A Horror Freak’s Guide to Scary Movies: Ranking the Slashers

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A photo collage of all the main characters in the Slasher movies are quite a sight to behold.

Lee Krebs, Opinion Writer

Horror movies. Some might say that you can only watch them around Halloween, but the truth is that there’s never a bad time for a good scare and some cheesy deaths. My ratings for these slasher movies are out of ten, and based on the scares, the acting, the quality, and the overall feel of the movie. *Please note that all of these movies are rated R, and my reviews of them will contain spoilers. They should only be watched with parental/guardian permission or once you have reached the age of 17.
Friday The 13th (1980)
Content Warnings: Violence, blood, sexual content, nudity, profanity, alcohol, drowning
A classic. Most people look back on this movie fondly, and it’s very easy to understand why, as it spawned one of the largest movie series to ever grace the horror genre. That being said, this movie could definitely be better. The movie wasn’t expected to be a success- the actress who played Pamela Voorhees, Betsy Palmer, even went on to say she only took the role in the movie so she could pay off her car. The low budget shows. There’s awkward pauses between dialogue, strange filming angles, and honestly, not the greatest acting. Betsy Palmer was actually the best actor in this movie, with her dialogue being delivered very well and emotionally.
The movie is about a camp- titled “Camp Crystal Lake”- being reopened years after it was shut down. The reason for this was a young boy drowning, and two teenagers being killed. You learn later in the movie that the young boy who drowned was Jason Voorhees, and his mother, Pamela Voorhees, is killing any counselors who come by in an attempt to get revenge for her son’s death and to stop the camp from ever being opened again. Pamela is, at her core, a grieving mother.
The movie is decently scary, for what it is. Jason Voorhees doesn’t appear until Part 2, and he doesn’t dawn the hockey mask we know and love until Part 3. Pamela, however, does an incredible job as the villain of this movie, with her reasons for killing and her action scenes being some of the most intense parts. The deaths aren’t the goriest, but they aren’t tame either. Perfectly down the middle. If you just want a good movie to turn your brain off and enjoy for an hour and a half, this is it.
Final Rating: 5.5/10
A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
Content Warnings: Sexual content, light nudity, violence, excessive blood & gore, profanity, alcohol & drugs, intense/disturbing scenes
Another classic, and one of the first movies you think of upon hearing the word “slasher.” The quality of this movie is much higher and holds up much better, having several more effects than the Friday the 13th movies, coming with more technological advances and a larger budget. The acting is also rather good. It does suffer from the overselling that most 80s movies are plagued with, but it’s a very small portion. Wes Craven does a fantastic job telling the stories of these characters and making it all feel so strange but so believable at the same time.
The story is about a girl named Nancy Thompson and her friends, who are all having nightmares of boiler rooms and of the deceased-child-murderer-turned-dream-demon Freddy Kreuger. When all of Nancy’s friends begin to die, Nancy is determined to bring Freddy out of the dream world and into reality, where she can get him put away for good. This movie is easily the best of the Nightmare On Elm Street movies, and it has my favorite depiction of Freddy Kreuger. Wes Craven- for some reason- changed his voice from a higher and gravelly voice to a lower, more demonic voice halfway through, and it annoys me to no end. It doesn’t fit his character at all, with the original voice at the beginning of the movie working much better. Robert Englund does an amazing job as Freddy’s actor, and it’s an overall fun movie to watch.
The deaths are startling. If you weren’t sure what to expect going into it, it’s undoubtedly a scare. While Freddy Kreuger himself isn’t scary- seriously, he wears a fedora and a Christmas sweater- his methods of killing are downright brutal. It’s definitely a must watch for horror fans and a great introduction to slasher movies.
Final Rating: 8/10
Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Content Warnings: Violence, blood, animal death, excessive gore & bones, extremely frightening & intense scenes, minor self-harm, carcasses
As one of the first slasher movies, this movie is actually incredibly scary and disturbing. Right from the get-go, the movie has a dark, gritty, gore-y vibe, showing close-ups of a rotting corpse in the opening scene. The movie is somewhat hard to follow at times, but the story of it is actually rather simple.
Sally Hardesty and her brother Franklin Hardesty are in the process of going to a concert with a group of their friends. When stopping at their old family home, their van dies, and they need to get gas, which sets off the events of the film. The friends look for gas at a nearby house, instead meeting Leatherface, or Bubba Sawyer. The movie presents the teens trying to survive and escape Leatherface, as well as his equally dangerous family.
This movie is no joke when it comes to intensity. Long, drawn out scenes of running through the dark, away from the ominous revving of a chainsaw, and close-ups to eyeballs and the deranged Sawyer family as Sally Hardesty gradually begins to lose her mind. The whole thing is incredibly grotesque and simply terrifying to watch, especially if you aren’t used to the more gore-y side of life on a farm. For being made in the 70s, as well, it has incredible quality, and while some of the acting could be better, the actors of the Sawyer family all do amazing jobs of portraying the characters, and just how demented they really are.
Final Rating: 9/10
Halloween (1978)
Content Warnings: Sexual content, nudity, violence, blood, drugs, stalking, intense & frightening scenes, jumpscares
