First, there was Slashers.
Then, there was Slashers 2.
MOLTO MONDO SLASHERZ 3 in 3D
51. Deadly Blessing
Witness was sexier, 1981
There's a long chain of bad decisions made in this movie that will make you question whether or not it exists to pay off a gambling debt. The story here is some sort of Mennonite family drama with some fish-out-of-water half naked coeds, AND is also exceedingly complicated on top of that -- Ernest Borgnine's son left the family but still lives there and then he's killed by a demon, but no, it was this lady's daughter and the lady turns out to be a Satan worshipper, and Sharon Stone is concussed, but the demon is seducing her through her dreams even though there is no demon, because it's a person. All of it is absolutely pointless as well, and none of it has the directing panache that the young, scuzz-Craven or the late self-assured Craven has. Instead, it's this strange, lifeless movie that doesn't want to commit to a worldview or plotline, with a demon popping out of the floor at the end of the movie. That isn't even so much as shock as it is confusing and laughable. The poster is so much better than this movie, it is insane.
52. The Prowler
Did a young Tom Savini see something? Jesus christ, 1981
The movie itself is nothing special, but what's worth looking at is that inside a boring, plodding slasher shell are two or three of the most brutal kills you'll see in an American movie. Absolutely savage. These kills - slow, shockingly realistic assaults on incredibly fragile human bodies - are some of Tom Savini's best work. The horrendous kill in the shower, which we see from a down-angle and see as the girl's crotch showering blood, is some unconscious nightmare variation on menstruation. It's the imagery of weird, adolescent nightmare and half-understanding how the human body works. There's more scary narrative in the thought process behind that scene than the rest of the movie. The final sequence is really well paced cat-and-mouse stuff, but all that has stuck with me since is just how savage (and how Freudian) the violence in this film is.
Like Jennifer Beals and shit, 1980
William Lustig and Tom Savini's film is famous for being grisly, and the kills in this film are far nastier than even the already lurid subject matter needed them to be, so that kind of raises the level of nastiness of the entire film. But there really isn't much to differentiate this film from other profiles-of-killers, so Lustig's direction and writer/star Joe Spinell's performance of the material has to elevate it to the level of Savini's kills, and they pull it off. The violence here is still shocking, 30+ years later. The shotgun through the windshield kill (which features Savini's own head getting blown off) is still appalling and exciting. Every scalping is just as grisly as when it first premiered and while they are not as off-putting as Savini's work in The Prowler, they definitely rank up alongside it. The other interesting thing about this film is that the slasher it most mirrors is Peeping Tom, which is rare. It's a film about someone being consumed by their psychosis - the victims all coming to life and killing Spinell is hokey, but the way the film is structured along Peeping Tom's lines, rather than the other more popular routes for slasher scripts to navigate is what makes the character actually matter to the viewer. His relationship with "that" woman is doomed from the outset, but you can see how much of a conflict he's having internally and just how much they earn that title. Lustig would continue this approach of not fucking around.
54. Maniac Cop
Sam Raimi cameo, 1988
Having no relation to Maniac, this movie isn't as lurid as it could have been, but it does commit to its Cop-as-slasher premise as hard as one possibly can, even setting a big chunk of the film during New York's Saint Patrick's Day Parade. Overall, this film isn't Lustig's finest hour, but one would be hard pressed to find anything to in this movie that isn't fully committed to. The cast of the thing elevates some of the material - Bruce Campbell isn't as good here as he is everywhere else, and Laurene Landon is the bane of both this and its sequel; also, she looks pretty damn strung out for a police detective. But everyone else? Perfectly cast: Tom Atkins, Richard Roundtree, Ken Lerner, and Leo Rossi all do a hell of a job playing to type (David Fincher would cast Roundtree in the exact same Police Commissioner role in Seven, while Tom Atkins played dentical detective roles in like 30 movies). Lustig delivers here, but blending the slasher formula with a good cop movie approach never quite gels, and it is not nearly exploitative enough to wow.
