Each week Mike will look back to the decade of decadence and provide a list of eight things – from movies to music to memorable moments and everything in-between. Keep in mind, this isn’t a TOP 8 list and any numerical notations are included to merely designate one item from another. Because, frankly, how can you rate one thing over another when they all come from a decade as totally tubular as the 80s?
This week… the topic of conversation is (Mostly) Forgotten Slasher Movies.
8. X-Ray (Hospital Massacre) (1982)
Released in 1982 by Cannon Films and starring Barbi Benton, who is best known for appearing in Playboy magazine and, later, in shows like The Love Boat and Fantasy Island, X-Ray is the story of Susan who is unbelievably trapped in a hospital while someone (and it doesn’t take much effort to figure out who) stalks her, killing everyone she comes in contact with.
Definitely not a movie you’re going to want to watch more than a couple of times, X-Ray stumbles around for almost all of its 90 minutes but has enough of the slasher film genre tropes in it to keep it interesting.
7. Cheerleader Camp (1988)
Cheerleader Camp (also known as Bloody Pom Poms) had a brief theatrical run in 1988 as the genre started to fizzle out and starred Betsy Russell, Leif Garrett and Lucinda Dickey. Here we have a gem of a movie that hits all the right notes for this type of film as a group of cheerleaders head off to camp so they can perform in a competition. There’s sex, there’s some good kills, a few red herring suspects and a nice twist ending. Bonus points for George ‘Buck’ Flowers who you’ll immediately recognize by sight if the name doesn’t ring a bell.
6. Night School (1981)
Making her feature film debut, Rachel Ward stars in this 1981 “video nasty” that has a lot people losing their heads. I want to say this movie feels more “grown up” than your average 80s slasher pic, but that’s not really accurate. It doesn’t follow all of the “rules” that Scream would lay out 15 years later (mostly because it was released early in the genre’s time line) and the characters, while college aged, seem older. Anyway, it’s got some fun moments and a sort of atypical ending.
5. Graduation Day (1981)
Graduation Day is good, ol’ “whodunnit” type of slasher pic which, in my opinion, are some of the best ones. Usually it’s pretty easy to peg the killer at least halfway through the movie and this one doesn’t break type, despite some pretty heavy-handed misdirection in a few different directions. In Graduation Day we’ve got a high school track team being killed by a black gloved, stop watch-obsessed assailant shortly after the sister of a team member (who died during a practice), arrives in town. Keep your eyes peeled for a young Vanna White!
4. Killer Workout (Aerobicide) (1984)
Part of me hates this 1987 offering while the other half relishes all of the cheese that it has to offer. What we’ve got here is the story of an LA fitness club run by a chick named Rhonda. A couple years earlier Rhonda’s twin, Valerie, was severely burned in a tanning accident that – for pretty obvious reasons – put a halt to her modelling career. When a patron of the club is killed, crack detective Lt. Morgan is quickly on the case in an effort to stop the body count. Killer Workout is a very strange movie – not quite a slasher film but not really much of anything else although it does have enough boob and crotch shots of hot 80s chicks working out to satisfy any 14 year old’s indulgences. I will say that the reveal of the killer caught me off guard because it is so bloody obvious in hindsight.
3. The Prowler (1981)
Tom Savini handles the SFX in this 1981 ‘whodunnit’ type of slasher that isn’t really hard to figure out if you pay attention. The titular killer looks ominous in his military combat gear and his methods of dispatching his victims are fairly gruesome (thanks to Savini’s talent with the gore). The story itself isn’t the most original – a graduation dance tradition is to be restarted 35 years after one in which two people are killed which someone doesn’t take a shine to – but the polish and “grown up” feel (like mentioned in Night School up above) make it seem a bit more classy than your run-of-the-mill slasher pic. There’s a couple decent twists and turns but not enough to throw an observant viewer off the scent of the killer.
2. Blood Rage (1987)
Originally filmed in 1983, released to theaters in 1987 and on VHS the same year (by different companies) Blood Rage (VHS) is also known as The Nightmare at Shadow Woods (theatrical) and Slasher (as it was called on the original title card). Louise Lasser (Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman) headlines and chews up every bit of scenery in view during her scenes to the point where you hate yourself for initially chuckling at the thought of her in a slasher movie. This truly is a movie so bad that it’s good. The plot is laughable, the acting is tough to watch, and nothing that happens after the film starts to when it ends seems remotely believable. The biggest plus is that if you need to show someone what the 80s were like, you can point out the clothes and synth soundtrack. If possible, grab a copy of the Blu ray which features a composite cut of the two versions (uncut and heavily edited) as each one featured a scene not seen in the other (and with nothing cut out).
1. The Mutilator (1984)
Originally called Fall Break, 1985’s The Mutilator never enjoyed any type of real theatrical release (save for some screenings) because director Buddy Cooper refused to cut the movie to avoid an X rating. He eventually relented and the movie was released on VHS in both cut and uncut versions. Unlike a few of the movies in this list, there really is no attempt to disguise who the killer might be – after the opening segment in which a rifle accidentally blows a hole in someone, you can tell where things might be headed. Several years after this segment our protagonists are off to a beach house to close it up for the season. Little do they know that someone still holds a grudge about that rifle shot. The Mutilator does a lot with its limited location and the characters are likeable, so it’s a little sad to see some of them go in the various inventive ways in which they’re dispatched.
Have we left any out? If so, sound off in the comments and let us know your favorite (mostly) forgotten 80s slasher movies.