Week One: Sinister Slashers
For the start of the spooky season, I decided to go relatively easy on poor, beleaguered Team Unwinnable and tackle one of the most common themes of the season: Slasher movies. After all, the movie franchise named for Halloween is (for the most part) a slasher franchise. For this week, our team had to choose movies where masked, anonymous or occasionally disfigured killers knock off a whole bunch of people in variously graphic or unduly complicated ways. Born from the giallo films of Italy and, before that, the voyeuristic thrills of pictures like Psycho and Peeping Tom, the slasher was the default form of American horror movie for most of the ‘80s, and seems like its seen a mild renaissance every few years since. Spanning more than 40 years of cinema, the movies we’ve dismembered for your viewing pleasure stretch the definition of just what a slasher is, but should provide plenty of blood, guts and final girls, before all is said and done.
– Orrin Grey, Skeleton
Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)
The Nightmare on Elm Street series definitely got silly as the years and the sequels went on, there’s no denying that. But I’ve always appreciated how New Nightmare managed to really build upon the occasional fourth wall breaking of the previous films while also making the story far more sinister.
Selected by Rob Lich (Rob Rich)
The Final Girls (2015)
You will believe that a woman doing a striptease to “Betty Davis Eyes” in front of basically her daughter can be touching! Sure, The Final Girls is jokey, lightweight, cartoonish, and rated PG-13, but it also pops with visual cleverness, vivid colors, and surprisingly resonant emotional beats that plumb the topic of grief through the lens of a horror flick better than a lot of A24’s catalog. While a summer camp slasher may be out of season to kick off Halloween, with global climate change threatening to kill us all, autumn probably feels an awful lot like summer right about now…
Selected by More In Graves (Orrin Grey)
Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
Many will be quick to say Leatherface as the most iconic aspect of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but what has lingered with me since I first watched the film is the way it sounds. While there are excellent kills throughout, the film is a masterclass at showing restraint in prompting it’s audience for what is coming next. Much like Leatherface’s young victims, the viewer is engulfed in the ambient noises of the killing field they’ve wandered into. Prey unaware of the predator skulking around in the shadows. Visceral, gory, patient and unpretentious. This film is haunting.
Selected by the Pumpkin Prince (Phillip Russell)
Se7en is a classic genre film disguised as a different genre – a slasher disguised as a police procedural. A killer “knocking off a whole bunch of people in variously graphic and unduly complicated ways” doesn’t even begin to describe the terror that John Doe reaps on his victims. Darius Khondji’s gloomy, spooky cinematography accents David Fincher’s overall gloomy mood that pervades the movie until the final sequence which turns into a dusty sundrenched climax. I’ve got to say, even though I haven’t seen Se7en in over a decade, it has really stuck with me a way few slashers have – and I’ve seen my fair share!
Selected by Noahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh (Noah Springer)
The Cabin in the Woods (2011)
Yes, it’s a parody of slasher films, but it’s an affectionate one. The setup for a spook or a punchline can be very similar, and The Cabin in the Woods has fun with both flavors of tension – and absolutely absurd amounts of blood.
Selected by Boo-th Cassidy (Ruth Cassidy)
According to Wikipedia, Scream is a “satirical” slasher film. Well, I sure as hell didn’t see anything satirical about it, because I was 11 when it came out, and with no frame of reference it was by default the best horror movie I had ever seen (because I had seen no other horror movies). A lot of people getting slashed here, which is slightly surprising because Matthew Lillard is one of the killers and he’s kind of a wiener. Why couldn’t someone kick his ass? Jesus. Anyway this movie ruled when I was 11.
Selected by Ben Flay-er (Ben Sailer)
Saw II (2005)
This is the only Saw movie I’ve watched. Are they all like this? Good lord.
Selected by Ben Flay-er (Ben Sailer)
Slumber Party Massacre II (1987)
A group of teenage girls (who are in a rock band) go to a condo on vacation – which is very 80’s slumber party movie except one of the girls has already survived a slasher and they’re all now being chased by a deranged, paranormal killer who has a combination ice screw and guitar that he’s wielding with deadly efficiency. Cotton candy dreams abound, except they’re covered in blood. Definitely worth checking out.
Selected by Amanda Boo-gins (Amanda Hudgins)
This is the John Wick of slashers, where John Wick is doing the slashing. Trust me.
Selected by David “Editor in Coffin” Shimomura