Tag Archives: yo! Hollywood

Who knows what they’ll do next summer

With the age-compounding news that I Know What You Did Last Summer, a film from 1997 – also known as last week – is being remade (or ‘re-imagined’ as these bullshitty projects are now nominally dubbed), and the merciful slowing trend of grab-bagging any “sounds cool” film title from way back when and stuffing it through the Remake Generator 3000 – what, I ask myself, is left for them to plunder? Hmm…

DEADLY BLESSING 1981

Why, God, why? The odds of this one eventually happening must be quite high – Wes Craven has seen Elm Street, Last House on the Left, and The Hills Have Eyes all remade in the last few years.

What would they do to it? Given the religious backdrop DB is set against, one can only imagine all manner of minority groups picketing it and being offended all over the show; though Craven had the sense to manufacture his sub-Amish society, I doubt whichever 25-year-old was put in charge of the production would be capable of thinking so logically. Expect the trio of heroines to wear the skimpiest of skimpy shorts and at least two of them make out with one another to tease the religious boys, ’cause, you know, nobody but straight men watch horror films.

Should they? The original isn’t that well known and the story is solid enough. Only would this be acceptable in mature, craft-heavy hands.

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CHERRY FALLS 2000

Why, God, why? If you’ve ever encountered the original script for this one, you’ll know it was way more awesome than the finished product, albeit getting most of said awesome from it’s fucking cool central plot device: The killer only goes after virgins!

What would they do to it? As all media ever now pretty much endorses underage sex, I foresee a PG-13 production along similar lines to that wretched Prom Night re-do, wide-eyed, under-studied teen stars (at least three of whom will also be singers) shrieking a lot and talking sensibly about sex and the responsibilities thereof.

Or, it could go NC-17 and be a gigantic slutfest. Either way, it’d be female-teen centric, girls would be punished far more than boys and the end lesson would be something out of a 7th Heaven episode.

Should they? A remake based on the original script – yes. Otherwise, leave it.

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HELL NIGHT 1981

Why, God, why? Name. This one almost happened. Say, five years back there were ‘talks’ about sending a bunch of frat and sorority students to a manor house ‘haunted’ by a crazed killer.

What would they do to it? Because of the success of When a Stranger Calls and the forever-grim Prom Night redux (that’ll keep cropping up, soz), Hollywood execs, who I can only assume drool over Excel spreadsheets of weekend box office results, had their evil eyes on updating this genre classic into guess what? PG-13! Not that the Linda Blair orig was dripping with grue and boobs, but c’mon? Slasher films should contain at least some slash. Thankfully, it appears to have fallen off the radar, but I imagined a more-or-less straight up Xerox only with unpleasant bitchy girls and scheming frat boys everywhere you look.

Should they? No. Hell Night‘s plot is so derivative it could be woven into any new film, see the Terror Train/Train saga. It’s name really isn’t that well known outside of dorky websites such as this and, unless we get another retro-fest, I think this one might escape unscathed.

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GRADUATION DAY 1981

Why, God, why? Yet another calendar-date psycho slasher film, ripe for the remake, a film titled Graduation Night to star Zac Efron was rumoured in the wake of his High School Musical escape plan. As yet, nothing more.

What would they do to it? *sigh* I’m as tired of dredging up fucking Prom Night as you are of reading it, but it was stupidly successful for a movie so barren of anything. Others wanted a slice of the pie. The idea of a track team done in is every high school geek’s dream, but you know the cast would be a bunch of steroid-infused 28-year-olds trying to pass for 17. Death by various athletic equipment should also return with a pole-vaulting vengeance.

Should they? Yes! I’m not precious about Graduation Day; production wise it is piss poor, and there are some cool moments that would update nicely (except that stupid sword-through-football thing), but it’d need to be harder than PG-13. After four years of high school, there are people you want to see die. Bloodily.

*

THE BURNING 1981

Why, God, why? Infamous Video Nasty of shears-toting caretaker has also bee rumoured for a remake for some time. Like Graduation Day, the original film isn’t that wonderfully made: The script is all over the place like a drunk F1 racer, it had the worst excuse for a lead character in Alfred, and it was uncompromisingly violent.

