My Top 10 '80s Slashers Part 1

'80s Slasher Recap:
With the unexpected commercial success of seminal slasher 'Halloween' (1978), and later 'Friday the 13th' (1980), the 1980s would play host to an array of bogeyman bothering horror classics. These movies carved up the decade leaving an indelible mark on both cinema and culture. But, like any trend the slasher film outstayed its welcome, and as the decade drew to a close the films became unoriginal, lazy and just plain terrible. Later, the slasher was rejuvenated by the Meta movie take on the genre 'Scream', which brought the teen-slasher back into fashion. Whatever merits these later flicks have, it's the '80s that justifiably stands as the golden-age of the genre, giving us a number of iconic titles, in a variety of locations and seasons. Including backwoods killer classics such as the 'Friday the 13th' series and 'The Burning', to the down and dirty New York slicers of William Lustig ('Maniac' and 'Maniac Cop'). There was also an abundance of holiday shockers, with nearly every occasion and season being utilised, with the likes of: 'New Year's Evil', 'My Bloody Valentine' and the Xmas slayers 'Silent Night, Deadly Night' and 'To All a Good Night', which both featured the controversial sight of a murderous Santa Claus hacking up horny teens. The decade also saw a number of slicers starring Jamie Lee Curtis, the Scream Queen star of 'Halloween'. In 1980 Jamie Lee appeared in two back to back Canadian slashers, 'Prom Night' and 'Terror Train'. Later she revised her role as Laurie Strode in 'Halloween' 2, before ending her '80s Scream Queen career in the Australian thriller 'Road Games', which would be her final horror performance until 1998s 'Halloween H2O'.

My List:
For my sins I'm a self-professed '80s slasher completest. I've somehow convinced my brain that I must watch/collect every one of these godforsaken monstrosities. The worst part is I actually enjoy every last minute of it. What is it about this genre that still resonates with fans? They all basically contain the same Stalk'n'Slash structure, with the characters more often than not falling into predictable stereotypes. So what makes them such a popular horror mainstay? For me these movies helped play an integral part in forming my addiction to watching and collecting movies. It was my desire to taste the forbidden fruits of the horror genre that first led me on the path to being a film-fanatic. Through my teens my nightly viewing usually consisted of a masked maniac performing ungodly acts upon screaming co-eds. If I were to look deeply into my love of this genre and its icons, it might raise a number of unsettling questions about my own state of mind. With the most important being: Do these movies act as some sort of catharsis to quench ones own homicidal urges? Even as my cinematic tastes have widened and varied, I always find myself returning to the genre that I love and enjoy.

As it stands I have seen close to 200 '80s slashers - see the complete list here - with more being viewed each month. Looking at the titles I have yet to view, I think it's safe to say I have reached a point where I have knocked off enough classics to compile a pretty solid list. As the remaining movies I have yet to see fall into the categories of very obscure, ridiculously low budget, or just plain horrible. So I think this lists order, and its entries will probably remain pretty solid for quite sometime. As with any list of this nature it's obviously going to be biased by its creator, so instead of naming what I think is the absolute best, greatest, masterpieces of the slasher genre, here instead are my personal favourites. These are the movies I get the most enjoyment out of, the ones I continually find myself revisiting time and again. The movies that remind me why I watch these delicious pieces of trash in the first place. Behold my ten favourite golden-age slashers:

The Crawford Top 10

10.5: Killer Workout (1987)
Look at this, I haven't even started this list and I'm already cheating. Just at the fringes of my top 10 is probably the craziest, most laughably insane slasher I have ever seen, so naturally it just missed out on the 10th spot. ‘Killer Workout’ is everything that’s wrong, yet oh so right about ‘80s slashers. There’s a plot floating around somewhere in this movie, but like a glimpse of hovering lint before your eyeballs, it’s gone just as fast. Something about a killer targeting members of the most relaxed dress coded gym on the planet, a woman burned to a crisp by a tanning bed, and enough bone crunching knockdown karate fights to give Danielson a run for his money. None of that matters anyway because director David Prior (Deadly Prey) spends most of his time lingering on shots of frizzy haired puffed-up 'hardbodies', as they go about their ‘80s workout business, and damn what’s wrong with that!
There are just so many "What the f**k?!" moments in here that your mouth is going be permanently parched from hanging open. Take for instance the freakiest sex dream in all cinema, it’s fitting that it exists in this film, hell it’s the best place for it. A character is attacked and while he survives the assault, his mind has now become a crazed place. As he rests from his ordeal, he dreams of making love to a beautiful girl, only to be interrupted by a knife-wielding killer, who looks exactly like him, in fact it's his exact double. He then proceeds to attack himself after killing the girl, the ultimate case of dream c**k blocking by oneself.

