We’ve all seen them. They’re inescapable. Their headlines draw us like a moth to flame with their promise of economic, streamlined order. “They” are The Listicle. A collection of items in article form, listed, that serve a purpose of unifying themselves within a specific category. Sometimes they’re listed in the order of worst to best…sometimes they piss you off. One thing they all have in common? They exist as one writer’s opinion. Across the web you can find them ranking everything from makeup brushes, wine, adult diapers, and even listicles that detail the various “types” of listicle. It’s enough to make your head spin, Regan style. We endure, however, because we the people need to know! On this site, we feature plenty of cool, thought-provoking “Top 10” and “Best Of” lists. But, what about you hardcore junkies out there who need a serious fix of the overly specific, “no one asked for this” type of information? I got the hit that you seek here on “Listicle of Death.” I’ll be drilling down to find out the best “Deaths by Ice Cream,” or the “Best ‘Oh, No! I’ve Discovered the Killer’s Lair!’ Slasher Film Moments.” Yep…specific.
There’s a moment that comes without fail in almost any slasher film. You know the one? It’s just about as important as the “good girl” shrugging off the advances of her horndog boyfriend or the leering POV shots as the killer stalks his prey from the shadows. It’s a scene that typically signifies the launching of the third act. Our heroine is likely still under the guise that everything is just peachy keen and her friends have all decided to play an illogically impromptu game of hide and go seek without her knowledge. She searches around the house calling out “this isn’t funny,” and maybe the killer appears and begins to chase her towards this specific destination…or maybe she simply stumbles upon it through sheer dumb luck. No matter how she may have found herself here, the outcome is almost always the same. A shack/shed/bedroom/abandoned house/sauna (or other less frequented dwelling) is uncovered to be the hidey-hole of our psychotic madman. How do we know this? Well, in this moment our final girl realizes all her friends are dead and their bodies are all neatly propped up before her, the inflicted wounds of their demise on full display.
Moments like these would send anyone into “fight or flight” mode, and as cliche as it may seem, that’s why it’s the perfect catalyst for the climactic showdown to come between final girl and psycho killer. Granted, some films merely utilize this scenario to prove just how kooky the killer really is. Either way, this is “Listicle of Death,” so what follows is a list of that thing we just talked about. 😉 Oh, and obvi spoilers.
The film that inspired this specific list was Moonstalker. Say, you’ve never heard of Moonstalker? Well, of course you haven’t. I’d be surprised by anyone who steps forward with pre-existing knowledge of this late entry, bargain bin horny teens die in the woods flick. Though, I’d be mightily impressed by said persons dedication to watching every single bit of 80’s horror trash they could get their hands on. I’ve made it part of my life’s mission to do just that, and Moonstalker was the most recent casualty. In all honesty, the film actually starts out with a level of regional charm and a genuinely creepy camper assault ala The Hills Have Eyes (though, thankfully far less rapey). Our killer is a murderous nut who was busted out of the asylum by his Pappy. Running through the woods in a tattered mask and straight jacket, he cuts an imposing image. Unfortunately, that look is quickly traded in for a cowboy hat and mirrored glasses(!). Moonstalker feels like a tight short film that had an hour of bonus material tacked on in order to make it to the VHS market…and it’s certainly not the worst thing to come out of such a situation.
The “Dead Friend” reveal is actually handled with a bit of panache and style. A bumbling detective (who was only introduced in the third act minutes before) stumbles upon what appears to be a group of campers, happily swaying back and forth on a makeshift swing while singing “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain.” As he cautiously approaches it becomes clear that something is off, and these campers aren’t nearly as spirited as they first appeared to be. In fact, it’s only a recording playing through a boombox and a gaggle of dead bodies lined up as a part of a trap set by our conniving big chinned, sunglasses at night villain.
