For the stalwart slasher fan, we’re still waiting on the modern revival. After rising to overwhelming prominence in the early ‘80s- an era dubbed the Golden Age of Slashers- the slasher slipped into dormancy in the ‘90s. It wasn’t until the massive success of Wes Craven’s Scream that it saw a resurgence, which died down quickly again at the turn of the century. The baton passed to the emerging extreme horror dubbed “torture porn” in the early aughts.
While the slasher has yet to receive a modern equivalent to Halloween or Scream to inspire the next wave of slashers, all hoping to cash in on that same innovative success, that doesn’t mean it’s been a wasteland for the subgenre. Far from it. The 21st century, so far, delivered numerous franchises like Hatchet and Wrong Turn, sequels to popular series Scream and Halloween, endless remakes, and a slew of original slashers like Happy Death Day and You’re Next. That doesn’t remotely cover the international or independent releases, many of which have fallen through the cracks.
For the diehard slasher fans, these ten underseen slashers bring the fun.
Most slashers frame their narratives through the protagonist, which is most often the final girl. 2010’s Dream Home takes the rarer route by showing the perspective of the killer as she’s driven to kill. Cheng Li-sheung works two jobs to save up enough to purchase her dream flat. Her efforts are thwarted at every turn, from the ailing health of her parents to consistent obstacles at the bank. Cheng Li-sheung breaks and unleashes ultimate carnage. Told in a non-linear format, nothing about Dream Home is conventional. It’s a refreshing take on the slasher, and it’s extreme. If you like your slashers extra gory, this is it.
Dude Bro Party Massacre III
Despite the title, this is a standalone horror-comedy with no previous installments. Created by the comedy troupe 5-Second Films, and based on a five-second short, Dude Bro presents as a lost film that’d been banned in the ‘80s. Thus intentional lo-fi, VHS quality grit. As for the plot, a masked killer named Motherface targets and slaughters fraternity bros. Loner Brent Chirino infiltrates a popular frat to catch the killer. It’s a comedy that plays up the laughs and stupidity but never dumbs down the gorier elements. Dude Bro makes for such a goofy slasher parody that it’s near impossible not to boost your mood while watching.
Anytime “based on a true story” pops up in a horror movie, it’s understandably met with eye-rolls and skepticism. In Lake Bodom, co-writer/director Taneli Mustonen uses the unsolved 1960s Lake Bodom murders that rocked Finland as a launchpad to create a slick, dynamic slasher. Set in the present day, a new foursome of friends decides to camp at the site of the 1960 murders, hoping to solve the case by reconstructing that ill-fated night by the minute. Naturally, things go awry after nightfall, and the killings begin. There’s plenty of originality in the story, but don’t expect a significant break from slasher tradition. Do, however, expect gorgeous cinematography and to have that need for a well-executed slasher well met.
One of the most tried and true tropes in the subgenre is the prank gone wrong. An ill-executed prank often makes for a handy catalyst to murder. Writer/directors Cameron and Colin Cairnes take it to the next level. Scare Campaign is a hidden camera prank show, where the cast and crew set up elaborate schemes to scare its targets silly on camera. The hijinks are becoming so involved, however, that it’s getting dangerous. When a rival web series threatens to usurp their ratings, and they’re encouraged to up the ante, things get deadly quick. The Cairnes first lean into expectations in terms of plot, then subvert it. More importantly, it’s a lot of fun, and the kills are delightfully bloody.
Psycho Beach Party
A strange comedic blend of ‘60s beach party movies, psychodrama, and ‘80s slasher, this parody based on an off-Broadway play brings the camp. Lauren Ambrose leads as the Gidget-like Florence, a young woman determined to become the first female surfer at Malibu Beach. Complicating matters is a string of murders, in which Florence becomes the prime suspect because of her dissociative identity disorder. In terms of kills, Psycho Beach Party is pretty tame. This is more of a genre-adjacent spoof than an outright slasher movie, so this pick is more for fans seeking something outside of the box.
Among the Living
By now, thanks to Shudder, Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury’s third feature has grown a little less obscure. The setup sees three boys skip school to hang out and explore an abandoned film studio. There they witness a masked man dragging a woman across the lot. The kids manage to flee, unaware that the masked man saw them and is determined to silence them forever. Part Amblin coming of age tale, part slasher, Among the Living doesn’t reach the same intense heights as their debut, Inside. Still, with central protagonists that have barely hit puberty, Bustillo and Maury aren’t afraid to put their characters through the wringer.
The director of Triangle and Black Death, Christopher Smith, shows off his funny bone in this comedic slasher. The sales division of a military arms corporation embarks on a team-building retreat in the mountains but find themselves under siege by a masked killer instead. Aside from the wry office humor involved, that this sales team works for an arms company means you can expect a wide array of weaponry at the characters’ disposal. You can also expect things to get very violent. It’s kill or be killed in sales, after all.
Party Hard Die Young
This European slasher harkens back to the post-Scream slasher craze, but with a modern polish. Meaning if you’re feeling nostalgic for the teen slashers of yesterday, this is a worthwhile watch. For Julia, her friends, and hundreds of recent high school graduates, a getaway to a Croatian island resort is supposed to offer the best time of their lives. Instead, it turns into a fight for survival. Julia’s friend is found dead under mysterious circumstances, and the body count quickly rises from there. It’s a straightforward, no frills slasher under bright neon haze and a contemporary setting. That’s not a bad thing here. While the killer’s ultimate motivation is familiar, the identity is far less predictable.
Lesson of the Evil
Described as Dexter meets Battle Royale, leave it to Takashi Miike to bring the disturbing horror. The plot sees a popular high school teacher concoct a plan to address rising bullying and bad behavior among the student body. If you guessed death and mayhem, then you’d be correct. Lesson of the Evil is essentially a slow-burn slasher that crescendos into a shocking, violent climax. There’s a whole lot of taboo-breaking and bloodletting in this gruesome feature revolving around a sociopath, but with Miike’s distinct sense of humor. Its subject matter means this one isn’t so easy to find.
Both Cold Prey and Cold Prey 2 should be required viewing for the slasher fan. While snowboarding in the mountains, an accident leaves Jannicke and her friends in search of shelter. They stumble upon a nearby abandoned motel and quickly realize they’ve become trapped inside with a deranged killer. While it doesn’t reinvent the wheel by any stretch, Cold Prey thrills anyway with fantastic set pieces, creepy atmosphere, and nail-biting tension. Jannicke makes for a tremendous final girl that doesn’t get near as much recognition as she should. Cold Prey 2 borrows heavily from Halloween 2, offering a clean continuation of Jannicke’s battle against the menacing Mountain Man.