The 10 Goriest Slashers of the 80s

Beginning with box office hits Friday the 13th and Prom Night in 1980, a slew of imitators followed in their wake.  The 80’s were part of the golden age of slashers, filled with formulaic films in which a psychopath stalks and slaughters unsuspected teenagers.  But it’s really the graphic nature in which the teens are dispatched that entrances audiences, right?  The creative ways in which the villains utilize seemingly harmless garden tools.  And let’s face it, we often root for the villains to give those teens what they deserve.  Raise your hand if you’ve sat through one Friday the 13th sequel after the next, solely for the kills.  The more violent the better, right?  Grab hold of your barf bags, because below are the most graphic, violent slashers of the 80’s.  Guaranteed to appease gore lovers, but plot lover’s beware.

10) The Prowler (1981)

the prowler

A masked killer in full World War II gear stalks and slaughters attendees of Avalon Bay’s graduation dance only to return 35 years later to begin anew.  Directed by Joseph Zito, this slasher features the masterful gore effects of Tom Savini.  While the body count is low, the kill scenes more than compensate.  The film contains what may be the best throat slitting death of all time.  Make sure you get your hands on the uncut version, as many European versions omit quite a bit of the gore.

9) The Eyes of a Stranger (1981)

Eyes of a stranger

Initially released with much of the violence cut, the DVD release restored Tom Savini’s work.  This sleazy slasher features a rapist-murder that enjoys taunting his victims by phone before dispatching them.  Enter new reporter Jane Harris, who suspects her neighbor may be the killer.  With elements of Rear Window and Black Christmas, the film features a smart heroine and a young Jennifer Jason Leigh in a minor scene stealing role as Jane’s blind, deaf, and mute sister.  Tom Savini’s attention to morbid detail is again on display with excruciating throat slitting, stabbings, and more.

8) The Slayer (1982)

the slayer

Artist Kay suffers from recurring nightmares involving very graphic murders.  Her worried brother brings them to an island for a mental break, but plans are dampened when a storm prevents anyone from leaving and Kay’s nightmares become reality.  The killer’s appearances are few, which is a shame because the monster design is pretty cool.  A very straight forward, by-the-numbers supernatural slasher, but the titled Slayer and gruesome kills make this worthy of any fan.  Look for many similarities with the later released Nightmare on Elm Street 3.  The Slayer was originally released on VHS as a double feature with #5 on this list.

7) Nightmare (1981)

Nightmare

One of the U.K.’s banned Video Nasties, this flick is told from the perspective of the killer himself, George.  Released a bit too early from the crazy house, George makes his way to Florida in pursuit of the Temple family with an icepick in tow.  Killer George oozes sleaze and is disturbing to watch in certain scenes, literally salivating at his victims.  The bloodbath in the climax is particularly memorable.  This film is also controversial for press claims that Tom Savini provided special effects, a claim Tom Savini repeatedly denied.

6) My Bloody Valentine (1981)

my bloody valentine

Thanks to the 2009 remake, Lionsgate restored much of the gore that Paramount inexplicably cut in this Canadian thriller’s initial release.  Thank you, Lionsgate!  Finally, we get to see heads being ripped off, eyes popping, and the disembowelments audiences expected initially.  You’ve not actually experienced My Bloody Valentine unless you’ve watched the glorious special edition release, fellow gorehounds.  See?  Good things can come from remakes.

5) Scalps (1983)

scalps

If the 80s taught us anything, it’s this: you never mess with an ancient Indian burial ground.  That lesson is prevalent in this slasher, where bumbling archeologist students do precisely that.  Enter the vengeful spirit of Black Claw, who comes to collect their scalps.  While this low budget film contains many technical errors and sloppy editing, the gory kills are worth it.  The deaths are impressive and the scalping scene, complete with grotesque squishy sounds, looks a bit too real for comfort.

4) Intruder (1989)

Intruder

Sam Raimi, Ted Raimi, and Bruce Campbell all appear in this little seen gem in which a killer stalks overnight workers at a supermarket.  This particular killer makes good use of the supermarket items at his disposal.  This slasher was written and directed by Scott Spiegel, co-writer of Evil Dead II, so think Evil Dead turned slasher flick.  Like most in the sub-genre, the flick is light on plot and heavy on the gore.

3) Maniac (1980)

ManiacPoster

Mama’s boy Frank Zito (named in homage to The Prowler’s director Joseph Zito) spends his evenings on the streets of New York, collecting the scalps of women as trophies.  Tom Savini’s gore wizardry draws out the scalping scenes to chilling effect, and Joe Spinell’s gripping performance as Frank Zito only furthers this film as one of the goriest, most memorable slashers of all time.  The kills aren’t just limited to slowly drawn out scalping, either; look for impalements and Tom Savini in a small role in which his character’s head is blown off.  Chunky.

2) Pieces (1982)

Pieces

The opening sets the tone immediately when a young boy hacks up his mother with an axe for taking away his puzzle.  Forty years later, a killer with a chainsaw is at large at a university, targeting young women and taking mementos of his kills.  Directed by Juan Piquer Simón, this poorly dubbed Spanish slasher features an insane amount of nudity and an even crazier amount of dismembered limbs.  With horrible dialogue, bizarre scenes that come out of left field, outlandish plot twists, and extremely messy kills make this a must see.

