Horror is powered by Vocal.
Vocal is a platform that provides storytelling tools and engaged communities for writers, musicians, filmmakers, podcasters, and other creators to get discovered and fund their creativity.
How does Vocal work?
Creators share their stories on Vocal’s communities. In return, creators earn money when they are tipped and when their stories are read.
How do I join Vocal?
Vocal welcomes creators of all shapes and sizes. Join for free and start creating.
To learn more about Vocal, visit our resources.Show less
Maybe there's something a little weird about really liking to watch people get hacked to bits on a big screen, but there's no denying the appeal of slasher movies. The success of the genre speaks for itself. The excitement, the fear, the pure evil of the thing... there's just nothing quite like sitting down with a bowl of popcorn and watching a bloodbath unfold (although if you're like me, that bowl of popcorn might end up hiding under a blanket with you).
A Nightmare on Elm Street
Slasher movies so substantially pervade our pop culture that even if you haven't seen A Nightmare on Elm Street, you're probably still at least a little bit familiar with the disturbing antagonist, Freddy Krueger. Krueger may be the ultimate slasher villain: a horribly burned and disfigured killer who uses a bladed glove to slash his victims to death—in their dreams. Unfortunately, these aren't any old dreams.
While horrific and gory deaths abound in this film, it doesn't rely on them for its entertainment value. Robert Englund's portrayal of Freddy Krueger isn't just creepy—it's also darkly witty and all the more disturbing for it. The film can also be seen as containing some thoughtful metaphors and insights into human beings and our subconscious fears.
Wes Craven, Elm Street's creator, would go on to bring us many more stories surrounding the villain, but the original Nightmare will always be considered one of the best 80s horror movies of all-time.
A lot of people love to watch blood and guts fly, but it's certainly not for everyone. Those that have more sensitive stomachs may want to avoid horror films altogether—but that shouldn't be the case. As Hitchcock's classic thrillers (perhaps most notably, Psycho) show, great filmmakers can use pacing, music, camera angles and many other tools to build tension and terror, without ever spilling a drop of blood. And John Carpenter does just that with Halloween.
In fact, you'll see hardly any blood at all in this film. Yet Michael Myers still manages to make you shake with fear, with a slow, methodic hunt of Laurie (portrayed by Jamie Lee Curtis in her on-screen debut) that keeps you holding your breath. Though the Halloween sequels are certainly worth a watch, the original installment is the only one that avoids the gratuitous graphics.
Friday the 13th
The Friday the 13th franchise can be held responsible for introducing the "creepy campground" trope we see so often now. The franchise includes a genuinely shocking number of sequels (one of which features a crossover between Jason of this franchise, and Freddy Krueger of A Nightmare on Elm Street). However, it's generally agreed that the original film is the best.
This horror movie takes place just before the intended re-opening of a campground—where 20 years ago, a boy named Jason Voorhees drowned as the fault of his camp counselors. Now, a new group of counselors-to-be have arrived, and someone is taking revenge on them.
More than one aspect of this movie has seeped its way into our pop culture, but none more than the hockey mask worn by the killer—which (quick spoiler alert!) actually debuts in Friday the 13th Part III.
It's the premise of Final Destination that gives it its edge and its place on this list.
The main character, Alex (Devon Sawa), has premonitions. It begins with a vision of a plane crashing—a plane that he and his friends were meant to be on. He and five of his friends get kicked off of the plane, giving them a great view of it as it explodes. And so Alex's visions come true.
More visions follow this event: visions of his friends' deaths. As bizarre events unfold and these deaths too come to pass, Alex grapples with questions of fate and mortality. The fact of these visions, and the feelings of helplessness that they instill, make for a film that's nearly as philosophical as it is frightening.
My Bloody Valentine
Though not the romantic flick you might want to be watching on Valentine's Day, My Bloody Valentine is one you should at least watch on Halloween (or Valentine's Day if you've had a real rough break-up, I suppose).
As in most great slasher movies, this film features one deranged killer exacting his revenge on an entire town. It takes place 20 years after a horrible mining accident, a common length of time to pass between a trauma/death and a killing spree, according to the slasher flick industry.
Now, decades later, the town is re-instituting the beloved Valentine Dance. Until people start dying.
One thing to be said about this rather campy, 80s slasher flick is that the deaths are really quite imaginative. And gross. And will probably give you a mild fear of your household appliances and accoutrements.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Everyone knows about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It's so often mentioned in pop culture that I genuinely thought I had seen it already the first time I watched it. But it's a classic for a reason.
