Slasher movies, much like their iconic villains, never really die.
Popularized by films such as Halloween, Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street, there's something absolutely bone-chilling about a crazed maniac on the hunt — no matter the era. From the '70s to the present day, there's no shortage of options to get your fix of screams.
With a number of slasher movies hitting theaters this year — including the Gen Z take on the genre in Bodies Bodies Bodies and Halloween Ends — A.frame is rounding up all the best slashers you need to add to your watchlist.
Although Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 film Psycho is considered by many to be the first slasher film, it was John Carpenter's Halloween in 1978 that laid the groundwork for what would become the Golden Age of the slasher genre, which lasted from 1978 until 1984. Halloween tells the story of the murderous Michael Myers, who, as a young boy, kills his older sister in 1963. After spending the next fifteen years in an asylum, 21-year-old Myers escapes on a rainy night. He then returns to his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois, steals a mask from a hardware store, and begins to terrorize and murder on one terrifying Halloween. Young babysitter Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), determined to live, fights to survive.
Carpenter's Halloween spawned a long-running franchise that comes to a close 44 years later with this year's Halloween Ends, in theaters Oct. 14.
Holding the distinction of being one of the few slashers written and directed by women, The Slumber Party Massacre has no problem poking fun at slasher tropes while also being a thrilling scarefest. Directed by Amy Holden Jones and written by Rita Mae Brown, the film tells the story of four high school seniors gathering for the titular slumber party. But unbeknownst to them, a madman has escaped the local asylum and is on a rampage with a massive power drill. Pizza and innuendos galore!
The fourth (and far from final) entry in the long-running Friday the 13th franchise, this installment, directed by Joseph Zito, is the embodiment of the classic '80s slasher: non-stop blood and gore, clever kill scenes, teenage-level drama, and copious amounts of nudity. Picking up moments after the previous film, hockey mask-wearing Jason’s rampage continues, at least until he comes up against young Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman). Featuring the return of gore effects master Tom Savini, the film proved immensely popular and was followed by seven — yes, seven — more installments, proving you can’t keep a good slasher down.
Trading in the scares for dark comedy and gore galore, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, directed by Tobe Hooper, is a prime example of '80s excess in slasher film form. After the disappearance of the cannibalistic family from the previous installment, a curious radio DJ (Caroline Williams) and an unhinged Texas Ranger (Dennis Hopper) discover the killer family's whereabouts and devise a plan to take them out once and for all.
By the mid-90s, the slasher genre looked like it had run its course and was starting to fade away. Then came Scream, a sharp, biting satire of the genre as a whole that was able to breathe new life into slashers. Directed by Wes Craven, the film follows Sidney (Neve Campbell) and her friends as they are targeted by the mysterious Ghostface, a masked killer who knows an awful lot about horror movies. The film spawned an extremely popular franchise, with four sequels thus far and a new installment arriving next year.
Inspired by the Lois Duncan novel of the same name and from Scream screenwriter Kevin Williamson, I Know What You Did Last Summer borrows additional inspiration from the famous urban legend, "The Hook." Directed by Jim Gillespie, the film follows Julie (Jennifer Love Hewitt) and her friends as they’re stalked by a hook-wielding killer that seems to know their dark and terrible secret. The twists and turns keep on coming in this one.
Directed by Jamie Blanks, Urban Legend taps into the fear of childhood stories, from stomachs exploding from mixing pop rocks and soda, to a killer hidden in your back seat. The movie tells the chilling tale of a masked killer using these urban legends as inspiration, completely flipping a college campus upside down in fear in the process. Starring Jared Leto, Alicia Witt, Rebecca Gayheart, Tara Reid, and Robert Englund, Urban Legend is the chilling manifestation of all those stories that are told around the campfire.
Released during the slasher remake boom of the 2000s, Sorority Row is a fun re-imagining of the 1982 film The House on Sorority Row, featuring copious amounts of camp (whether the camp is intentional or not is honestly left up to the viewer). After the accidental death of one of their own eight months prior, a group of sorority sisters are stalked and terrorized, one by one, by a killer hellbent on making them pay for their past transgressions on the night of their graduation. Directed by Stewart Hendler, Sorority Row is a pure campus slasher.
Directed by Adam Wingard, You’re Next is an inversion of the home invasion slasher, but it still packs plenty of gore. When Erin (Sharni Vinson) travels with her boyfriend to his parents’ idyllic and secluded vacation home, they anticipate a calm and relaxing family reunion. Terror strikes when they’re attacked by a ruthless group of masked home invaders. What the invaders didn’t count on is Erin hailing from a survivalist background. A routine attack turns into all-out warfare when Erin uses her skills to fight back tooth and nail.
Who said slasher movies have to always be scary? The Final Girls provides a heartwarming spin on the genre that even the most horror evasive movie lover can enjoy. Max (Taissa Farmiga) is the daughter of a former 1980s scream queen, Amanda Cartwright (Malin Akerman), who died when Max was young. When Max and her friends are transported into her late mother’s famous slasher film, Camp Bloodbath, Max finds herself spending time with Nancy, her mother’s character, and, over the course of the film, navigates through her grief. Max gets the opportunity to connect with the love of her mother all while doing her best to escape the movie's masked killer with a machete, of course. A very meta tribute to the golden age of slasher films.
Directed by Christopher Landon, Happy Death Day takes the typical slasher formula and provides a high concept spin on it to unique results. When college mean girl Tree (Jessica Rothe) is murdered by someone wearing the mask of her college's mascot, she… wakes up in her bed? She quickly realizes that, every time she bites the dust, she wakes back up that same morning, forced to repeat the same day, over and over. Using this to her advantage, she sets out to uncover who would want to murder her so that she can break the loop once and for all and take back control of her life.
From the minds of Radio Silence (the guys who brought back Scream this year), comes a story about "until death do us part." When Grace (Samara Weaving) marries into the powerful Le Domas family, she is forced to take part in a game on her wedding night before the honeymoon can begin. "Hide and seek" soon turns into a deadly game of survival as the family begins hunting her down with every weapon imaginable. Featuring wicked sharp humor, some of the best gore of the modern era, and fantastic set design, Ready or Not is a game you’ll want to be a part of until the sun comes up.
Christopher Landon returns for another high concept slasher film, this time taking the form of a body-swapping gorefest. A dagger with mystical properties causes the Blissfield Butcher (Vince Vaughn) to inadvertently swap bodies with mousy high school student Millie Kessler (Kathryn Newton), leading to the butcher wreaking havoc at Millie’s school in her body. And she only has so much time to swap the bodies back or the change will be permanent. Freaky is a fun tribute to classic slashers but with a modern lens sure to please any slasher fan.
Director Ti West's film, set in the late '70s, follows a young film crew as they head to rural Texas to shoot an adult film. While there, however, they feel increasingly unwelcome by their boarding house’s elderly couple. Eventually, tensions reach a breaking point and a fun bloodbath ensues, featuring pitchforks, '70s rock music, and even alligators. Featuring Jenna Ortega, Kid Cudi, Brittany Snow, and an outstanding dual performance by Mia Goth, X is both a tribute to the sleazier slasher films and the art of filmmaking in general, making it one of the most memorable slashers of the modern era and a great entry point for newcomers to the genre. It will be followed by a prequel, titled Pearl, in theaters Sept. 16.
By Reyna Cervantes