Tag Archives: Canuck

The 100 Greatest* Slasher Movies Part X: The Top 10

*According to me! Me, me, me! So expect to see some of your faves missing.

I’m both happy and sad to have reached the end of this mammoth task.

To reiterate the placings on this list, these 100 titles were picked from 631 slasher films I’ve seen over 20 odd years, so even to reach the ‘lower’ echelons of the chart means they’re awesome.

See full rundown of notes: #100-91

100. Slumber Party Massacre III (1990)
99. The Prowler (1981)
98. Tormented (2009)
97. Bloody Homecoming (2012)
96. Stagefright (1986)
95. He Knows You’re Alone (1980)
94. Sleepaway Camp (1983)
93. Intruder (1988)
92. Unhinged (1982)
91. A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)

#90-81

90. Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981)
89. Madman (1981)
88. Child’s Play 2 (1990)
87. Camping Del Terrore (1986)
86. Final Exam (1981)
85. Club Dread (2002)
84. Boogeyman 2 (2007)
83. Wishcraft (2001)
82. Opera (1987)
81. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)

#80-71

80. Happy Birthday to Me (1981)
79. Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
78. 7eventy 5ive (2007)
77. Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning
(1985)
76. Scream 3 (2000)
75. My Super Psycho Sweet 16 (2009)
74. Hellbent (2004)
73. Death Bell (2008)
72. Maniac Cop (1988)
71. Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)

#70-61

70. Coda (1987)
69. The Funhouse (1981)
68. Some Guy Who Kills People (2012)
67. Friday the 13th Part III (1982)
66. Bloody Bloody Bible Camp (2012)
65. Pandemonium (1982)
64. Bride of Chucky (1998)
63. The Pool (2001)
62. A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)
61. Venom (2005)

#60-51

60. Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)
59. Tenebrae (1982)
58. The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)
57. Killer Party (1986)
56. Fatal Games (1983)
55. Julia’s Eyes (2010)
54. Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
53. Deadly Blessing (1981)
52. Sorority Row (2009)
51. Final Destination 5 (2011)

#50-41

50. The House on Sorority Row (1982)
49. Cold Prey III (2010)
48. Hot Fuzz (2007)
47. Psycho II (1983)
46. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
45. The Burning (1981)
44. Terror Train (1980)
43. Hollow Man (2000)
42. Session 9 (2001)
41. Anatomy (2000)

#40-31

40. Malevolence (2005)
39. Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
38. Psycho Beach Party (2000)
37. Shredder (2001)
36. Flashback (1999)
35. Ripper: Letter from Hell (2001)
34. You’re Next (2011)
33. Scream 4 (2011)
32. Mask Maker (2010)
31. Cut (2000)

#30-21

30. Haute Tension (2003)
29. Wilderness (2006)
28. Final Destination 2 (2003)
27. Urban Legends: Final Cut (2000)
26. Friday the 13th (2009)
25. Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (1988)
24. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)
23. A Bay of Blood (1971)
22. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
21. Prom Night (1980)

#20-11

20. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)
19. Hell Night (1981)
18. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)
17. April Fool’s Day (1986)
16. Wrong Turn (2003)
15. Cold Prey II (2008)
14. The Initiation (1983)
13. I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)
12. Scream (1996)
11. My Bloody Valentine (1981)

THE CRAWFORD TOP 10

10. Scream 2 (1997)

I know, I know… ‘Sequels suck’ might be the general theme of much of Scream 2, but in terms of everything I want out of a slasher film, this one brings it in droves, therefore making it just that tiny bit superior to the first in my eyes.

A couple of years after the Woodsboro murders, Sidney and Randy are at a handsome college when the premiere of the film-based-on-the-book-based-on-the-killings kickstarts a new series of slayings on and around campus. Dewey and Gale are on hand to posit theories, and Cotton Weary has been released from prison after his exoneration – but who is killing everyone and why?

Scream 2, like Final Destination 2, may lack the fresh originality of its predecessor, but sets the bar: Everything is that little bit more polished, the rules established, and the in-jokes more fitting. And for a film that clocks in just shy of 2 hours, it’s never boring (OK, that Greek-play scene maybe). By my decree, the best of its series.

