EJ Moreno with 10 obscure slashers from the 1980s…
When you hear the term “slasher movie,” the images that comes to mind are the hockey mask of Jason Voorhees, Freddy’s glove, and Laurie Strode standing strong over Michael Myers. But what do you think of when you dig deeper? And I’m not even talking bout films like Hellraiser or Child’s Play but the slashers that never got their proper love.
It’s time to dig deep into the grave and pull up some slasher skeletons as we look at some horror movies from the 1980s which may have slipped through the cracks. Let’s venture into the era of the video stores and buckets of blood and find the most obscure and underrated 80s slasher movies. Read the list below or check out the video version of the article here…
– The Slumber Party Massacre
– New Year’s Evil
– The Burning
10. Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1988)
Did I include this film just for its bad-ass title? Not at all, but it sure helped make the decision easier. Awesome name aside, Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama is the exact type of movie that makes you love 80s horror. Known for its amazing casting of three B-horror movie actresses, Linnea Quigley, Brinke Stevens, and Michelle Bauer, this is a little trashy movie you can’t ignore.
A night of 80s bowling is turned upside down when a group of friends releases a creature known The Imp. There’s hijinx that ensue, and it feels perfectly fresh in the bowling alley setting. While it’s overly sexual and ultra-low-budget, there’s a charm to Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama that makes it a fun watch. If you haven’t seen this yet, check it out for Quigley’s snarky and strong role that is easily the best of her career.
9. Blood Rage (1987)
Blood Rage was introduced to me through the wonderful YouTube series,The Kill Count by Dead Meat. I can only thank them for this as Blood Rage is a campy, messy slasher that feels like a fever dream at times. Filled with great gore, all of which hold up today in some way or another, and a dual-acting performance from Mark Soper who plays some troubled twins, there’s a lot that makes this so special.
It also happens to be a weird Thanksgiving horror film, a rarity in the genre if you don’t count the god-awful ThanksKilling movies. The Thanksgiving-setting also gives way to one of the best running gags in the film about cranberry sauce, just one of the bizarre quotes and moments in Blood Rage. At times, it’s a bit shocking that this is such an underrated slasher movie, but then you look at the insane ending of the film, and you see why this one got overlooked by mainstream fans.
8. Motel Hell (1980)
Kind of wild to think filmmakers were poking fun at slashers so early into the birth of the genre. Motel Hell is an early example of filmmakers seeing the formula and cliches of slashers starting to form and already twisting them to their favor, years before Craven did it with New Nightmare and Scream. Not that this trashy little slasher is on-par with those films, but it’s hard to ignore the meta tone to Motel Hell and how it adds to the overall enjoyment of the film.
Also, not many films on this list can say they have 3/4 stars from Roger Ebert, a rarity for slashers at this time. He cites the “refreshing sound of laughter” of why this works, something we can all agree with when it comes to Motel Hell. It’s sleazy, and a crazy person is wearing a pig head in it, but there’s also a tone that makes all of this easy to swallow. Maybe this isn’t as well known as Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Last House on the Left, and that’s fine because Motel Hell entertains like no other.
7. One Dark Night (1983)
Before directing one of the best Friday The 13th films, Tom McLoughlin helmed one delightful paranormal slasher movie. And like the Ebert shoutout in the last entry, this gets its own distinct honor. One Dark Night has a PG-rating, the only one to has so here as its nowhere near the level of brutality as the others. Sure, it’s no easy watch and could scare just about any kid, but there’s nothing as gross as what we saw in Motel Hell or other movies to come.
What also elevates this film is the inclusion of actors like Meg Tilly, E. G. Daily, and the legendary Adam West in the mix. In the era of early horror video rentals, a find like this was something precious. It has all the elements you’d love with a great cast, a paranormal element, some slashing vibes, and a tone that feels just right. One Dark Night also blends genre as its a bit less of a slasher, and sometimes it’s a zombie movie, but also there’s a strange psychic-ish vampire at the center, so it’s hard to place your finger on this. But it’s easy to say it’s one great watch.
6. The Prowler (1981)
The Prowler is early into the creation of slashers, and you can still feel the filmmakers working out the kinks. That’s not to say it’s bad, but a lot of what you’d see here would later feel perfected in other films. Effects wizard Tom Savini and director Joseph Zito come together for an interesting slasher that would make for a great warm-up to their iconic Friday The 13th film, The Final Chapter, in 1984.