55. Maniac Cop 2
William Lustig's Dark Knight Rises, 1990
Maniac Cop 2 on the other hand, should by all means be a worse movie. All the good actors in the first film are murdered to fuck, with the only ones returning being Landon, who is still terrible and doesn't die until the hour mark, while Campbell bites it 20 minutes in. Everyone else isn't of the caliber of Roundtree or Atkins (Robert Davi maybe does). But Maniac Cop 2 is a complete and utter surprise of a film - the flatness of the sets and lighting in 1 is replaced by a legitimate atmosphere. Lustig's kill sequences move away from simple brutality to more stylish and elaborate set pieces. The plot of the film takes the first one's "evil cop wants revenge on the system that turned on him" premise and amplifies it to "supervillain attempts to destroy society" levels. Lustig's setpiece genius includes not just some car stunts and chases, but one of the most interesting and arresting car stunts I've ever seen. A police psychiatrist is handcuffed to a runaway car - on the outside - and has to steer and get back in before it hits something. The way it is shot, there was probably a guy on the floor of the car steering, and it is night, but the end result is jaw-dropping stuntwork. Later it would be a pretty big signpost for Tarantino's work on Death Proof. The end sequence of the film features the Maniac Cop himself doing a staggering controlled burn on his entire body. But beyond the stunts and the rise in craftsmanship - and really the sheer balls to turn Maniac Cop 2 into the best exploitation movie it could be - is Larry Cohen's choices in the script. Two separate serial killer plots collide in this movie, and the end result of two killers with complete opposite objectives and outlooks finding common ground and working together to kill people is a lot closer to the back half of Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight than either director would care to talk about. Maniac Cop 2 is a lot more satisfying because the expectations of the thing are that of a slasher movie, and there's no hero to speak of. It's just murderers hanging out, and in the end the only thing that even slows Maniac Cop down is being set on fire and falling four stories into an exploding bus. The Joker just kind of got caught, which is why he'll eventually be Jeff Bridges-syle CGed into Batman 4, along with Brandon Lee and River Phoenix as Dick Grayson and Jason Todd.
56. Blood and Black Lace
Steve Ditko impersonator murders a bunch of models, 1964
Mario Bava's Blood and Black Lace is very indicative of all of Bava's strengths as a director. Truly gorgeous in that way only 60's Technicolor can be, its opening sequence is full of lush reds, yellows, pinks, and greens in a way that's absolutely intoxicating. Before the film even starts, there is the fantastic credits sequence - featuring a combination of high fashion, intensely art-directed kills, all delivered by a featureless killer. The absence of sensation is what murders these people in Bava's film, with the killer's mask there is a marked difference between the victims and the kills, which is also what intrigues us about Michael Myers, Jason, so many more. Blood and Black Lace had the jump on all of them. Bava's skill as a director wasn't just his ability to paint lush images, but also his heroic renown for cheapness - in Danger: Diaboik he would tape cutout postcards to cover half the camera so he wouldn't have to shoot on location. In Blood and Black Lace, the amazing sets and lighting are only there to cover up that most of the film is being shot on the same set, which is constantly being redressed. The film is so full of sensation that when you figure that out, it makes the movie even more impressive, not less.
