The first 25 are here. Sean Witzke, you have the com.
26. Body Parts
Directed by The Hitcher writer/director and eventual auto-murderer Eric Red, and a performance by perrienial badass redneck character actor Jeff Fahey as a yuppie psychiatrist; this is the movie that they make fun of as the ultimate cliche - the transplanted body parts of a murderer lead to eventual murdering, only the twist is that it's not the limbs, it's the original killer COMING BACK FOR HIS LIMBS. It's retarded, but really upfront about it being "that movie", and it's actually pretty good at being the best version of that movie. Fahey is awesome here, even though he is wildly miscast as he is in everything, ever. (Same with Brad Dourif, who is great in everything, ever.) This movie ends with a shot based on a Seurat painting, despite it being a movie where the severed head of a serial killer chases after Jeff Fahey in a neckbrace.
27. Friday the 13th
The first Friday the 13th movie manages to take all the idiosyncrasies of Halloween and codify them into a formula, albeit it takes what might be subtext in Carpenter's film -- stuff like the puritanical overtones which are really about the repression of both Michael Meyers and Laurie Strode -- as definitive rules. It's interesting because slasher movies become movies about established formulas and rules, which is the reason they're easy to satirize. Here, Halloween is the rulebook, and the setting is a summer camp. Sean Cunningham, unlike a lot of this era's slasher directors, was a trained professional with half a dozen directorial credits and the producer's credit on Last House on the Left under his belt when he took this job. Tom Savini did all the kill effects on this film, and suggested that the film have a final scare like Carrie did, and then he essentially created that final sequence himself. In doing this, he turned Jason Vorhees from an excuse for mayhem to a classic recurring film character. But the real show here isn't anything beyond how gorgeous a movie it is. There is a real patience to the way this film is directed and the lushness of the frame isn't something you often see in American movies, let alone low budget slashers. Apart from Carpenter and Argento, the slasher has never looked better.
28. Friday the 13th: Part 2
This is the first Jason movie, albeit one before the ski mask and Jason as an unkillable, unflappable zombie mongoloid who can breathe underwater. This one is directed by Steve Miner, who also went on to do the nastier Part 3. Part 2 is pretty much the first movie replayed almost entirely from beginning to end, with Jason replacing his mother as a more formidable monster. Jason's evolution as a character is interesting because he isn't Michael Meyers, despite all the attempts to make him Michael Meyers - Meyers is unflinching, sexless evil intruding on the normal world, and he looks at bodies living and dead like insects. Jason is a machine of murder, but with human motivations - all he knows is pain and murder. Him feeling nothing and murdering people makes sense in a way that Michael Meyers actually doesn't. Friday the 13th Part 2 also has more nudity and more murder then the first film, but Steve Miner is not the director that Sean Cunningham was, and the movie does look a little rinky dink in places.
What is most interesting about this movie is that Adrienne King appeared in ten minutes of it, then didn't make another movie for something like 25 years, because - like the film, she had a stalker show up to her house, and she decided that was the last thing she needed in her life. The slashers got too real, and when you die on film by having a screwdriver shoved through your temple, I'd rather get out of the public eye too. It kind of makes Jodie Foster and Mark David Chapman seem cute in comparison when you're the one getting home-lobotomized on screen. Most importantly, which is why I saved it for last - this is the one that features the wheelchair kill, which is STUPENDOUS.
29. Friday the 13th Part 3 In 3D
This movie is incredibly cheesy, full of forced 3D things waving at the camera, bad acting, horrible stereotypes, annoying (which is not the same as unlikable) characters, and writing that is somewhat less than the best. None of that matters. There's some weird things going on in the movie - the subplot that the final girl is probably carrying Jason's lovechild through rape is never picked up on again - even in the further movies which have many opportunities to use it. Which is A BIG DEAL, right? That's an important story point, watching it, you feel like its payoff has been cut out.
