence in which the female lead is walking down a dark alley and is suddenly attacked by a tracksuit-wearing “kung fu professor” played by “Brucesploitation” actor Bruce Le. After she incapacitates him, he apologizes, saying he must have had “some bad chop suey,” and waltzes out of the movie. The whole thing takes less than a minute. Pieces also boasts one of the best film taglines of all time: “Pieces: It’s exactly what you think it is!” As schlock goes, it’s an unheralded classic. —Jim Vorel

48. Hatchet 2 (2010)
Director: Adam Green

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Adam Green’s original Hatchet was the beneficiary of perhaps a bit too much goodwill when it first arrived in 2006, along with a heavy dose of promotion aimed at horror geeks. Everything about the film was calculated to draw comparison to classic slasher franchises—especially Friday the 13th, which permeates its every frame, right down to the casting of Kane Hodder as the deformed monster Victor Crowley—but it was still fairly effective, as far as modern devotionals go, especially in terms of its gross visual effects. Hatchet 2, on the other hand, arrived with considerably less fanfare but is actually superior in most respects, particularly for the casting of Halloween 4’s Danielle Harris as the primary protagonist, giving the series the ass-kicking counterbalance to Crowley that it desperately needed. As for the rest: The effects remain icky, the makeup remains pretty solid, and the plot remains … not great. But all in all, Hatchet 2 just seems like a more pure distillate of what Hatchet was meant to be all along. —Jim Vorel

47. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
Director: Dwight H. Little

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Ah, and while we’re on the topic of Danielle Harris, let’s talk about Halloween 4. The return of Michael Myers to the franchise after Halloween 3: Season of the Witch’s misanthropic diversion into the anthology format was a move that initially pleased fans of the original Halloween, but the years that followed have not been kind to Halloween 4’s reputation. However, we are here to defend it: This is arguably a more entertaining film than first sequel Halloween 2, and one that gets an above-average horror movie performance out of Harris as Jamie Lloyd, who was only nine at the time. Michael is at his menacing best, especially in the early dream sequence in which he emerges from beneath Jamie’s bed, and Donald Pleasence as Dr. Loomis is more histrionic and hyperbolic than ever as he insists—loudly and constantly—that Myers is a monster that must be destroyed once and for all. Halloween 4 is even blessed with one of the more legitimately shocking endings to an ’80s-era slasher film … but one that was unfortunately retconned at the beginning of Halloween 5 after producers got cold feet about committing to its consequences. In the end, that association with Halloween 5 (and don’t even get us started on Halloween 6) is the anchor around the neck of Halloween 4, but judged solely by its own merits, it deserves to be here.

46. I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)
Director: Jim Gillespie

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It’s sort of ironic that writer Kevin Williamson followed up Scream (no, Wes Craven didn’t actually write the screenplay for Scream), the film that revitalized the tired slasher genre in 1996 by examining its tropes and cliches, by writing a true-to-form, classical, ’80s-style slasher, but that’s exactly what he did. Whereas Scream sets out to reinvent—or more accurately, wink at—the wheel, I Know What You Did Last Summer had no such grand ambitions in mind. This is instead a movie made to capitalize on the former, although it does so with style. In truth, it seems heavily inspired by slashers in the mold of Prom Night in particular, wherein the guilty parties in an old crime are hunted down one by one. As for the cast, it’s just about the most ’90s assemblage in horror history, from Sarah Michelle Gellar and Jennifer Love Hewitt to Ryan Phillippe and Freddie Prinze Jr., each more perfectly coiffed than the last. Even the famous chase scene of Prom Night gets revisited, but even more than was true in the ’80s, the true purpose of the film is to show off its nubile young cast of budding stars. It’s fun as a time capsule—perhaps more fun now than it was in 1997, truth be told—but it will always find itself in Scream’s shadow. —Jim Vorel

