If you were to ask someone to name a classic horror film, chances are that one of the titles to come out of their mouth would be a ‘slasher’, most likely one of the greats such as Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street or Psycho, the film that shook our very notion of privacy. One of the earliest and best examples of this is in the aforementioned Psycho in which the infamous shower scene, with its visceral and shockingly sudden violence, shook the audience’s psyche, filling minds with a lingering feeling of dread and paranoia. But whether it’s Jason Voorhees severing American youth’s last remaining ties to innocence through bloodshed or Michael Meyers disrupting the peace and routine of suburban life, it becomes clear that slashers are here to remind you that within every paradigm we define for ourselves, new dangers arise.
It is this sub-genre’s ability to play with and warp our notion of familiarity and sense of security that makes slasher films so haunting. They take scenarios we recognize, ones we may have experienced firsthand such as living in a suburban neighborhood in the Midwest or stopping at a gas station in a small town in rural Texas, and strip them of their defined parameters, introducing chaos in the form of senseless violence. This chaos clings to us like a nightmare whose images are difficult to shake making films of that sub-genre some of the most memorable and traumatic.
While we’re not experts of the horror film genre by any stretch of the imagination, we appreciate well-crafted films and the enduring images they color our imaginations with. Every week through the month of October, we will be posting great slasher, silent horror and occult films to watch, with a final list culminating in the overall greatest horror films of all time in time for Halloween. The films below are ones we personally appreciate and feel best represent the potential and possibility of the genre. Whether or not you agree with the artistic or directorial quality of each film, there’s no denying that these films through either camp, cult or critical acclaim have carved their place in the bastion of slasher film legends. Below, in no particular order, are slashers that deserve a place in your queue this Halloween.
The slasher film inspired by great slasher films should be on everyone’s list this Halloween. Not only does it spare no expense when it comes to gore, this movie’s self-referential nature and witty dialogue make it as entertaining as it is nauseating.
A Nightmare on Elm Street
If the thought of never being able to sleep again doesn’t terrify you, then the reality of what’s awaiting you when you do will scare you even more. One glimpse of Freddy Krueger slashing through teenagers like Walmart’s prices will leave you in the fetal position praying for morning’s speedy arrival.
This film, with its needling, ominous theme song and terrifying villain, is a classic for a reason. In our humble opinion, no Halloween movie night is complete without this in your lineup.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre is hands-down one of the best horror films ever created. While Leatherface’s get-up is no doubt terrifying, it’s the atmosphere of suspense and paranoia that Hooper creates through his choice of film and tight framing that make this movie a standout.
What could be more terrifying than an ugly doll that goes around killing people? Add in the fact that this doll is also a quick-witted, smart-ass and you’ve got yourself an entertaining slasher film that deserves to be watched over and over again. If you can stomach it, that is.
Friday the 13th
Parents with teenage children? Pop in Friday the 13th and watch how quickly your children will start saying no to sex, drugs and alcohol.
Where do we even begin with this epochal film by one of the greatest directors to ever step behind a camera? While elements of what we now call “slasher films” had been present in cinema since the ’30s with films like Thirteen Women (1932), The Leopard Man (1943) and And Then There Were None (1945), the film adaptation of Agatha Christie’s novel Ten Little Indians (now called And Then There Were None), it is Psycho, the masterpiece that skyrocketed Hitchcock’s career, that is credited as birthing the sub-genre in its complete and total form. Psycho forever changed the horror genre with its use of graphic violence (think: the infamous shower scene which marked the first time a major film killed off its lead character halfway through. We’re reminded of Eddard Stark’s execution in Season 1 of Game of Thrones… Little did we know that would be the first of many upsetting deaths over the show’s lifetime), introduction of a sympathetic killer, overt sexuality and use of music to heighten tension and signal impending danger.
While Psycho elevated Alfred Hitchcock’s career, Peeping Tom, a film that premiered two months before Psycho, destroyed Michael Powell’s, ensuring the director never made a film in the UK again. The subject and point of view of the film make this a difficult one to sit through as the viewer takes on the perspective of the camera that Mark Lewis, the film’s protagonist, has on at all times and uses to film his victims dying expressions as he murders them. If this story line is already making your stomach squirm, wait until you watch the movie.
Dressed to Kill
Sex and violence come together in Brian De Palma’s film to create a thrilling slasher that contains what De Palma has called his best murder scene ever.
The Hills Have Eyes
And this is why you don’t make any stops when driving through the desert.
I Saw the Devil
This deeply disturbing slasher film is not only overflowing with violence, but emotional and psychological complexity, making it one of the best contemporary films of its genre.
The Devil’s Rejects
If you don’t think Rob Zombie is the man then let us direct you to the ‘Exit’ sign. Released two years after House of 1,000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects follows a murderous family on the run from a ruthless, unrelenting sheriff.
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
And because nothing should ever take itself too seriously, we included this mockumentary film by Scott Glosserman which pays homage to the slasher genre. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon follows an aspiring serial killer as he prepares for his first murder spree. The film is smart, violent and filled with laughs.
Later this week we’ll be posting quintessential silent horror films to watch this Halloween. See you then!
Feature image via Austin Film.