Once Jason puts that hockey mask on, everything clicks and suddenly everything works, and it's a gigantic guy with a machete running around cutting people up and chasing the latest girl. This is exactly what you remember when you think of these movies, a half hour of savage unending murder, which is what became of this series' identity. Also, we pretty much cement the audience's identification with Jason for all future films, because now he's an instant visual signifier and there's no more reason to care about the kids. From here on out (and sadly, it gets fucked up almost immediately) we show up for the express purpose of seeing Jason murk some teenagers.
30. Friday the 13th Part 4: The Final Chapter
Cory Feldman kills Jason. Ridiculous.
This time, the kids are not just annoying, they are the Most Annoying - featuring Crispin Glover, cast explicitly because any sane person would rejoice in seeing teenage Crispin Glover get parts of him chopped off with a machete. This one is good until the ending of the movie, where Cory Feldman dresses up like Jason then kills him because...that makes sense? Great gore in places, but with such a shitty ending it’s hard to love.
31. Friday the 13th Part 5: A New Beginning
No good acting, terrible direction (Danny Steinman never worked again), no interesting kills, no Jason. And Cory Feldman still doesn't get a machete through his goddamn glasses. Retconned out of series continuity entirely, because no one liked it. Literally no one. This movie is awful.
32. Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives
This is the best film of the series after the first one, skipping over the idiocy of Part 5 and having Jason resurrected by lighting, making him a zombie Frankenstein, chasing after a barely sane Tommy Jarvis (the grown version of Cory Feldman from 4, now, thankfully, not played by Cory Feldman). There is more fun here with the concept than any movie before or since, starting off with Jason re-enacting the James Bond opening credits gunshot with his machete. Things just stay fun and inventive from there. This movie has jokes, but it never tries to be a comedy or hams it up. There is a series of great scenes where two kids play greek chorus and lament how they're going to die soon, which is a fantastically dark and weird way to go for laughs in a slasher movie. This is pretty much the pure distillation of a Jason movie, giving you the teens you want (murdered) as well as some actual characters besides them that you can invest yourself into paying attention to. Jason murders people for 90 minutes, it can't be that hard right? But in practice, it must be: because Tom McLaughlin's one entry to the series is the only movie that REALLY got why that is so fun.
33. Friday the 13th Part 7: The New Blood
Here the producers don't know where to go with the franchise and instead of just doing something smart and mean again, they go back to the well and rip off Carrie all the way this time, with a little bit of Firestarter thrown in. So it's Carrie versus Jason, a shrill annoying copy of an already hard to like character with vaguely defined powers and lots of undirected angst. There are some interesting kills here, but for the most part it’s another case of #4 without being as much of a Jason movie as #4, because the ending is nonsensical and strange. Who the hell thought that the father coming out of the water, undamaged and completely dry, was a good idea?
34. Friday the 13th part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan
This is a terrible movie, but it is a pretty satisfying terrible movie, closer to 6 than 5, 7, or 9 (there are too many of these damn things to compare them all coherently). Jason is barely in Manhattan, but there is a great callback to The Muppets Take Manhattan with a severed head bounced into a dumpster gag. Jason on the boat is a fantastic, endless bloodbath. Jason in the city? He walks through a subway station passing hundreds of people and doesn't kill any of them, I don't understand why they wasted that opportunity. No wonder the city is so overpopulated by the time Soylent Green comes along. The makeup for Jason's face without the mask looks more like an early Scooby Doo villain than a Tom Savini creation, that's really the only complaint that's not something that was a result of how they financially had to make the movie (there's no way the could have had the time to use NYC for kills like they should, sadly enough). I believe this is considered the second worst entry in the series but it has to come fifth or sixth. The true second worst is...