Crowning moment: Sarah Michelle Gellar – surely THE icon of the era – is a sorority girl alone in the house when the weird calls begin…

9. Psycho (1960)

Where would we be without Psycho? Listen to some evangelists and they’d likely say in a better world, But fuck them. That Hitchcock was British means that the ‘American Slasher Film’ owes a lot to our fair shores. Anyway, Jane Leigh steals money on a whim, runs away from her life, but makes the fatal error of checking in off the beaten track at the Bates Motel, where she relaxes a little, has a sarnie with the manager, Norman, and takes a shower…

It just works. Considering how ‘small’ the plot is in correlation to the 104 minute (PAL!) runtime of the film, it’s completely engaging, flawlessly made, and one of the most important films in history. Just imagine if Hitch had been around to make an 80s slasher flick…

Crowning moment: THAT shower scene.

8: Final Destination (2000)

fd14

Average Joe high schooler Alex foresees a plane crash minutes before its departure and gets himself and a few classmates thrown off, only to see his vision come true shortly afterwards.

Later, as the seven surviving ejectees try to move on with their lives, a series of sinister accidents begin claiming them one by one, as if some supernatural dustpan and brush has come to sweep up the lost souls. Alex suspects that Death itself is balancing the books and now every surrounding object is capable of conspiring to take them out.

Comparing this film to its sequels reveals a stark contrast: The characters consider their own mortality, question greater forces controlling their fate, and radiate genuine emotions largely absent in the following movies, that just served up stupid characters to be annihilated, tits, and little to say on the fragility of life.

Crowning moment: The plane crash – at the time criticised for exploiting the huge similarities to the 1996 TWA800 disaster – is expertly realised and fucking terrifying.

7: Cold Prey (2006)

Norway might not carry much weight in international film production, but neigh-sayers be damned when it comes to this back-to-basics slasher that practically redefines the meaning of the word tension.

Five snowboarders drive into the mountains for a days’ shredding only for one to wipeout and break his leg. They take shelter in a closed-down ski-lodge and bed down for the night, only to realise that it already has an anti-social inhabitant who intends on shredding them.

While every trope gets a tick, Cold Prey executes them all the same kind of European style that put fellow Euro-slasher Haute Tension on this list: New landscapes, cultural difference, and language ‘freshen’ up the usual cliches and when it’s down to just the final girl versus the hulking killer, if you’re anything like me you’ll be yelling at your screen for her to run faster, hit harder, and avoid that swinging pick-axe.

Crowning moment: The first murder; brutal, necessary, but almost heartbreaking.

6: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

The brilliant simplicity of “Stay awake or you’ll die” is 90% of Elm Street‘s excellence: A quartet of teenagers discover they’re each having bad dreams about a fire-scarred guy with ‘knives-for-fingers’ who wants to kill them. Only Nancy (Heather Langenkampenschwartzenberger) takes it remotely seriously and her probing begins to uncover a dreadful secret that her parents have been keeping from her.

Like Psycho, Freddy Krueger’s impact on pop culture was phenomenal. People who’d never even seen the films were fans in the 80s: Throw in rap videos, toys, a TV series and all those sequels, Elm Street merched its way into the annals of horror history.

But the original film shouldn’t be understated. Though some of the acting and effects work is quirky at best, some of the nightmare themes are petrifyingly familiar, and Nancy’s vain attempts to get anyone to believe she’s anything less than crazy are as frustrating to witness as they are for her character to endure. Perfect horror.

Crowning moment: Nancy’s mom eventually folds and tells her daughter the horrible truth. In a scene cut from the movie, a deceased sibling once existed, a powerful motivator that would’ve added an emotional punch.

