Posts Tagged ‘black christmas’

My Top 10 Favorite Slasher Films of All Time

October 5, 2010

With Halloween just around the corner, I’ve decided to compile a list of my all time favorite films from my all time favorite sub genre of horror: the slasher film. From the inspirations drawn from the Italian Giallo genre, the slasher film exploded in the late 70s and early 80s. The year 1981 gave birth to hundreds of cheaply made slashers and each one of them made money. The simple formula of a crazed killer stalking and killing a group of unsuspecting teenagers one by one has been probably the most successful form of American horror next to the zombie film. It was a direct product of a cynical era still trying to come to terms with sexual freedom and the women’s movement. Some call the films puritanical rage against feminism and the casual sex and drug use of the late 60s and early 70s. Whatever it was that caused this pop culture phenomenon, I regard the slasher genre as one of the most honest and pure forms of horror ever created. To this day Hollywood continues to churn out slasher films for new generations of teenagers to enjoy. They are a rite of passage for young lovers and a good excuse to cling on to somebody in the dark. This is a list of my all time favorites…

1. HALLOWEEN (1978)

This is the undisputed classic that was such a huge success, it created a flood of copycats trying to cash in on its low budget money making magic, and it is the main reason the slasher genre was born. It is also the template for all slasher films to follow: Deranged, masked killer escapes on the anniversary of committing a horrible crime and kills every horny, pot smoking teenager he comes across. The “survivor” girl is a prudish, all American type who must confront the maniac one on one. This is also the first slasher to create an unstoppable killer who simply will not die, so he can return again in sequel after sequel. It is also the first of many “holiday” theme slasher films, taking the best of them for its own and creating the most iconic killer ever created, Michael Myers. Everything about this one is perfect. John Carpenter’s brilliant direction combined with Dean Cundey’s incredible steadicam photography, the erie opening theme music and Jamie Lee Curtis’ beautiful portrayal of Laurie Strode add up to greatness. This film also has the amazing Donald Pleasance as the greatest adversarial psychiatrist ever born. As Sam Loomis, he is the Captain Ahab to the boogeyman’s Moby Dick. This film is a genre definer.

Best sequel: HALLOWEEN II (1981)

2. BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974)

HALLOWEEN may have been the slasher film to start the wave of imitations, but John Carpenter himself was obviously inspired by this, the first holiday themed slasher film ever made. Although its inspirations are more Giallo than anything else, this is the movie that started it all. A crazed maniac has broken into a sorority house that’s emptying out for the Christmas holiday. He delivers frightening obscene phone calls to the few girls remaining and then starts killing them off one by one. The creepiest thing about this movie is the fact that you are never aware of who and why the killer is doing what he’s doing. Several red herrings are tossed around, but in the end the lunatic is still loose and never revealed. This is probably one of the most chilling and creepiest slashers ever made. If Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN is the Father of the genre, BLACK CHRISTMAS is the Grandfather.

3. MY BLOODY VALENTINE (1981)

Another great entry in the holiday slasher formula. This one concerns an escaped madman named Harry Warden, who has returned to the town of Valentine’s Bluff on you guessed it, Valentine’s Day, to extract some vengeance on the towns people who left him in an collapsed mine shaft for way too long. Or is it really Harry Warden? There’s a romantic love triangle at work in this grimy, working class slasher that really changes the game in a very interesting way. The final reveal and ending scene are one of the most chilling I’ve ever witnessed.

4. THE BURNING

The “summer camp” slasher is another wonderful byproduct of the genre and a direct result of the success of the original FRIDAY THE 13th. THE BURNING stands out for many reasons. First, it was written and produced by the Weinstein brothers and industry mogul Brad Grey. Second, it features first time performances by Jason Alexander (with hair), Fisher Stevens and Holly Hunter. Third, it breaks from the standard slasher formula in several unique ways: There is a mass group murder in which the horribly burned killer Cropsey chops up a raft full of kids with a pair of gardening sheers. Also, the “survival” girl prototype is abandoned for a “survival” boy. The gore effects by maestro Tom Savini are top notch and there is a pervasive theme of sleaze, voyeurism and aggressive male sexuality that makes this one a little grimier than the others.