57. Halloween II
"The movie was a hit, even though it wasn't any good. I didn't make it better, but I made it scarier, faster. If you'd seen the two versions, mine is a bit more heightened. It was not fun to do. It was not my proudest moment. I did something I don't believe in." - John Carpenter, 1981
Halloween II is directed by Rick Rosenthal and written by original writers John Carpenter and Debra Hill, both of which acted as producers for the sequel. Carpenter and Hill did not necessarily want a sequel but agreed to work on one if they didn't have to direct it. When Rosenthal turned in his cut of the film Carpenter felt it was boring and not scary, and went back and reshot most of the kills in the movie, something Rosenthal felt betrayed the film. Carpenter was definitely right, because the bulk of the film is completely and utterly dead until the kill sequences and then the later elements of the film involving Laurie Strode and Dr Loomis in the hospital with Michael Myers. Rosenthal simply isn't the director that Carpenter is - in fact he's not even the director than nearly all the directors who stole from Halloween are. The gore in the film is what saves the first hour, where Laurie Strode is mostly unconscious and Dr Loomis spends a lot of time monologuing his way through recaps and explanations of the term "Samhain" written in blood. Michael Myers doesn't have any of the weight that he carried in the first film, because the pacing is wrong. Carpenter's idiosyncratic, impossible-to-replicate pacing comes from the fact that he writes, directs, scores and even edits his own films. Halloween II tries to change only enough for it to be a new story - it's the same night, same stars, same killer, same situation. But the ideas in Halloween were never the draw, it's that perfect "everything" that Carpenter brought to the material, as well as everything that Jamie Lee Curtis brought to her performance. She is amazing here as well, but her screentime where she's actually doing something is something like 20 minutes. The revelation that Laurie Strode is Michael Myers' sister just makes the psychological friction of what Michael thought in part one and makes it text (which is the same thing that happens in Godfather 3 when the King Lear parallels just become King Lear with the serial numbers filed off). Carpenter's score is just as good as the other two Halloween scores, but you can see the difference between what Carpenter shot and what Rosenthal did, and it isn't until Laurie is literally running away from Michael in the last 20 minutes of the thing does it feel like anything is happening. You just have to appreciate that they killed Michael in the end, blew him up and watched his body burn, just so they wouldn't have to make this movie yet again.
58. Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
Hopper needed the money, 1986
Tobe Hooper had directed a couple classics, a couple good movies, and a couple bad ones, and by 86 he had developed a very polished directorial style. This is both a good and a bad thing, but Hooper smartly got Tom Savini to make some pretty explicit gore effects (not explicit in the context of Savini's other work but in the context of Hooper's, very much). Texas Chainsaw was never meant to be a franchise, but the approach is quite smart - it's been a real-time difference between films, and Leatherface and the family are the only throughline to the original. The first Texas Chainsaw was about a lot of things, but the one thing that Hooper wanted to highlight from the first film was the economic undertone of the piece. The first Texas Chainsaw is about the gas shortage and family and meat. The second one is about franchise food, big business and religion. And family. Also meat. The opening of the film sees two yuppies run roughshod over the texas highway getting plastered, shooting guns and harassing people on their car-phone. Then they get their heads chopped off by Leatherface. It's nice and cathartic for the Reagan 80's as the fire-spitting invocations of God that Dennis Hopper's vengeance-seeking lawman spouts, Billy Graham style, and the no bullshit tv pitchman cutthroat capitalism of Drayton Sawyer played by Jim Siedow and the plate-headed Manson-spouting evil hippie played by the awesome Bill Mosley. The plot of the movie - involving human meat barbeque and Hopper's son being the kid in the wheelchair in the first one, not to mention the most annoying late-night dj to grace a movie outside of Eric Bogosian (at least she gets covered in blood, unlike Bogosian). The sexual stuff between Leatherface and Caroline Williams is just as shitty, as is the bulk of the movie's plot. Where the film is at its best is in the performances, which are amplified to the edge of cartoonish. Mosley manages to out-chatter Hopper and even ends of kind of doing a version of Hopper gone way wrong, knowing full well that he's in the same film. The location as well is a nightmarish combination of Americana iconography and human slaughterhouse, which is miles away from the quiet fields and sweltering farm house in the first film, where everything was contorted way out of proportion. It is funnier than the first one, and it has a whole lot going for it, but it does raise the question of why they made it. Well, they could get Dennis Motherfucking Hopper. That's the answer why.