Halloween, directed by John Carpenter, is a very fast-paced movie. Despite being a solid hour and a half, the movie never really feels like it’s lagging, with something always happening. Much like its titular killer Michael Myers, it doesn’t waste any time. I, personally, do not find Michael Myers scary at all; it’s more so his behavior that could be scary. The way he stalks his victims and uses his brute strength to overpower them is truly startling, especially if you’re new to the genre.
Post-escaping from a mental hospital, Michael Myers returns to his home of Haddonfield, in an attempt to wreak vengeance on babysitters as payback for how he was mistreated by them as a child. The movie doesn’t really focus on Michael, though. Instead, it focuses on Laurie Strode, the stereotypical “innocent schoolgirl,” getting stalked by the man and attempting to escape death. She’s played by Jamie Lee Curtis, and honestly, the actress does a phenomenal job at portraying Laurie. All the actors are great, with nothing being over- or under- delivered. The whole thing feels incredibly real, and it leaves you tense as you watch. The movie is filmed beautifully as well, with all of the shots looking just right. John Carpenter’s Halloween is a fantastic movie and an absolute must-watch.
Final Rating: 8/10
Scream (1996)
Content Warnings: Violence, blood & gore, sexual content, nudity, referenced/past sexual assault, profanity, alcohol & smoking, intense & frightening scenes, stalking
Wow, look at those content warnings. You must think that that’s quite a lot, right? Well, there’s a distinct reason for that: this movie is somewhat of a satire of the slasher genre. That being said, you wouldn’t really think that on a first watch, or even a second, because the movie passes incredibly well as just a regular slasher movie. It does come with all the cliches, however, which is why it is largely regarded as a satire. The innocent girl with a tragic past, teenagers drinking like no tomorrow, the “don’t pick up the phone” trope- it’s all there.
Being released much later than the movies I’ve mentioned before it, it naturally has much higher quality. The movie follows Sidney Prescott, trying to navigate her life and her relationships. As more and more of her classmates end up dead, thanks to the Ghostface killer, memories of her mother’s death are dragged up. Through these killings, she’ll really learn the truth of what happened and why. The killers of this movie turn out to be her boyfriend Billy Loomis and his friend Stu Matcher. It’s often uncharacteristic of slasher movies to have more than one killer, but given that this particular movie is a satire and that the costume they use is a generic ghost costume, I think it’s meant to say that the killer doesn’t need to be some larger-than-life monster. It can be anyone, even people you trust.
Billy Loomis is easily the best-played character in the movie, with Skeet Ulrich making him quite the convincing character. He’s one of those characters that- if Scream was released today- teenage girls would absolutely obsess over. Stu Matcher, played by Matthew Lillard (or Shaggy, from the live action Scooby-Doo movies,) is also played shockingly well, with his character being essentially the henchman to Billy. Sidney’s acting, however, isn’t wildly convincing. Everything feels either overdone or not done enough, and while she’s still trying to be the good girl stereotype, she simply doesn’t feel that way. She feels like the type to engage in more risky behaviour. A different casting would have worked wonders if you asked me, but hey, I’m not the director. All in all, Scream is an absolutely fantastic take on the Slasher genre and absolutely deserving of a watch. In fact, if you want to know what Slasher movies are all about, I’d recommend it as the first one you see.
Final Rating: 8.5/10
Black Christmas (1974)
Content Warnings: Sexual content referenced throughout, extreme grotesque & sexual profanity, violence, blood, alcohol & drugs, frightening & intense scenes, harassment
We’re taking it all the way back to the 70s with the last movie on the list. This is actually a Canadian movie, and you can find the whole thing for free on Youtube due to Canada’s copyright system, but let it be known that this is easily the most adult movie on this list. Not because of anything visual, but the killer harasses a sorority over the phone throughout most of the movie and some of the things he says I absolutely cannot repeat in a school newspaper. When I say “wait until you’re 17,” I mean wait until you’re 17.
The movie follows a sorority during Christmas, and how they’re being stalked by a man named Billy. Later on, a remake will come out, officially deeming his full name Billy Lenz. Half of the movie is the sorority trying to figure out who the murderer is, and the other half is spent with Jess Bradford, trying to navigate her relationship with her boyfriend, Peter. This movie contains multiple scenes from Billy’s perspective as he stalks the girls and even as he kills some of them. Funnily enough, Christmas has very little to do with the plot.
A fun fact about this movie is that there is only one scene where Billy is shown, and no one knows who played him during that part of the movie. The man who supplied his voice never recorded it and neither did any of the other male actors. He is uncredited. On the topic of acting, the acting in this movie is phenomenal. Nothing is overdone, all the reactions feel rather believable, and when Billy’s talk shifts from harassment to his own personal mental breakdown, it’s absolutely bone-chilling. This movie is absolutely incredible and worth watching, but I wouldn’t recommend it as a starting point for getting into slasher movies.
Final Rating: 7/10
There’s never a bad time for horror movies, as it turns out. No matter your taste, there’s no denying that these movies have influenced culture and media for generations, and it is wonderful that these movies can be preserved and watched through the generations. They are so, so fun.