Top 10 Chainsaw Horror Movies

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10 Killer Chainsaw Horror Movies

Horror movies have given us some of the most menacing and violent on-screen villains since the dawn of cinema, though these masked maniacs are nothing without a trusty weapon with which to do their dirty work. The chainsaw is one of the most iconic weapons in horror next to Michael Myers’ kitchen knife, Jason Voorhees’ machete and Freddy Krueger’s knifed glove, and one particular Ed Gein inspired psychopath is the first to come to mind when this grisly, tree-felling tool is mentioned: Leatherface. Aside from Leatherface, there are probably more chainsaw horror movies than you might think out there.

The chainsaw has no particular style or grace, it is the choice of weapon for when your target must absolutely come to the utmost harm you can possibly befall them. It won’t just cut, it’ll carve, grind and mangle. Think you can hide indoors? Those doors better not be made of wood, or whoever’s wielding that snarling, toothed engine won’t be held back for long. Even the most hyperviolent video games aren’t complete without allowing their players to wield the chainsaw, with titles such as DOOM, Gears of War, Manhunt, Left 4 Dead and a good amount of other zombie games on the market including the weapon. That being said, the first exposure most audiences had to the flesh-ripping nature of the chainsaw was through film, so please enjoy the most heinous, violent and barbaric depictions of on-screen chainsaw violence in history.

The Wizard of Gore (1970) 

The Wizard of Gore (1970) horror movie poster featuring a drawing of a body in a top hat

Herschell Gordon Lewis’ The Wizard of Gore is arguably one of the first horror movies to bring a chainsaw to proceedings, and this early 70s forerunner to post-9/11 torture porn does so with gusto. Deranged magician Montag the Magnificent (Ray Sager) invites women onto his stage show where he performs grisly illusions upon them, usually by dismembering them in some way, before having them return to their seats magically unharmed. Later, when the women begin dying for real in ways identical to their ‘deaths’ on stage, people begin to suspect there is more to Montag than simple magician’s tricks. Featuring plenty of over the top gore and an ending likely to confuse as much as it does enthral, fans of classic cult horrors should take note.

The Last House on The Left (1972)

The Last House on The Left (1972) horror movie poster featuring a woman leaning on a tree

Wes Craven, who would later carve his own legacy in the annals of American Horror, first directed a harrowing and highly sexualised revenge horror in 1972. Other than a previous adult film, this was Craven’s directorial debut and it is clear he was out to shock from the start. Later re-releases dub The Last House on The Left as “The Original Chainsaw Massacre”, though the weapon is not actually featured until the film’s final act. Rather than wince when the snarling saw is finally brandished, however, audiences will shout encouragement at its wielder as he sets it upon the man who raped and killed his daughter. This shock revenge flick has as satisfying an ending as any that came after it, and the loud, intense edge of the chainsaw is partly to thank for that.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

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This is the big one, folks. Directed by Tobe Hooper and unleashed to shock unsuspecting audiences around the globe in 1974, Texas Chainsaw is not only the ultimate exercise in chainsaw-based carnage, but still remains one of the most unsettling and intense horror movies to this day. Advertised and being based on a true story it was all too real for some audience members. With a whole family of antagonists including the instantly recognizable, Ed Gein-inspired Leatherface, Hooper’s classic brings a specific flavor of nastiness that is often imitated, though never quite perfected.

Motel Hell (1980)

Motel Hell (1980) horror movie poster with a spooky motel and screaming faces

Kevin Connor’s 80s black comedy/horror centers around siblings Vincent and Ida Smith (Rory Calhoun & Nancy Parsons) who run a motel along with a food stand selling their world famous sausages. After some investigation it is revealed that the origin of their meat surplus has a gruesome connection to the disappearance of a few guests, and farmer Vincent must do everything he can to protect their secret. Featuring darkly comical gore, lively performances all round and the pig-masked Vincent brandishing a huge chainsaw, this early 80’s cult classic is perfect for those who want a good laugh with their gore. 

The Evil Dead (1981)

Evil Dead Movie Poster from 1981 featuring a hand coming from the ground grabbing a woman

The Evil Dead might not have been the first use of the chainsaw in horror history, though it is easily one of the most recognizable. It is used by protagonist Ash Williams to cut off his own possessed hand in Evil Dead 2 (1987), before he fits the tool to his dismembered stump as a gruesome prosthetic, making it all the easier to hack through the forces of darkness. It was also used to great effect in reboot Evil Dead (2013) where it is shoved down the antichrist’s throat mid-blood rain in one of the most insane climax shots ever. While the chainsaw would later become Ash’s signature in the later films, it was first introduced in the original The Evil Dead (1981) when Ash tries to slice his beloved Linda in half and can’t bring himself to, opting to bury her instead, which goes as well as one would expect. 

