What with the release of Adam Green’s Hatchet II storming theaters and midnight showings across the country we look back at ten excellent slasher films of the last ten year that you should pick up as soon as possible to celebrate the release of Green’s important horror film soon showing in a theater near you!
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
Back in 2006, director Scott Glosserman took the formula for Wes Craven’s "Scream" and turned it in to a good movie, something of a stroke of genius that continues to be overlooked to this day. Appreciated among the conglomerate of slasher fans across the board, "Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon" is a tongue in cheek dissection of slasher movies while also acting as something of a meta-slasher in the process. Glosserman doesn’t just invent his own slasher icon, he’s created the ultimate slasher who knows how to showboat and perform illusions that create an almost supernatural aura to him while also touting him as a fan boy who aspires to be regarded as highly as Jason Voorhes and Michael Meyers both of whom are mortal men who knew how to create their image for their victims. In Leslie Vernon’s world, he is a bonafide celebrity seeking immortality and he’s pegged a documentary crew to chronicle his rise to fame, meanwhile he lays out the specifics and tropes of slasherdom including the fate of the final girl, the importance of virginity in the final girl, and the relevance of hand held weapons when confronting an axe maniac. Glosserman draws the PT Barnum of serial killers with "Behind the Mask" and concocts a maniac more menacing than Craven’s own.
Though now reduced to just directing remakes and remakes only, director Alexandre Aja stormed the gates of America with his French slasher entitled "Switchblade Romance," or as it became known "High Tension." Bending the reality of the typical slasher film by creating a narrator whose intentions and recollections were completely and utterly foggy to begin with, Aja sets down on two young women headed to the country side to meet with Alexa’s family and prepare for a weekend of relaxation and bonding. What begins as a countryside tedium works its way in to sheer mayhem as Le tueur, a mountainous man with a baseball cap shows up at the door and proceeds in slaughtering Alexa’s entire family before friend Marie’s eyes. Filled with breakneck pacing and disturbing gore, Aja turns "High Tension" in to a nerve shattering slasher film where Marie struggles to evade the madman who holds Alexa hostage inexplicably, and soon begins a battle of wits with the merciless maniac. Cecille De France is the perfect amalgam of vulnerable and swift as heroine Marie who uses all of her resources to take on the baseball capped maniac leading to a twist of a final half that is so radical and so unusual, it continues to split horror loyalists to this day. Aja’s "High Tension" is a wonderful debut with a twist revealing the true visage of heroine Marie that will either infuriate or provoke horror audiences across the globe.
Freddy vs. Jason
After almost two decades fans were given the opportunity to watch two horror juggernauts throw down in a red tint with busty Monica Keena looking on and jiggling incessantly with 2003′s "Freddy vs. Jason." Did I mention Keena’s wonderous boobage? Nevertheless reactions were mixed among horror geeks, but for me "Freddy Vs. Jason" is a fanboy’s wet dream filled with creeps, thrills, and great performances from most of its cast including Robert Englund who continues to have a good time playing Freddy, even when murdering one of the women from Destiny’s Child. Providing a glimpse in to the psyches of Jason and Freddy while also turning the hockey masked one in to something of an anti-hero, "Freddy Vs. Jason" did not skimp on the battle providing respectable build-up with a clever little plot device to team the two while eventually pitting them against one another when mastermind Freddy found controlling Jason Voorhes was not as easy as he’d originally imagined. The final half hour of the film features some stunning visuals including a look at Krueger’s true demonic form, and a battle between the two monsters that makes for some incredible action and a clever little capper that signals a sequel that never made it to theaters.
Frat House Massacre
Indie director who penned the "Friday the 13th" time bending homage "Camp Daze" follows up with a masterful indie gem entitled "Frat House Massacre." Teeming with nostalgia and rich characterization, "Frat House Massacre" sets down in the seventies where young independent Bobby is caught in a car crash and rendered immobile due to a coma. Looked after by his nanny, Bobby’s brother Sean heads off to college and is quickly embroiled in the underground fraternity schemes that turn from devious to deadly before he realizes it. Frat brothers are humiliated and tortured for questioning their leadership all the while resident Frat leader Mark plans to send his seductive and backstabbing girlfriend Diana after Sean to trick him in to sexual activities that soon result in a disturbing torture scene. Slowly tortured and humiliated, Sean is drowned and seemingly links to his comatose brother Bobby who is revived just as Sean dies. Bobby now emerges in the college campus seeking revenge, teaming with a mysterious cohort and gaining the upper hand slaughtering everyone within his path and destroying the fraternity that threatens the lives of everyone around them. Filled with a surprise ending and a slick open ended final scene, Pucci creates one of the most raucous slasher throwbacks in the last ten years.
I can recall a time where horror movies always displayed villains who were at most times unexplained and left up to the imagination for the audience. We never really understood the true intentions behind the cenobites, or Hannibal Lecter, or Norman Bates, or hell, we never even knew the real origin or intentions of Darth Vader, and "The Strangers" recollects such a time with a slasher based around three masked villains who rely more on mental pain than physical pain when all is said and done. Kristen and James head to their home after a long party and find themselves in the tail end of utter harassment by masked and shadowed figures lurking outside their house and taunting them relentlessly. What begins as merely a game of cat and mouse turns in to a fight for survival as they soon learn these lurkers are psychos intent on getting in to the house and murdering them. But only after they’ve had their fun and completely break the horrified couple down mentally and physically throughout the night. All of which boils down to the accidental murder of their friend, and a finale that lives up to the principals of horror that have been lost on over explanation in the last ten years; villains who are evil simply because. We never see their faces or learn their motives, all we know in the end is that they’re still out there and waiting for the next two hapless victims to cross their paths.
