More than any other sub-genre of horror, the slasher formula is the hardest to screw with while still satisfying the fans. I know a guy who won't consider Nightmare On Elm Street a slasher movie simply because it has supernatural elements (by the same reasoning he also discounts any Friday the 13th starting with Jason Lives), and there's a movie on the list below that I was told wasn't even horror simply because the slasher angle was one of many. And to some extent I agree with the basic sentiment; I've seen certain films lumped in with Halloween and Friday the 13th that I don't consider slashers at all, so the definition can vary. But how far can you step outside the boundaries?
This is not a "best of" list - I really like some of these movies, others bored or infuriated me. But these are (some of) the lesser known movies that toyed with the slasher formula or really went outside of its comfort zone, but in my eyes still delivered the core ingredients (for better or worse). Obviously movies like Scream and (if you count them) the Final Destination movies had the same MO, but these went even further. And with one exception, weren't treated to releases on thousands of screens and rewarded with tens of millions of dollars in box office for their efforts. For a genre plagued by copycatting, I think these movies - even the ones I didn't like - deserve recognition for going off the beaten path. With my daily viewing, it gets harder to tell movies apart in my head just after a few weeks, but these all stuck with me thanks to their refusal to stick to the template.
Behind The Mask
Right now there's a Kickstarter to get a sequel to this one funded, which is depressing - it's not a huge amount, so why won't Anchor Bay (who distributed the film) put up the dough to give Leslie Vernon another killing spree in Glen Echo? Then again, I'm not sure a sequel can live up to the simple brilliance of the original, which follows a documentary crew who are doing a piece on Vernon, a would-be Michael Myers about to embark on his first massacre. Eventually it gives way to a fairly standard (but above average) slasher, but what makes it so great is seeing all of the cliches explained. Ever wonder why a tree branch will snap so quickly when a protagonist climbs on one to hide or escape? Because the killer has gone around and scored them all the day before! Each and every bad slasher you've ever sat through became justified the second this one was released - the more slashers you've seen, the funnier its jokes will be.
The inspiration for this article, as it hits DVD/Blu-ray today, Detention is possibly the only slasher/time travel movie on record. Our heroes are being menaced by a killer named Cinderhella that has seemingly stepped out of a movie series of the same name and into the "real world," but the great thing about the movie is that there's so much other stuff going on, each slasher setpiece almost comes as a surprise. Just when you start to wonder if they had simply abandoned the slasher angle (or ran out of room for it), it comes back with a bang, and as a result this slasher nut was distracted away from guessing the killer. Not a perfect movie by any means, but certainly one of the more out there titles on the list.
Don't Go In The Woods
I was not a fan of the outcome, but damned if I wouldn't rush to see another attempt at a slasher musical should anyone ever try again. Much like Detention, the slasher angle is a bit lost in the mix, but the difference is the kill sequences here aren't worth a damn, as director Vincent D'Onofrio is clearly more interested in the parts that deal with a bad emo band trying to write new songs. Some of them aren't too bad (if you're a fan of things like Bright Eyes or Dashboard Confessional, that is), and pretty much every character gets to sing at one point or another, giving it a full musical feel - but the underwhelming slasher stuff keeps it from ever fully coming to life. Worth a look out of curiosity, I guess.
A highlight of the UK Frightfest in 2010 (the only one I've been able to make it to so far), this tells the story of a woman who is killing the occupants (or guests) of an apartment she desperately wants. What sets it apart is a series of flashbacks that explain why she needs it so badly, giving it a surprising amount of poignancy (it's also timely, as the real estate collapse in the mid/late 00s ties into the film's events). Picture the over the top gore and creative weaponry of the best Friday the 13th movie but where you actually feel really bad for Jason, and you'll get an idea of what Dream Home's all about. Bonus: it's a rare Hong Kong slasher.
Eye See You
I've already covered this one in detail, but it's worth repeating - a slasher film starring Sylvester Stallone and a bunch of other tough guy character actors (Robert Patrick, Tom Berenger, Charles Dutton...). And no, it's not some early '70s thing that he did before Rocky - it's from 2002, during Sly's career low point where he was trying new things that mostly didn't work. The slasher story is typical "I'm mad at you so I'm going to kill everyone but you and then explain myself" nonsense, but there's just something so wonderfully odd about seeing a bunch of middle aged men going through the familiar beats.
My Soul To Take
Wes Craven has made movies featuring things like a serial killer that can jump through TVs, a dog that has flashbacks, a girl who grows a robot skeleton and a Swamp Thing, and yet My Soul To Take ranks as his weirdest movie. On paper it sounds like typical stuff - on the anniversary of a serial killer's death, someone starts murdering the members of a group of teens who were born on that night. However, whenever someone opens their mouth you'll be treated to some form of alien language that is comprised of English words but is in no way "English." I spent most of the film simply trying to get the gist of what the hero was saying at any given point, but eventually gave up and just enjoyed things like the scene where he dresses up like a bird and pukes on a classroom rival. And let's pour out a forty for the character who is mortally wounded and uses his last seconds on Earth explaining the entire process of how he got into the house. Adding to the nuttiness, the movie was converted to 3D for reasons no one can adequately explain.
A Night To Dismember
Any movie that contains the line “Vicky felt as though someone faceless was making love to her in bright flashing colors that were changing from one second to the next.” can't be dismissed. Full disclosure: much of this film's strangeness might not have been intentional - a lab fire and other mishaps resulted in half the footage being lost, leaving the story (about someone knocking off family members for an inheritance) a bit muddled, to put it gently. Come for the narrator who explains potential plot holes by claiming that he read every character's diaries, stay for the dude who is swiftly beheaded by the light tapping of an axe.
The killer in Sledgehammer does indeed have a sledgehammer, but he uses a knife for most of his kills. And yet, that's the LEAST weird thing about this shot on video gem from the '80s, which abuses the concept of slow-motion so much that even Zack Snyder would be offended. No matter how mundane the action is, the editor apparently was under strict orders to slow down the footage every five minutes or so, and thus we get slow motion shots of sex/violence AND people wandering through a field or plugging in an appliance in equal measure. It also features the longest establishing shot in movie history, so there's something. For "so bad it's good" fans who enjoy having their brain broken every few minutes, Sledgehammer is a damn near perfect option.
Slumber Party Massacre II
Like Don't Go In The Woods, this is often dubbed a slasher musical, though that's not entirely accurate. The killer is just some rockabilly psycho who bursts into song every now and then, and his intended victims are in a girl band, but it doesn't really fit the mold of a "musical" any more than Coyote Ugly does. It also has a character flashing back to events in the first film that she wasn't there to see, and a meal of corn dogs and champagne. All this, and the movie's only 75 minutes long!
To Sir With Love
Korea also took a break from ghosts to offer this solid revenge-driven slasher that is also known as Bloody Reunion. The killer alone sets it apart from many others - his mask is that of a deranged bunny rabbit, but what it offers is a series of flashbacks (think Lost) that fill in the backstory of these characters. Since the main problem with many entries in the sub-genre is that the protagonists are paper-thin and given a single trait each (the jock, the nerd, etc), it's refreshing to see one that found a way around that problem without slowing the movie down too much. It also cribs a twist from a polarizing horror film (to say which one would be a spoiler) but does a much better job of implementing it, so well done!
I want to hear from you guys - what are some of the more out there slasher films you've seen? And do you think that any of these are too far removed from tradition to still be grouped with Ghostface and the rest?