A personal note on this film is it’s the first slashers I watch outside of the major franchises that include Friday The 13th, Halloween, Scream, and Elm Street. There’s a welcoming quality to the film as it’s not too gory, it’s not too strange, and the killer at the center is a fine stand-in for the silent but deadly type. While not my favorite out of the films on this list, it’s still a must-see for anyone looking to explore obscure slashers.
5. The New York Ripper (1983)
Giallo fans will be upset to see me count this Fulci film as a slasher, but it fits so many of the motifs that make the sub-genre so good. It’s also the first time the legendary Italian filmmaker went out of the limits of Giallo and went for something a bit more American nasty, feeling closer to grindhouse gore than The Beyond or Zombi 2 gore.
The New York Ripper isn’t an easy viewing by any means and feels like another hard one to recommend to newcomers to slashers. But if you are looking to try something a bit different, this is a great way to experiment with a lot of different horror elements. The Italian filmmaking elements are something that takes some getting used to, and the brutality here is only matched by a small number of films included here. Not for the faint of heart, simply only for the blood-hungry viewers.
4. Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (1987)
Many know the Jamie Lee Curtis-led Prom Night, but not enough people about the sequel subtitled Hello Mary Lou. And in many ways, I think Prom Night II blows the first film out of the water. This film is crazy and strange but feels like it’s actually trying to do something more with its slasher elements than just make a masked man stalk teens. This is like Stephen King’s Carrie in the era of 80s slasher movies.
You can’t skip out on seeing this film as there’s almost nothing like it. Especially when it comes to this franchise that never finds its footing again, and that definitely includes the horrid 2008 remake. For all its faults, Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II is a campy film that at least dares to try to make itself feel like more than just another whodunit-slasher film.
3. Maniac (1980)
One of the grittiest slashers featured here, Maniac, is not for the faint of heart. None of these are for non-genre fans, but Maniac takes a certain type of horror fan. There’s a brutality to everything depicted here, and that’s thanks in part to Tom Savini making another appearance on the list. If you’ve never seen the infamous kill from the film featuring Savini and a shotgun, look it up as soon as possible.
While not an 80s slasher, I would also love to recommend the Maniac remake featuring Elijah Wood from 2012. That film captures so much of what makes this 1980 original so great. It adds a new layer to the story with its POV filming-style and feels even more arthouse than this entry. Yes, any version Maniac is somehow a gross slasher movie that feels like it has more artistic elements than so many others featured.
2. Stage Fright (1987)
In the era of VHS horror, a good cover and a striking masked killer was the one to grab the most viewers. Stage Fright followed that formula by having seriously great artwork to highlight the film’s insane style. The bird mask that is worn by the killer is undoubtedly one of the most original slasher masks.
But it’s not just the mask that’s original as Stage Fright feels wholly fresh and new altogether. Maybe it’s the Italian filmmaking elements of the fact that it comes from Dario Argento protege Michele Soavi, but you can’t find slashers like this often. It’s another artful entry that goes out of its way to change what you think you know about masked killers stalking teens.
1. Sleepaway Camp (1983)
If you know this film, you know why it’s the obvious choice. If you don’t know about Sleepaway Camp, I envy you as I wish I could watch this film for the first time again. This is one of the most famous slasher movies that is still somehow an incredibly underrated and overlooked entry in the genre’s history. There’s nothing like experiencing Sleepaway Camp and all of its insane brilliance.
It’s hard to overstate how wildly weird this movie is, but also how damn fun it is to watch. You may see the summer camp setting and think you are getting a Friday The 13th ripoff, but there are so many layers to this movie that it makes the mother/son drama of those films look like a kid’s film. Sleepaway Camp is a monster of a movie, and there’s no other way to end a list of underrated slasher movies than with this perfect picture.
What is your favourite obscure and underrated slasher? Share your thoughts on social media by reaching out to us via Twitter or Facebook @FlickeringMyth, and if you’d like to help us create our very own horror feature, then please check out the crowdfunding campaign for The Baby in the Basket, a 1940s-set Gothic horror due to go into production this year. We’re fast closing in on 95% funded and have a bunch of perks available, including freebies for every backer at any pledge level!