59. Halloween III - Season of the Witch
EIGHT MORE DAYS TIL HALLOWEEN HALLOWEEN HALLOWEEN, 1982
Not a slasher in the way that this movie is in no way about a killer picking off and murdering people, but just a strange entry in a series of slashers. Following two movies about Michael Myers stabbing people with a knife, this is a completely unrelated story about the consumerism of children, brainwashing advertising, androids, boobytrapped Halloween masks, and fragments of Stonehenge. It features a cerebral script from Quatermass and the Pit/BBC version of 1984 writer which was then gored up by former editor/production designer/art director for John Carpenter turned director, Tommy Lee Wallace. The only thing that John Carpenter and Debra Hill had to do with this film was the soundtrack and picking their replacements. The final film is too weird to be written off as a folly, but not good enough to be considered a lost classic. Instead it's a weird moment where a yearly feature film horror anthology series was thought to be possible by Carpenter and Hill and which was then proven untenable. The elliptical nature of the film, the complete strangeness of the post-West World unstoppable robots with orange blood that oozes out of their mouths, and one of Carpenters best scores? It's all there, and yet none of that really adds up to much. Tom Atkins, who is great in both Escape from NY and Night of the Creeps, pulls out all the stops in his final scene, you really can't say anything bad about him, or his hangdog shitty Last Boy Scout style phone-based bad relationship with his wife and kids, but you wish there was a lot more of that, and a lot less Stonehenge magic face snakes.
60. The Psychic
The woman from Scanners has feelings, 1977
Again, this isn't a slasher, but it's also not a movie I have an excuse for apart from that I thought it was a slasher when I turned it on. While not particularly violent, it is a masterful, tense, and gorgeous Lucio Fulci entry. You may know it from the score drops used in Kill Bill, or maybe for Jennifer O'Neill. This is pretty damn austere, but good enough that it acted as a palate cleanser for the body count adding machines on either side of it.
61. Eaten Alive
His name is Buck comma and you're only watching this because of that line, 1977
Tobe Hooper's follow-up to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, wherein he forgets/loses/sheds everything that made Texas Chainsaw such a classic. None of the overheated atmosphere, none of the oh-shit-where-did-they-found-this-guy casting and performances, none of the naturalistic violence or expansive locations. Instead there's a series of unsatisfying attempts at exploitation and a couple of poorly-cast soon to be veteran slasher actors (Robert Englund and William Finley). Englund is redneck as hell, Finley is in it for a grand total of two scenes. This movie is collapsing in on itself all the time, with no real story or structure to speak of. There's an old man who runs a hotel and is losing his mind, and there's a girl who dies at the beginning of the film as an excuse for some kind of movement but this thing is just wallowing around the one set it has, the crocodile looks awful, and the caged monkey looks like stock footage (and worse yet, it isn't). There's no real atmosphere, which is a shame because Hooper has an idea of what he could do with this material, and it almost comes together at the end when the pitch rises and three women are in danger at once - there's a kind of raising of the pitch of the raving hotel owner's hatred of women, but there's none of the massively complex underpinnings of Texas Chainsaw, and even less of the no-bullshit execution. This is all bullshit, all the time.
62. Ms 45.
Feminism means having a mute protagonist get raped twice, 1981
It's more of a spree killer movie than it is a slasher. if you wanted to be all Derrick Morgan and figure out the victimology of this thing it's utter misandry and fear of sex. But this is a rape revenge movie without any real revenge, it's kind of the middle ground between the Death Wish and Lady Snowblood. The film itself plays out as a slasher movie, with the character going from wronged party seeking vengeance to the kind of person who just shoots any man she sees. The thing starts with her killing rapists (she is a mute woman raped TWICE as soon as the movie starts) and pimps, murderers. And and as the story goes on she shoots a dog because its annoying, she shoots a guy for making out with his girlfriend. By the halfway point, this is a movie about a serial killer, in a really interesting, flat, way. She even becomes less of a person, getting more stylized with each kill until the end she's gone from prettied up to hooded assassin to gun toting nun. Gunfight movies are as much about penises and violation as movies where women get stabbed, so it's not really that big a stretch to turn the slashing into shooting, but there's some interesting symbolism at the end where she is killed by a woman with a knife in the back, which is a more potent cock substitute than a handgun, at least here anyway.
