When I look at how many movies I’ve blogged about, I find it hard to believe how many in my movie collection I still haven’t! So, with my “It Happened After Scream” series of blogs covering new millennium slashers almost done, I’ve now dug through my collection for 80s horror slashers I haven’t yet blogged about. Damn are the stacks high. Yeah, stacks. There’s no telling how many installments this blog series will have, so I better shut up and get started!
THE BURNING (1981)
Despite being derivative of Friday the 13th, this one has a well-deserved cult following, and features some familiar faces, including Jason Alexander, Holly Hunter (you probably won’t even spot her), virgin boy Ratner from Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and Leah Ayres who, while she never became a star, was everywhere in the 80s, from TV to movies. She also had the distinction of being one of the few to commit sacrilege—she replaced a Brady!
She took over as Marcia for the disastrous 1990 drama series The Bradys. Hey, I just realized…excluding never seeing Sam in A Very Brady Christmas because his character came dressed as Santa for a split second, all the girls and only the girls of The Brady Bunch have been replaced for various shows and specials through the years!
Jeez, I have to focus. I can tell this 80s slasher blog series is going to be overloaded with me going off on tangents….
We start at Camp Blackfoot. A macabre prank leads to a fire. Someone is terribly disfigured. So, five years later….
A classic 80s horror sleaze moment, with the disfigured killer picking up a hooker for sex, and then unveiling for her. Poor hookers never stood a chance in these movies.
Then it’s on to the summer camp for all the usual antics. Killer POV, shower peeping, pranks, boys mooning, skinny-dipping, and a campfire story about a killer named Cropsy that wields garden sheers. There’s even a prank scare with a gruesome mask that looks mysteriously like the face of the killer from the slasher The Funhouse, which was released the same year!
JASON BOOTY ALERT! On the left.
While it has its slow moments (not to mention a slow motion throat slit kill that’s notably similar to a scene from Prom Night), The Burning makes up for it with one amazing mass slaughter on a fricking canoe! It is gore galore as numerous kids are hacked up within seconds. Once the killing starts, it doesn’t stop. There are body reveals galore and a brutal scene in a barn before the hot main guy comes in to save the day. The battle is gory good, and we finally get to see Cropsy’s face. It’s worth the wait.
DON’T GO IN THE WOODS (…Alone!) (1981)
Don’t Go in the Woods walks the line between being an absolute mess of a farce and being one of the most awesome early 80s slashers. There are loads of random, ridiculous characters roaming the woods at the beginning just to be slaughtered, and they bring slapstick absurdity that is either the result of bad acting or an intentional attempt at humor. Plus, a police force steps in near the end to hunt for the killer—a completely unnecessary addition that breaks up some of the most thrilling moments of the movie.
“Why am I here?”
It’s everything in between that matters. Our main group of hikers is heading for a cabin in the woods, but they never make it there! Classic 80s horror movie musical cues abound as we’re treated to killer POV, jump scares, overly dark scenes that are so 80s creepy, wickedly gory and brutal kills, and body reveals.
Highlights include a sleeping bag stabbing as scene from inside the sleeping bag, an entire truck being rolled down a hill, a bear trap to the face, and a determined final couple that totally kicks ass and makes mincemeat of the caveman like killer. Not to mention, the main guy runs around shirtless.
There’s something very The Final Terror about this entire final act (except the damn policemen), which wasn’t released until two years later!
Most important of all is the song playing over the closing credits: “Don’t go out in the woods tonight, you probably will be killed.” It’s campy Halloween playlist perfection.
THE ZERO BOYS (1986)
Much like the slasher Destroyer (blog here), this is one of those dang movies we had at the video store I worked at in the 80s, but I never watched it because the cover art made it look like an action film, not a horror film. But this is definitely one for fans of 80s horror to see, if not own.
I see only tens, no zeroes!
The cast is a perfect blend of 80s and horror. Our main girl is Chopping Mall and Night of the Comet fave Kelli Maroney. Nicole Rio was in Sorority House Massacre. Daniel Hirsch was in My Chauffeur. And Tom Shell gets the prize with roles in movies like Evil Laugh, Surf Nazis Must Die, Teenage Exorcist, Hard Rock Nightmare, and Beverly Hills Vamp.
After playing a competitive round of a survival game, this group of friends heads to a cabin in the woods to the beat of a classic 80s synth rock score. Actually, they head to the very same cabin Jason chased Dana Kimmell around in Friday the 13th Part III. So awesome. And when they hear someone scream in the woods, the dialogue is brilliant:
“What was that?”
“Sounded like a scream.”
There’s mist and killer POV, plus shots of the killer standing in the woods holding a machete and silhouetted by fog and backlighting.
An eye watches through a peephole during a sex scene. After a blackout, one guy cracks, “It wasn’t me, it was Jason!”
Most surprising of all is how this movie predates snuff-themed films like Vacancy. There’s a fricking video recorder in the barn, and the killer films the torture and murder (but we don’t see any torture). This killer must have mad VHS editing skills, because moments after a victim is dragged from the barn, the group is treated to a VHS playback complete with title card!
Anyway, the group does stupid shit like split up, but the truth is—these survival game players are prepared to fight back! That makes this a fairly different movie experience than your average slasher, leading to more of a backwoods action horror that ends with a kick ass scene in the lake.