Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Slasher Decade: 1988

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!

Sequels and Home Video Madness: 1988...

Really, it's becoming harder and harder to analyze the slasher film genre by the time 1988 rolled around. Really, its because not much had changed within the genre's parameters since 1987. The films enjoyed the same amount of success, although there was slightly more success with theatrical releases that had not been seen since 1983. 

For starters, the sequels Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood, and the enormously huge A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master all came in number one at the box office (with Halloween 4 and Elm Street 4 lasting for two consecutive weeks at number one). A Nightmare on Elm Street 4 also became the highest grossing slasher film of all time during its initial release, not taking into account ticket price inflation. The film would not be passed until 1996 with SCREAM. Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers proved to be profitable enough on home video to allow for another sequel to be released the following year.

Other theatrical releases were fairly popular, as well. Child's Play was not only one of the biggest sleeper hits of the year, but it also spawned a franchise of its own and still remains popular to this day (everyone knows who "Chucky" is). Even smaller films like Maniac Cop gained enough success to produce two more sequels. And Pumpkinhead was a critical and box office smash, followed with its own slew of sequels. Not since the Golden Age had there been so many immense successes.

Some true cult classics arose in 1988, as well. Films like American Gothic, Scarecrows, and Cheerleader Camp have enjoyed a healthy run of cult success since their initial release. Amsterdamned, Bad Dreams, and Night Screams have become more obscure over the years, but were fairly popular rentals back in 1988.

Of course, 1988 is not all one big success. Many films released were met with a lukewarm welcome. Nobody understood why a film like Death Nurse 2 would ever get made, considering the original's revolting reception. Grotesque, Edge of the Axe, and Woodchipper Massacre have been all-but-forgotten over the years, and for good reason. Bizarre plots started to hurt films - these plots were a thin veil of originality that were never a saving grace. Deadly Dreams, 555, Dial: Help, Slaughterhouse Rock, and Hack O' Lantern suffered from their strangeness. The genre-crossing Phantom BrotherGhosthouse, and Hard Rock Nightmare lacked the needed style. The rise of cannibalism in The Hackers, Cannibal Campout, Death Row Diner, and Memorial Day Massacre turned off a lot of viewers. 

Some movies seemed to similar to what had been done before, and did little to change their plots for marketing reasons. The Last Slumber Party had obvious connections to other movies. Iced was like a FRIDAY THE 13TH sequel, set in winter. Fatal Pulse was just another sorority house slasher. Hide and Go Shriek seemed like Night Screams. And Hollow Gate was a rip-off of HALLOWEEN. The giallo-inspired entries, Too Beautiful to Die, Phantom of Death, and Don't Be Afraid of Aunt Martha were not able to capture the complex mysteries that made the giallo genre once so popular nearly 20 years earlier. 

So all in all, 1988 is another mix bag of slashers. It had its successes and it had its failures. But ultimately, the successes of Chucky, Maniac Cop, Pumpkinhead, and the usual Michael-Freddy-Jason troupe made 1988 a great year for slasher films, probably the best year to come after the end of the Golden Age. So here's what 1988 had to offer... 

555 - Every five years, in April, within five days of each other, a bloodthirsty hippie murders innocent young people, and a police inspector tries to stop him. Straight to video. Available on DVD

American Gothic - When their plane needs to make an emergency landing on an isolate island, a group of yuppies are taken in by the rapidly-religious "Ma & Pa", who are more disturbed than one might believe. Available on DVD

Amsterdamned - A detective tracks a serial killer in Amsterdam who is using the network of canals to hide and attack unsuspecting victims. 

Bad Dreams - Thirteen years after witnessing a mass cult suicide, a girl awakens from a coma in a hospital and, suddenly, other patients are being drawn to commit violent suicides. Available on DVD

Cannibal Campout - When college friends arrive for a fun-filled weekend of camping in the wilderness, they are stalked and terrorized by a brood of bloodthirsty mountain cannibals. Straight to video. Available on DVD

Cheerleader Camp - One the eve of the all-state finals competition, the cheerleaders at Camp Hurrah are being systematically slaughtered by a maniacal killer. Available on DVD

Child’s Play - Nobody believes a young boy when he claims that his new birthday doll is responsible for a series of gruesome crimes that a detective links back to a deceased serial killer.  Available on Blu-ray and DVD

Deadly Dreams - Ten years after his family is massacred by a deranged hunter, a young man begins having dreams that the killer has returned, and soon the bodies of his friends start piling up. 

Death Nurse 2 - Knife-wielding nurse Ethel evades police and health inspectors as she continues to kill patients to collect insurance money and feed them to the rats infesting their basement. Straight to video. 

Death Row Diner - When a wealthy Hollywood tycoon is framed for murder and executed without recieving his last meal, he returns from the grave with an appetite for human flesh!

Dial: Help - After a psychic accidentally taps into the energy of a deceased phone operator, all of her friends start dying bizarre and gruesome deaths. 