Abel Ferrara does this great bit where Ms 45 and some guy who's going through this long protracted night of rattling off how his ex cheated on him with another woman while we're waiting for her to shoot him. And we keep waiting, and we wonder if she's lost her nerve because this guy is annoying but he seems nice enough. But then -- and this is genius -- Ferrara copies the famous bridge shot from Woody Allen's Manhattan. She tries to shoot him and misfires. And the sad guy grabs the gun from her, points the gun to his head, and offs himself. Yeah. Woody, Abel Ferrara needs you to do him a favor just fucking kill yourself already.
63. Twitch of the Death Nerve
Not nearly as good as all the movies that ripped it off, 1971
Mario Bava's ur-slasher movie, which is all about stacking corpses on a beach, a good decade before that was fashionable. Incredibly influential, but not all all fun to watch. (Friday the 13th part 2 lifts entire kills, for example) (apparently I was expected to know that when I wrote about that movie, despite the fact I'm watching nearly all of these films for the first time or at least the first time in years) (except for Event Horizon I've watched that shit like five times this year alone).
In certain venues this movie was released as Last House on the Left II, which is insane because aside from setting this movie has absolutely nothing in common with Craven's film. Very weird, but I guess not that different from Tenebre being called Suspiria II in Japan. There's a lot of early signifiers of the slasher that can be sourced here -watching from the killer's pov, young people in an abandoned cabin on a lake -- while there is a lot more plot and a lot more characters beyond that. This movie gets labyrinthine, not by being overly complicated but by never really giving you much character-wise to work with, and then doing that repeatedly. Too many here and too many reasons for killing, nearly all dead end non-red herrings for you to give any sort of a shit. This movie is not at all as lushly intoxicating as Bava's Blood and Black Lace, or balls-out inventive as Black Sunday or Diabolik. It's not as fun as any of them. This movie is mostly only here for historical interest.
Bava's best moments aren't even the kills in this, it's the long periods of characters silently doing stuff -- taking clothes off, driving, staring out a window waiting to get strangled and kicked out of a wheelchair -- there are places where the music takes over and really banal things become very interesting. More interesting than the kills - which are perfunctory for the most part. Why should we care that it's THAT guy and girl doing the garotting and stabbing? It's just one of the guys we haven't really spent time with, and what he's doing isn't really arresting either. It's just a movie where stuff happens because of some land deal? It's an episode of Dallas with beheadings.
This film includes a lepidopterist/entymologist as a main character, which yeah, that's a thing I've never seen in a movie. It's not a really cool thing I've never seen in a movie like in Cul-De-Sac where the desert flash-floods when the guy goes back over the hill, it's way more boring than that, it's nothing that will get you excited for the medium of film or even trash cinema. But it certainly is something I've never seen in a movie before. I'll give it that.
64. Silent Night, Bloody Night
Sat on a shelf for 2 years, you can tell why, 1974
Hey this as a soundtrack by moog pioneer Gershon Kingsley! Super early killer's pov stuff, here. The film is slow getting on with it, and the first kill scene is a fast and brutal shock. That slowness, that's what makes it worth a damn - this movie picked up its pacing from Psycho, and it also picked up the idea that you could get the audience to invest a large amount of time with one character only to knock them off and get you to identify and switch allegiances with a character you suspected earlier.
It's also an incredibly shoddy movie made with almost entirely non-actors and little in the way of story, with bad camerawork and terrible editing; all of which outshines an acknowledged classic by delivering on the simple essential points. That is, it has characters and a story and gives you enough time to get invested but not enough time to get bored. There is some inventiveness in how to shoot sequences, such as the flashlight in the dark sequence, that while it might not be pulled off entirely, add so much with so little. The killer's pov elements, the sepia-toned flashback sequence that at times resembles the Cabinet of Dr Caligari and Freaks, there is a sense that this is a ALMOST real movie made by people who love movies, no matter how amateur hour it looks at times. The ending takes three or four hard turns, not surprise endings but unexpected places for this story to logically go. How I wish that there were more like this.