35. Friday the 13th part 9: Jason Goes To Hell
A movie written and directed just so they could set up the long-in-preparation Freddy Vs Jason. What most people don't know is that they also were setting up an Evil Dead crossover, and that there's a copy of the human skin bound Necronomicon Ex Mortis and the dagger from Evil Dead 2, along with the Freddy Krueger claw emerging from the ground in the last minutes of the film. This movie has an interesting opening 20 minutes - where Jason is pegged by a SWAT team, shot to pieces and then autopsied. Then his heart is eaten by the coroner for...some reason? Then the movie becomes a series of possessions and this piece of shit ain't Fallen. In the end Jason gets torn to pieces by demons, and even that is boring. Better than #5, sure, but only just.
36. JASON X
Jason X has a truly fantastic kill - the liquid nitrogen face smash kill, but other than that there is no reason to sit through this. Really really stupid, post- Event Horizon/Hellraiser 4 attempt to do a slasher movie in space, trying to do too many things at once, with a holodeck sequence, space marines and a (not at all) sexy killer robot.
37. A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master
Featuring Renny Harlin's tribute to The Purple Rose of Cairo and Robert Englund dressed as a woman, horrifically looking like Eric Wareheim in drag. Renny Harlin directed Shane Black’s The Long Kiss Goodnight, so he has a lifetime pass (which he uses frequently to make movies like Cutthroat Island and Exorcist 4). This movie is kind of an attempt to just do Dream Warriors again. Which, fair enough, repetition in slashers is what happens. But it doesn't have the sense of play that made Dream Warriors so great. This is kind of a female coming of age film, where the lead character comes out of her shell/puberty only to find that she's mirroring Freddy's murders. It doesn't really make a lot of sense, and there's not enough cool stuff here to let that slide.
38. A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child
Bizarre child-of-rape allegory and a direct sequel to Dream Master, which somehow manages to make even less sense. There's like a psychic baby but the baby is played by a five year old? Or something? The comic book kid in this movie predates Bradford Cox by some 20 years, and after watching this you'll want to snap a copy of a Deerhunter vinyl over your leg.
39. Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare
From the director of Tank Girl, starring Billy Zane's sister, which should tell you everything about how much this movie sucks. Yaphet Kotto is here, kicking ass like he does in everything he does, that is about it. There was a time in this country when the Goo Goo Dolls were heavily promoted on horror movie soundtracks, so be glad our long national nightmare is over. This is the absolute nadir of the series, concerning a lot of its runtime with Freddy's origin story, which is that his mother was a nun that had been raped by an entire mental ward of criminal offenders. Which is so arch and unbelievable that the time afterwards, where Freddy is both a loving dad and a child serial killer who sells his soul makes perfect sense. And there's a section of the movie that’s in 3D just for the dream sequence, but there's some handwaving that its still 3D in the real world? And Alice Cooper was Freddy's redneck dad? Who the hell knows why this movie was allowed to be made this way, but at least they had the sense to end it.
40: Wes Craven's New Nightmare
Not really a Freddy Kruger movie at all, or at least the only one that works as a direct sequel to the original. A lot less one-liners, a lot more tension building. The only real problem is that there is a really terrible child actor in a pivotal role. This is Wes Craven's way of putting a lot of his thinking about what he does for a living into a film with some metafictional jazz and big thematic concerns layered in. It falls apart when they're in the "dream realm" at the end but the original film fell apart there too, so it fits. This movie is smart by bringing the concerns of making horror and living in the public into the horror itself. Robert Englund seems unsettled that he was able to bring this character out of him in a few moments. Heather Lagenkamp's stalker is certainly inspired by the intrusion-of-narrative-into-real-life of Adrienne King's experience. Being asked by doctors why someone with children would make a horror film, but also having your kids welfare taken away from you because of what you do. Real life portents - the earthquake - happening the same time as the Freddy dreams and the calls, is a great way to have the film be real/unreal just long enough to stay interesting. Craven writing himself and the film he's writing into the film, while self-aggrandizing, seems to be him saying that he really doesn't know why he's got to do this other than communication of something he only partially understands. Freddy being a mask for old fears and anxieties - yeah, that's what he is. It doesn't matter how ridiculous that sounds. The way the end of the film folds itself into the original in a pretty smart way, with John Saxon slowly becoming his character because he was occupying the same role in reality. Maybe not the most satisfying film I've watched during these, but one of the smartest.