Pieces (1982)

Pieces (1982) Horror Movie Poster featuring a man with a chainsaw and a woman crawling away

Pieces is about as campy and scattershot an affair as one would expect from an early 80’s slasher. A group of college co-eds in Boston are stalked by a mysterious killer wielding a chainsaw, who steals body parts from each victim for a bloody jigsaw puzzle. Like many of its era, Pieces displays gratuitous gore, even more gratuitous nudity and a knowing edge that stops it from taking itself too seriously. What it also includes, however, are many absurd and almost random scenes that seemingly have no purpose other than to divert from an otherwise very standard and conventional plot. It is an absolute mess of a movie, but maybe that’s just your kind of thing. 

American Psycho (2000)

American Psycho Movie Poster with a Man holding a knife

Directed by Mary Harron and adapted from Bret Easton Ellis’s 1991 novel of the same name, American Psycho is a humorous, horrifying and intriguing look at the life of Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale). Bateman, a wealthy investment banker from New York, is also a serial killer who moves from departing the homeless, to colleagues who annoy him, and then to random members of the public, seemingly unable to contain his psychotic urges. The film employs plenty of good humor alongside its visceral brutality, playing with the fragile ego of the unreliable narrator Bateman on such subjects as music, sex and even the business cards of his fellow bankers. One particularly harrowing scene shows Bateman chasing a prostitute around his apartment complex, completely naked and brandishing a chainsaw. As his victim descends the spiral staircase to escape, Bateman smugly allows the chainsaw to fall towards her rather than chasing her himself. The energy and menace Bale brings to his role is enough to make any lumberjack look twice at his trusted power saw.

Tokyo Gore Police (2008)

Tokyo Gore Police (2008) horror movie poster with a woman holding a sword

Next up is a fantastic Japanese splatter action directed by Yoshihiro Nishimura which features, true to its name, buckets of blood and guts along with some truly bizarre weapons and mutations. Think Power Rangers but with more cybernetic body modification and gore-soaked mayhem than you can shake a severed tendon at. Rather than anyone running the the woodshed for their trusty tree-feller, the creatures that vengeful police officer Ruka (Eihi Shiina) must fight have the things coming from every orifice of their mutated bodies! Like some overblown cyberpunk nightmare, TGP comes through with some of the weirdest gore-based spectacle on offer. With raving critical and audience reviews, this serves as a perfect introduction to Japan’s infinitely obscure splatter scene, and gore movies in general, keeping things funny, interesting and completely unexpected until the final frame.

Dead Snow (2009) 

Dead Snow (2009) Horror Film Poster featuring a man with a chainsaw and a Nazi soldiers head in the snow

If there’s one thing more morally fogiveable than killing Nazis, it’s killing zombies. This 2009 Norwegian horror/comedy combines the two, along with a healthy splattering of references to the greats (Evil Dead mainly), for an end result which is as hilarious as it is gruesome. Naturally, a homage to Raimi’s classic would have been nothing without that famous buzzing blade being used to dismember a few fascist undead, and director Tommy Wirkola took great pleasure in crafting an epic battle scene between our chainsaw-wielding heroes and a horde of the rotting horrors on a snowy mountain plane. The scene in question could be placed with the likes of the famous lawnmower scene in Peter Jackson’s Braindead (1992) as one of the most fun pieces of brutal mass-killing to watch on screen. Be sure to also check out the sequel.

Mandy (2018)

Mandy (2018) Horror Movie Poster with fantasy man and woman with red clouds around them

In terms of 80’s soaked grindhouse violence, Mandy has everything. A revenge plot from the deepest fever dream of the cinema obsessed Panos Cosmatos, Mandy serves to scratch an itch for all lovers of overblown gore and gut-wrenching storytelling. And if these fanatics are anything like me, then near the top of their list of hopeful scenes is the conceptually legendary, yet criminally underused, chainsaw fight. Cosmatos didn’t only decide to craft one of the greatest face-offs in recent memory, but was so proud of it that he included it on the film’s cover art. This kind of boldness and confidence is what draws me to projects such as these, and I for one am waiting with bated breath for whatever darkness Cosmatos casts over us next.