5. THE PROWLER (1981)

THE PROWLER is another one of those slashers that fucks around with the spurned lover concept. This one opens with a WWII G.I. jilted in a Dear John letter who returns home with a vengeance. After killing his disloyal love and her new beau with a pitchfork, the movie jumps decades ahead to a dance thrown at the same sight as the previous murders. This movie is a total balls out slasher with some of the goriest and most creative kills ever produced by SFX master, Tom Savini. It also has a scary ass ending that’ll make you jump out of your seat with fright.

6. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984)

Wes Craven really changed the game with this awesomely entertaining and atmospheric slasher that totally twists the genre in a unique way by inventing a killer who’s already dead and can only kill you in your dreams. Sooner or later we all have to sleep and that’s when the iconic Freddy Krueger gets you with his glove made of knives. The first one is still the most serious and the most scary.

Best sequel: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: THE DREAM WARRIORS

7. FRIDAY THE 13th (1980)

This one owes just as much to Mario Bava’s Giallo classic TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE (A.K.A BAY OF BLOOD) as it does to HALLOWEEN. The first of the “summer camp” slashers, it is also the first to really amp up the inventive and violent kill scenes. Tom Savini creates one brutal murder after another, as a mysterious killer starts offing a group of counsellors trying to open a closed camp. This is the first of one of the longest running slasher series ever made and the introduction to the iconic Jason Vorhees.

Best sequel: FRIDAY THE 13th PART 4: THE FINAL CHAPTER

8. SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984)

There is a perverse joy I get from this film about a crazy orphan who dresses up like Santa Claus and butchers folks with an ax at Christmas time. A child is severely traumatized by watching a criminal dressed like Ole Saint Nick kill his father and mother (after raping her). He grows up to be a psycho who loses his shit at the holidays and starts offing the locals. The movie is cheaply made in Utah and features some of the cheesiest acting since TROLL 2, but there is something so delightfully WRONG about the movie, I just can’t help but love it to death. B-movie hottie Linnea Quigley impaled on a pair of deer antlers while topless and wearing a pair of Daisy Duke’s has to be seen to be believed. This movie was picketed by angry parents upon its initial release for degrading the holiday. Just another reason to love it.

Best sequel: SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT 2

9. SLEEPAWAY CAMP (1984)

If you’ve never seen SLEEPAWAY CAMP before, you haven’t lived a full and complete life. It is one of the craziest, weirdest, most off center summer camp slashers ever conceived. People are killed with boiling pots of water, beehives and a hot curling iron. The acting is unnerving at times. The overall ambience of the film is like David Lynch on model glue. And the ending! My god, the fucking insanity that is the ending must be seen with your own eyes, which you will need to wash out with powerful industrial chemicals afterwards. Only the 1980’s could produce a film this warped and fun to watch.

Best sequel: THE RETURN TO SLEEPAWAY CAMP

10. SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE (1984)

What happens when a feminist writes a slasher movie and it’s directed by another female? SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE is what happens, bitches! This film works as a parody of the genre, while at times it also appears to be playing it somewhat straight. The result is a hilarious send up of all the slasher standards that have come before it. A group of high school girls throw a slumber party and an uninvited guest shows up and starts killing them. The maniac is a very average looking guy clad from head to toe in denim and sporting a large drill that is used more than once as an obvious phallic symbol. The movie is what Eli Roth’s THANKSGIVING trailer was. A very funny take on a worn formula.

Best sequel: SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE 3

Hope you enjoyed my Slasher Top 10. If I get a chance, I’ll do a list of the rarest and most seldom seen slashers of all time soon. Nerd out!

Advertisements

A Grindhouse Christmas @ the New Bev!

December 18, 2009

“CHRISTMAS EVIL is the best seasonal film of all time. I wish I had kids. I’d make them watch it every year and, if they didn’t like it, they’d be punished!” – John Waters

For the past three years I’ve made it a yuletide tradition here in L.A. to attend the annual Grindhouse Film Festival Christmas show at the New Beverly Cinema. The first year I went, it was a double bill of the perennial favorite BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974) and the incredible Santa Claus slasher from Utah, SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984). Last year it was once again BLACK CHRISTMAS along with a haunted house Xmas movie called SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT (1974). This year it was the amazing CHRISTMAS EVIL (1980) along with once again, the ever popular BLACK CHRISTMAS. It was a rockin’ show.