5: Urban Legend (1998)

ul7a

The controversial entrant. Those familiar with Vegan Voorhees will know just how much I stan for this film. Those who aren’t are likely saying WTF!? Third-tier 90s horror it might be, but everything in Urban Legend is cheese-tastically great: The ludicrous plot, the identity of a killer who could never hope to pull it off (but does!), a serious actress as the final girl having to utter the line: “It’s like somebody out there is taking all these stories and making them reality!” without laughing…

So, college kids at a haughty North Eastern campus are being tormented by a Parka-clad killer who bases their murders on those friend-of-a-friend folklore tales. These coincide with their class on the subject, taught by Robert Englund. Everyone thinks it’s got to do with a 25-year-old massacre at the school, although the audience knows for sure that heroine Natalie’s nasty secret is a more likely candidate.

A game cast of semi-knowns occasionally look a bit embarrassed about the material, but it only adds to the appeal of Urban Legend‘s unmatched ridiculousness. Alicia Witt was an ambitious and awesome choice for the lead, and that climactic scene out-bitches Mean Girls tenfold. You can try to dissuade me, but you’ll never do it.

Crowning moment: Couple in a car in the woods, guy gets out to relieve himself, takes a while, the girl starts to hear scratching on the roof…

4. Black Christmas (1974)

Girls at a sorority house being plagued by a series of bizarre and unpleasant phone calls during the festive season are soon targeted by a mystery killer who has taken up residence in their attic. Police and a worried parent are thrown into the mix when a pretty co-ed disappears, while heroine Jess (Olivia Hussey) finds herself with a personal crisis that may or may not be related to what’s happening (and is something you’d never see taken so seriously in such a lowly genre these days).

Once pulled from a TV showing for being “too frightening”, Black Christmas did first a lot of what Halloween ultimately got credit for. But the two are evenly matched, this one focusing in on the characters at the centre of the carnage over and above the horror, most of which comes in one big hit towards the end.

Excellent performances from all, especially Margot Kidder as the vulgar alcohol-fancying Barb, and John Saxon as, you guessed it, a detective, giving him two entries in this Top 10.

Crowning moment: A festive choir of angelic-voiced kids serenade Jess with a chorus of O Come All Ye Faithful while a murder is occurring in an upstairs bedroom. Expertly done, twisted beauty.

3: Halloween (1978)

You thought it was going to win, right? Will this is Vegan Voorhees, not Meat-eating Myers, so it’s bronze position for the most influential slasher film around. Why is it third? I would just rather watch the Top 2, that’s all. Nothing can be said to denigrate how fucking amazing Halloween is. I haven’t dared try and review it in case I screw up. It’s that important.

Nobody hasn’t seen it, but I’ll recycle the plot anyway: Boy murders sister on Halloween night. Fifteen years later, he breaks out of his institution and returns to the town of Haddonfield to do it again. And again. And again. His chosen targets are the friends of shy babysitter Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). Only she is cautious enough to pay attention to some of the weird things happening during the school day. And when night falls…

What else is there to say? Astounding brilliant in every possible way: Creepy, scary, never for a moment boring. Only gorehounds might object to the general lack of grue.

Crowning moment: Laurie’s gradual increase of paranoia – who’s the guy across the street? in the car? behind the hedge?

2. Friday the 13th (1980)

Camp Crystal Lake has been closed for over twenty years after an unsolved double murder and recurrent bouts of bad luck every time anybody’s tried to re-open it. When a group of teenage counsellors arrive to set up shop, they’re stalked and slain by a shadowy psycho with an array of cutting implements and a grudge to settle.

I first saw Friday the 13th in the early hours of a June night back in the 90s. It changed everything. That first month or so after I watched it twice or three times a week, literally obsessed with its rustic, isolated, ambience and almost self-parodying nature. It’s a badly made film by most standards but the technical flaws only emphasize an underdog appeal: There’s nothing arty going on, it’s just distilled stalk n’ slash.

Because it’s a fairly simple-minded creature, Friday is an open target for all manner of criticisms. There’s nothing much to think about and it was already hugely predictable within months after the scores of clones, which merged parts of Halloween and this, to try and conquer.