What would they do to it? Hopefully, not much more than tighten a few screws and clean it up. The story has all the hallmarks of a genre classic, it was heavy on the grue and the nudity, boasted a cool score, and has stood the test of time to some degree in terms of reputation. I don’t see how it would work as anything less than an R-rated bloodfest, Cropsy doesn’t snip fingers off just to see it cut from the final print. I have the nagging feeling it’d be adorned with some class-straddling teen romance, say uptight middle class girl and wrong-side-of-the-tracks boy. Ugh.

Should they? Only if the budget was high enough to get it off the starting blocks with any hope of being good. Too many summer camp slasher films attempt to get by on $75 and a few bottles of ketchup.

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ALONE IN THE DARK 1982

Why, God, why? You’re Next proved the fusion of home invasion horror and slasher conventions can be awesome; this film covered much of that ground thirty years earlier. They re-did Mother’s Day with a similar edge, so why not this too?

What would they do to it? Alone in the Dark is one of the few early 80s slasher films that injected a bit of humour into grim proceedings. You’re Next traded quite heavily on comical denouements for its characters, and with four escaped psycho patients tormenting a family, what is there to lose?

The original film is flawed with too little focus on females, be they victims or ass-handing heroines, that would need to change. If it doesn’t go lighter, take it darker – make those escapees really shady and unnerving.

Should they? Again, I have no particularly strong binds to the original and wouldn’t feel my heart break the way it did over the announcement of the Halloween remake. Yeah, why not?

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Other vulnerable species:

  • Girls Nite Out. Early 80s campus shenanigans interrupted by a psycho dressed as a cheerleader-hating teddy bear! Too little action and a real WHAT? reveal scuppered a great idea. Do it.
  • Curtains. Curious fan-favourite with a bunch of starlets knocked off at the open audition for a film at a house in the middle of nowhere. Production nightmares kept it on the shelf for three years. Cast a bunch of YouTube stars everyone already hates and let the blades fly.
  • Dark Night of the Scarecrow. Made-for-TV films don’t come much more frightening than this tale. Seasoned actors played good roles for a change and the creep factor severely outweighed any gore. Leave it be before we have to see one of Will Smith’s kids leading the charge.
  • The Final Terror. Daryl Hannah and Rachel Ward are probably still cringing at this early years resume filler: Survivalist types are stalked by a primeval loon in the woods. Wrong Turn has it covered, but a non-comic overdo with a few more bodies might be decent. Just remove the Three Blind Mice singalong.
  • He Knows You’re Alone. Yes! Change it to a high-society celebrity wedding at a castle or something and have the bride-stalking maniac crash it. I’m thinking bride in her big dress fighting him off would be amazing.
  • The Prowler. Another nihilistic early-80s maniac-after-teens title few remember much about beyond the top-notch Savini FX work. The rest of the film is so coma-inducingly boring perhaps just a 30-minute cut of the good bits would do. Actually, make it 15 minutes.
  • Slaughter High. For sure a reputed mid-80s example, why does Slaughter High suck so bad? Could it be the British actors overdoing their accents? The shoddy production values? That weird-ass ending? Caroline Munro’s rather pitiful shower-flow? Who knows – the idea of nerd inviting bullies to bogus reunion is fun, let’s see it again with more care and attention.

Giallo Movie

THE EDITOR

3.5 Stars  2014/106m

Directors/Writers: Adam Brooks & Matthew Kennedy / Writer: Conor Sweeney / Cast: Paz de la Huerta, Adam Brooks, Matthew Kennedy, Conor Sweeney, Sheila Campbell, Tristan Risk, Samantha Gill, Lance ‘The Snake’ Cartwright, Jerry Wasserman, Udo Kier.

Body Count: 10

Laughter Lines: “In ancient Roman times, editors were considered to be bridges to the netherworld…”


Disclaimer: I watched The Editor at the FrightFest Allnighter at approximately 5am the other week. Fatigue – and the imprint of boredom left by previous feature, The Pact II – was setting in, so there maybe a few lapses in memory. #forgiveness.