I’d seen CHRISTMAS EVIL awhile ago on cable and thought it was good, but I really loved watching it again with the Grindhouse crowd and it has now become one of my holiday favorites. Before the show, the star of the film BRANDON MAGGERT came out to introduce it. He did a brief and very amusing Q and A, but had to cut it short because he hadn’t eaten dinner yet and wanted to get home. I’d like to mention how great it was that over the last 30 years his hair has turned white and he now sports a beard and square framed reading glasses that really make him look a lot like old St. Nick. If you’ve seen the film before, you’ll understand how awesome this is.

BRANDON MAGGERT discusses the finer points of CHRISTMAS EVIL.

Before the movie there was a special Xmas trailer reel that included two really bizarre looking films called SANTA CLAUS (looked like a Grimm’s fairy tale version of the story) and THE CHRISTMAS THAT ALMOST WASN’T (like a Hammer horror version of a Xmas film), an anime HEIDI clip and LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (why I don’t know).

CHRISTMAS EVIL (A.K.A. YOU BETTER WATCH OUT, which was the title on the director’s print we saw) tells the tale of Harry Stadling (BRANDON MAGGERT), a worker in a toy factory called JOLLY TIMES TOYS, who is really obsessed with all things Christmas. He’s taken to spying on the local kids in the neighborhood, to see who’s being naughty and nice. The closer he gets to the 25th of December, the more manic his obsession grows, until finally he decides to actually “become” Santa Claus. Donning a Santa suit and converting his van into a sleigh (complete with reindeer painted on the side), he takes off on Christmas eve night to teach the city the true meaning of the holiday, even if he has to commit murder to prove it!

"You talkin' to me, Santa? You talkin' to me?"

Simply the greatest image ever and next year's Xmas card.

CHRISTMAS EVIL is a highly entertaining black comedy horror film that is kinda like TAXI DRIVER if Travis Bickle was a violent Santa Claus impersonator. There is nothing more pleasing to my twisted holiday senses then watching an angry mob of torch wielding New Yorkers chase Santa Claus through the streets of Queens. It went over very well and afterwards we were treated to a nice Q and A from the director, LEWIS JACKSON.

LEWIS JACKSON tells the New Bev crowd the joys and sorrows of directing CHRISTMAS EVIL.

There was a brief intermission, followed by the second feature…

If you’ve never seen Bob Clark’s Canadian made prototype holiday slasher classic BLACK CHRISTMAS before and think you’re hip on the genre, you’re not. This is the FIRST of its kind and is clearly a major influence for JOHN CARPENTER’S HALLOWEEN. It started all the staples of the slasher formula, including the killer POV shot, the one by one stalk and kill and the lone survivor girl. It also happens to be one of the most effectively frightening of its kind.

A hapless victim of the deranged killer.

This image consistently raises the hairs on the back of my head every single time I watch it.

A group of sorority sisters are all preparing to go home for Christmas vacation, completely unaware that a psychotic killer is hiding in their attic, ready to pick them all off one by one. The unknown maniac taunts them from time to time with a series of the creepiest obscene phone calls imaginable, while the inept police try to trace them. After eliminating a huge red hearing, the film concludes with one of the most erie endings ever, where the killer is still loose in the house with the last survivor and we still have no idea who he is or why he’s doing it. It’s brilliant and I think it’s a lot more frightening than if we were told his motivations and he were caught or killed.

It was another amazing Christmas at the Grindhouse and Brian Quinn told me he’s going to try to get a print of the sublime street corner Santa slashing epic DON’T OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS for next year. Can’t wait for then and in the meantime, I’ll try to be a little nicer and a little less naughty. If I can. Merry Christmas to everyone from Planet of the Nerds and a Happy New Year too! And stay tuned for my BEST OF 2009 list coming soon!