41. Freddy Vs Jason
Incoherent and shitty taken to an all new level of incoherence and shittiness. The plot to this movie is openly explained by the characters every five minutes, just in case anyone watching has forgotten that Freddy is using Jason to make people remember him. Here's the deal about Freddy and Jason - the Nightmare on Elm Street movies just plain aren't as fun as the Friday the 13th ones, ipso facto. Despite Freddy being the more "fun" character - Jason's all about killing people, and lots of them. Machiavellian dream manipulation is for Flash villians or something. Ronny Yu directed Jet Li movies in Hong Kong, how the hell he lost his ability to coherently shoot a scene is beyond me. And the soundtrack is a crime against humanity.
42. The Burning
Highlighted by a Rick Wakeman synth soundtrack, complete top-down ripoff of Friday the 13th put together by the Weinstein Brothers. Tom Savini turned down Friday the 13th part 2 to work on this. It is... odd. More famous for being the debut screen role of Jason Alexander, Holly Hunter, and Fisher Stevens (who looks really weird as a non-bearded grown ass man) (there is a Seinfeld episode named after this movie - the one with Puddy liking the Christian rock). This is Friday the 13th with the role of the final girl written out, which is gives the thing this galvanized homosexual tone, probably by accident. But the whole movie is about this probably gay pervy kid who peeps on the girls shower - but only to get back at his meathead roommate? That's not a reason for what straight people do. And there's a maze at the end? Okay?
43. Hell Night
One of Linda Blair's post-Exorcist II attempts to keep hope alive, even as she continued to not be able to act. This is an attempt to combine the slasher movie with the victorian-set Roger Corman/William Castle haunted house movie. It doesn't really work, but it's an interesting approach. Once again the end result is more Scooby Doo than slasher movie, and you've got to wonder if that's just the bane of the genre.
44. Terror Train
Jamie Lee Curtis' third round as a final girl, this movie is not Halloween but it manages to be much smarter and much more twisty than could be reasonably guessed. The first movie directed by Straw Dogs and 48 HRS editor Roger Spotiswoode, this movie is a combination of smart college slasher and train-set murder mystery. Jamie Lee Curtis just lends her performances a sense of being genuine, even as the movies themselves may not live up to her performance. She just makes everything seem believable, in a way that say, Linda Blair couldn't. She's a final girl in the real sense that she allows the dark parts of her personality to reflect the killers, and in a way let herself be culpable to the weirdness of the villain. Especially here, where there is a big surprise identity reveal at the end, it only works because you see how the character reflects Curtis. Oh, and David Copperfield's assistant turns out to be a dude.
45. Wolf Creek
The only difference between Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Wolf Creek is a sniper rifle. Because this movie is a top-down Texas Chainsaw rip, only an accent, a gun, and a video camera away from being a shot-for-shot Gus Van Sant remake. I guess I get why people like this movie, but in watching it, all I can see is that there's nothing here other than transplanting the location from Texas to the Australian wilderness. People that like this, they must not watch old movies I guess. Or they like shit.
46. The House on Sorority Row
This movie was a surprise, where the story is kind of the basis for stuff like I Know What You Did Last Summer, crap like that (a group of girls accidentally kill someone and they return to start picking them off one by one). But instead of being that movie, it's only the first two thirds. Done very well, I might add, holding tension, some great kills. The final third, though, that's what separates this movie from college slashers like Hell Night. A last-minute reveal that's a big leap in disbelieve-ability, saved by the fact that the final girl is dosed and hallucinating the entire section of the film. A doctor tensely explaining the insane premise of a mutant child wandering around murdering coeds, combined with neon colors and hallucinatory flashes, take this from classic 80s slasher to the realm of Argento/Depalma fantasia. It becomes a nightmare fast, coupled with the shifting lucidity (the killer is dressed as a man-sized living doll in the very end), and the growing symbolism in every shot, makes this a lot more rewarding than even people willing to engage with it on its established terms. Killer final shot, too. Not to be missed.
