Mad As Hell Maniacs: 13 Slasher Classics

The Slasher film is one of the most well known subgenres of all those that encompass Horror cinema. These movies were essentially the high concept offspring of early precursors like Hitchcock’s PSYCHO, and the Italian gialli. Most had a very similar structure and plot which usually involved a killer that was wronged in some way and returns for revenge on those they think are responsible. The stories often focused on goofy teenagers who are too busy having fun at college or a summer camp to notice their dire situation until it’s too late. Another main element in Slashers is the character known as The Final Girl. These young women (often tomboys) are not sexually active and have what’s referred to as the “investigative gaze” since they aren’t preoccupied with their friends’ wild activities. The Final Girl also often has a personal connection with the killer in some way and are the ones who have the unique ability to defeat their attackers.

Although they were often simplistic in their design, the slashers provided movie audiences of the 70s and 80s with lots of blood n’ gory thrills at the theater. We are big fans of these movies at FC and as part of our Mad As Hell Horror month we’ve picked out 13 furious favorites from this beloved exploitation subgenre that introduced us to such iconic movie maniacs as Leatherface, Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger and others.


Black Christmas (1974, Dir: Bob Clark)

An all girls college sorority in Canada is terrorized by a mysterious psycho whose trademark is leaving frightening obscene phonecalls before he kills off the pretty coeds. Directed by Bob Clark (of Porky’s and A Christmas Story fame) this film was one of the main blueprints for the future 80s slasher craze along with early 70s Italian giallo cinema which came before it and Halloween which followed it four years later. Starring Olivia Hussey, Margot Kidder, Keir Dullea and John Saxon.

Halloween (1978, Dir: John Carpenter)

In 1963, a young boy named Michael Myers kills his sister and is committed to a mental hospital. 25 years later he breaks out and heads back to his hometown of Haddonfield to wreak terror on the unsuspecting townspeople. Meanwhile, the local high schoolers including Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) are getting ready for another fun Halloween night, not knowing the terror that’s in store. Their only chance is Michael’s longtime psychologist Dr. Loomis (Donald Plesance) who aims to stop his patient’s reign of bloody havoc. Co-starring Charles Cyphers, Nancy Loomis and PJ Soles.

Friday The 13th (1980, Dir: Sean S. Cunningham)

In 1958, a young boy named Jason Voorhees drowned while nearby camp counselors were making love. Ever since, the defunct Camp Crystal Lake has had what locals refer to as a “death curse” due to mysterious mishaps that occurred over the years. When the camp finally reopens decades later, a new group of counselors arrive including Alice (Adrienne King) a happy go lucky teen. As she and the other trainees get the rundown place back in shape, strange things begin happening and Alice soon encounters a killer that’s on a mission of bloody revenge. Co-starring Betsy Palmer, Harry Crosby, Laurie Bartram, Jeannine Taylor, Kevin Bacon, Mark Nelson.

My Bloody Valentine (1981, Dir: George Mihalka)

The small town of Valentine Bluffs is ready to celebrate their yearly Valentine’s Day until a psychopathic miner named Harry Warden returns to wreak bloody revenge on the citizens in gruesome ways. This gory, suspenseful, often funny Canadian spin on the slasher genre is one of the best of them all. Starring Paul Kelman, Lori Hallier, Neil Affleck, Keith Knight.

The Burning (1981, Dir: Tony Maylam)

An idyllic summer camp is the target of a badly disfigured maniac named Cropsey who is out to get nasty revenge on the counselors and kids that did him wrong years earlier. A fun, summertime thriller that does an exceptional job setting up the scares and bloody FX sequences. One of the early films produced by Harvey Weinstein who would go on to form Miramax and The Weinstein Company. Starring Brian Matthews, Leah Ayres, Brian Backer and featuring early appearances from Jason Alexander, Fisher Stevens and Holly Hunter.

Don’t Go In The House (1980, Dir: Joseph Ellison)

In this twist on Hitchcock’s Psycho, a mentally disturbed man (Dan Grimaldi) who suffered years of abuse by his cruel mother becomes a flame thrower wielding serial killer that abducts women and burns them alive in a custom made steel reinforced room. Darkly funny, sick stuff from the tail end of the disco era that will satisfy slasher addicts for sure.