1) Evil Dead Trap (1988)

evil dead trap

Late night Japanese TV show host Nami receives an anonymous video featuring a woman bound in an empty warehouse, and proceeds to watch in horror as the woman on the tape has her eye gouged out and is slashed to death.  Ever so brilliant, Nami takes a film crew with her to that very warehouse to investigate.   As the group splits up to cover ground, they meet violent ends one by one until the killer is finally revealed.  This Japanese slasher, directed by Toshiharu Ikeda, shows heavy influence from Giallo master Dario Argento as well minor Sam Raimi homages.  Taut with tension, the ending may disappoint some with its bizarre supernatural twist.  The deaths are not only gory but have a sleazy snuff quality that easily pushes this to the top of the list.  And that eye scene? Pure nightmare fuel.

Are you a gorehound?  What is your favorite 80’s slasher?

31 thoughts on “The 10 Goriest Slashers of the 80s

  1. I actually find that the less gore, the better. Sure, it has its moments, but filmmakers these days use gore to terrify people so much that they actually end up disgusting people and make the story less terrifying than it could be. I’ll take tension and a creepy something in the corner of my eye over a limb being cut off with tons of blood any day.

    Still, I do like Jason Voorhees and Freddy Kreuger and the original My Bloody Valentine a great deal. And Texas Chainsaw 3D managed to balance storytelling and bloody kills very well, if you ask me.

    1. I’m with you on that one – atmosphere and building a sense of dread tends to make for a much better film overall. But there’s something about the 80s that can just pull off nonsensical gore better than modern films.

      1. The film directors then were definitely something else. By the way, have you seen the film “Happy Birthday to Me”? If you haven’t, you should. It’s one of the 80’s hidden horror gems and is good for a scare.

  2. I LOVE this post! My favorites were April Fools Day and Bloody Birthday. Both gave me nightmares (which is kind of ridiculous), and I never forgot them…

  3. I saw the original “My Bloody Valentine” during an all night Halloween movie festival on tv. Don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but the somewhat confined quarters is what makes the movie work.

    Another movie I saw that night and would recommend, but I wouldn’t call a true slasher movie, is the original version of “Fade To Black.” Made in 1980.

  4. As a teenager in the eighties, owning and viewing a video nasty was a badge of honour. I think Zombie Flesheaters was the most shared VHS at my school!

    My fave from this list is probably My Bloody Valentine… Maniac is memorable, but so sweaty and grim!

  5. Good Lord, I love 1980’s video covers. I’m scratching my head trying to come up with a favorite 1980’s slashed pic. I rather love Pieces. Some of the others are in my “supplemental” Netflix queue as my regular queue already hovers around 500. I’m so lame. XD

  6. Thanks for following my blog. Despite the current emphasis on gaming, I also wrote quite a few pieces about horror flicks (and film festivals). I’m a big fan of slasher movies, so stay tuned as well, coz there will be some reviews coming up on my site in the not so distant future :).

    BTW, I know quite a few of these movies (thanks to Arrow Video), but I’ll check out the others, so thanks for this interesting post. Will add it to my favorites ;).

    Cheers
    Sascha

  7. Hi Meagan,

    Thanks for following Cootsreviews.com. I enjoy your sick passion and am now a follower. One of my favorite tag-lines for a horror movie was for a Norwegian trifle, Død snø (Dead Snow), about Nazi zombies – Ein, Zwei, Die! What a hoot! Seems like something you would enjoy.

    Stay scary,

    -Will

  8. Awesome list! I don’t think I knew about the rerelease of the original My Bloody Valentine. That is one of my favorite films from the 80s. I haven’t seen a few of these, either, so now I’ve got more to watch!

  9. Thanks for compiling this list. I’ve been fancying me some 80s style, over the top, plotless gore and it’s so hard to find good movie recommendations these days. I look forward to holding a pre pre Halloween horror movie fest with all of these on the bill!

  10. Humongous…The Baby…Alone In The Dark…The Mutilator…some obscure Slashers that are missing from this list. There should be a list of Top 100 Slashers to give us a wider variety to choose from, just to see if us horror fans had missed any along the way. Maybe add some of the Italian Gialli films made famous by Bava and Argento, the precursor to the Slasher.

  11. I’m a huge gore hound and I am so disappointed in myself for not seeing number 9 on this list. Savini is my go to guy when I want a good gory mess. I hope this movie is available somewhere. Great list. You mentioned most of my favorite 80’s Slasher movies on here. Madman is a great one to seek out. Not super gory but it has some decent kills, and one of the grooviest songs I’ve ever heard in a slasher movie.

  12. Can you tell me how long the uncut version of Eyes of a Stranger is, because the only one I can find is 84 minutes. I liked it, but I’d be interested to know if there’s another, longer version. Your list is interesting because it leaves out many films I know and introduces some I do not, which I will now watch.

    I particularly liked the comment: ‘John DiSanti was my childhood barber.’ Do children have barbers? You have to have a beard to have a barber, that’s the meaning of the name, and that is what they do, cut beards, or shave yours off, which means he was sort of ripe for a slasher.

    Why do so many people find that film dull?

  13. The only one of these that I’ve seen is “My Bloody Valentine”. However, it was a video, so it was probably an edited version.

    Another horror flick from the ’80s that I liked is Dario Argento’s “Phenomena” (aka “Creepers”). Not much in the way of gore, but it has a neat plot. Jennifer Connelly plays an outcast girl at a Swiss boarding school where some murders are taking place. She develops a connection to the bugs and uses them to help her find out what’s going on. Donald Pleasance also stars.

  14. Dont Forget Hell Night! Slumber Party Massacre 1,2,3! Humongous! Driller Killer!! The Mutaliator! Graduation Day! Slaughter High!! Final Terror! Hills Have Eyes( original) Just Before Dawn!

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