‘Parody’ has become a bit of a dirty word in film, thanks almost entirely to the tsunami of crap that washed ashore under the name Epic/Disaster/Date Movie. Slapdash productions poking fun at current trends, thus rendering them horrifically dated within weeks.

In horror, Scary Movie was the prime culprit, albeit not the first; in the 80s there was Student Bodies, Wacko, Class Reunion, Pandemonium, Saturday the 14th and so on. We could blame Airplane! if it weren’t so damn good.

So to call The Editor a parody of the Italian giallo movement wouldn’t be quite right: There are no zeitgeist smug jokes, fart gags, and – crucially – the filmmakers are clearly creating a love letter rather than a complacent piss-take.

Giallo is a sub-genre of horror I’m not that well-versed in: Argento and Bava is about as deep as I’ve dipped my toes, but that didn’t matter, I’ve seen enough to be able to appreciate most of the laughs here, and who would ever tire of black-gloved mystery killers toting chainsaws in the foreground while oblivious couples go at it a few feet out of focus?

Co-Director/Writer Brooks plays the title role, as Rey Ciso, a once-glorified editor who cut his own fingers off and is now (or then, if we’re to assume this is set in the 70s or 80s from the mise-en-scene) consigned to editing tacky horror films with a glove of wooden fingertips.

When the cast and crew of his present production begin to get murdered on and around the set, the local inspector (other co-director/writer Kennedy) is convinced Rey is behind it, as each victim is found with wounds mimicking the missing fingers. Suspects for the rest of us include the pushy producer, Rey’s has-been actress wife (“If he died, I would cry and cry and cry and cry and cry and cry…”), his pretty apprentice editor, and an ambitious actor. In fact, it could be just about anybody.

The murders continue, including axings, knifes to the throat, chainsawing, all interspersed with amusing flashbacks of bizarre al fresco lovemaking, clips of the dreadful looking film, spiders that appear from nowhere, and what giallo would be complete without the awful dubbing?

Some moments are truly inspired, from the fashions to background personnel walking around naked (as we’re led to believe was so common in Italy in the late 1970s), the mistranslations and badly delivered dubbing (“She was the best! The best! The beeeeeest!”) and awful effects work of the film-within-the-film.

Toss in hysterical-blindness, car chases, a bro-mance that becomes strangely homoerotic, surprising male nudity, and you have everything you’d expect from the genre.

The only flaw lies in its length. The Editor is in need of a bit of an edit, cruising past the 100 minute mark and, while the best film of the five I sat through at the Allnighter, it began to drag towards the climax. So I want to see it again, which is more than can be said for most horror films of late. There’s a lotta love in this film, and seemingly a lotta love for it. Deservedly so.

Shots of this composition never get boring

Blurbs-of-interest: Paz de la Huerta was in The Tripper; Jerry Wasserman was in Christina’s House and Scarecrow; Udo Kier was in Pray for Morning.

Stock Background Characters 101: Stoners

In this feature, we examine the lesser beings of the slasher movie realm, which, if you’re making your own slasher film, could provide a good cast roster for you.

No killer or final girl profiles here, this is a celebration of those underlings who made the most of their fleeting flirtation with stardom. And usually died.

This month, we’re looking at the dope smokin’, pot lovin’, STONERS!

stoners2

Overview: In the realm of the slasher film, just as most groups of young people feature some hot lesbian chicks, a black girl with attitude, an asshole jock, amongst others, so does they include a post-hippie movement stoner; a boy (or girl) who lives to smoke the wacky tobaccy. This is because, in film generally, people are entirely one-dimensional.

Linguistic Snapshot: “Chill out, man, things’ll be OK… let’s just smoke the rest of this joint and worry about finding the others later…”

Styling: Stoners aren’t particularly dressy folk; comfortable, loose-fitting clothes seem to be the going-thing, unkempt, often long hair for guys, sideburns or Shaggy-style beardery… Girls favour floral prints, the occasional headband, perhaps small round Ozzy Osbourne-esque sunglasses.