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane
For some shocking reason Jonathan Levine’s slasher thriller has yet to be released in America since its release in 2006, and considering star Amber Heard’s rising popularity it should be a no-brainer by now. Until then, "All the Boys Love Mandy Lane" isn’t a typical slasher, it’s instead the horrific results of the fetishizing and deifying of beauty and the lengths some men will go through to show the girl of their dreams that they love them. Even if it means systematically killing everyone in their paths who displays the slightest interest in her. After a terrible accident at a pool party, Many Lane goes away with her friends to a local cabin in the woods where she manages to learn a lot about her friends and cabin mates and forms a bond with the local ranch hand. But soon they begin dying one after the other and Mandy soon must find out who is killing these people in her name and what she can do about it? When the shit hits the fan Levine reveals the fate of Mandy Lane to be far beyond either of us would expect and rather than a monster with a twisted face, we’re shown a devious conniving monster with the face of a goddess who will do whatever it takes to eliminate the people who put her on a pedestal. This is a lost classic that should be brought on DVD soon.
Christopher Smith’s horror slasher had the unfortunate distinction of being compared to "Shaun of the Dead" upon its release in America, and that’s a shame. Since then "Severance" has become relatively forgotten, but on its own right, it’s a damn entertaining and gruesome horror comedy about a group of executives who head off to a work retreat in to the forest for the weekend to rough it and learn about corporate tactics. What they soon find out is that they’re all being hunted by someone in the woods who is engaging in some rather gruesome elimination methods whenever one of the poor executives ends up snared in their trap. What stars as bait and catch ends in quite a realistic and awfully funny little horror film where the surviving group has to fend off against survivalists in the forest intent on making them the enemy and making them suffer about as much as humanly possible simply for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. "Severance" is indeed a really gross little slasher thriller, but also features a really cruel but hilarious gag involving a bear trap, and a hysterical final scene where character Laura Harris bashes the head in on one of her stalkers. You have to love it.
While not a bonafide horror masterpiece, 2006′s "Hatchet" as directed by Adam Green is considered one of the most appreciated slasher throwbacks in modern horror mainly for its unabashed love for the sub-genre and its willingness to be purely stupid while also respecting the audience Green panders to. The start of a franchise assumedly, "Hatchet" is the classic tale of a group of passengers ending up in the wrong place in the wrong time and being chased by a merciless deformed monster bearing a hatchet who is not against tearing people limb from limb to keep intruders away from its hallowed home that was consumed by a fire years before. Invoking "Madman," "Friday the 13th," and "The Hills Have Eyes," director Green fashions a horror comedy that aims for the stars with traditional gore effects, a slew of noted characters actors who fall victim to Victor Crowley and his seemingly endless supply of convenient ways to dispose of his victims including tearing the jaw off of one unsuspecting woman who vainly attempts to run from his clutches. Filled with laughs and splatter, "Hatchet" is a game changer and one building respect as the years pass.
Inside (À l’intérieur)
Possessing one of the most uneasy prologues in the history of horror, "Inside" takes us in to the eternal struggle of an unborn baby battling to live in a world where its mother is being tormented and stalked by a strange woman who appears at her door one night. After getting in to a car crash, Sarah clings to the memories of her dead loved one while anxiously trying to appreciate the holiday season before her with her baby on the way. What begins as a series of mysterious incidents soon transforms in to a fight for life as Sarah finds herself at the mercy of La Femme, a relentless psychopath who is unflinching in her efforts to play cat and mouse with Sarah who is handicapped by her large stomach and baby lying in wait as its mother battles with the violent woman. Trying endlessly to contact the outside world, Sarah is trapped in her house as director Maury and Bustillo keep us in view of the baby’s welfare exploring the carnage being inflicted on the wound. The ultimate fate of Sarah, the baby, and the motives of La Femme is an absolute surprise twist and to this day the final scenes are absolutely haunting and incredible grotesque.
The Midnight Meat Train
Before he became surefire box office gold in films like "The Hangover" and "The Wedding Crashers," Bradley Cooper starred in the gruesome and painfully overlooked slasher thriller "The Midnight Meat Train," the Clive Barker based thriller where Cooper plays Leon, a roving photographer who is committed to the craft of capturing cityscapes and is anxious for his next big success. Little does he know in the subways the man simply known as Mahogany is casually boarding empty trains and slaughtering the remaining passengers within the train with his massive meat hammer and a shocking amount of mercilessness. What begins as a peek in to a dark corridor in the city subways following Mahogany transforms in to a journey of madness and violence where Leon probes the mysterious monster who mutilates his victims for purposes that remain utterly unexplained. Sadly obscure thanks to piss poor distribution, "The Midnight Meat Train" is a twisted and often intense slasher film with a shocking surprise ending that signals a never ending chain of madness and a look in to the true heart of evil that Leon may never be able to escape from.