And the countdown of the countdown of the Top 50 Slasher Movies of all time continues. Here, in Part III, we list of the picks for Numbers 30 to 21. There’s a little bit of everything including more Gialli, a sequel from a classic slasher franchise, and representative from the New French Extremity. Throw in a handful of 80s ‘Golden Era’ classics alongside some meta-horror and a recent 2020 candidate and our Stalk and Slash is getting pretty interesting.
30 – Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)
Today, meta-horror is common enough to almost make straightforward horror fare feel kind of revolutionary. But one of the better examples of the post-modern slasher, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, has justifiably gained cult status. Even after a decade and a half and a lot of meta-horror in between, Behind the Mask The Rise of Leslie Vernon remains a fun watch. Though it’s not as insightful as some of the movies that followed, Glosserman’s deconstruction of slasher tropes remains clever. The premise of a documentary crew following around a killer fully aware of slasher tropes sets it apart from Scream or Cabin in the Woods even if it wasn’t entirely fresh (see Man Bites Dog).
29 – Intruder (1989)
From producer Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead, Drag Me To Hell), Intruder is one of better slasher movies you probably haven’t seen. Unfortunately, Intruder had the misfortune of being released past the expiry date of the 1980s slasher phenomenon. Set in a supermarket’s final shift before closing, an unseen killer stalks the staff. Is it a disgruntled employee or the Final Girl’s violent ex-boyfriend? There’s nothing inherently unique about Intruder; it doesn’t play with any audience expectations. Where Intruder distinguishes itself is its balance of outrageous humor and over-the-top horror. Even after 30 plus year, the practical gore effects are still outstanding. Throw in one of the bleaker endings in the subgenre and you’ve got a fun slasher movie.
28 – High Tension (2003)
In the early 2000s, on the heels of Saw and Hostel, American horror saw the emergence of the ‘Torture Porn’ subgenre. Meanwhile Europe had its own horror revolution as the New French Extremity assaulted audiences. From French director Alexandre Aja (Crawl, Oxygen), High Tension disturbed and frustrated audiences in equal measures. With a doubt, Aja pushed boundaries with disturbing imagery and near relentless suspense. But High Tension’s inexplicable twist stretched credulity. Of course, slasher movies have historically boasted improbable final twists to get in one last scare. And if you’re willing to suspend belief, High Tension is still one of the best examples of the New French Extremity.
27 – My Bloody Valentine (1981)
A lot of slasher movies filled theatres during the 80s ‘Golden Era’ of the subgenre. Arguably Canadian export My Bloody Valentine is among the best of the B-level entries. No, it doesn’t do anything revolutionary with the concept. In fact, My Bloody Valentine mostly checks off the expected boxes. But what it does, it does very well. From the character design of Harry Warden’s ‘Miner’ suit to the brutal kills, My Bloody Valentine is a well-paced slasher that holds up to repeated viewings. Just make sure you’re watching the uncut version. And the remake is among the better of the 2000s remake craze.
26 – Opera (1987)
Another Giallo makes the list. And Dario Argento makes his first – but not last – appearance. Though it’s not his most recognized work, Opera remains a visually extravagant and wild example of Argento’s talents. Briefly, it’s a slasher take on The Phantom of the Opera with a psychopath, obsessed with a young diva, plaguing a production of Macbeth. Expect an almost incomprehensible story laced with Argento’s masterfully staged death scenes. As expected, Argento juxtaposes grisly murders with gorgeous cinematography in a bold statement of style over substance.
25 – Dressed to Kill (1980)
At the peak of his career, Brian DePalma (Carrie, The Untouchables) was among the more visually stylish filmmakers. Among his better received Hitchcockian thrillers, Dressed to Kill bares all the flamboyance and style of Italian gialli. When a high-priced call girl witnesses a mysterious blonde woman murder a psychiatrist’s patient, she becomes the next target. DePalma’s mix of lurid sex and shocking violence drew criticism on its release. Today, Dressed to Kill – and its portrayal of transgendered individuals – wouldn’t fly with most audiences. But as a pure visceral viewing experience, Dressed to Kill is a slasher dressed a high art. The elevator scene early in the movie stands as a testament to DePalma’s craftsmanship.
24 – April Fool’s Day (1986)
Though Scream gets the lion’s share of credit for introducing the meta approach to slashers, it’s not the first. Wes Craven technically gave the concept a trial run with New Nightmare. And April’s Fool Day subverted the tropes several years earlier. At the time of its release, April Fool’s Day wasn’t a big hit. Maybe its lack of gore and inventive kills deterred many slasher fans. However, its methodical pace, above-average acting, and clever twist make it one of the better slasher entries from the 1980’s. Over thirty years after its release it’s much easier to appreciate the film’s clever conclusion particularly when you consider what preceded. It’s never easy breaking new ground, but there’s much to like about April Fool’s Day.
23 – The Burning (1981)
When Friday the 13th proved to be a surprise box office hit, horror filmmakers hoped lightning would strike twice. In short order, the genre churned out a series of camping horror movies. Not surprisingly, most of these movies fell well short of a trip to Camp Crystal Lake. Of the two early 80s slashers inspired by the Cropsey urban legend, The Burning easily edges out Madman. Though it’s largely a typical slasher movie, The Burning is an effectively grimy movie boasting some of Tom Savini’s best work. Look no further than the infamous raft scene. As a bonus, a handful of future famous actors turn up in small roles.
22 – Freaky (2020)
Like his other slasher effort, Happy Death Day, Christopher Landon’s Freaky is high concept horror. Consider it a slasher update on Disney’s Freaky Friday premise. In addition to nailing its concept, Freaky works as both a slasher movie and clever subversion of the subgenre. Though it’s clearly more interested in dark humour and laughs, Landon delivers a few decent scares and Rated-R horror moments. And it’s no coincidence then that Freaky’s more subtle achievement is how it subverts the stereotypical gender roles of the slasher. Similar to Happy Death Day, Landon also remembers to invest his story with an emotional core, eschewing the ‘stalk and slash’ formula for a ‘coming of age story’.
21 – Friday the 13th Part 4: The Final Chapter (1984)
Many horror fans consider Friday the 13th Part 4: The Final Chapter to be the best of the classic series. And there’s an argument to be made for that position. Of all the franchise entries, The Final Chapter best represents the excesses of 80s slashers. Yes, The Final Chapter boasts gory death scenes alongside plenty of sex and gratuitous nudity. In addition, Tom Savini returns to the character he created and the sequel gives us a full 90s minutes of ‘classic’ Jason Voorhees in the goalie mask. Plus Cory Feldman enters the series – it doesn’t get more 80s. While it’s one of better franchise sequels, The Final Chapter isn’t the highest ranked Friday the 13th movie on this list.