Despite what the title suggests, the massacre is pretty tastefully done, gore-wise. By which I mean it's more in the camp of Halloween than My Bloody Valentine. But, as with Halloween, that doesn't mean it's in any way less terrifying. It's got everything you need: tension, jump scares, cannibals, and of course, revving chainsaws to sing a prelude to death.
As many slasher films do, this movie is about a group of teenagers... who get killed... and try not to get killed, but mostly fail. And really, you know the drill by now.
Though Hitchcock isn't known for the kind of wanton violence that move slasher movies contain, he is the original master of horror. Based loosely on the real serial killer Ed Gein, Hitchcock's antagonist is a deranged recluse. The horror begins at the Bates Motel, where the seeming protagonist arrives to lay low after committing a crime. But in true Hitchcock fashion, the film goes quickly from predictable creepy murder movie to a film of shocking twists and turns, long scenes of tense, slow pacing followed by sudden shocks, all leaving you feeling rather windswept and off-balance. With brilliant directing and the acting to support it, it's no wonder this tense thriller is lauded as a timeless classic.
Who wouldn't want to watch the bloody slaughter of a group of sorority girls during the holidays? And so director Bob Clark has brought us Black Christmas, one of the scariest 70s horror movies and perhaps one of the most underrated slasher movies of all time. Watching today, many of the tropes and fear tactics may feel familiar, even cliché, but that's not a mark against this film: in fact, many of those tropes originate with Black Christmas. Plus, this film manages to use all those ever-effective scare tactics without becoming boringly predictable. Clark keeps you guessing with some surprising twists and an ending you probably won't see coming.
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
The most frightening thing about Henry is not the scenes of extreme violence and gratuitous gore, but the fact that it's based, however loosely, on the actual serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, as well as his partner Ottis Toole.
As a film of its own, it would stand as a well-made, well-acted bloodbath worth the hour and a half it takes to watch. It's a good old-fashioned killing spree, with a healthy dose of grit and edge to keep things dark. But the documentary-esque style of filming and the reality of the subject matter is what really makes your spine tingle.
It ought to be said here that Henry does not use the same tone and feeling that most of our favorite slasher movies do. It leaves the campiness behind in favor of serious reflections on mankind and the evil all around us.
Maniac is about as dark, gross, and violent as a slasher film can get. And as you probably know, that's saying something.
Joe Spinell, who both wrote and starred in the film, gives a fine performance as the demented villain, Frank Zito. As with many slasher villains, Frank Zito is mentally disturbed, in large part owing to a deeply traumatic past. But that certainly doesn't excuse him from scalping women to put on his mannequins. (Yikes, I know).
Part of this film's brilliance is its coherence of setting, plot, and character. Frank Zito is a grimy, greasy, dark man living in a grimy, greasy, dark place, committing the darkest (and goriest) of crimes. Though it never reached the fame of major franchises like Friday the 13th and Halloween, this horror movie is not one you want to pass by.
Alice, Sweet Alice
Though its use of many standard horror movie tropes might threaten to cast Alice, Sweet Alice into the masses of forgettable slasher films, there is plenty unique about it. Sure, it has all the bloody murder and shock value you could wish for, but it also introduces some new elements into the genre: first, there's a genuine question of who the murderer is—whereas in many slasher flicks, it's just given to be some madman with no real connection to his victims. Or at least, none that matter until the very end. In Alice, the eponymous character is actually suspected from the start—especially surprising, given that she's a little girl. Another aspect of this film that gives it an extra goose-bump value is the deep dive into the eerie and disturbing parts of religion.
Wes Craven first met with smashing success in his creation of A Nightmare on Elm Street and the films and stories that followed it. But after creating such a successful and iconic horror franchise, he entered into somewhat untapped genre territory: meta-horror.
Whether they'll admit it or not, I'm guessing most people have yelled "are you an idiot?!!!!" at their TV at least once, when someone says something brilliant like "let's split up!" or "I'm going to go check out what that noise was!" Because we know the tropes, we know what happens when a deranged killer arrives on the scene, picking people off one by one.
In Scream, the characters are just like the rest of us. They've seen horror movies. They know what's up. And that throws a real wrench in all those standard horror movie go-to plot points.
By being pointedly self-aware, Wes Craven refreshes the entire genre of slasher movies. He keeps enough to make the movie feel like a classic horror flick, but throws out the rest of the tropes with great purpose and awareness, making for a film that is almost as funny as it is scary. That aside, it is still absolutely terrifying and among the best horror movies to watch with the lights off if you want to enhance the experience.