The Horror sub-genre ‘Slasher’ began in the 70s, with Horror Icon John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978). Halloween and its psychotic serial killer Michael Myers changed the horror genre forever. However, it was not until the 1980s that the slasher sub-genre really came to fruition.
After the success of Halloween, Hollywood film studios realised that slasher films could be made quickly and cheaply and bring a good return at the box office. This led to a new slasher film being released almost once a week in the early 80s.
They weren’t all a success and they certainly weren’t all good, but there were some real gems that should not be forgotten. Here is TopTenFilmz.com’s Top Ten Slasher Films of the 80s…
10. Intruder (1989)
Slasher movies had their 15 minutes of fame in the early 80s and the craze had pretty much fizzled out by 1984. However, Intruder, made in 1989 is a solid effort which recaptures the magic of those early 80s classic slasher flicks. The overnight skeleton crew at a local supermarket are picked off one by one throughout the night by a mysterious maniac. If Dawn of the Dead made you feel that being locked in a supermarket was a good thing, Intruder will quickly change that opinion.
9. Hell Night (1981)
Linda Blair (of The Exorcist fame) plays the lead role in this 1981 haunted house slasher flick from the producer of Halloween. A group of new college pledges have to stay overnight in a creepy old deserted mansion, suffice to say they don’t all make it out alive in the morning. The kill scenes are all fairly basic, however there is a nice little twist towards the end when the identity of the killer is revealed.
8. The Prowler (a.k.a Rosemary’s Killer) (1981)
Another 1981 slasher film, this time a mysterious killer decked out in World War 2 Army fatigues stalks and kills a bunch of college kids at their annual spring dance. Directed by Joseph Zito, who went on to direct the fourth instalment of the Friday the 13th series, and with make-up effects by the master Tom Savini, this is definitely one of the better 80s slasher flicks.
7. Prom Night/Terror Train (1980)
Jamie Lee Curtis was the face of slasher movies in the 1980s. She shot to fame as the lead character, Laurie Strode, in John Carpenter’s Halloween and then went on to star in two more slasher films in quick succession… Prom Night and Terror Train were both released in 1980, and helped to cement Janet Leigh’s daughter as the new face of horror. They are both excellent slasher flicks so it is near impossible to choose between them, therefore they are the joint number seven entry in this list.
6. The Burning (1981)
The Burning is a great slasher flick for a number of different reasons. Firstly because it was co-written by one Bob Weinstein, based on a story idea by his brother Harvey Weinstein. The Weinstein’s are known to be big time movie producers, not writers – The Burning is one of only two writing credits to their name. The other thing that makes this film good is because it actually breaks some genre stereotypes ***SPOILER ALERT*** – the shy virgin girl dies first, and the geeky/nerdy kid actually survives and helps defeat the killer at the end.
5. Sleepaway Camp (1983)
Sleepaway Camp is a strange little film. It has achieved cult status among slasher film fans, largely due to the shocking twist in the last frame of the film. I find it strange because it really isn’t a very good film – The kills are fairly uneventful and both the directing and acting are incredibly flat. It is definitely worth watching for the ending alone, but that’s about it. The two sequels that came later in the 80s are much more entertaining slasher flicks – they don’t take themselves too seriously and have a little fun with the killer’s back story.
4. Maniac (1980)
This film is not your typical teenage hack and slash movie; it is told from the POV of the killer rather than the unsuspecting victims. It delves into the psychology of the killer and explores the reasons behind the menace. More widely known films that came later in the 80s such as Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer owe a lot to Maniac.
3. Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
This film did for Santa Claus what Jaws did for sharks. The story is of a young boy who witnesses his parents brutally murdered by a man dressed as Santa. The boy then grows up, and all is well until he himself dons a Santa Claus outfit – he snaps and goes on a killing spree across the town. This film caused major uproar upon its release, critics found the idea of a killer Santa Claus to be one step too far. Bah Humbug! This is a great ‘alternative’ Christmas film, but definitely not one for the kids.
2. Halloween 2 (1981)
The sequel to the film that started it all. This film picks up right where the first part left off – Laurie Strode is taken to hospital with Michael Myers in hot pursuit. This sequel is every bit as good as the first film, with lots of kills, high tension and of course, that fantastic score. It is a shame that the Halloween franchise took a nose dive after the release of part 2 – part 3 didn’t even include Michael Myers(!) and the rest of the sequels were direct-to-video cash-ins that lacked the spark and imagination of the first two parts.
1. Friday the 13th (1980)
Next to Michael Myers, the second most famous character in the slasher genre is Jason Vorhees. The young boy who tragically drowned at Camp Crystal Lake… or so we’re told. In this first film in the series Jason’s mother is out to get revenge on a group of teenage camp counsellors for the death of her baby boy. This film spawned a series of sequels that ran throughout the 80s, 90s and 00s, and still inspires countless slasher films to this day.