Before turning to a partnership with the Maestro of Italian horror, Dario Argento, with two unofficial sequels in the Demons franchise, Michele Soavi directed his first feature – Stage Fright (AKA Aquarius). Despite its Italian genre influence (flashy camera moves, nightmarish lighting, a hypnotic score), Stage Fright isn’t a Giallo film. However, you may see it mentioned as such elsewhere. No, Soavi delivers a tightly paced, mean-spirited, and ultra-violent mozzarella slasher (see Ruggero Deodato’s Bodycount for another prime example of this sub-subgenre). An acting troupe is unknowingly locked inside their theater with an escaped lunatic. As the cast is whittled down one by one, Alicia becomes the last one standing. It’s an eerily gorgeous moment as the entire cast and crew of corpses are lined up across the empty stage. Square in the middle is our unhinged psycho sporting an oversized owl mask. Feathers, caught in the ebb of a wind machine, floating down into the puddles of blood.
Happy Birthday to Me (1981)
Happy Birthday to Me is an early Canadian production that lifts just enough from the American slasher genre as well as the mystery forward Giallo to produce “Six of the most bizarre murders you will ever see.” While the infamous image of a shish kabob protruding from a victim’s mouth is hands down one of the most memorable promotional images from the slasher Golden Age, the marketing department didn’t stop there. There was an entire promotion guide sent out to theaters that suggested fun gimmicks to help drive ticket sales. One involved a bloody recreation of one of the film’s climactic moments, a butchered birthday cake surrounded by party hats and favors. Of course, unlike the film, theater owners weren’t expected to line up a group of rigid corpses around the sweet confection. The “All my friends are dead…” moment in Happy Birthday to Me culminates with one of the most absurd Scooby Doo reveals this side of Shyamalan’s The Village. Though, for those who’ve yet to catch this early slasher gem, mum’s the word.
Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
Almost any entry in Friday the 13th would’ve wound up on this list. But, seeing as to Part 2 holds a special place in my heart, I figured I would take the excuse to bring up the amazing Ginny (Amy Steele), easily one of the best final girls in hack n’ slash history. Jason has never had much of a pension for “propping up” his victims, but Mr. Voorhees loves to play hide the corpse with his panicked heroines. In the final third of Part 2, Ginny and Paul return from their night out on the town to discover the power is out, everyone is missing, and one of the bedrooms is covered in an uncomfortable amount of blood. Once Baghead Jason leaps from the darkened shadows of the cabin and attacks Paul, Ginny instantly kicks into survival mode, dodging and ducking each and every one of her attacker’s advances. Ultimately, she winds up in Jason’s shack where she not only discovers a shrine to ol’ mom’s decapitated head but the slain remains of some of her friends as well as the town sheriff. Thankfully, Ginny thinks fast and dons Ms. Voorhees’s tattered sweater, impersonating her long enough to get the upper hand on backwoods Jason.
Sleepaway Camp 2: Unhappy Campers
Sleepaway Camp maintains its cult classic status due to a final shot that will forever burn bright in the minds of horror hounds everywhere. Its sequels don’t have such an iconic hook to hold on to, but they still have their fans. In Sleepaway Camp 2: Unhappy Campers, there’s no mystery as to who the killer is. We know full well who it is from the get-go. It’s Angela, and she’s a…girl! Yep, after going through with gender reassignment surgery, Angela is back at camp, Camping Rolling Hills this time out, and ready to rack up a body count (this time played by Bruce’s sister, Pamela Springsteen). What’s a girl to do when campers and counselors start going missing at an alarming rate? Load them off in your killer lair, a dingy shack tucked away in the woods, of course. Perhaps, Angela is merely seeking to recreate that one magical summer when she truly became a woman? I dunno, but it’s hilarious once our heroes, Molly and Sean, uncover the hideout and Angela’s handiwork. As the camera careens around the room, the bodies are displayed using a mixture of dummies and makeup effects. Almost every other corpse can clearly be seen breathing. I suppose they were just waiting for Angela to leave to make their escape?
With a slasher film resurgence coming ’round the bend any day now, it’s likely we’ll have another corpse filled wheelbarrow full of “Dead Friend” moments to add to this list. It’s a timeless cliché that never gets old in my book.