Whereas Pior's previous slasher entry 'Sledgehammer' is an exercise in outer-body sensory deprivation, through sonically shifting tones and blinding white backdrops of empty existentialism, 'Killer Workout' is the blue happy pill to help in the comedown. This movie is the ultimate cure for the terrifying lows of life and will someday alleviate every ailment in the world, uniting all nations and bringing the world into one harmonious Eden. Now all we gotta do is get a copy to every person on the planet. Where there's a 'Killer Workout' there's a way.

Favourite Bit:
The amazing opening aerobics scene that features one of the best workout songs ever, Only You Tonight

10: Stage Fright (1987)
I vividly remember the first time I watched this Italian giallo, slasher hybrid. I had just returned home after working a 12 hour night shift, my brain was fried, my energy completely dissipated. To alleviate these melancholy symptoms I put on a DVD I had received free with a movie magazine. I settled down to watch what I was expecting to be a cheesy low budget horror film, as it was all I was able for. The last thing I expected was to be completely blown away but the unfolding film. It was good, really good in-fact. The setting was so weird, the badly dubbed actors seemed like unconvincing aliens doing an impression of human being. The killers costume was so striking and unique, and what about the murders, oh boy were they glorious. Bathed in a glow of '80s neon and drenched in a fantastic electro score the murders were visceral, realistic and mad. It's safe to say I remain a fan of this late entry Italian masterpiece by fantastic horror director Michele Soavi ('Cemetery Man'), which only recently received a glorious Blu-ray transfer that simply shouldn’t be missed by fans?

Favourite Bit:
The killer's first appearance in full owl apparel. He's just murdered one of the actors and taken his costume, appearing on stage unbeknownst to the other performers. With the insistent cries from the director he murders one of the actresses, as the horrific realisation finally hits the stunned cast and crew that it's not pretend.

9: Maniac Cop (1988)
You know how people have certain movies that invoke a sense of childhood nostalgia. Be it the candy coloured world of 'Willy Wonka', or the fantastical musical numbers of 'The Wizard of Oz', well for me it's 'Maniac Cop'. A personal favourite of my early horror movie addicted youth, 'Maniac Cop' and its sequels became well-worn friends of my VHS childhood, a time when finding a good playable copy of a movie wasn’t a right, it was a hard won challenge.
While admittedly nothing more than an enjoyably trashy late '80s slasher, it does have a certain charm and competence missing from other movies of the time, and hell just look at the sheer abundance of cult actors populating the film. From 'Evil Dead' star Bruce Campbell, to 'Halloween 3, Night Of The Creeps' lead Tom Atkins, and 'Shaft' himself Richard Roundtree. Although many of these roles amount to little more than cameos, it's still cool to see them all together, chewing up the scenery with gusto. Cordell of course would return like all good bogeymen for two more sequels, the superior action heavy 'Maniac Cop 2', and the lesser 'Badge of Silence'. Thankfully he hasn’t been resurrected any further or turned into a horrible Michael Bay produced remake, well not yet. For some a forgettable, silly little horror title, but for me, and its small devoted fans, this is a movie that brings back fond memories of the good old days, they just don't make like this anymore.

Favourite Bit:
Controversial Cop Matt Cordell (Robert Z'Dar) is wrongly sentenced to prison in the haunting flashback scene. Scored with some of the most unnerving musical cues you're ever likely to hear in a slasher, we see Matt being brutally attacked by a gang of criminals in the shower. Cordell makes a valiant effort against his vicious foes, but unfortunately he's completely outnumbered. They savagely beat him to the ground, before slashing his face continually with a jagged shiv. A Brutal scene, masterfully handled by director Lustig and star Z'Dar.