Hallmarks: Stoners are amongst the most disposable of slasher movie stock backgrounders because, like slutty girls, aggressive jocks et al, they are coded as morally corrupt by the puritanical overlords who decide only nice boys and girls will get the chance to fight another day. Thus, while providing approximately 78% of the jokes in any given slasher movie, there’s rarely anything of substance to be glimpsed beneath the hazy surface.

To quote previous SBC prankster Shelly in Friday the 13th Part III: “Is that all you two are going to do this weekend – smoke dope? There are better things to do with your life…” To which, the hollow reply is: “I can’t think of any.”

Would’ve been awesome if Chili had instead said: “Yes, Shelly, there are. All this week I was working on a cure for cancer, then I saved some endangered birds, fed the homeless, started a Human Rights campaign so now… I just wanna forget all that and get stoned. PROBLEM?”

It’s only smokage man… Cut ‘em some slack, overlord-Jack.

Downfall: Typically, in their permanent state of cloudy-mind, the Stoner will die and barely even realise it. This is likely supposed to be some right-wing sponsored lesson in drugs = death. However, one awesome chink the chain is in R.S.V.P. where ‘modern day alchemist’ Terry (played by professional Stoner Jason Mewes) is made immune to the poison he ingests thanks to the concoction of drugs he’s been on for years. See also The Cabin in the Woods for a similar, weightier outcome.

Genesis: Kids n’ drugs n’ psycho killers have been chugging along in the background of the genre since its early days. Barely a Friday the 13th passes without a joint being handed around, and the quintet of camper-van cruisin’ youngsters in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre were surefire candidates for a good time. In a genre which really came together in the 70s, this should be no surprise. However, possibly the earliest representation of drug use equating to bad moral standards is found in Halloween, where good-girl Laurie tries to fit in with her more worldy friends by toking on Annie’s rollie, only to suffer a coughing fit.

Legacy: Since Laurie failed at being a pothead, this shortcut to doom has been used over and over again to stamp ‘dead’ on the foreheads of various teens. Beyond all the Friday usage, there’s the girl who tries weed and sex for the first time on the same night and dies literally seconds later in Prom Night; the ‘Shit Sisters’ of Sleepaway Camp II, who are so far gone they barely realise the killer is barbecuing them alive; and the neo-hippies of The Tripper, stuck in the 60s, branching out to acid, and suffering the effects of slow-reaction times when the Ronald Reagan-disguised loon comes at them.

The stoners in The Cabin in the Woods and Simon Says both harbour deep crushes on the final girl and, in the latter, is willing to sacrifice himself so that she can live. Awww…

Can you try drugs and live? Why yes. Just because Laurie choked, doesn’t mean that a little toke here and there spells doom: Alice has a little smoke in the original Friday and is the only survivor (though she dies at the beginning of Part 2); and the final girl in the aforementioned Tripper is spared (though she ‘learns’ drugs are bad). But these mercies are few and far between.

Conclusions: Don’t do drugs, kidz! …is the standard lesson of the slasher film realm. Like pre-marital sex, taking an interest in the gothic, experimenting with your sexuality, or playing pranks – more often than not it earns you a one way ticket to the boneyard. Who knew slasher films were so conservative? Well, all of us. But there’s a certain irony isn’t there? The Mary Whitehouses of the world were all “blah, morals, blah, blasphemy, blah, downfall of society…” when if they’d actually watched a slasher film, they’d see that all the sins they moan about were being addressed and answered with a cleaver in the face.

If you wanna smoke pot, go right ahead, enjoy your life but be forewarned that it tends to mean you’ll DIE*

*if you’re in a slasher film.

Stock Background Characters 101: Token Lesbians

In this feature, we examine the lesser beings of the slasher movie realm, which, if you’re making your own slasher film, could provide a good cast roster for you.

No killer or final girl profiles here, this is a celebration of those underlings who made the most of their fleeting flirtation with stardom. And usually died.

No power tools, plaid shirts, or cropped hair in sight as we enter the fantasy world of the
TOKEN LESBIANS

Overview: Even in ‘liberal Hollywood’, there’s still only one type of gay woman (other than Ellen DeGeneres): The porn type. So in an obvious slide towards exploitation filmmaking, it should surprise nobody that the lesser quality low-rent slasher film would need to pad out its running time by pandering to its assumed hetero-male audience. This has recently been achieved by adding a couple of hot young girls to make out with one another.