Chainsaws in Horror Movies

Well that’s a wrap on some must see chainsaw wielding maniacs. If you need more you can always dig into the iconic Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise, makes for a nice binge weekend if you can stomach it. With that said we are promised a new film from the franchise in 2022. Will you be there with proper ear and eye protection as we witness the revival of Leatherface?

The Morbid Genius of Clive Barker

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One would not need to delve too far into the horror genre without the legendary name of Clive Barker popping up. Born October 5th 1952, this English author, director, playwright and visual artist is recognized as one of the most unique and imaginative minds to adopt the macabre. In the mid 80’s Barker rose to prominence, carving himself a spot as a leading horror writer with his Books of Blood series that, when released, featured a quote from none other than Stephen King stating: “I have seen the future of horror, and his name is Clive Barker”. Since then a great amount of his work has been translated to film, some of which (arguably the better) he even took it upon himself to write and direct. Barker wrote the screenplays for Underworld (1985) and Rawhead Rex (1986), both directed by George Pavlou. Displeased by how his material was handled, he moved to directing with the first in the extensive Hellraiser series, born from his novella The Hellbound Heart. To this day Barker branches into every area of the horror genre he can, his surreal and fantastically unsettling style inspiring thousands to look at horror just a little differently.

Ever the visionary, Barker has created legions of characters for his books and comic series, often painting them himself. His visual art had been featured in galleries across the United States, as well as featuring heavily in his own books, making his end products far more vivid forms of personal expression. 

Clive Barker and Doug Bradley dressed as pinhead character from Hellraiser horror movie franchise

Barker horror adaptations and spin-offs in comics include the Marvel/Epic Comics series Hellraiser, Nightbreed, Pinhead, The Harrowers, Book of the Damned, and Jihad; Eclipse Books’ series and graphic novels Tapping The Vein, Dread, Son of Celluloid, Revelations, The Life of Death, Rawhead Rex and The Yattering and Jack, and Dark Horse Comics’ Primal, among others. Barker served as a consultant and wrote issues of the Hellraiser anthology comic book.

Barker’s short story The Forbidden (from Books of Blood) was adapted for the screen in Bernard Rose’s 1992 Candyman, and has been adapted again recently into a reboot of the same name. With this new modernisation of the classic 80s tale, it only stands to reason that a fresh new audience of moviegoers will be introduced to Barker’s madness, viewers who will be wondering what else has been crafted by such a unique maestro of morbidity. 

BOOKS

The Damnation Game (1985) 

Clive Barker's The Damnation Game (1985) book cover featuring a screaming face and a tree

Not long after publishing the first trilogy of Books of Blood in 1985, Barker set about writing his novel The Damnation Game, a Faustian story laden with all the dark eroticism and fantastical gothic style that readers have now come to expect from the man. 

Recently released convict and avid gambler Marty Strauss finds himself in the employ of Joseph Whitehead, one of the richest men in the world. As Whitehead’s bodyguard, Strauss encounters an increasing series of unnatural and horrific events involving Whitehead and a demonic man named Mamoulian, who has some connection to a ‘deal with the devil’ made by Whitehead during WW2. With detailed subject matter ranging from cannibalism and incest to raising the dead and self-mutilation, this early vision of Barker’s was no less potent and uncompromising than the works it led to. 

The Hellbound Heart (1986) 

The Hellbound Heart (1986)  book cover with demon drawing featuring a man in an upside down skull

Keeping his gory, visceral style in the spotlight, Barker published his novella The Hellbound Heart in November 1986 though Dark Harvest’s Night Visions Anthology series.

Hedonistic criminal Frank Cotton, a man so enamored with sensory experience that he will harm anyone to achieve it, finds a puzzle box known as the Lemarchand Configuration, a device which when completed can summon a torturous demonic race known as Cenobytes. With no differentiation between pain and pleasure, these entities introduce whoever summons them to eons of horrific torture, sometimes transforming their victims to Cenobytes themselves. 

In 1987 Barker wrote and directed a film adaptation known as Hellraiser, which later snowballed into the long-running franchise featuring Doug Bradley’s infamous Pinhead that we know and love today. After the success of the first Hellraiser flick, The Hellbound Heart was released as a standalone title by HarperPaperbacks in 1991. 

Cabal (1988) 

Cabal book cover with a woman's eye in frame

Cabal is Barker’s third novel and was published in the US in 1988 as part of a collection featuring it and several shorts from the sixth volume of his Books of Blood series. The story centres around Boone, a troubled young man suffering from a vague mental disorder, and his trusted psychiatrist Decker. Decker informs boon that he was responsible for a series of brutal murders in Calgary, though Boone can remember nothing of actually committing the heinous acts. Seeing himself as a monster, Boone begins searching for the legendary city of Midian, where other monsters had apparently found refuge. 

