The slasher genre always did get a bum rap. It might have made oodles of dinero for the production companies, but they still turned their back on their product for fear of becoming victims to the backlash. Still, as with any tried and true formula, the slasher blueprint became a staple in other types of films. They might deny it, but many a film took the same conventions and just dressed them up all pretty, hoping no one would notice the soiled underpinnings. Here is are the 10+ movies that came to mind when I thought about films that fell into different genres but retained a little of the slash.
10 to Midnight (1983) – Instead of stripping nude for your killer, this guy does the honor himself! Then he chases you around and kills ya! And it’s up to tough as nails Charles Bronson to capture the punk, even if it means laying his own reputation (and his daughter) on the line. Great little potboiler with a vibrant Bronson and a stunningly built killer.
Angel (1984) – OK, so this movie wears its soiled underpinnings proudly! A sleazy exploitation movie featuring Donna Wilkes as the underage hooker on the lookout for a serial killer, this movie captures the truly seedy side of 80s Hollywood and features some great performances by Dick Shawn (in drag, no less) and Rory Calhoun.
Apartment Zero (1989) – The artiest film on the list, Apartment Zero invites the viewer into the lives of two roommates – polar opposites – one of whom is a serial killer. This movie plays around with the conventions of the genre but still leaves the viewer with a mesmerized, disturbed view of the world they’ve just experienced. An excellent film.
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970) – Beyond is a sex comedy that goes all nutzo at the end. It’s all about the slash and dash in this excellent psychedelic tripfest. Watch one of the beautiful people declare “You not just a broad – you’re an UGLY broad,” before getting his head chopped off. I say dude deserved it!
Cobra (1986) – I’ve always been a little hesitant to see the slasher-esque-eries (yeah, I made that word up!) in Cobra, but so many people out there feel differently, so I knew it was worth including. Hey, my action movie, your slasher! Cobra is a fantastic flick featuring Sly Stallone as a tough as nails cop (who even cuts his pizza with scissors!) on the trail of a cult of killers who are out to get top model Brigette Neilson (looking really pretty in a reddish wig). The main bad guy is great and overall, this is one of the best action films of the 80s. And apparently one of the better slashers too!
Cruising (1980) – A bold film about the seedy gay leather community of New York, Cruising dealt with repression and sexual desire… and death. After years of constant maligning, I think the world is ready for a movie that tackles as many issues as it disposes of bodies.
Eyes of Laura Mars (1978) – Fashion kills. Laura Mars mostly steers clear of actual sex in favor of fashionably photographed sex… violent sex. And it’s got everyone in a tizzy, including a killer who is picking off Laura’s friends and cohorts one by one. Unfortunately (for Laura – good for us!), she can witness the killings through her eyes as they happen, which leads to all kinds of mishaps and hijinks… slasher style.
Jaws II (1975) – You got teens stuck in an isolated area and you’ve got an unstoppable killer. Only this time it’s a shark! Jaws II is about the closest to a slasher film that a non-slasher film ever got. And maybe that’s why it’s retained its re-watchability for me over all these years. Oh yeah, and it’s got a scary shark that eats people. That too!
Silent Rage (1982) – Chuck Norris is the guy hunting down a seemingly unstoppable killer in a small redneck town. This movie mixes the action and slasher genre in all the best ways. I mean, it’s got Norris single-handedly beating the crap out of a large biker gang (probably the best scene in the movie) and some well directed slasher set-pieces. Also, the acting is great and the pacing is good too. It’s just tops.
Tightrope (1984) – Eastwood, who already did his own take on the classy slash (before they were slashers even!) with Play Misty for Me, is at it again with this dark film. He plays a cop hunting down a serial killer (ho-hum) but at the same time he’s struggling with his own sinister sexual appetite (not so ho-hum). And you know that leads to all kinds of horror filled goodness, now dontcha?
Basic Instinct (1992) – Admittedly, this movie broke through all kinds of boundaries, pushed the envelope right off the desk and started a new sub-genre of overtly sexual thrillers (most of which could never hold a candle to this one). It is the movie that lived up to the stigma of films that sexualize violence and it had audiences in rapture. I think it’s so-so and let’s face it – it’s kind of a bold face rip-off of Tenebre. Yeah, I said it! And that qualifies it!
Body Double (1984) – Just one murder, but that phallic drill is only one step away from some Russ Thorn goodness ala Slumber Party Massacre!
Single, White Female (1992) – Jennifer Jason Leigh wants to be Bridget Fonda (well, who doesn’t?) and Bridget is putting up a fight over it! This superficial but fun suspense thriller embraced and ushered in the Home Invasion craze of the early 90s. A lot of films including Unlawful Entry, Pacific Heights, Hand that Rocks the Cradle and even Shannon Tweed’s excellent soft core thriller Scorned played with this idea, but SWF took it one step further with a nice stiletto heel to the eye trick.
This article originally appeared on Horror Yearbook