Linguistic Snapshot: “Oh, we would have a threesome with you if we were into guys, but we’re only into each other… Though you’re more than welcome to watch, sexy boy.” *giggle*

Styling: With few exceptions, slasher movie lesbians are just like any other scantily clad female cast member. This lends itself well to the fantasized “all that’s missing is my cock” outlook most of these scenes are striving for. Thus, ‘lesbians’ (or girls ‘just going through a phase’) are ultra-fem, with long flowing hair, delicate nails, and killer racks. On occasion you might see a more butch example, but it’s a surefire bet she won’t be in a sexual situation, will be aggressive, and will thus die as she’s of no use in any fantasy.

Hallmarks: Every now and then, one of the lesbians (never both) will become the final girl. For the rest, it’s nothing but nymphette behaviour alongside other regular character traits, they stand out only in their choice of bedfellow and everything else is a through-the-motions affair. On occasion, one of the lesbians will be a little closer to the butch stereotype, though still conventionally beautiful, just with a bandana and some bad language or something.

Downfall: After we’ve watched them strip off, make out, and, occasionally, do other things, our lesbian couple have little else to offer and will die just like their friends. But at least there’s nothing grimly ironic in their deaths at least, no dildo-impalement or ‘corrective’ procedure involving a bigoted psychopath.

lesbians

Genesis: The earliest lesbian representation in the genre appears to be the neo-heroine of Class Reunion Massacre (1976), who outlasts most of her heterosexual (and one effeminate gay fella) buddies, but still dies at the end because she is “a sinner” along with the other victims. Shadows Run Black featured an unattractive, overweight lesbian – about the only victim not to disrobe – who isn’t even afforded the on-camera death the prettier, straight girls get.

Legacy: After 2000, it was no longer taboo to adorn cheap horror films with girl-on-girl (but never guy-on-guy) action, though any given film’s budget would equate to what was shown: Urban Legends: Final Cut featured Eva Mendes as ‘the suspicious lesbian’, because, of course, non-normative sexuality means that where there are secrets, there are homicidal tendencies. She keeps her kit on. French indie Deep in the Woods elected one half of its lesbian couple as final girl, while Haute Tension twisted the dynamic around and cast short-haired Cecile de France first as the heroine and then, in a last minute revelation, a dangerously psychotic looney-lezzer who slashes her way through the family of the girl she’s in love with.

Elsewhere, girls making out cropped up in The Butcher, Curse of El Charro, Voyeur.com, Bikini Girls on Ice, Hatchet, Dark Harvest, and going much further in Wrong Turn 4. Weirder still is Switch Killer, where a girl flees her abusive boyfriend and falls in love with a woman, only for the boyfriend to turn after a SEX CHANGE and stalk her! Curse of Chucky featured a sordid love affair between a married mom and her daughter’s au pair.

The psychotic schizoid lesbian from Haute Tension

It’s worth noting the presence of lesbian slasher flick Make a Wish – retitled Lesbian Psycho on a later release – which was directed by a gay filmmaker, and so the orientations of the characters is more incidental, despite the presence of a few nudie scenes.

Conclusions: Are we witnessing a progression in social attitudes or just skeezy exploitation? In most cases it’s probably the latter. A majority of the titles where girl-on-girl material occurs is at the cheaper end of the spectrum, where filmmakers with next to no imagination are simply doing what they think the audience wants. It’s worth noting that gay couples of either gender fail to turn up in any of the three major franchises.

I do wonder what actual lesbians might make of it all. They’re effectively being included, albeit in a cookie-cutter manner, though it’s clear it’s purely for the benefit of a straight male demographic, which is why gay men are rarely shown in any other capacity other than enfeebled Nancy-boys. But then are heterosexual teen characters any more realistic? The more recent the film, the more uniformally beautiful and buff the cast will be: Fat or unattractive actors are also marginalized.

So, in slasherama it pretty much sucks to be anyone bar the final girl, because you’ll just be a dumbed down stereotype. Sad times.

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)

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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!

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