Critics usually hate them. Many horror fans think they’re played out. In fact, they ARE played out. But there are certain slasher films (and films that easily fall into that category) that have the ability to entertain on levels their more well known counterparts don’t. 

Escaped psychopaths? Check. Teenaged babysitters? Check. Buckets of blood? Check. Yet some of the films on the following list also offer plots that at least try to bring something different to the table. Some of them are unintentionally funny, others turned out far more gruesome and scary than the filmmakers themselves had anticipated. But one thing they have in common is the ability to keep you engaged until the final reel (okay maybe not my 8th choice, which works on a far different level I’m still trying to figure out).

Lock your doors and tuck the god-awful Halloween and Friday the 13th sequels away for a few minutes and check out some of these lesser-known gems.


1- NIGHTMARE (aka NIGHTMARES IN A DAMAGED BRAIN) (1981) As generic a slasher film as it gets but highlighted by some of the most over the top kill scenes to ever grace this type of movie. The final 15 minutes are a real stomach-churning endurance test. Somehow director Romano Scavolini managed to create a few truly scary scenes in between all the splatter.


2- THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE (1982) The first slasher film written and directed by women is a real gem. A killer with a long portable power drill ruins a slumber party, and while low on gore the film moves at a great pace and features a few jump scares that actually work.


3- JUST BEFORE DAWN (1981) Despite director Jeff Lieberman swearing this isn’t a slasher film (although it is no matter how you slice it–tee hee!), this tale of a backwoods slasher has a neat twist that, while common in soap operas, works great here. Oops. Did I just spoil it for you? Don’t worry…it’s still a great film.


4- INTRUDER (1989) Released when the slasher film had long since fizzled out, this violent outing that takes place almost entirely inside a supermarket showed the doubters the subgenre could still kick some major ass. You’ll never look at a meat-cutting band saw the same way again.


5- SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT (1973) A “lunatics take over the asylum” film featuring lots of spooky atmosphere and a documentary type feel, not to mention a maniac running around with an axe. Cult film legend Mary Woronov stars in this unsettling chiller that was directed by her husband and features members of Andy Warhol’s posse in nuthouse flashback scenes. Is also known as DEATH HOUSE. The killer uses a flashlight to terrorize an old woman in one creepy-as-it-gets sequence.


6- THE MUTILATOR (1985) More generic, pointless slashing, yet done so entertaining you’ll love every minute of it. Features an ending almost as absurd as PIECES (1982) and some inventive kill scenes. Did I mention the ending is absurd?


7- TRUTH OR DARE: A CRITICAL MADNESS (1986) There’s just something about this low budget slasher film that gets under your skin. A lunatic in a really creepy hand made mask, a couple of psychologically messed up scenes, and even one poor little leaguer who isn’t safe from this psycho’s rage makes this one stick out like a sore intestine. A couple of sequels were eventually released but failed to entertain as much as this one.


8- CRIMINALLY INSANE (1975) A true “so bad it’s good” b-movie, this tells the tale of Ethel, an overweight psycho who hacks people to pieces who threaten to cut off her food supply (basically a horror version of the Dom Deluise classic FATSO). A “shock” ending is attempted. Two sequels (that were shot on video) are unwatchably bad. The gore FX are horrendous but the film has managed to gain a loyal cult following. I love it more than anyone should be allowed to.


9- THE GORE GORE GIRLS (1972) The last of Herschel Gordon Lewis’ “classic era” splatter films deals with strippers being offed in some of the most gruesome ways imaginable by a black-gloved killer. But this is no classy euro giallo thriller: this here is hardcore American trash that, while mostly phony looking, can still make you squirm. An appearance by comedy legend Henny Youngman (not to mention nipples being sliced off with scissors and squirting both regular and chocolate milk!) make this a darkly disturbing slasher comedy. Ridiculously entertaining.


10- DON’T GO IN THE HOUSE (1980) While set up like a standard psycho/slasher film, this Jersey-lensed sickie features a killer who prefers a flamethrower to a machete. Unlucky women are tied up in his fire proof basement and incinerated. The ending rips off MANIAC, which was released the same year. How this insanity received an R rating is anyone’s guess, but few films of it’s type can mess with your mind this deeply. The film’s star Dan Grimaldi studied real life psychopaths in preparing for the part and it shows (he later landed a decent role on THE SOPRANOS).

NICK CATO is the author of one novel, six novellas, and one short story collection. He writes the SUBURBAN GRINDHOUSE MEMORIES column for the acclaimed website, Cinema Knife Fight. A collection of this column in book form is forthcoming. Visit 


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