My favorite holiday is Halloween because it offers three things that other holidays don’t:
It’s an excuse to dress up as whatever you want (for guys this especially awesome considering how girls’ costumes are.)
The decorating is way better than Christmas because rather than going “Griswold” on your house you get to go “CSI.”
Halloween features the best genre movies. It encapsulates the entire horror genre; no matter how god-awful the movie is, it works on Halloween. Also with the movies, no other holiday is associated with iconic characters (I know Christmas has Santa, Frosty, the Grinch, and Ralphie from “A Christmas Story, but they don’t hold a candle to horror icons). So with Halloween being my favorite holiday I figured that I would write a piece about the greatest horror icons ever. Yesterday I covered the best horror movies of all time.
I realize ranking horror slashers is an arduous task because slashers are like ice cream flavors; there is really no scale to grade them on because it’s all subjective. I could say that Freddie Krueger is better then Jason Voorhees (not my pick by the way just an example) and you could easily make a counter argument, which of course allows someone else to throw another name in the conversation and it just becomes an exercise in futility.
So I’m going to create my own scale and hopefully by the end of it will all make sense (I hope). Anyway, here’s my slasher scale, I rate slashers by originality, mythology, cultural relevance, and quality of films (which in the horror genre is a loose term). So based on this I was able to eliminate a plethora of slashers from some one-and-done movies i.e. “House of Wax”.
10. Officer Doofy/ The Killer from “Scary Movie”:
While I realize that this was a comedy, there is no denying that the Wayans brothers spoof of the “Scream” killer was both hilarious and original. Not only did this killer pile up in impressive body count he was both creative and at the same time a complete screw up. The fact that he could kill anyone he wanted but couldn’t quite hide the bodies properly is hilarious. In one scene he makes a bong out of a fish tank and then proceeds to kill everyone else in the room (except Shorty) while engaging in a freestyle session. He is the only killer to ever stand idly by while angry movie patrons killed his next victim because she wouldn’t stop talking during “Shakespeare in Love” then proceed to watch the film once she died. When his identity is revealed to be special needs Officer Doofy (in a great send up of the ending from “The Usual Suspects”) it made that character all the more hilarious. The movie itself is the best non-Mel Brooks spoof movie and launched the career of Anna Farris. After the second installment in the franchise the Wayans Brothers left and it went downhill, further increasing the value of this movie.
9. The Killer from “Scream”:
By the time “Scream” came out in 1996 the slasher genre was pretty much dead. This movie revived it. At the time it was original because it poked fun at its genre while at the same time being a horror movie. The movie actually laid out rules to survive a situation in which you encounter a slasher. The iconic opening scene where Drew Barrymore is killed was actually a pretty cool homage to “Psycho” by killing what appears to be a main character at the beginning of the movie. The killer himself wore a ghost mask that was and is one of the most recognizable masks sold around Halloween (the most popular being the one where you squeezed a tube and the mask bleeds). The killer was somewhat cerebral and took pleasure in calling his victims before killing them. Due to the tongue and cheek nature of the films they don’t really decrease in quality. Plus how awesome was David Arquette?
8. Norman Bates “Psycho”:
I know it seems preposterous for Bates to be number eight when the American Film Institute ranked him the third greatest villain of all time (behind Darth Vader and Hannibal Lecter). While this character is iconic and the shower scene is probably the most famous horror movie scene ever, what kills him for me is the fact that Anthony Perkins signed on for three unnecessary sequels and Vince Vaughn was god-awful in the 1998 remake. His origin is awesome (Norman, Lecter, and Leatherface from “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” were all based on famed serial killer Ed Gein). Perkins did an amazing job making Bates both terrifying and actually very sympathetic in the beginning.
7. Leatherface “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”:
This guy was an awesome slasher. He is often confused with Jason because of the chainsaw and hockey mask thing. Leatherface’s mask was actually made out of human skin and he didn’t kill just to kill… oh, no, he killed because his family needed to eat. That’s right, he was the only slasher who was actually a hunter. He lured victims to his house and chased them around with a chainsaw. Once he was victorius he would place them on meat hooks and put salt on the stumps that used to be limbs. What further makes this work is that the local sheriff aided in making sure that dumb teens never left that town and made it to the old mansion where this cannibal family existed. While the sequels were not that great, the remake with Jessica Biel is actually really good and I like it slightly better then the original, though both are great.
6. Candyman “Candyman”:
Clive Barker’s take on the old scary story where you utter someone’s name in a mirror three times and they appear to kill you is awesome. Candyman a brutal killer who can use either a knife or bees that shoot out of his wrists. Also, this killer has an amazing mythology; he was a slave who was seeing the owner’s daughter and lynched via bees. How cool is that? This movie produced some terrible sequels but just based on his body count and origin I think Candyman is an awesome slasher. He is not in the top five because of the fact that kids simply do not know this movie, which is sad because he is ten times cooler then Jigsaw from “Saw”.