Maniac (1980, Dir: William Lustig)

The late great Joe Spinell delivers a helluva deranged performance as Frank Zito, another psychopath with mommy issues that systematically stalks and kills women who he turns into his personal mannequins. Much like Roger Corman’s A Bucket of Blood as well as Don’t Go in The House (released the same year) The Frank Zito character is someone we get to know as a person rather than a faceless ghost which makes the story all the more compelling and disturbing. A remake starring Elijah Wood was released in 2012. Co-starring Caroline Munro, Abigail Clayton (as Gail Lawrence), Kelly Piper, Rita Montone, Tom Savini.

Sleepaway Camp (1983, Dir: Robert Hiltzik)

Following the deaths of her family members in a tragic boating accident, a young girl named Angela (Felissa Rose) is adopted by her Aunt Martha. Years later, a teenage Angela and her cousin Ricky join Camp Arawak and not long after, people begin winding up dead. This slasher classic is best known for a shocking twist ending that will have you saying WTF? Co-starring Jonathan Tiersten, Karen Fields, Christopher Collet, and Mike Kellin.

Silent Night Deadly Night (1984, Dir: Charles Sellier Jr)

A young boy named Billy witnesses his parents being murdered by a criminal dressed in a Santa costume and is sent to an orphanage run by sadistic nuns who abuse him. Years later, Billy mentally snaps and uses the Santa persona, which has haunted him, to bring his own brand of punishment to all the naughty boys and girls that give him grief. One of the most memorable scenes comes early on in the film when Billy’s wacked out Grandpa tells him a terrifying story about Saint Nick. Starring Lilyan Chauvin, Toni Nero, Britt Leach, Robert Brian Wilson.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974, Dir: Tobe Hooper)

A group of freewheeling Texas teenagers find themselves the victims of a reclusive psychotic hillbilly family that have a strong taste for human flesh in this darkly funny, nearly bloodless, low budget horror classic. Starring Marilyn Burns, Paul Partain, Edwin Neal, Jim Siedow and Gunnar Hansen.


A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984, Dir: Wes Craven

What would happen if a dead child killer came back to haunt the neighborhood in the kids’ dreams? That’s the intriguing premise of this 80s smash slasher hit starring Robert Englund as the legendary grotesquely scarred, green and red clad, knife gloved ghoul Freddy Krueger that commits all kinds of gory acts in his revenge on the children of the parents on Elm Street that took his life years earlier. A highly inventive spin on the typical slasher storyline that spawned numerous sequels. Starring Heather Lagenkamp, Johnny Depp and John Saxon.


Pieces (1982, Dir: Juan Piquer Simon)

In 1942, a young boy is caught by his mother putting together a jigsaw puzzle of a naked woman and violently reprimanded. In an insane rage, the child attacks his mom with an axe, killing her. The police arrive only to mistakenly think an adult was responsible and the boy is sent to live with his relatives. 40 years later, a small college in Boston has become the target for a serial killer that is hacking up the sexy coeds in very brutal ways. The movie takes much of its inspiration from giallo cinema with its black clad killer and the many red herrings that are set up along the way. Pieces is something special in the pantheon of slashers due to its outlandish, offbeat humor combined with severely nasty gore sequences. It’s simply one of the all time greats. Starring Christopher George, Lynda Day George, Frank Braña, Edmund Purdom.


The Prowler (1981, Dir: Joseph Zito)

This gory story focuses on a World War II vet that returns from overseas to find his lady love “Rosemary” cheating on him with another man. This drives him into a jealous rage and he proceeds to skewer the two with a pitchfork. 35 years later, the town of Avalon Bay where the murders took place, is getting ready for its first graduation dance in decades. Like clockwork, the Army fatigue garbed killer aka The Prowler returns to commit even more heinous acts on the unsuspecting teens who are out to have a great night of celebrating. Special FX master Tom Savini did some of his best work in this gory genre gem thats filled with thrilling kills. Starring Vicky Dawson, Christopher Goutman, Lawrence Tierney, Farley Granger, and Cindy Weintraub.

What are some of your favorite slasher films? Let us know in our comments section!



Editor-In-Chief of The Grindhouse Cinema Database/Furious Cinema contributor. Pete is a rabid movie geek who enjoys everything from wild n' crazy exploitation/cult flix to big budget mainstream classics. His other interests include: graphic design, cartooning and music.

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1 Response

  1. Ernie says:

    Great piece. Alice Sweet Alice is a great proto-slasher. Very atmospheric. Almost a cross between Italian giallo and American slasher. I also love the cheap but inventive Just Before Dawn.

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