65. Slumber Party Massacre
Feminism means Abel Ferrara's rape revenge movie is less misogynist, 1982
Directed by a woman and written by a feminist poet, but shot to be as titillating and misogynistic and retardedly shallow as any other slasher movie, and just as badly written/performed/edited. So that has little to no bearing on the final product. Which is proof that intent doesn't mean a goddamn thin, unless you're Lars Von Trier.
So many lazy jump scares. So many tone-deaf jokes. So many odd, weird time-filling things like the girl making Kool-Aid, which they probably thought was some kind of sugar-in-the-blood parody semiotics but is really just a girl onscreen making Kool-Aid for way too long. I guess in a genre where Joss Whedon is considered a major feminist thinker instead of a guy who shifts blame for every single tv series he ever worked on getting pulled off the air early, this is fucking Simone De Beauvoir. These slashers, they are almost always 90 minutes long. It is one of the great strengths of the subgenre, that this formula is played out is the same timeframe, so it adds to the structure/variation. This movie is significantly shorter than 90 mins and yet watching it feels like the tv versions of Fanny and Alexander, Das Boot, and Rich Man, Poor Man on a week-long triple marathon. Yes, we get it, it's all about penis substitutes, that's why he has a hot dog over his eye. In a whole subgenre of things looking like cocks, they don't even try to get weird with it like nearly all of the other films do (The Prowler, that movie comes from someone's fear of sex so deep its in Eraserhead territory). They didn't even get the concept of the final girl, which is arguably the only remotely feminist thing about any slasher movie. It's half-smart, and half-measures aren't worth anyone's time, especially fake feminist ones. The most feminist thing about this movie is that women are just as likely to make a bad movie as men. Making shit is the great equalizer.
66. Don't Torture a Duckling
Worst title for a good movie ever, 1972
Whoa, I did not expect this movie to be anywhere near as good as it was. Fulci was someone I'd kind of thought of as low-rent after seeing Zombi 2 (the one where the zombie fights the shark), but the more of his films I see the more I realize the guy is somewhat of a genius. The bulk of this movie is a slasher about a killer who murders children, but Fulci uses the subject matter to discuss the situation in the small village the film is set. The central conflict of the film is set up to be cops searching for this killer, but it plays out to be a battle between ancient mysticism and religion and the modern world. Fulci spends a lot of time illustrating how the line between pagan ritual and Catholicism has been blurred in this town, and by the end of the film it is Catholicism that is shown to be more dangerous than the wax doll stabbing witch. In fact it is shown that for all her malice against children, she doesn't physically harm them but the priest does. And the normal villagers are the ones who brutally murder her for it, she's just a crazy person who lives in the woods. This is the first movie where Fulci amplified the gore of his films, released the same year as Last House on the Left, this is where Fulci opened up the field. The most important reason to watch this film is the reel of the film where the pagan witch is let out of prison (because she didn't do it) and Fulci's camera slowly follows her through the entire town, out to the town cemetery. When she arrives, three men are there, one turns on his car stereo, and then proceed to beat her to death. Which isn't particularly special conceptually, but Fulci has them leave the radio on and the final effect has more in common with Tarantino, Scorsese, Landis, and the Andersons than any movie of it's era. In the same year Wes Craven was trying to create some kind of irony with fake Butch and Sundance folk, Fulci was using three complex music cues against a scene that is edited like a Leone western fight. The end result is stunning, and is exactly the kind of thing that we now go to Tarantino for, who's made it into his style. This is the raw article, though, cutting from choppy soul to mournful Ornella Vanoni ballad at exactly the right moment, it is some of the most intense violence I have ever seen and that is simply because of how music is used.
