We have a lot of love for slasher movies around these parts. Even if there are very few of them being made these days, they’re some of the first horror films that we learn about, usually some of the first that we see. That’s aided, of course, by all of the major slasher franchises. From Friday the 13th to A Nightmare on Elm Street to Halloween, mainstream slashers are widely adored.
But the slasher cycle of the 1980s led to so many similarly-themed movies that, for the most part, were forgotten. Very few of them spawned sequels, some of them had strong box office returns but faded out of theaters very quickly. We discovered most of them in the video store, when a film’s reputation meant nothing to us and we were focused solely on the endearing, often grotesque box art.
Now we’re rediscovering so many lost titles through collector’s edition Blu-ray releases and streaming services. Films like Pieces are getting amazingly in-depth treatment. It’s an era I never thought I’d see as a horror fan and it still delights me so much.
Here are some slashers that have been mostly forgotten, movies I had never seen until very recently, but ones that should definitely not fade into obscurity again because they’re just too much fun.
The fun of Night School really lies in the death scenes themselves as they’re all decapitation oriented. It’s a tough gimmick to keep up and I have to give the movie props for even trying. But it’s also elevated by the fact that it’s shot by Mark Irwin, who also shot Cronenberg’s The Dead Zone and The Fly. And it boasts a great score by Fright Night and Terminator composer Brad Fiedel.
No, not the Robert De Niro/Wesley Snipes movie, this Fan stars Lauren Bacall as actress Sally Ross. She’s stalked relentlessly by a record salesman played by Michael Biehn in one of his most underrated roles. It’s a grim, elevated slasher that still doesn’t stray too far from what’s expected of the sub-genre.
Slaughterhouse gets off to a really tough to watch, blunt opening that just takes you through the day-to-day work of the titular establishment. It’s stock footage, I think, but either way it’s real footage of a real industry. But it sets up the tone and the events to follow—none of which are as gruesome as the opening, but you’ll be watching them with said opening in mind, which I think is the point.
Madman is a great Friday the 13th clone that should have spawned at least one sequel. Madman Marz is a villain who deserved a franchise. The backstory is rich, the kills are creative, and the film is loaded with the quirky, eccentric weirdness that made these ‘80s slashers so worthwhile.
The Final Terror
The Final Terror is a fun one. It stumbles a bit, but there’s something really gripping about the idea of a killer deep in the woods targeting Outward Bound kids who are learning survival skills for the first time. It’s a refreshing switch-up from the traditional summer camp slasher. Plus, it features Night School’s Rachel Ward and an early role for Joe Pantoliano, best known for The Matrix and Memento.
The Mutilator is one of those features best known for its legendary VHS cover, not to mention the tagline “By pick, by axe, by knife, bye bye.” It’s not the most efficiently made slasher, but it definitely lives up to its poster art. This one has an interesting central dynamic as the protagonist is being stalked by his own father, making the entire situation a twisted family affair.
I’m so happy I discovered Blood Rage thanks to podcasts like Killer POV and Shock Waves because this film is an absolute delight. Imagine Halloween if Loomis and Michael were twin brothers, but the killer is also a proto-Patrick Bateman yuppie, the entire thing is set at decidedly unthreatening Florida apartment complex and best of all, it’s exactly the Thanksgiving slasher you’ve been looking for all your life.