Top 13 Classic Slasher Movies on Hoopla
Top 13 Classic Slasher Movies on Hoopla
October is the month made for monsters and madmen to creep across our home theater screens. I will help navigate you through the month with horror films of all types, available from both Hoopla and HMCPL, but this year there will be a special emphasis on slasher movies.
Slasher movies are very much a product of the 1980’s for various reasons, and forty years ago, throughout the year of 1981, more slasher films were released theatrically than at any other time in human history! (It’s true. Look it up.) In 1981, teenagers in Huntsville would meet their friends at the Alabama Theatre on North Parkway, the University Six off of University Drive, the Madison Theater in Parkway City Mall, the Cobb Movies 3 off of Sparkman Drive, the Westbury Cinerama on Queensbury Drive (off Airport Road) or the Martin Theater on Washington Street for a night of on-screen teen mayhem and cheap thrills.
The typical slasher plot usually centered a lazy horror-mystery involving a group young people, usually teens in high school, college or working at a summer camp. More times than not, some horrible event transpired in the past, and when the anniversary of the horrible event rolls around again, an unseen killer lurks and preys on partying, victims. Outlandish murder set pieces were the rai·son d'ê·tre of most slasher films after the release of Friday the 13th, and many future stars made early appearances in slasher movies, like Tom Hanks in He Knows You're Alone.
Parents hated them. Citizens for decency would picket theaters in the hopes of running slasher flicks out of town. Critic Gene Siskel went so far in his review for the original Friday the 13th to not only give away the ending so people would not go see it, but also encouraged outraged audience members to write to star Betsy Palmer to share their displeasure with her for appearing in such trash!
Teens and young people were the ones buying tickets and these little slasher flicks, sometimes made for only a couple hundred thousand dollars, made millions in ticket sales in just a couple weeks. Slasher flicks, like punk music in the ‘70s, and rock and roll in the ‘50s, belonged to young people. As soon as the “squares” expressed their disapproval of such “gross entertainment,” teenagers opted to meet friends for a night of pizza and screaming their lungs out watching stuff like The Prowler, The Burning and Halloween II.
We’re going to get this party started with one of the most notorious slasher movies of all time. No, make that, two of the most notorious slasher movies of all time. The original Silent Night, Deadly Night came out in 1984 and that was the one that had concerned parents picketing theaters because of the film’s suggestion that Santa was slaughtering people. (He wasn’t. It was really a traumatized toy store worker with extreme Santaphobia who was forced to wear the Santa suit on Christmas Eve.) It is a rough movie but people have forgotten that it opened the same day as A Nightmare on Elm Street and it made more money that weekend than the Wes Craven classic. Fast forward three years and the producers wanted a sequel, but they didn’t want to pay for a sequel, so they made half a movie and filled out the remaining running time with scenes from the first movie. (Most fans hated it at the time but now it is a cult movie.) If you check it out, you’re getting two films, all the notorious nastiness from the original film and all the outrageous goofery of the sequel (including the inpiration behind the “Garbage day!” meme).
A film crew arrives at the old Crippen High School to make a movie about the 1982 slaughter that took place there. From the shadows comes a stalker looking to stain the film stock blood red. This one has its moments where you’re not sure if you are watching a kill scene or a scene from the movie-within-the-movie. It has gained some notoriety over the years for featuring a quick, early appearance by George Clooney, who sports and impressive head of hair. Marsha from the Brady Bunch, Maureen McCormick, and Tommy from Alice, Philip McKeon, are also in it.
A group of sorority hopefuls sneak into a shopping mall after hours and face a long buried secret that has returned with a murderous vengeance. The study of dreams is an important plot point, as is the idea of nightmares manifesting into the real world. This was a popular idea in 1984 and The Initiation was the first to explore it, followed by DREAMSCAPE and A Nightmare on Elm Street. They build the story to a pretty decent twist ending. The cast includes Daphne Zuniga, Clu Gulager, Vera Miles and Marilyn Kagan, who later hosted her own daytime talk show The Marilyn Kagan Show.
Six actresses vying for the same movie role spend the weekend at the director’s mansion to audition. Someone in a hag mask using a creepy little doll is bumping them off one at a time. Is one of the actresses so determined to win the role of 'Audra' they would kill for it? This Canadian shocker stars Samantha Eggar, John Vernon, Lynne Griffith and Sandee Currie.
Fifteen years after the double slaying of a teenage couple at a campground, the young boy who possibly witnessed the murders returns home from the military to visit his parents who still live on the campgrounds. A group of young people also arrive and camp out. There is talk of a forest spirit and the murders begin anew. This is a fun carbon copy of Friday the 13th made by Italian filmmakers. It is so well made you may believe that it was made in the Colorado mountain country, but it was actually shot in Italy. The cast includes several familiar faces for fans of B-movies, (both Italian and American,) including David Hess, Mimsy Farmer, Charles Napier, John Steiner and Ivan Rassimov.