Here's that sequence:
Feminism means all gay people turn into serial killers, 1980
A gay/s&m serial killer movie directed by William Friedkin, a great director and all around despised human being, who also did The Exorcist and The French Connection. Starring Al Pacino, Paul Sorvino, and Karen Allen with minor appearances from James Remar, Joe Spinell, Mike Starr, Ed O'Neill, and Powers Boothe, and featuring a few hundred gay guys who probably didn't know how insanely fucked up the content of the film would be. This is one of those movies that you hear about long before you see it, and it doesn't disappoint. This is a trashy, trashy ass movie made by a director who is visibly disgusted with his subject matter, which is gay s&m sex. Murder, that shit happens to straight people in movies all the time, and it is perfectly okay.
There is a scene a little over halfway through the movie, where Pacino leaves a botched arrest where he gets nothing, still in his leather bar getup from the night before, and goes and sees his girlfriend. And when she answers the door, he asks to come in, and it plays like a scene from a vampire movie, where the rules are different now. It's great because the metaphor is now ripped from the context, and it's just gay as being the "other". And other as easily transmissible.
Sorvino and Pacino in the subway station - there's more than a little of what Scorsese eventually was doing in The Departed there, kind of like Serpico but with a lot more ambiguity and turmoil in the cop's heart. There is also a visible visual history to the film where Friedkin uses actors and locations, and even shots, from Walter Hill's gangwar dystopia Greek tragedy masterwork The Warriors. Which is interesting because as a viewer it is hard to determine whether or not that is a commentary about the homosexual undertone of that film (which is there in all of Hill's films a little bit, they're too tough not too) or if it's just "that looks cool let's shoot there" on Friedkin's part.
The big problem in this film isn't really how Friedkin shoots this shit - he's far too good a director to fuck any of that up. Even in tiny sequences like when Pacino takes ether on the dance floor, there's this fantastic subtle trick where there's no yellow light in the shot until he gets high and then those lights are turned on, shit like that is why the film is so rewarding, despite being reprehensible in a lot of places. But the idea that is constantly being put forth, and hammered hard at the end of the movie, is that allowing this kind of experience into your life will turn you into a serial killer (though from what I understand the severed limbs found in the river at the start of the movie had more of an implication that Pacino was the one who put them there, but that was cut out along with 40 odd minutes of Friedkin-shot gay sex club scenes). The final minutes of the film now, maybe accidentally, say that being gay will make you a serial killer, like Freddy's Revenge, but this is a huge mainstream Hollywood movie not a low rent sequel.
68. House of 1000 Corpses
Okay, the "THIS IS HELL" guy was pretty awesome, 2003
This is another film that sat on a shelf for 2+ years, Rob Zombie's debut where he edited and re-edited the film trying to get it released, and the final result is something Zombie has said he's not 100% happy with. I had a conversation with Ian McEwan who actually saw an early screening of the movie and he confirmed what I had expected, that the final movie had a lot more added jarring fast-cut transitions and a whole lot more of Zombie's own music (something he doesn't use in any of his other films because the tone just doesn't fit), but also little things that would have changed the movie like sections where he didn't soundtrack anything and there was just someone screaming in the woods for long extended takes. So House of 1000 Corpses is starting on a bad foot from the outset, coupled with Zombie's uncertainty as a first time writer and director and the absolute slog it must have been to get this thing finally released, you can see where it went wrong. The story is kind of a duck press of a lot of - slasher movies, certainly both of the first two Texas Chainsaws (Bill Mosely is playing a much darker version of his character in Texas 2), Halloween, Freaks, My Bloody Valentine, Spider Baby -- a lot of Roger Corman and Jack Hill actually, but also shitty euro-horror, nazi exploitation, William Castle gimmicks, cheerleader massacre movies, Universal monsters, evil clowns, redneck serial killer facts. The weirdest effects work just like the worst exploitation films, with jarring cuts and psychedelia covering up the most boring parts of the story. It is a whole lot of ground to cover for one movie, and for a first time director it is probably impossible. The stuff that works is largely the kills (of course) and the performances - Sid Haig is amazing, and it is kind of a big surprise he's never had a role this major. Tom Towles, Karen