Sure, there are the tried and true favorites -- Friday the 13th, Halloween. Walk up to any person on the street and they've likely heard of these. But there's a whole slew of slasher movies worth seeing that, really, not a lot of people have ever heard of. But Happy Birthday to Me? The Burning? Probably not so much. Thus, we 13 slasher movies you (and by you, we mean the average American) hasn't seen but should.
Every day this month we're bringing Top 13 lists tied to the world of horror. You can follow them all here.
Cherry Falls (2000)
After Scream revitalized the genre, a slew of new slasher flicks were greenlit. Cherry Falls, from 2000, went straight to video despite a (especially for the time) recognizable cast - Clueless star Brittany Murphy, Jay Mohr (fresh off Go), Michael Biehn, Jesse Bradford and Road Trip's DJ Qualls. Plot wise, it seems like standard fare - in small Cherry Falls, VA a mysterious, raven haired lady is killing VIRGINS! So, naturally, the town's teens decide to hold a massive orgy at an abandoned country house. Things just get weirder from there - SPOILER ALERT - because it turns out the killer (who looks like she was outfitted by Nine West) turns out to be Jay Mohr in drag! It's all kinds of screwed up, but its slightly cheeky tone makes it apparent the creators are in on the fun (we think). Also, we believe this is the only movie in history where a cop is killed by getting trampled to death by naked teenagers running down stairs.
Slumber Party Massacre (1982)
It's about exactly what the title suggests - a bunch of girls have a slumber party, hang out in their underwear, psycho killer with a drill stalks them. Slumber Party Massacre was written by noted feminist Rita Mae Brown, who originally intended it to be a parody of slasher films. Instead, the filmmakers shot it as straight horror. Most horror movies intend to be serious, but end up funny - this one was supposed to be funny, but shot straightforwardly. It's the serio-comic tone which makes it so damn weird, flip-floppy and enjoyable. Genuinely tense, well done scenes of suspense will be followed by absurdity; when the girls open the door to the dead pizza guy, eyes gouged out, one ends up eating the pizza anyway ("Is the pizza cold?"). This movie should also be preserved in time capsules for having an entire scene devoted to making Kool-Aid, an important instructional tool we must pass onto future generations.
Happy Birthday To Me (1981)
The tagline of the movie promises "six of the most bizarre murders you will ever see." While they are not quite Jason beating someone in a sleeping bag against a tree, they are weird enough to warrant entry on this list (for the record, they involve shish kebab, barbells, scarves and bicycle spokes). It stars Melissa Sue Anderson as Ginny, a new member of snobby Crawford Academy's "Top Ten" clique of the most popular/powerful members in school (you know you're chi-chi when one of your members is named "Etienne."). When they all start dying one by one, Ginny - who has an irrational fear of drawbridges (don't ask) - can't figure out if she's responsible . The bends and turns have garnered the film a cult following - but we recommend it for the twist ending that makes anything that's ever happened on Days of Our Lives seem completely normal and relatable.
Check out one of the deaths (SPOILER ALERT - ALPHA LEVEL):
Terror Train (1980)
Jamie Lee Curtis dressed as a sexy pirate on a train filled with costumed college students, where the killer puts on the outfit of the person he just offed? Yes, please. Also, in a surprising casting move, it features David Copperfield as a magician.
Very few people have seen this movie (although 2 out of 10 people that visited video stories in the 80s will recognize the cover. It falls into that "I remember the box art but have never seen the movie," which is a phenomenon awaiting further study). Anyway, this Canadian gem (written by longtime General Hospital head writer Bob Guza) centers on a sleazy director who holds auditions for his upcoming movie "Audra" at his remote country estate, because that's not at all weird and doesn't reek of the casting couch. One of the aspiring actresses, Samantha, just escaped from a mental instiution because she had committed herself there to better understand the loopy "Audra." As if a slasher flick that preyed on method actresses wasn't enough of a reason to watch, the killer wears a creepy hag mask, uses a scythe and it stars Samantha Eggars! Still, the eerie cinematography (evidenced in the ice skating scene below) and overall unique take makes this worth seeing.
Twitch of the Death Nerve (1971)
This Italian film is an early proto-slasher and is hugely influential on the genre (and hence, it has a place on the list). Friday the 13th parts 1 and 2 are very inspired by it (think part 2's scene of two people having sex getting impaled was original? Death Nerve did it first). The movie, also called Bay of Blood, is intensely gory and centers around an idea that many New Yorkers are familiar with - good real estate is worth killing for. Here, it's taken to the extreme and features a revolving string of characters who off each other so they can inherit a giant Italian estate. Check out the moody opening.
