A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984)
Saving the slasher movie from certain death, Wes Craven’s masterpiece would quite easily make the top ten slashers of all time, if only because it revitalized the genre and gave us one of the greatest bogeymen to grace our screens. Freddy (Robert Englund) would go on to become a legend, helped (or hindered) by a lengthy franchise that got progressively worse until Craven’s own New Nightmare turned the whole shebang on its head.
Saving New Line from bankruptcy – still referred to as ‘The House That Freddy Built’ – A Nightmare On Elm Street introduced us to Nancy (Heather Langenkamp, recently popping up in Star Trek Into Darkness), whose parents were part of a lynch mob that hunted down child murderer Freddy and killed him. Or so they thought. In the dreams of his victims, Freddy returned to stalk the children of those that burnt him alive.
A delicious idea, an iconic red-and-green jumper, knives as fingers, and with some of the most surreal chills that still hit the mark, A Nightmare On Elm Street truly delivers. Forget the cartoonish entity he would later become, in the original outing (along with New Nightmare) Freddy was genuinely frightening, and met his match in Nancy, one of the greatest ‘final girls’ in slasher cinema. Oh, and it also stars a very young Johnny Depp. But you all knew that.
APRIL FOOL’S DAY (1984)
Another mansion, another sleepover. Horror fans will love or loathe April Fools Day, in which a group of college students stay at a friend's remote island hideaway and start falling victim to an unseen murderer over the April Fool's day weekend. The reason why this is a bit of a Marmite movie won’t become evident (probably) until this seemingly typical 80s slasher draws to a close; culminating in a twist ending that has made the movie more memorable than it really should be.
Directed by Fred Walton (When A Stranger Calls), April Fools Day was yet another slasher which didn’t take itself too seriously, revolving around an elaborate hoax but starring a fresh-faced cast all eager to please. Clichés are played with, reputations are ruined forever, but it was a hit at the box office, and you have to give it some credit for attempting something a little bit different, even if most that saw it left the cinema thinking, what was the bloody point of that?
THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW (1983)
She had a good innings that Mrs. Slater, cut short when Katey and six sorority sisters pull a prank on their strict house mother. They pretend to shoot her. You can probably guess the rest. With the prank going slightly awry, the girls all agree to hide Slater's body in their dirty swimming pool until a graduation party being held in the house is finished.
We never make it to the last dance. Instead, a sea pig struggles to stay afloat, Slater struggles to speak in sync, the prettiest one gets killed rather quickly (despite a decent double-bluff and a nice shot of her backside), males prove to be complete tools, and we realise that pushing a trash can into a marked police vehicle is only asking for trouble. And slightly stupid. But the naked flesh on show should go some way to compensate for their lack of brains.
Which is all rather entertaining, truth be told, so The House On Sorority Row is yet another standout horror, with likeable characters, moments of inspiration and half decent chills. The lead is no Nancy Thompson, but she's still worth rooting for, and although the killer may not have the fear factor of Freddy, one scene will prove he's no joker in the pack. Until all the cards are dealt, at least.
An Italian horror film directed by Lamberto Bava and produced by Dario Argento, Demons takes place in an old mysterious cinema where all the patrons have been invited by a masked man distributing movie tickets. The surprise attraction - a horror movie no less - centres round demonic possession and graphic murder, but as the audience is about to discover, foreshadows the events that will terrorise the freeloaders who should have gone bowling instead.
Forget the laughable performances and indulge in some quite brilliant body horror that will make this tough going for some viewers. Demons packs in the thrills, an interesting premise (for its time), and imbues the proceedings with some gloriously disgusting havoc - most of it brilliantly executed – that will have you forgiving Bava for creating such lacklustre characters worthy of the barrage of abuse heaped upon them. A camp but comically cruel night in.
CHILD’S PLAY (1988)
Don Mancini must love dolls. He’s been writing about them for years. 1988 was the year Chucky got lucky with cinema audiences, and he’s still terrorising us to this day. Not content with writing every chapter of the series so far, Mancini has directed the last two instalments himself. Starting life as a hard-core slasher movie, Chucky has dipped his toes in comedy horror over the past few years with mixed success. Bride of Chucky was an absolute blast from start to finish but Seed of Chucky somehow lost its way. It’s interesting to note that the latest – 2013’s Curse of Chucky – will see Chucky return to his terror-tastic roots.
The original – directed by Fright Night’s Tom Holland – is still the best in the saga, and Curse of Chucky has a lot to live up to if it hopes to achieve similar success. After 6-year old Andy Barclay’s babysitter falls from a window to her death, nobody believes him when he says it was Chucky, the Good Guy doll his mother bought him for his birthday. A series of gruesome murders lead a detective (Chris Sarandon) back to the same toy time and time again. It seems the deranged doll is planning to transfer his evil spirit into a living human being, and plucky Chucky has his eyes on Andy.
It’s easy to forget just how chilling the original Child’s Play was. Voiced by Brad Dourif, who has provided the vocals ever since, Chucky is an evil little tyke with (mass) murder in mind. He was single back then, without the burden of mouths to feed, which meant he had plenty of time to partake in his favourite pastime. Making Andy’s life a living hell. Effects are used sparingly throughout and still hold up to this day, performances are strong and the script plays far smarter than it has any right to. It’s a repulsive ride for the most part, both energetic and explosive; a superior slasher movie that gave birth to cinema’s most malevolent doll. Altogether now, “Hi, I’m Chucky. Wanna play?”