I love it, I never get bored of it, and there’s only one other film I’d rather sit down watch…

Crowning moment: Kevin Bacon’s neck-skewering is an amazing moment, but I love the following scene of Marcie alone in the bathroom cabin as the camera slowly creeps its way ever closer…

The Greatest* Slasher Film of All Time

1. Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)

Five years after the Camp Crystal Lake murders, a nearby counsellor training center is besieged by a masked maniac with a hard-on for slashing up horny teenagers, which happen to be in plentiful supply. Only wisened-up assistant leader Ginny (Amy Steel) has the smarts to escape from the psycho.

A few weeks after discovering Friday the 13th, I made it my mission to repeat the experience. Jason Lives and The New Blood had been shown on cable but weren’t quite up to it, I had low-ish expectations for the £5.99 budget label video cassette I picked up in Portsmouth’s HMV.

Achieving the near-impossible, Friday 2 takes everything awesome from the first film, polishes it until it shines, and then adds half a dozen ejector-seat jump scares and Amy fucking Steel. Amy fucking Steel is the heart of this movie, a final girl forged in horror heaven who proves to be more than a worthy adversary to the B-movie axe murderer named Jason, who was supposed to have died years earlier.

Like Urban Legend, this one ticks all the boxes: Campfire story, pot-smoking, over-sexed counsellors, floating POV-work, a convertible VW Beetle! It’s only flaw is that the excised footage of Carl Fullerton’s makeup work has never been restored, never more frustrating than in the two-for-one shish-ke-bob kill lifted from A Bay of Blood.

An assembly of tweaked-to-perfection genre staples: This is the number one, THE best slasher film out there – deal with it!

Crowning moment: Ginny runs from the killer into a room and closes the door. Hearing nothing, she slowly reaches for the part-open window behind her… Reaches… Reaches… Glass shatters, he outsmarted her! So begins an epic chase to the end.

*

Where the hell is…?

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) I don’t hate it. I just don’t like it very much. Nobody would be stupid enough to deny its influence on the genre, but it does little for me. In a Top 631, I expect to see it around the #300 mark.

Halloween II (1981) The dizzying heights of the original film would be a tough act for anyone to follow. Halloween II is a good film, no more, no less. Carpenter’s inserts near the start are the highlight, but an hour of folks-with-no-names-nor-distinguishing-characteristics being killed before a horror-weary looking Jamie Lee Curtis gets out of her hospital bed wasn’t enough. Chart position estimate: #150

Any other curious absences? Let me know and I’ll tell you why!

Monster mash

HUMONGOUS

2.5 Stars  1981/18/89m

“Here are the monsters little toys. Once they were little girls and boys.”

Director: Paul Lynch / Writer: William Gray / Cast: Janet Julian, David Wallace, Janit Baldwin, John Wildman, Joy Boushel, Layne Coleman, Shay Garner, Garry Robbins.

Body Count: 8

Laughter Lines: “Wave to Donna, she wants you to see her tits again.”


Prom Night director Paul Lynch made this ultimately disappointing tale of brothers Eric and Nick, their sister Carla, and girlfriends Donna and Sandy crash their cruiser into rocks amidst a fog in a channel by a remote hole known lovingly as Dog Island.

A stranded fisherman they pick up informs them the only resident is a scarcely seen mad old lady. Stuck on the island, the teens begin to split up to look for help and find the now missing Carla. To the surprise of nobody except the cast, a maniac is also roaming the overgrown isle with a taste (and not just of the metaphor kind) for teen blood. Turns out that he is the mutant son of said mad dame, the product of a rape seen in the opening few minutes in 1946, and a bit hungry since mom died and cut off his access to the outside world.

While relatively well pieced together on a visual level, the 89 minutes slog by with all the speed of a one-wheeled shopping cart, and the dimly-lit or totally off-screen murders don’t punctuate these slabs of boredom adequately. As for the cast, Julian does well as the final girl who obviously watched Friday the 13th Part 2 before the boat trip, as she mimics the killer’s dead mother to stop him in his tracks. This is the film’s best scene. The only other impressionable presence is Baldwin as Carla, with her huge glasses and lifejacket, she portrays the only memorable character in a film otherwise filled with assembly-line bimbos and wannabe-Rambo’s.