Blood Rage (1987)
Technically this movie was shot in 1983, but wasn't released until 1987. Two identical twins, Terry and Todd, are the definition of prep. Except Terry's a psycho killer and poor Todd gets blamed for everything. It's the "Who's on first?" of slasher movies! While the plot is intriguing, really this movie is just plain fun. For gore fans, there is an ashtonishing amount of dismemberment that occurs (see below). Additionally, Terry, like many people after sex, has a cigarette after killing and it stars Mrs.-Woody-Allen-the-first/Mary Hartman Louise Lasser is in it. Note: This movie is also called Nightmare at Shadow Woods, if you are looking for it.
Alice, Sweet Alice (1976)
Mostly notable for being Brooke Shields' film debut (if she only did for yellow raincoats what she did for Calvin Klein jeans), this incredibly atmospheric thriller has the same sort of creepy religious aesthetic as The Exorcist. If The Exorcist were set in Patterson, NJ and didn't involve demonic possession. Anyway, it's about a series of murders - including 9 year old Karen (Shields) - that may or may not have been committed by Karen's obviously disturbed older sister, Alice. The working class and religious settings have an otherworldly look and Paula E. Sheppard as Alice is downright wrong (in the right way).
The House on Sorority Row (1983)
This movies sounds like crappy, disposable fare but it's actually really good! Seven sorority sisters accidentally shoot their bitchy house mother (it happens), only to be offed one by one. Well edited, directed, tightly paced and just generally enjoyable, House on Sorority Row has some really genuine scares and an eerie aesthetic. Case in point - towards the end, the killer dresses up like a clown. Not just any clown, but one of those creepy weird Harlequins that your teenage babysitter or lonely aunt had decoratively sitting in a rocking chair in their house (you know what I'm talking about). Special mention must go to the decapitated-head-in-the-toilet scene. Fun fact: This was remade in 2009 as Sorority Row starring Carrie Fisher, Bruce Willis and Demi Moore's daughter, Rumer, and Jamie Chung from The Real World: San Diego.
Additionally, this film deserves canonized status and the actress in the above clip deserves all the awards for this gorgeous line reading:
Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
People lost their minds when this came out. Seriously - BANANAS. The depiction of Santa Claus as a killer prompted PTA's to call for its removal from theaters and families to protest outside of multiplexes. Actor Mickey Rooney wrote a letter to Tristar condeming it (important fact: he went on to star in part 5 in 1991). The controversy was so huge that advertising was pulled only six days after its release. Was the controversy too much? After all, it's not REALLY Santa that's the killer, just 18 year old Billy. As a five year old, his creepy, insane grandfather went on a rant about how Santa Claus was evil and then 15 minutes later a robber dressed as St. Nick killed his parents. Throw in some abusive nuns with proletarian views of punishment and you've got a recipe for a nutjob who dresses up in a red suit. This movie's just a lot of fun, especially the scenes of Billy-as-Santa going around killing people screaming "PUNISH!" and using antlers as a murder weapon.
The Burning (1981)
Warning: The above clip features graphic violence.
Everyone got in on the 1981 slasher movie craze - even the Weinsteins! Produced by then brand-new Miramax, The Burning was written by brothers Harvey and Bob and tells the story of Cropsy, a former camp caretaker who was horrifically burned due to some campers' prank. Years later, he returns to camp and goes on a killing spree armed with some gardnening shears. The brothers Weinstein should really consider making more slasher fare, because this takes the typical "psycho stalks campers!" and brings it to a new level of scary. Witness this famous (and infamous) massacre on a raft:
Despite a cast of all-star horror names (Friday the 13th's Kane Hodder, Nightmare on Elm Street's Robert Englund, Candyman's Tony Todd), not many have seen or heard of this flick. Hodder plays Victor Crowley, a deformed recluse in the Louisiana bayou who stalks and kills a bunch of hapless tourists. This movie is just really tight - bloody, gory and surprisingly funny.
Motel Hell (1980)
Rural brother and sister, Vincent and Ida, run a motel and also bury people up to their necks, cut their vocal cords, fatten them up and then eat them. There's a love triangle in there, but really it's about the siblings and their weird harvesting practices. Observe the below trippy psychadelic way they kill people (Cliff Clavin from Cheers being one of them).
Any that we miss? Let us know below!