In 1990 Barker wrote and directed a screen adaptation of the novel, entitled Nightbreed after the legion of downtrodden folk who inhabit Midian. Sadly the flick was a commercial and critical flop, Barker pointing out that this was due to the film company trying to sell Nightbreed as a standard slasher without any real knowledge of the lore behind the book. Cabal thankfully remains a classic, featuring tense storytelling, rich worldbuilding around the mythical city of Midian and one truly disturbing arch villain.

The Great and Secret Show (1989) 

The Great and Secret Show (1989) book cover with a spooky mailbox

The first in a trilogy that came to be known as The Art trilogy by fans, The Great and Secret Show is Clive Barker’s fantasy novel which he describes as about “sex, the movies and Armageddon in Hollywood”. He also stated that it was the hardest to write of all of his books. 

The story concerns Quiddity, a mystical dreamscape pictured as an ethereal sea, which two highly evolved men are locked in a decades-long battle for control of. Randolph Jaffe wants to leach power from the realm of Quiddity while Richard Fletcher would like the place untouched and untainted. Their battle seeps from this realm into the real world where reality itself is affected, as well as the fate of the entire human race. 

Of course, in true Barker style, he has also been quoted to say: “”The sexual stuff has always been very strong in my books and this is no exception. There are scenes of profound weirdness that shouldn’t be talked about over a civilized dinner table.”

Imajica (1991) 

Imajica (1991)  book cover with a universe and planets

Steering further into dark fantasy realms and away from his usual horror affair, Barker next released Imajica in 1991, proclaiming that it was his favourite piece of his writing up to that point. At a massive 824 pages on first printing, the epic describes Earth as the Fifth Dominion and chronicles its reconciliation with the other four Dominions, esoteric parallel realities known to none but a few on Earth. A vast and intricate story covering themes such as god, love, sex, gender and death, much of the content of which apparently came to Barker in dream form. Barker was so inspired by these dreams that he wrote Imajica inside of fourteen months, working twelve to fourteen hours a day. 

The Thief of Always (1992) 

The Thief of Always was something of a curveball for Barker, since it contained plenty of his surreal oddities in style and story, though refrained from his usual foray into dark sexuality to create a fable intended for children just as much as adults. 

The Thief of Always (1992)  book cover with colorful house and demon trees

‘The Holiday House’ is a fictional paradise for children where a bored and disenchanted eleven-year-old named Harvey Swick one day finds himself. The house is indeed a paradise, where it is Halloween every evening, Christmas every night and seemingly has four seasons occurring in the space of a day. After spending time at the Holiday House, Harvey begins to uncover secrets about its elusive creator, Mr Hood, and a plot so hideous that he should want to leave the place forever and not look back. 

This was a title in which Barker included his own art, both on the cover and featuring black and white illustrations of his throughout. 

FILMS

Rawhead Rex (1986) 

Rawhead Rex (1986) horror movie poster with a monster

The script for Rawhead Rex was written by Clive Barker himself, though directing fell to George Pavlou, and the end result was a schlocky flop of a B-movie that, aside from later cult attention, garnered little to no worth to anyone involved. Adapted from another short in the Books of Blood series concerning a pagan creature predating Abrahamic religion who is inadvertently awakened by farmers in the Irish countryside. Aside from some of Barker’s classic subtext around ancient evil, sexuality and religion, the film was saturated in many of the expected tropes of 80s monster movies, pushing it more in line with a slew of other similar flicks. 

A lot of the negative reception reportedly came from the design of Rawhead himself. Barker’s original concept for the monster was apparently that of a nine-food phallus with ground meat for a head. When Rawhead came out looking more ogre or gorilla-like, and not unlike a lot of B-movie monsters at the time, Barker felt dissatisfied to the point that he vowed to be much more involved in his later adaptations. This is considered the main reason he chose to write and direct Hellraiser (1987) next. He has even voiced an interest in remaking the film in his own vision, though his reboot of Hellraiser will quite likely be next in line.

