There are a lot of slasher movies have become classics in the horror genre. Psycho is widely thought of as the grand-daddy of this sub-genre and is viewed as one of the best horror titles of all time. Later movies like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Black Christmas are regarded as such as well. With Halloween, the slasher craze really kicked off. This is the prototype slasher movie. But there are really only two films released after this one that are at all regarded as classics, and those are Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street. Of course, there are hundreds more that fall into the sub-genre, so I’ll be looking at five movies that were never considered classic slashers, but should be.
My Bloody Valentine
My Bloody Valentine was a success in theaters in 1981 and, in 2009, saw a remake that also did fairly well at the box office. Yet it never gained the audience it truly deserved. It wasn’t a totally innovative slasher, but it had everything that the rising sub-genre needed. There are some great, imaginative kill sequences. The killer has an amazing look. And more importantly, the movie itself has a good balance of humor and genuine scares. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it’s honestly better for that.
After creating the effects for Friday the 13th, Tom Savini became a superstar in the genre immediately following that film’s release. Every genre fan turned out to watch his insane, bloody FX work and what kind of elaborate death scenes he could come up with. Even if they didn’t consciously know who he was, everyone had seen Friday by this point and wanted to see more violent and imaginative special effects. The Prowler isn’t terribly innovative in its storyline (it’s nearly identical to My Bloody Valentine for the first 45 minutes. But the films were released the same year so it’s likely just coincidence), but the atmosphere is strong and it offers the best gore effects that Savini ever created. It’s a showcase for those effects, and as such it works perfectly.
For a long time, fans hated The Burning because they thought that it was much too close to Friday the 13th. A lot of fans have warmed up to it now, but many haven’t and it’s definitely never come close to the popularity of its predecessor. The comparisons between the two movies are certainly valid, though. It came out only a year later, it was set at a summer camp, and it featured a mysterious silent killer. Tom Savini even turned down the offer to do the effects for Friday the 13th Part 2 to work on this feature. The cast of characters are great. In some ways they are better, more lively characters than those featured in Friday. The Burning feels like a solid 1980’s teen comedy up until the horror starts and that is precisely what makes the film work.
Like The Burning, Sleepaway Camp brings in a summer camp atmosphere, but this one completely spins the structure on its head. The movie is funny, sleazy, and while it is most known for its shocking, out-of-left-field ending, from beginning to end it is the last thing you’d expect. That’s what makes it such a cult classic. Well that and the insane, cartoonish characters and appallingly amoral camp staff.
Terror Train was the best slasher movie that Jamie Lee Curtis did after Halloween. It has a great setting that echoes Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train. It’s one of the few slashers where the main characters are directly tied to the killer’s backstory. The look of the killer is what really sells this one, though. Everyone in this movie is in costume, so the killer’s look is constantly changing, which keeps both the characters and the viewer on their toes from beginning to end. It also has one of the most shocking end reveals of any slasher ever.