Blurbs-of-interest: David Wallace was also in Mortuary; Joy Boushel has a small role in Terror Train; Garry Robbins was one of the three mutant-men in Wrong Turn.

The 100 Greatest* Slasher Movies Part IX: #20-11

*According to me! Me, me, me! So don’t be surprised to find a few curious omissions…

#100-91 // #90-81 // #80-71 // #70-61 // #60-51 // #50-41 // #40-31 // #30-21

20: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

In many ways the pinnacle of the Elm Street franchise, as well as the first proper horror movie I ever saw (religious parents). Wes Craven returned to help scribe Nancy’s return to the throng after the disappointing returns from the change of direction in Freddy’s Revenge (which I maintain is still a cool film). Nance comes back as an intern at a psyche ward inhabited by a bunch of Krueger-plagued teens. While the final act may falter, the first two acts represent some of the most imaginative stuff around and, for the era, progressive FX work, featuring what are likely to be some of the fan-favourite demises for the beleaguered teens…

Crowning moment: Although both the ‘vein-puppet’ and the TV-room death register high on the amazing-kill-o-meter, I’ve got to say the DVD extra of spandex-metal band Dokken’s squealy Dream Warriors music video is something else and MUST be seen.

19. Hell Night (1981)

Irwin Yablans confidently declared that Hell Night would be bigger than Halloween! However, by the time it’s summer ’81 release rolled around, log-jam and fatigue had set in and nobody really cared… Anyway, Linda Blair and collegiate pals are dared to spend one night in the gloomy Garth Manor to finalise their pledge to a fraternity/sorority combo. Alas, the legends of its ‘haunting’ by a crazed killer turn out to be true…

Check out its rendering in Lego!

Crowning moment: Once Blair’s Marti is the last girl standing, she shifts gears into heroine-overdrive and the killer’s denouement is something to behold.

18: Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)

Outside of horror circles, this sharp docu-satire is barely known, which is upsetting when you think about how much money Scary Movie probably made… A film crew follow Glen Echo resident Leslie Vernon as he builds up to a massacre he’s planning at an old farmhouse. From selecting his ‘survivor girl’, to dodging his ‘Ahab’ (Robert freakin’ Englund!), Leslie explains how it will all unfold, even taking a moment to discuss phallic weaponry and psychoanalysis of the heroine’s successful survival. Fucking fantastic stuff.

Crowning moment: My favourite moment will give too much away, but let’s just say the pivot point where the cameras are put down as the killing gets real is very nicely done.

17: April Fool’s Day (1986)

Privileged heiress Muffy St. John invites a group of college pals to her island home for Spring Break. They quote Boswell, play AFD jokes and start getting hunted down one by one. Or do they? While largely bloodless, April Fool’s Day is populated by a good cast of nice characters and is better directed and acted than most. I once read a genre guide that gave this film a zero, proclaiming it a cheat, while Return to Horror High received full marks. Riiiiight.

Crowning moment: Scooby Doo-style mystery solving puts Amy Steel alone in a room with a seemingly PTSD-suffering Muffy, who has a few strange things to say…

16: Wrong Turn (2003)

On a West Virginian backroad, a group of campers are stranded after a car accident and find themselves to be the prey of a trio of cannibalistic inbreds. They note the similarity of their situation to Deliverance so critics didn’t have to (but still did). What ensues is a taut chase through unknown terrain with ever depleting numbers as each and every escape plan is foiled by the psychos.

Crowning moment: The fleeing campers come across a forest clearing filled with blood-stained cars. A rare sad moment in a horror film as Elisa Dushku questions how they’ve been getting away with it.

15: Cold Prey II (2008)

Surviving snowboarder Jannicke is saved and moved to a local hospital where the local cops also bring the bodies of her dead friends and that of the Fjellmannen (killer). He, of course, isn’t quite dead, and embarks on a new spree through the corridors of the hospital, forcing Jannicke to go through it aaaaall again. Yeah, it’s pretty much Halloween II but a gazillion times more interesting. Sequels don’t come much more cohesive and committed, even getting all of the original cast back to play their own corpses.