47. The Driller Killer
At a pivotal moment near the end of the thing, there is a sustained synth strain that is straight out of Carpenter. Other than that, this is a slasher movie without any of the trappings whatsoever, just Abel Ferrara starring in his non-porn directorial debut, running around with a drill killing people. A painter living with two girls he's semi-sexually involved with, completely broke, slowly losing it as a punk band moves in next door (a tag at the start of the film says THIS FILM MUST BE PLAYED LOUD). Ferrara hates the band, hates being broke, starts losing it even though the band likes his stuff and pays him for a portrait. He takes a drill and starts killing homeless people, then finally the people around him (his art dealer, his girlfriends).
It ends up being more of a critique on how the artistic class feeds on the legitimate poor without helping them in any way. Which, yeah, he's doing it by boring holes into homeless people on the street, but it seems to be more of an interesting way to talk about it without having to watch Lena Dunham typing in-jokes to herself on the old twitter set to Robyn, or watch Jorma Taccone pretend to be Art Garfunkel in Bad Timing. Nerdy dudes in 2012, you ain't got the gravitas to fuck with Garfunkel, come to terms with it. You write for SNL. I love you for MacGruber, but you write for SNL. The only time there's been cocaine at an SNL taping since 1986 was when a Ke$ha came through. You ain't got the nerd thing gone wrong, dude. You played Chaka. I don't believe you.
48. The Bird With the Crystal Plumage
While a lot of people talk about what Argento got from Hitchcock, they forget that he also got Hitchcock’s strange, prickly sense of character. The stuttering pimp in Crystal Plumage is a great example of this -- it's more interesting because of these strange character insertions. The hermit who only eats cat? It's a morbid, strange detail but it creates a sense of the world being more lived in that your average slasher/gialli/thriller/whatever. The visual sense is, of course, profoundly more interesting -- even the non-kill stuff, like the convention of men in yellow raincoats, the shift into too-close POV in the denouement, the blue computer terminals, the spiral staircase in shadow. The kills are poetry, and this is before Argento even started to turn it up.
49. Four Flies on Grey Velvet
This is the movie where you can most see Dario Argento's later influence on John Woo's yakuza films. There is a sense of cinematic problem solving for shooting action that leads a direct throughline from Argento to Woo, especially where things like POV speed-ramping and an orgiastically cut car crash that took 16 smashed cars to film. The smooth speed-ramp pov shot in this film that made me jump not because of the shock but because of how a simple effect can be so jarring. But it's not just the mechanical filmic stuff that leads to Woo, it's the morbid tone that leads to things being larger or more symbolic. Items, specifically items relating to death, have a lot of power in both directors' films -- the book in the library in Hard Boiled is not too far from the eyeball in Four Flies or the necklace that it reveals. Learning anything, as a detective, as a victim, in either directors movies comes at a cost of having to understand the way death touches every aspect of the character's lives. Argento's movies got more operatic and ornate from here on, but that car crash might just top the opening of Suspiria to be his signature sequence.
50. Eyes of A Stranger
Eyes of a Stranger has the debut performance of Jennifer Jason Leigh as a blind, deaf and dumb daughter of a crusading 80s tv new reporter, and you probably want to see this movie if you'd like to see her in a nude scene. Or you could just watch Single White Female, which is way more fun. This movie adds a lot of flavor to its formula, but it's nothing more than a slightly more violent (ever so slightly) redux of John Carpenter's tv movie Someone's Watching Me! Which is to say that it's way more 70s tv than actual motion picture.
-Sean Witzke, 2012