Black, and Bil Mosley are all as on fire as Haig is, maybe kind of a little surprised that they have this kind of material to work on when they've aged out of traditional hollywood standard roles. Less interesting is the group of intentionally annoying kids - including still-drinking Chris Hardwick (playing a character named after Omen/Alien composer Jerry Goldsmith) and a still-a-weird-choice-for-the-role Rainn Wilson. Basically, the problem is they are exactly as annoying as you'd expect them to be, but against seasoned pros like Haig they seem out of their depth. Which I guess works, but it seems like the film's deficiency and not a choice. And there is so much of this film that is from Chainsaw 2 and Spider Baby, loving tributes both not copying. But the most intriguing part of the film, which Zombie would emphasize and expand upon in the leagues better Devil's Rejects, is what he took away from the first Texas Chainsaw. Which is not the violence and the cannibalism, but the sense of how that family worked. Same with Spider Baby, what he's done is created a family dynamic that is both more and less civilized than the way the "normal" characters interact with one another. The Firefly family is what is compelling, not the boring Dr. Satan mutilation techno-corpse stuff. But even if you don't like it - and I really don't like a lot of this movie - you have to see it for the labor of love that it is. And this is deep love from Zombie, not just of the gore and terror but of the entire genre in all it's variations, and of low budget American trash cinema - his casting in this and every movie following betrays a love of everyone involved in these pictures and what they could bring to them. That is what makes House of 1000 Corpses miles away from crap like Saw, because it is more than just a love of inventive death sequences, it is a love of what actually made these kinds of films different.
69. The Hitcher
The guy who wrote this may have killed a guy, 1986
The middle step between the dog with the human hand in it's mouth in Akira Kurosawa's masterpiece Yojimbo (and later in Lucio Fulci’s The New York Ripper) and the opening police station sequence in the Coen Brothers masterpiece No Country for Old Men, that's the police station bloodbath in 80s sadomasochistic Rutger Hauer vehicle, The Hitcher. Which is a nice pedigree for a bizarre 80s slasher starring C. Thomas Howell and a post-Blade Runner, Pre-Blind Fury Hauer. The films is nightmarish in that the reason for things to happen is that they just happen and then, every time Howell (and Jennifer Jason Leigh, being as good here as she is everything else) gets away, there is never a sense that they have actually gotten away from anything. Hauer's John Ryder is inevitable and inscrutable, and the film could even have John Ryder as a figment of Howell's imagination until the last 20 minutes. Ryder is kind of his unconscious, and all he actually wants him to do is to become a lone, relentless killer like him. It's more conventional western hero/villain interaction than slasher, but it has the same payoff of the slasher movie, where the hero (normally the final girl) is forced to take on the aspects of herself that reflect the killer in order to kill him. Howell has to become Hauer, and while that sounds impossible, because Hauer never tried blackface he just played bad motherfuckers his entire career. But it comes as close to making one into the other as was ever going to happen.
70. Prom Night
Landis was right she was way too good for this shit, 1980
Jamie Lee Curtis is amazing, but this is the movie where you go "does she not know she's too good for these?". Because she absolutely is, this film is completely inoffensive and competent as a slasher - spends a lot of time in the high school, there's a lot of Carrie in the script, that being the number one movie about the prom for this kind of material to go to. And the plot, where a bunch of red herrings are thrown out to cover up the killer is exactly who you think it would be - namely the one witness to the accidental killing of the child (and cover-up of it) at the very start of the film. But this is a total slog, even the kill sequences are exactly what you'd expect. And the direction belies an obsession with ass shots rather than the need to like, frame the characters and action in space .Which is fine, sometimes great, but it isn't particularly sensual or titillating, just something you notice. Jamie Lee Curtis would follow this with the much better Terror Train, Road Games, and Halloween II before breaking out of the slasher ghetto with Trading Places, and she would steal that movie harder than one would think humanly possible. It really wasn't a surprise, because she'd stolen all of these slasher flicks, but it felt like a massive victory because for the first time since Halloween she was a huge surprise on the screen. In between, she was great, but with movies like this, you knew she could do better.
- Sean Witzke, 2012