Crowning moment: Jannicke says fuck it and decides to turn the tables and become the hunter, leading to an awesome showdown.

14: The Initiation (1983)

Sorority pledge Kelly (Daphne Zuniga) has long been plagued by a recurring nightmare. Her new college professor is interested in what it means and begins unraveling a family secret. Meanwhile, Kelly and pals break into a Houston shopping mall as their hazing prank. Unluckily for them, ‘someone’ has broken out of an asylum and is hell bent on killing everybody… Complex plotting (for a slasher film) with a mystery element that, for once, isn’t astoundingly obvious.

Crowning moment: The all-too-short confrontation between Kelly and the killer. Kitsch as they come but awesome all the same.

13: I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)

Horror purists condemned this po-faced response to Scream but 17 years on it’s something of a minor classic (the title alone is epic), stocked with era-famous talent. Two teen couples are involved in a hit and run they they cover up; One year later they begin receiving notes and threats pertaining to their crime and, on the July 4th anniversary, a hook-wielding maniac begins stalking and killing them.

Crowning moment: Quite fittingly, as the film is essentially Prom Night all over again (despite being based on a book written in 1973), there’s a long, drawn out chase, this time featuring Buffy herself, Sarah Michelle Gellar.

12: Scream (1996)

Gasp! Not in the Top 10!? Don’t cry just yet. This genre-redefining film is awesome. Awesome. Kevin Williamson did for his characters what audiences had been doing for years – he clued them in. Before Scream, characters in slasher flicks existed like they’d never seen one (with one or two notable exceptions). Teamed with Craven, and right on the back of his series-redefining New Nightmare, they took the best parts of other films to create this satire of the whole enchilada. A party sits around watching Halloween, the ‘rules’ of horror are noted, and yet they still die. Essential viewing for any horror fan.

Crowning moment: The opening 12 minutes, yeah, it’s a total rip-off of When A Stranger Calls, but Drew Barrymore throws herself into the victim-role with unmatchable intensity.

11: My Bloody Valentine (1981)

By this point in the first cycle of stalk n’ slash, no calendar holiday was safe from the swinging blades of a deranged psychopath. Valentine’s Day was soon nabbed in this Canadian slice of sadism in which a spooky Scooby Doo-like miner pick-axes residents of the town of Valentine Bluffs, twentysomething years after “The Murders!” a private party lures him back and a trip into the mine ends up with bodies lying everywhere. The 2009 uncut release improves things tenfold with the MPAA cuts restored.

Crowning moment: Death by shower head.

The right track

TERROR TRAIN

4 Stars  1980/18/93m

“The boys and girls of Sigma Phi. Some will live. Some will die.”

Director: Roger Spottiswoode / Writer: T.Y. Drake / Cast: Ben Johnson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Hart Bochner, David Copperfield, Sandee Currie, Derek MacKinnon, Timothy Webber, Anthony Sherwood, Howard Busgang, Greg Swanson, Joy Boushel, D.D. Winters.

Body Count: 10

Laughter Lines: “Alana, you’re always walking out on my parties… This time, you can’t!”


One of the few slasher movies to have gone into production between Halloween and the release Friday the 13th, thus taking most of its cues from the former, most notably casting Jamie Lee Curtis in her third slasher flick (she came straight from Prom Night to this), and having an older famous actor to pivot the billing.

It’s pre-Friday status means that Terror Train isn’t as cliched as subsequent genre entries that upped the grue. Curtis is Alana, who is roped into a frat prank on shy freshman Kenny Hampson (MacKinnon), that turns out to be tricking him into believing he’s going to bed her, only for him to climb into bed with a dismembered corpse borrowed from a morgue by the joke’s selfish architect Doc (Bochner). Kenny understandably loses his shit.