45. Happy Birthday to Me (1981)
Director: J. Lee Thompson

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There’s a few things that are clearly odd about Happy Birthday to Me—it has the same producing partners as My Bloody Valentine and finished production beforehand, only to be held and released later, and a director in J. Lee Thompson much better known for serious fare, including Cape Fear and The Guns of Navarone. Despite that, it’s a pretty shameless follower of the early ’80s slasher boom, to the extent that it made the killings themselves into its primary marketing: The tagline is literally that the film features “six of the most bizarre murders you will ever see.” And solid those murders are, although “bizarre” might be overstepping a bit. If anything, it’s the plotting and twist ending of this film that deserve to be described as bizarre—it’s about a college girl who is part of a popular clique called the “top ten,” who are all being bumped off in unusual ways, but she suspects that she might be the one doing the killing, thanks to her frequent blackouts stemming from a previous head injury. If that sounds oddball, it’s because it is. Twisty and positively screwball in terms of its denouement, it’s a film whose beats will feel either frustratingly familiar or comfortably well-worn, depending on your point of view. —Jim Vorel

44. Maniac (1980)
Director: William Lustig

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There’s a certain “griminess” to certain ’80s horror films that is best exemplified by films such as Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (horror, but not a true “slasher”) and the original 1980 Maniac by William Lustig. It’s an aesthetic of ugliness both intentional and incidental—with a tiny budget, large portions of Maniac were shot guerilla style and without filming permits, giving it a stalker-ish vibe that is visually matched on screen by Joe Spinell’s greasy, psychopathic serial killer. This isn’t so much a film about characters as it is vibe, although it does have the odd distinction of reuniting Spinell and the voluptuous Caroline Munro, two years after they appeared in the legendarily silly Starcrash. Rather, Maniac is the unsettling descent into madness of a single outsider, capped off by a classic bit of Tom Savini gore-craft, when Spinell’s killer leaps onto the hood of Savini’s car and blows his head to smithereens with a point-blank shotgun blast.

43. The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976)
Director: Charles B. Pierce

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The original version of The Town That Dreaded Sundown feels like a strange outlier among other proto-slashers, thanks to its insistence on marketing itself as a dramatization of a true story. This it does with surprising fealty in many ways—its depiction of a string of murders in 1946 Texas is actually pretty accurate to the historical record, but that accuracy sometimes comes at the cost of a complete narrative. As in reality, the killer is never caught, and the film never deigns to speculate as toward his identity or true motivations—it’s the rare slasher film that is largely depicted from the perspective of the police trying to catch the killer, rather than the killer’s motley crew of victims—an embryonic version of David Fincher’s Zodiac. As a result, there’s an exploitative edge to The Town That Dreaded Sundown, and it’s unsurprising that the film offended family members of the people who had been killed, especially with its claim that the killer “still lurks the streets of Texarkana.” Still, perhaps they were right. In the end, this film is a gritty, sober, almost depressive slice of rural bloodthirstiness that raises more questions than it answers. We should note that there is one extremely goofy kill, involving a trombone, that seems much more slasher-esque than the others. —Jim Vorel

42. Happy Death Day (2017)
Director: Christopher B. Landon

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Happy Death Day is the sort of film that is both propped up and constrained by its high-concept premise—you know within moments that it was pitched in a boardroom as “Groundhog Day meets Scream,” and that a bunch of middle-aged white executives nodded accordingly and began appropriating funds and looking at headshots of attractive young women. Still, it has a few things going for it. Jessica Rothe is charming as protagonist “Tree”; the film is by and large a bit funnier than it needs to be; and it does a good job of drawing the audience in with the promise of an expected conclusion before pulling the rug out from beneath them in the last few minutes. It’s an easygoing, not-too-gory entry into the smart-alecky slasher canon, but not a bad way to kill a weekend afternoon. It’s hard not to question whether a sequel (already filmed, as of spring 2018) is really warranted or narratively feasible, given the time-looping nature of the original story, but that isn’t stopping director Christopher Landon from giving it the old college try. If you ask us, Happy Death Day seems more like a one-and-done proposition, best left to stand on its own. —Jim Vorel

