Intruder is a claustrophobic thriller set entirely in a small supermarket, whose owner is preparing to go out of business. The plot is extremely simple, but is nevertheless one of the best slasher films of the 80s, and uses the one location extremely well. This gory slasher was also directed by Evil Dead co-writer Scott Spiegel and features cameos by Bruce Campbell, Ted Raimi and Sam Raimi who also just happen to sing in one famous sequence. Spiegel’s direction is solid and the small ensemble cast is incredibly entertaining from start to finish. Intruder is also a legendarily nasty piece of genre filmmaking and features one hell of a psycho and some showstopping, gruesome set pieces.
19. Maniac Cop (1988)
A dream team pairing for fans of B-movies; director William Lustig (Maniac) and writer/director Larry Cohen (It’s Alive, Q: The Winged Serpent, God Told Me To Kill) joined forces in 1988 for Maniac Cop. The film sides less with Cohen’s fantasy worlds and comedy and more with Lustig’s gritty visceral realities and anti-establishment undertones – but the combination of Cohen and Lustig is perfect. Coming across as an unofficial sequel to Maniac, Maniac Cop is a sturdy slasher flick that stars genre faves Bruce Campbell and Tom Atkins and kickstarted a healthy working relationship between Lustig and Cohen went on to make Uncle Sam together in 1997.
18. The Funhouse / Carnival Of Terror (1981)
Yet another film released in 1981, Tobe Hooper’s Funhouse excels for the very same reason My Bloody Valentine and Terror Train do – because of its setting: in this case, a carnival funhouse. There is a pervasive air of seediness enhanced by the locale that proves perfect for a horror film. Not as scary as Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre nor as bizarre as Eaten Alive, The Funhouse is heightened by its black humour and exceptionally well staged kill sequences. Hooper plays with the conventions of the genre and leaves no stone unturned. The Funhouse is refreshingly restrained in its violence. Hooper does an amazing job of creating suspense with sound and editing and is more interested in unsettling the viewer than in grossing them out. Credit should also be given to Andrew Laszlo for his cinematography, Morton Rubinowitz for his production designs and John Beal for his score.
17. Hands of the Ripper (1971)
Hands of the Ripper is based on the assumption that Jack the Ripper had a daughter, Anna and after Jack murders her mother, Anna is placed in an orphanage. When she grows up, her father somehow possesses her body and uses her to commit murders, none of which she has any recollection of. Like many of the films featured on this list, Hands ends with an incredible climax (which I won’t spoil for you). The camera work is impressive, the acting is above average and the direction is solid. I’m not the biggest fan of Hammer films, but with Hands Of The Ripper, the studio took risks to deviate from the norm. The result is an excellent slasher film, and one of their best, from what I’ve seen. Hands is superbly plotted and highlighted with a number of surprisingly gory death sequences that make it possibly the nastiest Hammer ever made. A truly suspenseful and tragic film and one of the best obscure Hammer films.
16. Tourist Trap (1979)
If you ‘re like me and you find wax dummies and mannequins creepy, then this is a movie for you. Despite its cookie-cutter plot of kids getting stranded and chased around in the woods, Tourist Trap is a roller-coaster ride and a truly one of a kind slasher film. The film ably blends elements from classics such as House of Wax, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Carrie and even Psycho but yet regardless of its obvious influences, Tourist Trap always feels unique in its own strange way.
15. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)
In A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, the series takes a unique twist to become a more stable and rewarding franchise. New Line Cinema wisely brought back original Nightmare on Elm Street director Wes Craven to co-write and executive produce this installment. Chuck Russell (The Blob) directs and Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Walking Dead) was asked to come in and do some script rewrites. They also brought back Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) as well as her dad (John Saxon). The homecoming helped to shape one of the three best entries in the series. Englund delivers another terrific performance as Freddy, and Patricia Arquette makes her first big screen appearance as the rather likable heroine. The bigger budget allowed for more imaginative kill sequences and composer Angelo Badalamenti (famous for his work with David Lynch) does a great job in creating an appropriately moody score.
14. Child’s Play (1988)
The soul of a serial killer inhabits a boy’s talking doll.
In retrospect, Child’s Play is nowhere near as good as its post-Scream sequels, Bride of Chucky and, later, Seed of Chucky – two films which have good, old-fashioned suspense but take a backseat to comedy. But Child’s Play was perhaps the last truly good slasher released in the period covered here, and pretty terrifying for the time. It had a simple premise, an iconic villain, a convincing performance from Alex Vincent (the kid) and a terrific performance from Brad Dourif as the voice of the killer doll.
13. The Prowler / Rosemary’s Killer (1981)
1981 really was the year of the slasher. Among one of the best released was Joseph Zito’s The Prowler, an incredibly overlooked entry into the already saturated genre. Our killer here is a WWII vet whose weapon of choice is a pitchfork. He also just so happens to resemble the miner from My Bloody Valentine, which was released a year later. Zito confidently keeps the pace flowing, carefully building the suspense levels and Tom Savini provides some exceptionally well made special effects. This efficient and surprisingly well-shot slasher features strong cinematography from Raoul Lomas and João Fernandes and a memorable score by Richard Einhorn.
12. Friday The 13th (1980)
Directed by Sean Cunningham
One of the longest-running horror film series began with this shocker from director Sean S. Cunningham. While Friday The 13th isn’t a great film, the movie works thanks to its twist ending, though of course it’s derived from Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece Psycho, released twenty years earlier. Still, no other film has done as much to popularize the genre and codify its “rules.”
11. Dressed To Kill (1980)
Brian De Palma’s films, like Tarantino’s, are a cinematic mash-up of influences from the past, and in De Palma case he borrows heavily from Alfred Hitchcock. Obsession is De Palma’s Vertigo, Blow Out his Rear Window, and with Dressed to Kill the director set his sights on Psycho. Dressed To Kill is more thriller than horror, but what a stylish and twisted thriller it is! The highlight here is an amazing ten-minute chase sequence set in an art gallery and conducted entirely without dialogue. There are a number of other well-sustained set pieces, including a race in the subway system and even, yes, a gratuitous shower murder sequence. Dressed To Kill features an excellent cast (Michael Caine, Nancy Allen, Angie Dickinson), a superb score (courtesy of Pino Donaggio) and a shocking finale — but the reason to see this film is for the fabulous camera work by Ralf Bode and De Palma’s direction.