Three years and an opening credits sequence later, the graduating class throw themselves a costume party aboard a chartered train, under the watch of wise conductor Ben Johnson. Unbeknownst to them, Kenny Hampson is back and still angry. He kills each of the responsible students and then dons their costume, starting off in a creepy Groucho Marx mask, then the Creature from the Black Lagoon, a witch…

tt-masks

Along with the vengeful Kenny, Alana is also still pissed about the prank, having not been filled in on the finer details (i.e. that it was a corpse) and is dismayed to learn that she has been fooled into attending the party. Her nice-guy boyfriend Mo is struggling to balance his friendship with Doc and relationship with her, and who hired the moody magician (David Copperfield, the, like,totally real magician) who’s come along?

The Conductor is first to discover the murders just as Doc has a coincidental tragedy of his own: The train is stopped and the guests alerted, at which point Alana figures out that the victims were all in on the nasty prank and that she and Doc are next…

Once it’s down to Alana and the killer, Terror Train shunts gear into cat-and-mouse overdrive as she’s accosted up and down the unpopulated areas of the train by the masked maniac. She fights back, thinks she’s killed him, he continues to bounce back. But if we know who it is, why all the masks?

I first learnt of Terror Train via Vera Dika’s book Games of Terror, which sadly gave away the big twist, but it’s awesomely done nevertheless and if I didn’t already know of it, I wouldn’t have seen it coming.

Watching the film post-genre heights highlights a lot of dumb behaviour, even Jamie Lee repeatedly wanders off by herself without a chaperone. It’s also low on bloodshed and nudity, erring more towards Hitchcockian suspense and character interactions than stalk-n-slash. But don’t let that put you off, Terror Train means business.

There’s also a curious homoerotic subtext at play. Doc tells Mo that if Alana dumps him: “You’ve still got me – I mean it!” An interesting little footnote amidst the carnage.

I once read a film almanac that called Terror Train “the best slasher movie made in the 80s” and, although I have others I prefer, in terms of overall quality, it’s not far off.

A planned remake in 2008 was quasi-aborted, renamed just Train, and took a different track (ho ho ho!) as a Hostel rip-off.

Blurbs-of-interest: Sandee Currie was later in Curtains (as Sandra Warren); Joy Boushel was in Humongous; Hart Bochner was a film professor in Urban Legends: Final Cut; Howard Busgang had a small role in Killer Party; D.D. Winters found a career at Prince’s protege, ‘Vanity’.

The 100 Greatest* Slasher Movies Part VII: #40-31

*According to me. Me, me, me! So don’t be surprised to discover some classics are missing.

See #100-91 // #90-81 // #80-71 // #70-61 // #60-51 // #50-41

40: Malevolence (2005)

Slow, brooding, and with a low body count. Normally the stuff I hate in a slasher film, but Stevan Mena pulls off a minor miracle here: The Bodycount Art Film. A botched bank robbery sends a gang of criminals and their mother/daughter hostages to a dilapidated farmhouse inhabited by a bag-masked psycho who may or may not be the local boy who disappeared in the 80s. Tsuyoshi Kimoto’s pristine photography paints a bleak Americana and is the brightest jewel on display. Forget the shoddy prequel, Bereavement though.

Crowning moment: One of the fugitives goes to ‘look around’ outside the house. In the dark. Alone. Behind her, we see the killer lurking in the peripherals. Pure stalker stuff and excellently done.

39: Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)

Likely an unpopular addition, this Halloween sequel was one of the first I saw and, while it was hampered by production nightmares, it holds together quite well, and captures the ‘Hallowe’en atmos’ better than all of those that’ve followed. Michael Myers reappears in Haddonfield six years after disappearing with his niece, who has just had a baby, and now he wants it back and will kill all who stand in his way, including pre-stardom Paul Rudd, as the grown-up Tommy Wallace.

Crowning moment: “There’s someone else in the room! He’s right behind you!”

38: Psycho Beach Party (2000)

A screen adaptation of a campy stage musical (!), Lauren Ambrose is a plucky 50s teenager with multiple personalities who just wants to surf with all the hunky beach boys. But who is murdering folks with varied impairments? The surf kids, a B-movie actress, and a strangely butch female police chief are all trying to find out. One of those slashers-on-the-side affairs adorned with some recognisable faces.