41. Don’t Go in the House (1979)
Director: Joseph Ellison

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Many entries on the famous British “video nasties” list of banned or otherwise restricted films are questionable, but Don’t Go in the House is one of those movies to actually earn the title in some respects—it truly is a nasty, mean-spirited movie with a seriously nihilistic streak. Equal parts Psycho, Carrie and Halloween, its central character/antagonist is a man who suffered long-running and traumatic abuse at the hands of his Norma Bates-esque mother, and lashes out at the world with fire as his preferred weapon to purify the world of evil. Some of its kills are particularly grisly, including graphic depictions of young women being burnt alive, and one imagines it was these sequences that partially inspired the fake trailer for Don’t, which ran in between segments of Rodriguez/Tarantino’s Grindhouse. Today, Don’t Go in the House stands as a minor grindhouse classic that appeals to the viewer with a somewhat misanthropic streak. —Jim Vorel

40. Prom Night (1980)
Director: Paul Lynch

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It is perhaps odd to think, in the post-Jason Voorhees era of slasher villains, that slasher killers of the early ’80s were often weirdly justified in their slayings. Sure, there are some “escaped maniacs on the loose,” but many are basically avenging angels, punishing groups of young people for a terrible crime they tried to sweep under the rug, with Prom Night standing as one of the classic examples. Starring Jamie Lee Curtis in her first slasher role after Halloween, Prom Night knows it’s trying to cash in on that earlier film’s success, but it also manages to stand on its own, inspiring imitations all the way to I Know What You Did Last Summer. Portions of the film are kind of rote, and even the best-looking versions you can find today have a soft, gauzy quality that makes the picture look a little strange, but when Prom Night is good, it’s great. Oddly, it’s not really Curtis who gets the best sequences, but actress Eddie Benton as Wendy, who participates in one half of what is maybe the best (and certainly most formative) chase sequence in the history of the horror genre. Stalked by an axe-wielding killer in a ski mask, the frenzied, eight-minute scene spools out for an eternity as Wendy is chased through the locked, echoing halls of the high school, illuminated in impressionistic, Argento-esque shafts of red light. Not all of Prom Night can live up to it (the disco dance sequences are dreadful), but the chase alone makes it a classic. —Jim Vorel

39. Terror Train, (1980)
Director: Roger Spottiswoode

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The executive producer of Terror Train reportedly instructed his crew to make “Halloween on a train,” and although you can at times feel the effort being made, John Carpenter this ain’t. Without the atmosphere provided by one of horror’s greats at the helm, this film instead has to rely on concept, location and casting—namely, the presence of scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis as the lead, right after she had finished shooting the very similar Prom Night. Today, this mostly run-of-the-mill slasher is buoyed by several oddities: First, by the fact that magician David Copperfield is present, literally playing a magician red herring; and secondly by the novel concept of a masked killer who is regularly switching masks throughout the movie, leaving the characters guessing. If you’ve seen it, you know there’s something about a killer in a Groucho Marx mask that is oddly mesmerizing. —Jim Vorel

38. The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)
Director: Amy Holden Jones

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The Slumber Party Massacre is a classic early ’80s cheesefest that holds the distinction of being one of the few slasher movies from the golden age of the genre that was actually directed and written by women—Amy Holden Jones and Rita Mae Brown, respectfully. In fact, Brown originally wrote the film as an early parody of the genre, playing off the tropes established by Halloween and Friday the 13th, but the movie was ultimately filmed as a legitimate horror vehicle instead, leaving it in a unique tonal middle ground that retains a fair amount of black comedy. As a result, it’s a trope-laden film that sees the denizens of the titular slumber party stalked by an escaped maniac (always a popular option, when you don’t want to write a killer’s backstory) armed with a power drill, à la 1979’s The Driller Killer. Ironically, despite being intended as parody, the film ended up establishing a number of “slumber party” horror movie tropes itself, the residuals of which echoed through the slasher genre for a decade to come. It’s also unusual in the sense that it has more than one character who could properly be labeled as a “final girl,” allowing for some tandem offense against the killer. —Jim Vorel

