Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Slasher Decade: 1984

Between the years of 1980 through 1989, there were nearly 290 slasher films released. Averaged out, that equals two releases a month for the entire decade - an extremely impressive figure. There's a reason why the 1980's will always be famous for having slasher films galore.

Looking back on the decade that now seems like a foreign time, these slasher films help capture a certain nostalgia that certain moviegoers (such as myself) crave. While slasher fans definitely love a good villain, some scary stalking sequences, and creative kills, they also undoubtedly yearn for the 1980's culture - from the big hair to the heavy metal music.

Here is a list of the complete 1980's slasher movie guide (and I might even be leaving some out! Please let me know if I have). Enjoy!

The End of an Era in 1984...

This is the year most commonly called "the end" of the Golden Age of Slasher Films. After 1984, nothing was the same as before - the tones were different, the popularity was strictly found in sequels and straight-to-video entries, and the budgets either grew tremendously or dropped completely. While the "death" of Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter certainly marked the end of an era, there were two other slashers that single-handedly doomed the Golden Age. Both released on November 9, 1984: Silent Night, Deadly Night and A Nightmare on Elm Street. The box office failure and public backlash against marketing of Silent Night, Deadly Night proved that the public was sick of generic slashers in their theaters, and the fans wanted something original. However, A Nightmare on Elm Street was a sleeper hit that changed the game in a very similar way to how HALLOWEEN had: now, horror movies needed to have a spectacular feel, with bigger budgets and special effects that would draw the MTV generation. That's right, Freddy Krueger's first kill was the Golden Age of Slasher Films!

Due to the declining box office of 1982 and 1983, not as many slashers were released in 1984. And those that were - aside from Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter and A Nightmare on Elm Street - were met with little excitement. The biggest reason was that fans had seen these stories many times before, in other movies from recent years, and were looking for something new and fresh like A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Movies like Fatal Games, The Initiation, and Splatter University all blended together too easily with movies like PROM NIGHT and GRADUATION DAY. Don't Open Till Christmas not only counter-marketed Silent Night, Deadly Night, but it also wasn't able to differentiate itself enough from CHRISTMAS EVIL or BLACK CHRISTMAS. The Prey and Silent Madness looked like any other FRIDAY THE 13TH knock-off. 
Unethical protagonists in Deadline and Satan's Blade didn't help matters, either. 

Some of the year's more original attempts fell into that crowd of un-originality, unfortunately. Rocktober Blood couldn't find a decent enough distributor, resulting in an almost instant home video release (this trend would become incredibly common in the following years for most slasher movies). The made-for-home video film, Day of the Reaper, was not met with the same excitement as 1983's home videos were. Scream for Help and They're Playing with Fire saw the lack-of interest in slasher movies, and marketed themselves more as psychological thrillers, with varying degrees of success. Horror-maestro Lucio Fulci made Murder Rock: Dancing Dead, a movie that, like Rocktober Blood, tried to sell itself to the MTV generation's hopes for musical numbers.

While 1984 may be the final year in the Golden Age of Slasher Films, it is by no means a bad year of slashers - and some of the all-time favorites have emerged as cult favorites. So here's what the slasher world had to offer in 1984.

"Calendar Girl Murders" - A millionaire finds his life falling apart when the models of his widely successful calendar are being killed one by one. Originally an ABC television movie. Available on DVD

Day of the Reaper - A hooded cannibal stalks five women vacationing in Florida. Straight to video. 

DeadlineAs he ruminates on his place in the world and loses his grip, a struggling screenwriter also loses his family's respect, and critics tear him apart, leading to a mental breakdown of terrifying consequences. 

Don’t Open ‘Till Christmas - A Scotland Yard Inspector and a reporter work together to track down a serial killer, who is offing men dressed as Santa Clause in various gruesome ways. Available on DVD

Fatal Games - At the Falcon Academy of Athletics, dedicated teenaged athletes are brutally murdered by a javelin-throwing madman.

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter - Jason miraculously revives himself at the local morgue and sets out on another rampage, this time targeting the Jarvis family and a house full of hitherto teens. Available on DVD

The Initiation - A sorority ceremony becomes a real hell night as four girlfriends play one final prank by breaking into the department store building, as a killer tracks their every move. Available on DVD

Murder Rock: Dancing Death - A mysterious dance hall directress is assisted by a shady male model in revealing who the killer is that's murdering her top dancers with a giant pin. Available on DVD.  

A Nightmare on Elm Street - Spectral child killer Fred Krueger haunts the dreams of Elm Street teens, targeting the children of the lynch mob parents that killed him years ago. Available on Blu-ray and also on DVD

The Prey - Six campers jaunt off to a scenic spot in the woods, where they're promptly stalked by a ghoulish killer searching for that perfect mate. 

Rocktober Blood - The lead singer of a rock group is executed after he is found guilty of murder, and two years later he returns from the dead to stalk the singer that testified against him. 

Satan's Blade - Police on the hunt for a crew of ruthless bank robbers are horrified when they discover the criminals have been slaughtered at a ski lodge, and that is only the beginning.

Scream for Help - No one believes a teenage girl when she starts to realize that her stepfather is trying to kill her and her mother! Straight to video.

Silent Madness - Due to a computer error, a psychopath is released from a mental institution and returns to the site of his original killing spree where he stalks a set of sorority sisters on a camping trip. Available on DVD

Silent Night, Deadly Night - Traumatized by his parents Christmas Eve murders and the sadistic orphanage nuns that raised him, Billy Chapman grows up to dress as Santa punish the naughty. Available on DVD

Splatter University - Students at an Ivy League campus are thrown into total panic by a gruesome series of murders committed by a horribly twisted psychopath escaped from an asylum. Available on DVD

They’re Playing with Fire - A lusty college professor who seduces a na├»ve student as part of a sordid plot to frame him for the murder of her wealthy in-laws. Available on DVD

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