While Halloween was by no means the first slasher film, it was the definitive classic that launched what’s lovingly dubbed as the Golden Age of Slashers, the period from 1978 to the mid-eighties where the slasher sub-genre was at the height of popularity. After that, slasher fatigue set in and most became straight-to-video releases, where they still remained profitable. Why are slashers so popular? One of the reasons is the death scenes; the more creative and memorable the better.
When trying to find the 10 most ruthlessly gory slashers of the ‘80s, a funny discover was made; most of the slashers I remembered as being particularly bloody weren’t so bloody after all. Often, perhaps mostly as a budgetary constraint, kills were off screen or suggestive, cutting away from the kill moment and opting to rely on sound and the power of the viewer’s mind to fill in the blanks. In other cases, the body count was increased by a lot with blood and gore effects on proud display, but the movie itself wasn’t so great. For better or worse, here are the 10 bloodiest slashers from the ‘80s.
The Prowler (1981)
The Prowler is an underrated slasher with some of the most authentically violent looking kills on screen. So it should surprise no one that Tom Savini is the one behind the effects in this underrated slasher. The killer, dressed in vintage Army fatigues, stalks and kills college co-eds during the annual spring dance. Though his appearance isn’t exactly iconic, his kills certainly are. The killer’s preferred weapon is a pitchfork, though he makes excellent use of knifes, shotguns, and even a bayonet. The most brutal death occurs when the Prowler shoves his bayonet through a victim’s skull so hard that it emerges through the throat. It’s so realistic looking that I tend to agree with Savini’s assessment that The Prowler showcases his best work.
The Burning (1981)
A summer camp slasher with remarkable similarities to Friday the 13th, filmed and released in close proximity to one another, this slasher has the edge in terms of blood and gore. Tom Savini’s special effects are fantastic, and the bloodbath on a raft is a highlight. It earned notoriety on the Video Nasty list due to a very graphic death involving a prostitute being impaled with scissors, but even the American MPAA had issues with the gore. It wasn’t until a 2007 DVD release that the cut scenes of gore were restored. Cropsy was an iconic killer, based on an urban legend, which never quite received the attention he deserved.
The Mutilator (1985)
Originally titled Fall Break, this goofy slasher even has its own theme song, albeit one that’s jarringly out of place in its upbeat tone. That’s just one of the many campy qualities that makes The Mutilator so endearingly bad. This slasher is a weird whodunit type, in that it’s only the victims that don’t know who the identity of the killer. The acting is bad and the dialogue is laughable, and yet that only enhances the entertainment value. Most importantly, though, is the gore. The killer’s use of a fishing gaff is bloody and brilliant, but it’s final showdown between lead protagonist Ed Jr. and the killer that solidifies its splatter reputation, spilled guts and all.
If the pun title isn’t already an indication, this slasher is Halloween themed. It’s also very, very strange. With a plot about a Grandpa who oversees a cult that sacrifices victims on Halloween, this low budget slasher takes a sort of kitchen sink approach. An insane amount of nudity, Satanism, a female demon that shoots lasers from her eyes, and hair metal bands are just some of the weird inclusions in this slasher. It’s a cheese fest, for sure, but it least it delivers on the blood and gore. Decapitation by pitchfork is especially great, but there’s no shortage of blood at all here. Hack-O-Lantern is not a holiday classic, but it is one of the bloodiest slashers.
Also known as Nightmares in a Damaged Brain, or the movie Tom Savini sued to have his name removed from the credits, stating he only served as a consultant on the effects and nothing more. It also marks the only instance where a distributor served time in prison for refusing to release a film uncut during the Department of Public Prosecutions persecution of films deemed too obscene, relegating them to the Video Nasty list. As a slasher film, it tends to drag in the middle while slowly doling out its plot, which sees a mental patient escape from his hospital and stalk a family in Florida all while stacking up a body count in the neighborhood. The climax is worth the wait with the killer finally entering the house and unleashing terror while donning a creepy mask. What really makes this worthy of the list, though, is the over the top, extremely bloody flashback sequence that’s shown in part during the film’s opening before unveiling its entirety during the final act. Between Tom Savini’s influence and it being an Italian production, it’s extreme.
The guy who went to school with Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell and co-wrote Evil Dead II, Scott Spiegel, should surprise no one that he understands gore. This slasher sees a killer stalk and slaughter the overnight crew of a local grocery store. The setting alone makes for some of the most inventive, gruesome deaths in slasher memory. Both Sam and Ted Raimi have lengthy roles as two of the grocery store’s employees, and even Bruce Campbell makes a brief cameo. Spiegel holds nothing back, capturing every detail of the kills. The meat slicer to the face is particularly great, but no death here disappoints. Intruder is one of my absolute favorite slashers of all time. In terms of fun and gore, this one is tough to beat.
Evil Dead Trap (1988)
This Japanese slasher draws a lot of obvious influence from Dario Argento, including a Goblin-like score, and gore master Lucio Fulci. The plot centers on a TV crew that explores an abandoned warehouse where a snuff film was purportedly filmed. Of course, they get more than they bargained for when they get picked off one by one. There’s a very sleazy aesthetic to this film that lingers long after, and the amount of plot twists involved are impressive. But it doesn’t hold a candle to the death sequences. So. Much. Blood. Those with a distaste for eye trauma beware; there’s a slow close-up of eye slicing so painfully gross that it’s a tough watch for even the most hardened of horror lovers. The killer’s identity is so bizarre; I’ll leave that discovery for you.
This William Lustig directed slasher sees Joe Spinell’s Frank Zito loose in New York, killing women and collecting their scalps as trophies. The plot alone is ripe for glorious splatter, and Tom Savini’s effects really make this something special. The opening kill that sees copious amounts of blood washing ashore sets the tone, and it never lets up. Stabbings, throat garroting, head ripping, and Tom Savini’s head being blown off in one memorable scene all prove to be some of Savini’s finest work. No one offers realistic gore like he does. Maniac is sleazy, exploitive, and full of violent gore, landing it among the top in terms of the bloodiest slashers ever.
Violent Shit (1989)
German filmmaker Andreas Schnaas aims to truly offend with his aptly titled slasher. The plot is as simple as it gets, with Karl the Butcher (aka K. the Butcher Shitter) goes on an extremely gory killing spree after killing the police. Not only is this slasher violent, but, well, it’s also shit. This low budget slasher seeks to serve no other purpose but to showcase the most brutal death sequences. That may sound great, but it somehow manages to get boring in its repetitiveness quickly. Feces eating, dismemberment, disembowelings, castrations, and more, Violent Shit is a vicious assault on the senses. As a gory slasher, it earns its place on this list in every way. Beyond that, though, it’s terrible.
An Italian interpretation of an American slasher that sees a killer murdering college co-eds in an attempt to put their body parts together to form a human jigsaw puzzle is every bit as gory as the plot would make it seem. It also happens to be nonsensical in plot, making this a definitive cult classic. The film opens with a boy violently axing his mother to death upon her discovery that he’s assembling a puzzle of a naked woman. Inexplicably, he decides to go on a spree 40 years later without explanation for what triggered him. That’s really the least of things that can’t be explained plot-wise. So bad it’s funny dialogue and a random violent kung fu teacher makes this film hover in a constant state of “WTF?” More importantly, the gore is rampant. The killer’s chainsaw rips through limbs with the most amazing frequency, delivering a never-ending torrent of blood.