Crowning moment: The Lu’au dance-off that makes the choreography of Grease look second-rate.

37: Shredder (2001)

Teenagers staying at a cabin on an out-of-bounds mountain are done in by a snowboarder-hating killer. While Iced may have been there and done that, Shredder is a cute, relentlessly likeable little slice of paradise, stocked with interesting characters who you, for a post-2000 film, surprisingly don’t hate.

Crowning moment: The recurring gag of a hanged snowboarder going around and around on the chairlift all day.

36: Flashback (1999)

Germany’s response to Scream is a ludicrous farce that is inexplicably awesome at the same time. As a young girl, Jeanette witnessed the brutal slaying of her parents (and dog) by a dress-wearing maniac. X years later, she lands a job teaching French to a trio of rich siblings while their parents are away and the killings soon begin again. While things don’t necessarily tie together come the reveal, and the dubbing on the DVD is horrific, Flashback contains enough carnage to make Jason proud. Though I can’t say I’m a fan of all the domestic pet slashery.

Crowning moment: The ‘past event’ trauma (pictured), the camera keeps with that sickle as the killer moves in on young Jeanette as she tries to reach the key suspended on a hook above the door.

35. Ripper: Letter from Hell (2001)

College students majoring in criminology are being stalked and slain by a lunatic recreating the murders of Jack the Ripper, right down to the placing of each and every stab wound. About halfway through it turns stupid (they decide going to a cabin in the woods is the best course of action) and the ending is clouded by ambiguity – in accord with the real life crimes – but Ripper can at least boast polished production, gruesome slayings (including Kelly Brook, above), and decent acting, even if it does grind on for nearly two hours.

Crowning moment: Though Jack the Ripper never killed anybody that way, a couple tumble on to a log saw conveyor they cannot escape from and look doomed to plunge face first into twin buzz saws.

34: You’re Next (2011)

Home invasion movies were briefly ‘a thing’ and they don’t come with much more ballistic action than You’re Next: A family reunion (again, in a house in the middle of nowhere) is crashed by a team of masked assassins and the besieged Davison clan have to do all they can not to die. What neither they, nor the killers, counted on was one of the guest’s innate survivalist training…

Crowning moment: I saw this at a horror festival and the blender-on-the-head moment got the biggest cheer for a reason.

33: Scream 4 (2011)

Arquette, Campbell, and Cox were all back to check in with Woodsboro a decade after the events of Scream 3: Sidney is in town promoting her self-help book, while Gale is trying to write one, and teenagers around town are falling victim to a new Ghostface-clad killer who is well-versed on the remake and reboot culture of Hollywood. The pairing of Williamson and Craven elicited mixed reviews – due mainly to the slack middle third – but the self-awareness is fully intact and the blood free-flowing.

Crowning moment: The pre-title slaughter, arguably defined by Scream and copied by everyone else, now reclaimed with chucklesome flair.

32: Mask Maker (2010)

I’ve long held the view that if you carefully selected the best parts of other slasher films and sewed them together, you’d have one awesome film: Mask Maker is it. College kids renovating an old farmhouse accidentally resurrect the undead psychopath who once dwelled there and has a penchant for slicing off people’s faces and wearing them over his own deformed features. Almost every scene is a recreation of moments from every killer-with-a-blade pic since Psycho but done very well.

Crowning moment: Final girl Jen steps into the heroine’s shoes with veritable gusto and gives the killer a real run for his money.

31: Cut (2000)

As Flashback was Germany’s answer to Scream, so Cut is Australia’s. Seems that anyone who tries to complete cheesy unfinished slasher flick Hot Blooded ends up dead. But this urban myth doesn’t stop a team of film students from hiring Molly Ringwald’s bratty actress and giving it the old college try. Expectedly, the curse strikes again and the film crew are soon being laid to waste by a wackadoo dressed as the on-screen killer. Dry Aussie humour failed to resonate for most and the film has an unfairly bad reputation.

Crowning moment: Tiny superstar Kylie Minogue’s cameo as a tyrannical film director.

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