Horror movies have made an astounding resurgence in theaters across the nation and the world. Even more, horror fans are constantly streaming both old and new additions to the beloved genre. If it wasn’t said or known before, horror as a mainstay in film is a thing, and justifiably so, along with its place in pop culture. Some would even argue that while there’s a talk of a resurgence, the genre actually never left, nor did it ever really lose steam, it only appeared that way because other genres of movies were pushed to the forefront and subsequently, received more fanfare. But the truth is there has always been a thriving community of horror fans and lovers that have constantly and consistently indulged in horror movies. But given the last decade’s romp and love affair with superhero films, recognizing horror movies for their potential greatness and budding popularity again seems only right.
However, horror as a genre doesn’t function in singularity. There are subgenres of horror that include: psychological, supernatural, sci-fi, cryptids, and slasher. Within that resurgence, the slasher subgenre of horror films have seen both a rebooting and requel-ing of past movies, drawing from the deep and long history of slasher films. And while slashers in particular have seemingly stood the test of time as go-to subgenre of horror, each decade seems to carry its own style and gravitas when it comes to the movies, with the 1980s boasting some of the best from masked killers who stalk and ultimately slash the unsuspecting.
Here are the greatest slasher movies of the 1980s.
10 Friday the 13th (1980)
Alright, so let’s get this out of the way now: the slasher scene in film came in strong in 1980 with Friday the 13th, which was originally meant to be a cash grab after the 1978 hit Halloween. However, the first installment of this franchise became a mainstay in pop culture and set the stage for the slasher movies that were to come. The first installment of the franchise was about a group of counselors reopening a summer camp called Camp Crystal that has a dark past and are eventually stalked by a mysterious killer. Overall, Friday the 13th was clever and intelligent and had a great twist of an ending as the killer reveal and motive crystallized from the lake at Camp Crystal Lake.
9 Halloween II (1981)
One of the most iconic slashers of all-time is Halloween’s Michael Myers. “The Shape” made his debut in the horror genre and slasher subgenre in the late 1970s, but the follow-up installment to the mega hit came out in 1981. Halloween II is a continuation of the 1978 Halloween, and the story follows Michael Myers, after having been shot six times by Dr. Loomis and escaping, stalking out to find to a recovering Laurie Strode, who’s been taken to the hospital after her facing the killer. While there is a pure love fest for the character of Michael Myers and his kills, many people feel that Halloween 2, on its own, is a great followup to the first installment, making the original film a must-watch to really enjoy the second. However, it’s been said that when Halloween and Halloween 2 are watched back-to-back it is pure perfection.
8 The Prowler (1981)
The killer in The Prowler has an iconic look especially for the early 80s: military grade fatigues and an elongated knife that on the poster for the 1981 movie is to the throat of a woman victim. The story is about a killer who is a WWII veteran who initially takes revenge on his ex-girlfriend and present boyfriend. Some 35 years later, the crazed killer stalks teens attempting to relive the double-murder. The connotation of the title and name of the killer itself, The Prowler, solicits an idea of darkness and the foreboding and impending doom that comes with being stalked. Overall, for the time, the story, concept, and killer is, well, killer and the effects stellar.
7 The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)
The Slumber Party Massacre was written by Rita Mae Brown, a well known feminist novelist and poet, and directed by Mystic Pizza scribe Amy Holden Jones. This slasher film is held as the first film to really push the female characters as multidimensional persons rather than just bait and catch for some killer. The premise of the story is a high school senior decides to throw a slumber party when her parents go out of town. However, an escaped killer ravages the neighborhood, finding his way to the house where the slumber party is taking place. Like most slashers, this film is a derivative of massacre and mayhem that tends follow a group of individuals, usually young women. But the flare by which Rita Mae Brown delivers her characters is both tantalizing and jaunting, and ultimately, stamps this slasher flick one of the greatest of the ’80s.
6 My Bloody Valentine (1981)
My Bloody Valentine was so good that it garnered a remake/reboot/requel called My Blood Valentine 3D in 2009, the original 1981 slasher flick where a killer in a miner’s mask and gear goes after people who celebrate Valentine’s Day is a superbly done slasher flick that is full of gory kills. From the small town setting to the gruesome kills done by pick axe, Harry Warden’s Miner is a force to be reckoned with and puts this slasher flick among the favorites and best of the 1980s, consequently, solidifying the original as a true classic when it comes to slasher subgenre.
5 The House on Sorority Row (1982)
With a solid premise, well written characters, and a stellar script, The House on Sorority Row is one of the 80s best slasher movies. While the kills and subsequent effects are sublime, really bringing home the savagery of this slasher, the story itself takes on a minor social nuance, examining the idea of hazing at a college or university. By taking a look at hazing, the story revolves around a prank that goes horribly wrong and consequently causes a killer to stalk the group of girls who is responsible.
4 Maniac (1980)
Arguably one of the creepiest films in the slasher subgenre coming from the 1980s, Maniac is about an insane mess of a man named Frank Zito who stalks, scalps, and kills women. In addition to his “maniac” persona, he also sometimes feels bad about what he’s doing to people and his actions. Let’s just be honest here, having a slasher feel anything about their killings is a nuance that is different from other slasher titles of the decade before and most within the 1980s. Ultimately, it works exceptionally well for this 80s classic, and in addition to the plot and execution of the plot, helped to make Maniac rise in pop culture standings, not to mention, the slasher flick even garnered a momentary band overseas during the video nasty panic.
3 Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
Ironically, it wasn’t until the sequel that Jason Voorhies as a killer in the Friday the 13th franchise is introduced. That alone makes for this cult classic to be one of the greatest slasher movies of the 1980s, with the introduction to one of the primo slasher of all-time! However, missing even in this one is Jason’s signature hockey mask. Instead, Jason Voorhies face is hidden from his victims by a sack. Friday the 13th Part 2 really has it all as it pertains to slasher films with a great new antagonist in Jason, who is menacing but also sympathetic as a killer, both butchering while also experiencing the occasional mishap; additionally, Ginny as a final girl is supreme.
2 A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Before Freddy Krueger became campy or began to spit cheesy one-liners, A Nightmare on Elm Street gave horror fans and lovers a vicious and murderous clawed slasher who stalked the kids on Elm Street. Even before Freddy took shape as a terrifying dream master, he was a serial killer sought after by most of the town. Ironically, it was his capture and burning that set him free to become the supernatural killing machine that we know Freddy Krueger to be. The first installment of A Nightmare on Elm Street is really scary and is undoubtedly one of the best slasher from the 1980s, a true Wes Craven masterpiece and subsequently, classic.
1 April Fool’s Day (1986)
April Fool’s Day is a great blend of scary and fun with an amazing twist-ending. As a concept and premise, the story follows the slasher recipe of having a killer and an isolated setting, but the uniqueness of delivery and execution is what really makes this movie work. The story is about a group of college students who spend their spring break on rich friend’s secluded island. In the midst of fun and games, some of the students begin to go missing and turn up dead, causing the others to realize that they are trapped on an island with a killer.