8: Halloween 4 (1988)
Next to the original 'Friday The 13th' this stands as my most watched slasher film ever. Whereas I have watched 'Friday' into indifference, I still continue to be amazed by this sequel. Taking place 10 years after the end of 'Halloween' 2, and ignoring the unrelated 'Season Of The Witch', 'Halloween' 4 is a cracking addition to the franchise, and is my favourite in the series. Yes even over the original.
Probably the most Halloween-esque of the series, this features some great autumnal locations as we venture back to Haddonfield with the unstoppable Shape, pursued as always by his long suffering psychiatrist Dr. Loomis. Although you could see this as another disposable sequel, the cast and crew treat it with a gravitas that really make it standout. Both Donald Pleasence and Danielle Harris give wonderfully committed performances. Pleasence in-particular, who was clearly just cashing a paycheck, is brilliant as the unnerved harbinger of doom. At only 11 Harris brings a surprising level of maturity to her turn as the niece to pure evil, taking on the arduous task of carrying the movie after Jaime Lee refused to return.

There are loads of standout moments here, from Michael's bloody escape in an ambulance, to the claustrophobic home invasion scenes near the end of the movie. This easily stands as the last truly successful entry in the series, as the following films ranged from the uneven (part 5), to the nonsensical (Part 6), before the series was given a soft reboot with 'H20', and a hard reboot with the Rob Zombie entries. 

Favourite Bit:
I love the opening credits. As the familiar 'Halloween' score creeps in, we see numerous images of desolate farms with skeleton decorations blowing in the wind against a steely grey sky.

7: The New York Ripper (1982)
Cloaked in the shadows of the New York skyline, someone with a penchant for Daffy Duck impersonations is carving up women in a number of brutal ways. With the police completely clueless to the killers identity or motives, all they really know is, "He sounds just like a duck"! Now doesn't that sound great?
This movie has had a huge impact on me since my first drunken' viewing. I sometimes find myself quoting lines form it at weird inopportune times. It's crawled under my skin, soaking my brain with its madness. I,m infected with Fulci. The lines, "Sounded just like a duck", "They were all whores", they rattle around my head frequently, I just can't get these badly dubbed lines out of my mind. Fulci you demented Italian what have you done to me?

Whether he's making an entry in the Zombie genre, or here as a violent slasher/giallo hybrid, Fulci is always committed to making the most of his chosen genre. 'The New York Ripper' in-particular stands as one of his most dementedly entertaining movies, as he takes his trademark extended gore scenes to new peaks of unpleasantness. What we have here is nasty, horrifying, sleazy film-making at its finest, of course it's in my top 10.

Favourite Bit:
Weirdly, my preferred moment in this whole movie is the opening scene with the old man playing fetch with his dog. There's just something so hilarious about his mannerisms and speech. The line "Oh my balls", as he reaches down for the dog's tennis ball has me in stitches every time.

6: Sorority House Massacre (1986)
'Sorority house Massacre' is probably my favourite straight-up 'Halloween' clone. To the layman all '80s slashers might seem like offshoots of Carpenter's classic, but that's a common misconception, they ripped off a lot of other movies too. You see first you had the 'Halloween' clones, then the 'Friday the 13th' knock offs and finally the 'Elm Street' dream slashers. Sometimes you even had all three being exploited within the same movie, hence a title like Sorority House', which lifts scenes shamelessly from 'Halloween' and other horrors ('Amityville'), while also taking the dream scares from 'Nightmare On Elm Street'.

This is a strange one for me, I'm not going to defend it, I know it's terrible, but...There's just something so nostalgic and innocent about it. There's very little blood, maybe only three locations in all, and the teens are so nice and quaint you really don't want to see them die. I also love Angela O'Neill as final girl Beth, she's so lost and dreamy throughout the whole movie, like a frightened little kitten. 'Sorority' has my undying love like 'Curtains' and 'Prom Night', this is another slicer that for inexplicable reasons I absolutely adore.

Favourite Bit:
Well that would have to be the extended trying on clothes scene, and it's not even for the reasons you might think. This moment is everything I love about '80s movies, happily distilled into a one minute montage of awesomeness, as the girls try on an assortment of dodgy fashions, while laughing incessantly. 

How Many Have You Seen?