37. April Fool’s Day (1986)
Director: Fred Walton

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April Fool’s Day is rote, until it isn’t; predictable until it turns the tables, and very difficult to assess as a result. It begins with a setup that would be at home in just about any early ’80s slasher, lining up potential red herrings aplenty, and then proceeds in businesslike fashion from there, slowly picking off members of a group of young people who are spending spring break together at a remote island mansion. In fact, the violence of April Fool’s Day stands out for how chaste it seems throughout most of its runtime, to the point where it will likely perplex viewers … right up until they understand the reason for it. Ultimately, this is one of those films you can’t talk about without discussing its ending, and whether or not the audience chooses to accept that ending—and the massive logical gaps it immediately highlights—is going to be the determining factor in whether someone chooses to describe April Fool’s Day as “innovative” or “cheap.” We could go either way, but at the very least, it features some of the better performances you’ll find in this genre in the ’80s, including Thomas F. Wilson, one year after he played “Biff” in the first entry of the Back to the Future trilogy. —Jim Vorel

36. Halloween II (1981)
Director: Rick Rosenthal

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Halloween 2 is an odd beast. Written by John Carpenter and Debra Hill, but instead directed by Rick Rosenthal, it displays some of the stylistic flair of the original while confining the action almost entirely to a single setting, the hospital where Laurie Strode (a returning Jamie Lee Curtis) is taken immediately after the events of Halloween. The violence is more overt, and the blood flows more freely than in the largely atmospheric and bloodless original, but there’s an odd sort of pallor over the film as a whole—it feels cold, wan and “abandoned.” Perhaps that’s because the hospital setting, typically filled with a bustling jumble of patients, doctors and nurses, is depicted here as a veritable ghost town, but it’s also because the characters of Halloween II suffer in comparison with the original, even if that includes a ditzy P.J. Soles. Halloween II has now been rendered apocryphal by the upcoming Halloween sequel, as has the revelation that Laurie Strode is supposed to be Michael Myers’ sister, but in the context of the film that review hardly seems to matter much. What does stand out in Halloween II is the classic final confrontation between Myers and Dr. Loomis, as both are consumed by a fire that was supposed to be the end for both characters. It would have been a fitting end. —Jim Vorel

35. Torso (1973)
Director: Sergio Martino

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Whereas the peak films of Dario Argento (or even Lucio Fulci and Mario Bava, at their best) are assessed with a certain critical goodwill in mind, the same is not true of what one might call the true giallos, those dime-a-dozen proto-slasher mysteries that more accurately captured the spirit of the yellow paperbacks from whence they sprung. Torso certainly feels like one of those lurid, gaudy films, although director Sergio Martino does infuse it with a certain artistic flair, especially in the depiction of the stocking-faced killer, whose blank gaze is more than a little disturbing … as is his penchant for sawing women apart. Still, Torso is as exploitative as the title no doubt sounds, with plenty of nudity and a hedonistic, Bohemian attitude periodically punctuated by strangulations. If there’s one scene in particular that stands out, it’s the poor final girl watching from a hiding place, powerless to stop the killer as he begins to brutally dismember her friends. Few scenes so well capture the voyeuristic terror of witnessing a crime unfolding. —Jim Vorel

34. The Final Girls (2016)
Director: Todd Strauss-Schulson

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It’s rather difficult for a genuine slasher film to be “sweet,” but this horror comedy manages that odd distinction. The Final Girls is about a young woman named Max (Taissa Farmiga), whose deceased mother was a scream queen actress known for her role in an ’80s Friday the 13th parody called Camp Bloodbath. While attending a screening of Camp Bloodbath with some friends, a mysterious incident leads to Max and company being somehow sucked into the movie, where she’s reunited with her mother … and the film’s Jason-esque killer. Thus, The Final Girls presents the unique scenario of a group of teens being aware of the fact that they’re in a slasher movie, who are thus armed with the knowledge of the genre’s tropes, attempting the flip the script on how it will all play out. Frequently clever, but surprisingly heartfelt, The Final Girls benefits more than anything from a stellar supporting cast of comedic actors, from Malin Åkerman and Alia Shawkat to Thomas Middleditch and Adam DeVine, who all elevate what could easily have been an overwhelmingly chintzy premise into a genuinely enjoyable (if lightweight) horror comedy romp. The Final Girls isn’t the kind of film that will ever be hailed as a cult classic in its own right, but as genre parodies go, it’s among the best that slashers have to offer. —Jim Vorel