Don’t Be Afraid of Aunt Martha - A family goes to visit their Aunt Martha for the first time in years, and are told by her caretaker that she will be back the next day. Then, someone starts killing them one by one. Also known as The Murder Secret

Edge of the Axe - In the forests of Northern California, an axe-wielding maniac hacks up beautiful naked young women. 

Fatal Pulse - When someone starts killing off the roommates of his girlfriend, a teacher's assistant becomes the prime suspect, especially when it is revealed that he has deeper relations with some of the victims. 

Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood - A telekinetic teenage girl unwittingly unchains Jason Voorhees from his watery grave, igniting a bloodbath around Crystal Lake. Available on DVD

Ghosthouse - Doom is brought to the visitors of a deserted house when they start seeing the specter of a little girl and her creepy doll. Available on DVD

Grotesque - Lisa was looking forward to a nice, relaxing vacation at the family cabin, but instead she bears witness to the brutal death of her friends and family at the hands of a group of mindless punks. Available on DVD

Hack O' Lantern - Mutilated corpses, warnings of murder, dark chants, and robbed graves lead a young man to believe a Satanic cult is sacrificing victims on Halloween. Straight to video. 

The Hackers - Rushing to finish her book, a writer heads into the country with her little sister, and the duo begins to suspect that a family of backwoodsmen living nearby are responsible for a series of disappearances. Straight to video. 

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers - Michael Myers awakens from a coma and returns to Haddonfield for his young niece and her babysitter, while Dr. Loomis once again tries to stop him. Available on DVD.

Hard Rock Nightmare - Before going on tour, a rock band and their groupies rent a cabin in the woods. After one of the band members has a terrifying nightmare about a werewolf, a strange beast starts killing off the group. 

Hide and Go Shriek - A psycho hunts down a group of teenagers spending the night in a furniture store for a graduation party. 

Hollow Gate - Due to years of abuse at the hands of his alcoholic father, a man goes on a killing every couple of Halloweens. 

Iced - Childhood friends reunite for the opening of a posh ski resort, unaware that an old nemesis dressed in a skier outfit has murderous plans for them.

The Last Slumber Party - Heavy metal soundtrack plays at the backdrop to this film about a scalpel-wielding wacko terrorizing the teenage girls at a slumber party. Straight to video. Available on DVD

Maniac Cop - After his wife is murdered, a rookie cop becomes the prime suspect in a series of murders where witnesses claim a police officer is the culprit. Available on Blu-ray and DVD

Memorial Valley Massacre - Campers on a holiday camping excursion cross paths with a primitive man with an unquenchable thirst for blood. Available on DVD

Night Screams - A high school football hero's party is crashed by an unseen killer slaughtering the guests in a variety of gruesome ways. Available on DVD

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master - As her friends succumb to Freddy Krueger's wrath, gifted Kristen embarks on a desperate mission to destroy the satanic dream stalker and release the tortured souls of his victims. Available on DVD

Phantom Brother - When his entire family is wiped-out in a fateful car accident, a teenage boy is haunted by the angry spirit of his deceased brother, and soon his friends start dying. Straight to video. 

Phantom of Death - A piano virtuoso contracts a disease that ages him rapidly and decides to slaughter anyone who finds out about his impending gruesome fate as a police inspector closes in on the case. 

Pumpkinhead - When a group of rambunctious teenagers inadvertently kill his only son, a man seeks vengeance by resurrecting a deadly demon to wreak unspeakable tortures on the teens. Available on DVD

Scarecrows - A gang of thieves force a pilot and his daughter to fly them to Mexico, but when one of the robbers leaps from the plane, the others follow him into a field inhabited by murderous, demonic scarecrows. Available on DVD.  

Slaughterhouse Rock - Horrifying dreams lead a man to visit the now-abandoned Alcatraz Prison, but when he arrives his brother is possessed by a cannibalistic demon and his only hope for survival lies with the ghost of a dead female rock star. 

Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers - After years of therapies, Angela Baker returns to camp to enforce camp rules or kill the misbehaving teen campers. Straight to video. Available on DVD

Too Beautiful to Die - Models partying at their boss' mansion are killed one by one at the hands of a vengeful psychopathic killer. 

The Undertaker - A bored mortician suffering from a necrophilia problem realizes that business is down, and he needs to go drum up some new "clients." Straight to video. Available on DVD

Woodchipper Massacre - After murdering their annoying aunt, a trio of demented siblings discard of fresh human kills by way of the biggest woodchipper ever. Straight to video. Available on DVD


  1. You kick ass and so does this page!

  2. CAPTAIN CRACKER! We've been referencing you and this site on the last four episodes of our show at because we've been talking 80s slashers and happened across your invaluable resource of a site. You should check out the shows. You'll probably appreciate them. But we'd also love to have you on the show sometime. Please get in touch on Twitter @horrormoviecast or via email at horrormoviepodcast [at] gmail [dot] com Thanks! Wolfman Josh

    1. Misspelled our domain name, of course.