In one of the inaugural posts here on The Abominable Dr. Welsh, we looked at five underrated slasher movies. We know all the big ones – Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, Scream, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. But during its ‘Golden Era’ in the 1980s, movie studios were churning out slashers like there was a movie-making assembly line. Later, Wes Craven’s Scream prompted a new wave of slashers follow by the 2000’s remake craze. Plenty of bad horror movies traded in on the slasher tropes to turn a quick dollar. Yet somewhere in between the classics are hidden gems. With such a huge library of horror movies, there’s still plenty of little treasures out there for genre fans. Here are five more underrated slashers to fill out a weekend horror movie marathon.
The Initiation (1984)
The Initiation plays like a checklist of all the classic slasher tropes. A tragic past shrouded in a Freudian-inspired mystery. Young college students – in a sorority no less – who go somewhere they shouldn’t be. Random nudity and sex. Technically, The Initiation doesn’t do anything remotely interesting with the slasher formula. Its story about a sorority pledge plagued by horrible nightmares and a hazing – or initiation – to break into a shopping mall at night is about as rote as you can get. And The Initiation takes its time setting this thin premise up. Nonetheless, director Larry Stewart does an efficiently workmanlike job with the story. Neither scary nor shocking, The Initiation still plays better than most low-budget slashers. Somehow the movie also secured a handful of decent actors in Daphne Zuniga, Clu Galager, and Vera Miles. Just enough here works.
Like The Initiation, Canadian slasher Curtains isn’t particularly innovative. On the surface, this is a pretty derivative slasher outing. But the execution is surprisingly effective and, at times, Curtains has a bit of a surrealistic feel to it. The story itself is pretty basic stuff. Several young actresses arrive a director’s remote mansion to complee for the lead role in his next movie. One of the actresses just escaped from an insane asylum after voluntarily admitting herself to study up for the same part. That’s serious method acting. Could this jaded actress be the movie’s killer? By the way, this also makes Curtains the second movie on this list to feature an escapee from an insane asylum. Believe it or not, Curtains has a surprise or two for viewers. And there’s a couple of cool slasher sequences, including an infamous outdoor ice skating scene.
Stage Fright (1987)
And here’s another slasher movie on this list set amongst actors and the theatre. Stage Fright, an Italian slasher, finds actors and crew holed up in a theatre rehearsing for the upcoming release of their musical production. Surprise, surprise, a masked killer has joined the theatre troupe. If its setup sounds derivative, Stage Fright compensates with all the style and gore you’d expect from a Giallo. Alongside the distinct visual style, Stage Fright also boasts an interesting killer who immediately stands out. Not everything makes much sense. But that’s to be expected in a good Giallo. Nonetheless, Stage Fright is easily one of the better slasher movies released in the latter half of the 1980s.
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006)
Before the tabloids and her breakthrough roles, Amber Heard starred in a quiet, little slasher called All The Boys Love Mandy Lane. Given its limited theatrical release, it’s not surprising that many horror fans have passed it over. In general, critics weren’t that thrilled with the results. And the movie’s story of a quiet, fiercely desired girl who joins the ‘cool kids’ for a weekend getaway doesn’t promise to do much with the slasher formula But All The Boys Love Mandy Lane is far better than its critical reception. There are some interesting ideas at play in this atmospheric thriller. In particular, All The Boys Love Mandy Lane has some critical subtext, taking aim at the male gaze and flipping the Final Girl narrative. However, a slower pace and body count may put off some slasher fans.
The Final Girls (2015)
In the years following Scream, meta-slashers have become common enough to make horror fans yearn for a return to a more straight-faced approach to the concept. From Cabin in the Woods to Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon to more obscure indie outings, the winks and nods to ‘in-the-know’ audiences isn’t fresh anymore. But The Final Girls still felt novel in 2015. Here, the daughter of a famous Scream Queen – along with her friends – gets sucked into one of her mother’s mid-90s slasher movies. It’s a tweak on the meta-slasher that distinguishes The Final Girls from similarly-themed movies. Like the best horror-comedies, The Final Girls mixes horror, outrageous comedy, and a thoughtful emotional core. Moreover, the homage to the subgenre never overtakes the story. An excellent cast that includes Taissa Farmiga and Malin Akerman further elevates the sharp material. Though it’s not quite at the same level as Cabin in the Woods, The Final Girls is an absolute winner.