33. Child’s Play (1988)
Director: Tom Holland

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Child’s Play is one of those late ’80s gimmick slashers where it’s all too easy to feel as if you’ve already seen the film, without actually having sat down to watch it. Killer doll, very cheesy, plenty of one-liners, right? Well yes, and no. The original (and pretty obviously best) entry in the Child’s Play series is the most serious-minded (at least slightly) and grounded of the movies, and it goes out of its way to humanize its iconic killer Chucky—or the spirit within him, that of serial killer Charles Lee Ray—more than one might expect. If you’ve never seen a film in the series, ask yourself this: Did you know that the plot of Child’s Play is technically all about voodoo? Because it is. In the end, though, its greatness and inherent watchability boils down to the charms of the wonderful Brad Dourif, who found in Chucky the vessel he needed to become a genre legend forevermore. Like Robert Englund did with Freddy Krueger, Chucky becomes the most beloved aspect of the series because Dourif’s voiceover just oozes charisma and character—he’s more alive than any of the flesh-and-blood characters in this series could ever be. It’s just one of those sublime moments of perfect casting—it’s easy to imagine that no one would remember the Child’s Play series today if that one aspect had been different. —Jim Vorel

32. Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
Directors: Steve Miner and Sean Cunningham

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The first sequel to Friday the 13th is remembered today for being “the one that properly introduces Jason as the killer,” but at the same time it’s essentially a refinement of the genre itself. The film simply takes the Voorhees legend established by the first and builds on it, canonizing the ambiguous nature of the first movie’s ending (is Jason really alive?) and confirming that yep, he’s some sort of hulking, deformed backwoods monster, all grown up. Casual viewers are likely to not realize that Jason hasn’t yet acquired his iconic hockey mask at this point in the series—instead, his head is covered in a dirty cheesecloth sack with a single eye hole, which is somehow even creepier. Extra points for final girl Ginny in this installment, as actress Amy Steel imbues her with more inventiveness than most heroines of the early ’80s—especially in the way she quickly understands the nature of Jason’s connection with his mother and uses it to her advantage at the end of the film. If anything, the only area where Part 2 is lacking is the more outlandish kills of the latter films in the series, although it does have one of the genre’s most classic “harbinger” characters in the form of “Crazy Ralph,” who warns the prospective campers that they’re “doomed! You’re all doomed!” He’s pretty much the ultimate example of his particular archetype. —Jim Vorel

31. Scream 2 (1997)
Director: Wes Craven

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It was going to be hard to follow up the original Scream for plenty of reasons: Aside from it being one of the more innovative, self-aware horror films in years, Wes Craven killed off all of its bad guys in the final scenes of the movie. Here’s where Scream 2—a respectable follow-up and one that sets the stage for all of the film’s lesser sequels—comes into play. It follows a new string of “ghost face” murders, this time centering around the creation of Stab, a film based upon the Woodsboro murders. As always, the film is painfully critical of the horror movie genre while still scaring the pants off audiences in voice-morphed, quizzical phone calls and Ghost Face pop-ups. It remains the only Scream sequel to approach the original in terms of overall quality, thanks to its ability to turn over new leaves in examining the conventions of film sequels. —Tyler Kane

30. Maniac (2012)
Director: Franck Khalfoun

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Maniac is a rather impressive reimagining of the 1980 exploitation horror film of the same name, an attempt to take some grindhouse material and redress it in a modern skin, equal parts shocking and thought-provoking. Elijah Wood gives a transformative performance as the killer, Frank Zito, even though you almost never see Wood’s face, given that the entire movie is filmed from the killer’s perspective—yes, the entire film. Rather, the audience hears the running background noise of his madness as he mutters to himself and stalks his female victims. Be warned: The violence of Maniac is difficult to watch for even seasoned horror vets, and the constant POV shot of the killer’s perspective immediately makes the audience feel both guilt at their complicity and sick at their solidarity with the killer. Some will call it overly gratuitous in terms of its brutality, but the film is so assured in its artistic aims that it’s difficult to hold to the criticism. Set to a score of alternating, Carpenter-esque synth and classical/opera music, Maniac is an arthouse gore film if there ever was one. —Jim Vorel