High school girls stay at a friend’s house on Friday night to eat pizza, talk about cute boys and try to stay alive when an escapee from the State Mental Facility crashes the party with an arsenal of power tools. This is one of only a handful of slasher movies totally written and directed by women and some claim it is a feminist slasher as the surviving girls band together to dispatch lunatic Russ Thorne. It is worth noting that the screenwriter RITA MAE BROWN now writes hugely popular mysteries, concocting the Mrs. Murphy Mysteries with her cat, "Sneaky Pie Brown."
Newly graduated girls from the Pi Theta sorority decide to throw a house party after graduation, despite the protests of their housemother. Angry, the girls play a cruel prank on the housemother that results in the older woman’s death. Any sane person would call the cops but this is a slasher flick so the girls dump the body in the pool and have the party anyway. Then the question becomes, what is that stomping around in the attic? One of the classier slashers as writer-director Mark Rosman was a protégé of Brian De Palma’s and takes his time setting up his story. The cast includes soap star Eileen Davidson and actress Harley Jane Kozak, who is also the author of the Harlequin Nocturne book KEEPER OF THE MOON as well as various mysteries.
Fraternity and sorority pledges have to stay the night in creepy Garth Manor, where it is said Old Man Garth went crazy one night and murdered his entire family. While it doesn’t take long to realize they are being punked, the young people slowly discover there may be real ghosts lurking the halls of Garth Manor. In fact, there may be more than just ghosts lurking the halls of Garth Manor! From the Class of ’81, Hell Night is a classy slasher-thriller that revels in more gratuitous hijinks as opposed to gratuitous violence, and makes an attempt to scare its audience. Linda Blair leads a young cast that also includes Timothy Van Patton and Peter Barton.
A group of young people investigate a chunk of newly-inherited land in the mountain country of Oregon and run afoul a hulking, giggling maniac that hunts them down one by one. This one is ultra-creepy with the giggling nut-job being seen as a precursor to the psychos-in-the-hills Wrong Turn films. There are lots of familiar faces in this one, like George Kennedy, Chris Lemmon and Gregg Henry, who you will recognize from the Guardians of the Galaxy flicks. The director, Jeff Lieberman, also directed the classic ‘70s southern small town worm invasion flick Squirm.
At a wilderness camp for gifted children, irresponsible adult guardians take the kids into the woods and hop them up on scary campfire tales about crazy Madman Marz, who took an ax and gave his family 40 whacks. After one kid taunts the sensitive Madman Marz, the legend lives and preys on the goofball counselors. (One even tries to hide from the maniac by jumping into a nearby refrigerator!) I have seen this movie so many times I cannot count, but it still brings me incredible joy every time I watch it.
Welcome to prom night, 1980, where someone is stalking a group of seniors with a deadly secret. The theme of the prom is “Disco Madness.” The scariest aspects of this movie for modern audiences would probably be the hairstyles, fashions and music. This is one of the slasher flicks Jamie Lee Curtis made between Halloween and Halloween II. It was made in Canada and features Leslie Nielsen in possibly his last “serious” role before his career headed into comedy territory with Airplane! Co-star/victim Eddie Benton previously played Clea Lake in the 1978 made-for-TV movie Doctor Strange (based on the Marvel character) then later changed her name to Anne-Marie Martin, co-starred on the TV show Sledgehammer, married doctor/writer Michael Crichton, with whom she eventually co-wrote the hit film Twister. (The supernatural sequel HELLO MARY LOU: PROM NIGHT II is also available.)
An unknown creeper climbs a trellis leading into the attic of a sorority house and begins preying on the girls of Delta Alpha Kappa who haven’t left yet for the holiday break. Many fans consider this the first official “slasher” flick (technically, Mario Bava’s Bay of Blood from 1971 deserves that honor), Black Christmas had a huge influence on John Carpenter and Debra Hill’s Halloween. Quite honestly, this is a truly terrifying film. No joking. Watch it in the dead of night with all the lights off and see if you’re not creeped out. (I'm serious!) The incredible cast includes Olivia Hussey (Juliet in Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 film Romeo and Juliette), Keir Dullea (Stanley Kurburik’s 2001: A Space Odyssey), Margot Kidder (Superman 1978), Andrea Martin, Marian Waldman, Lynne Griffin and John Saxon.
On Halloween night, 1963, little Mikey Meyers did a very horrible thing. Fifteen years later he returns to his small town and becomes fixated on a teenage girl who ends up spending Halloween night babysitting a couple bratty little kids while the maniac stalks her friends. This is the one that helped solidify the “slasher” as a legitimate horror movie genre, it put John Carpenter, Debra Hill and Jamie Lee Curtis on the map, and filmmakers are still ripping it off forty-three years later. (Halloween Kills opens this year, technically Part 12!) Even people who hated every slasher movie ever made (I’m looking at you Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert) loved Halloween. It’s classy, tightly plotted and scary. If you only watch one slasher movie this spooky season, consider Halloween. It’s a classic for a reason.