5. Pinhead “Hellraiser”:
Clive Barker’s first film is low on the body count, but he creates an amazing character that no one has seen before. His mythology is pretty cool in that he was once a human but demons devoured his earthly body and he is trapped in the upstairs of an old house. He hunts human sacrifices to get body parts in order to rebuild himself. Again, cool origin story, and a great look made him fairly iconic. This movie had one good sequel and the rest as you can imagine are terrible but Pinhead was an awesome slasher none the less.
4. Jason Voorhees “Friday the 13th”:
Well, technically he is not the killer in the original, (it was actually his mom who killed the teenage counselors who let ten year-old Jason drown because they were too busy partying).
Now, he does show up in part two for whatever reason hiding his face under a burlap sack (If you don’t believe me rent it) and kills the current counselors because he thinks they killed his mom. So why is he ranked number four? Well, the Friday the 13th franchise is by far the basis for most horror movie clichés (i.e. the horror movie teenager who know that there is a mass murderer loose, yet they still get naked and ignore every noise around them). Plus, Jason is arguably the most recognizable character in slasher history due to the hockey mask and machete. Jason does not have a very compelling mythology though, he’s just a mindless killing machine. Also, the score is unique because there is no music really it’s just the chi chi chi whispering thing.
3. Freddy Krueger “A Nightmare on Elm Street”:
This character made Wes Craven’s career as well as the career of Johnny Depp, who got his first major role where he gets eaten by his bed (well it was Freddy, but still). This character was revolutionary because he not only was a brutal killer, but he was funny too. This was especially true as the series went on and it got more and more ridiculous. Freddy also had an interesting mythology as he was a child murderer who was the victim of neighborhood vigilantes. They burned him to death and he vowed to get their children where they can’t protect them…in their dreams. This was a great play on every nightmare we’ve had as a kid as well as tapping into our fear of the boogeyman. This character is also extremely recognizable with the red and green striped shirt, the fedora, gloves with the razors, and the burned face). There is the iconic shot of the girl falling asleep in the bath tub and the claw rises from her knees ready to kill her only to have her wake up and it sinks back down. The sequels pretty much maintain the same quality as the original and the seventh film “The New Nightmare,” while terrible, was pretty much a self parody (much like “Scream”) so it gets a pass. “Freddy vs. Jason” was so funny I didn’t care how bad it was.
2. Michael Myers “Halloween”:
John Carpenter’s first hit movie after the original “Assault on Precinct 13″ bombed. This movie was amazing for its time and for better or for worse launched the career of Jamie Lee Curtis. Quick tangent: John Carpenter is a highly underrated director because I looked at his credits and he directed some of the coolest movies of the 1980’s such as “Big Trouble in Little China”, “Escape from New York”, “Christine”, “They Live”, and “The Thing”. I just think he’s a little on the underrated side of life but I digress.
Back to “Halloween”, this was great because it was actually a plausible story. A kid named Michael Myers murders his babysitter on Halloween night and is put into a mental institution where it’s ruled that he is a homicidal maniac. He then breaks out many years later and goes on a rampage. Myers does not speak, wears that iconic white mask and just walks around stabbing people. (FYI that mask was modeled after William Shatner’s head. Funny how Captain Kirk killed more people indirectly then any of his spoken word albums ever could).
This character was really the first slasher and reinvented the genre. It also boasts the best sequel of any slasher film. The remake from Rob Zombie, while not as good, is still a decent movie. The score even lives on; I hear it on one third of everybody’s cell phones at one point or another.
Ok now for the number one greatest slasher of all time… (drum roll please)
Chucky “Child’s Play”:
Why you ask? Well, Chucky is the most unique character because aside from being the most charismatic killer since Freddy Krueger, he also is the only one that absolutely needs to kill. His story goes like this: His real name was Charles Lee Ray and was Chicago’s lakeshore strangler. He and his partner in crime are being chased by the cops and his partner bails on him, leaving Charles to get shot by a cop. Before he can die he transplants his soul into a Good Guys doll so he doesn’t go to hell (I never said it was plausible). Anyways, the doll is given as a birthday gift to Andy Barclay who then begins to tell his mom that the doll is talking to him and of course the mom doesn’t believe him. We never see Chucky talk outside of his voice box and we don’t see him move, even when he convinces Andy to ditch school and go to a bad neighborhood so Chucky can kill his old partner. Anyway, skipping ahead Chucky finds out that he is becoming trapped in the doll and even developing a human heart and they only way out is to possess the soul of Andy or else he’s a doll forever. This is revolutionary because Chucky is the only killer that ever faces a race against time. Everyone else just killed whoever whenever; Chucky had a goal. Also, the second film is the only one to be better then the original and I’m looking forward to the remake. The other sequels got more and more ridiculous culminating with “Seed of Chucky” (which I can imagine was written to be a comedy because why else would you want Jennifer Tilly to be your surrogate mom?). Chucky tapped into everyone’s fear of dolls, and like Freddy, he was a great combination of being both brutal and funny. By the way, interesting tidbit: Chucky is the only slasher to actually appear on “Saturday Night Live,” where he was on Weekend Update with Colin Quinn.
So there you have it, sleep well this weekend, and don’t forget to check out my Top Ten Horror Movies of All Time.