29. The House on Sorority Row (1983)
Director: Mark Rosman

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If you dreamt up an early ’80s slasher movie that wasn’t a franchise, it would look very much like The House on Sorority Row. Sororities have always been prime slasher territory, thanks to the preponderance of young female victims living under the same roof—even the first-ever “true” slasher, Black Christmas, was set in a sorority. This one revolves tightly around a group of seven girls who accidentally murder their overbearing house mother in a prank gone wrong … which is itself another major staple as a motivation for early slasher villains. As they try to cover up the crime, members of the group start showing up dead, begging the question of who or what is doing the killing. It’s pretty archetypal stuff, but a fun whodunit from smack dab in the middle of the golden era of the slasher. —Jim Vorel

28. Friday the 13th (1980)
Director: Sean S. Cunningham

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The Friday the 13th movie that launched a thousand imitators: Years after two summer camp counselors are offed while they’re getting it on, a new group with similar extracurricular activities arrives at Camp Crystal Lake. Hack, slice. A pre-Footloose Kevin Bacon (one of the series’ many casting gems) plays a guy who gets lucky and then immediately gets an arrowhead through the back of the throat. Bummer. Friday the 13th is a competent and formative slasher flick, though it barely resembles the series it spawned, in ways both positive and negative. Its impact, however, can’t be argued, and it’s the film most singularly responsible for properly kicking off the slasher boom of the ’80s. Jason makes only a brief, but extremely searing appearance, and the film’s ending reveal can be counted among the most shocking in horror history. —Jeffrey Bloomer

27. Alone in the Dark (1982)
Director: Jack Sholder

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For a product of of the golden era of slashers in the early ’80s, Alone in the Dark is surprisingly unconventional. For the first half, in fact, it barely seems like a slasher movie at all—more an oddball psychological thriller about a psychiatrist who transfers to a new hospital to work alongside a colorful cast of criminally insane characters. That’s the other odd thing about Alone in the Dark—it doesn’t have “a killer,” but instead an entire cast of crazies, each with their own little quirks. There’s paranoid former POW Frank (the ever-grizzled Jack Palance), who believes his psychiatrist is conspiring against him; obese child molester Ronald; pyromaniac preacher Byron; and one psycho simply known as “The Bleeder,” for the fact that his nose bleeds whenever he kills. Add in the fact that their mental hospital is run by the one and only Donald Pleasence, even kookier here than he is as Dr. Loomis, and you’ve got yourself quite the oddball collection of character actors. The inmates eventually escape of course, leading to a second half that is equal parts Assault on Precinct 13 and The Old Dark House. Effective in spurts and bizarre at times, it’s never short of memorable, even if it does take a while to get going. —Jim Vorel

26. The Prowler (1981)
Director: Joseph Zito

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The Prowler isn’t particularly well known, but it’s an excellent example of classical slasher fare from Joseph Zito, better known in horror circles for the well-regarded Friday the 13th IV: The Final Chapter. The setup is extremely familiar, echoing My Bloody Valentine’s “the first dance in ____ years” celebration as the impetus for the revenant of a long-gone killer to resurface. In this case, it’s the titular “prowler,” although “the soldier” might have been a better title, as the killer takes the form of a masked WWII G.I., which allows for some pretty memorable costuming choices. As a whole, the film is a very proficient, if familiar whodunit, highlighted by crisp cinematography, some good-looking chase sequences and some truly nasty bits of gore from Tom Savini. It’s the kind of movie that puts bayonets through people’s heads, and doesn’t skimp on showing you exactly what that might look like. And like all good slashers, it gets one last, good scare in before the end, when the audience is least expecting it. —Jim Vorel

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