Hellraiser (1987) 

Hellraiser (1987) movie poster with Pinhead demon holding a puzzle box

Hellraiser is not only Barker’s most famous and recognizable work but is a milestone for the horror genre to this day. Based on his 1986 novella The Hellbound Heart, Hellraiser’s story centers around young Kirsty Cotton (Ashley Laurence), caught in a hellish struggle between her mother Julia, her criminally hedonistic uncle Frank and a gang of leather-clad, body-modded, extra-dimensional demons called the Cenobites. Frank is torn apart by chains upon failing to solve an ancient puzzle box known as the Lament Configuration, and after escaping the clutches of Hell begins to make his way back to the mortal world. He does so with the help of Julia, who kills men to feed his building form. 

Most notable in this film is the performance of Doug Bradley as Pinhead, or ‘The Hell Priest’, the leader of the cenobites. The character was so expertly and chillingly portrayed as to spawn a series of over nine other films along with extensive series of comics and novels. Pinhead has even appeared as a playable character on multiplayer horror game Dead By Daylight. 

Far more than a simple horror, Hellraiser explored themes of religion, women’s agency, the pleasure-pain dynamic, ambition, hedonism, and of course sexuality as a conduit in the battle between good and evil. 

Nightbreed (1990) 

Nightbreed (1990) Clive Barker Horror movie Poster featuring a group of monster

Operating somewhere in the midst between fantasy and horror, Nightbreed is an adaptation of Barker’s novel Cabal, wherein the disturbed Boone, here played by Craig Schaffer, is convinced of his murderous nature by the psychedelic therapist Decker, here portrayed by none other than David Cronenberg, and travels to find the mysterious city of Midian where he might find refuge. 

After being shot to death by a police squad sent by Decker, and then mysteriously resurrected, Boone is given refuge in Midian and becomes acquainted by its quirky and visually striking populace of undead rejects. Boone must convince Midian’s people to fight back against his pursuers lest their secret be revealed to the entire world. 

The film was a commercial and critical flop in its initial theatrical run, but has since become a cult success, with a director’s cut released in 2014, several tie-in comic books and two video games.

The Midnight Meat Train (2008)

The Midnight Meat Train (2008) horror movie poster with a man holding a meat hammer behind a glass door

Heralded by many as the best Barker adaptation since Hellraiser, The Midnight Meat Train is an adaptation of the 1984 short story of the same title. With a stellar cast featuring Bradley Cooper, Vinnie Jones, Brooke Shields and Ted Raimi, some top-drawer set pieces and an ending that leaves most viewers floored, this is undoubtedly the best modern Clive Barker experience there is on offer. 

Directed by Japanese filmmaker Ryuhei Kitamura (Alive), the story follows photographer Leon (Cooper) who is determined to capture the grit and seedy nature of New York’s subway system. As a character he is on the questionable end of the moral scale, committing such acts as photographing a sexual assault before making any attempt to stop it. He begins an obsessive habit of following serial killer Mahogany (Jones) also known as ‘The Subway Butcher’. While viewers are led to believe this will be a standard slasher affair, certain narrative curveballs ensure this will be a viewing experience you’ll not soon forget. 

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clive_Barker

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/oct/30/how-we-made-hellraiser-horror-film-pinhead-clive-barker

The History of Slasher Movies

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Slashers are some of the most prominent films in the horror genre, and tend to be some of the most fun, self-aware and unabashedly violent films around. You can credit vintage flicks such as Psycho or Peeping Tom for laying the groundwork for the slasher genre, and 1974’s Black Christmas for first bringing all the elements together into what is undeniably a “slasher movie”. However, horror’s most energetic and mischievous sub-genre has a rich history behind it, which extends much further than a few standout motion pictures.

The Checklist

To begin, slasher films are made up of a few mandatory components:
A killer, usually masked and often on a path of blind revenge for some past tragedy.

The Slasher’s Victims


A group of youngsters, usually hormone driven and stupid, to be stalked by the killer. These can range from a group of schoolmates, to campers and counselors in a woodland retreat, and sometimes even a street-worth of families if Michael Myers gets involved.


One of these youngsters, primarily a girl, who abstains from the sinful behaviour of the rest and ends up being the last alive, sometimes defeating the killer. Slashers have always had a reputation of misogyny, and the idea of frequent ‘final girls’ portrayed and strong female leads is the best argument against this. Friday 13th: part 2 (1981)’s Ginny Field and A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Nancy Thompson are two great examples of women who overcome insurmountable odds to bring the fight straight back to their respective monstrous antagonists.
These particular tropes have become almost ritualistic to slasher movies, and it would be hard to call any film a slasher without the inclusion of all of them.

The Setting

The Cabin in the Woods (2011) Movie Poster
The Cabin in the Woods (2011)


An isolated setting, such as a campsite or cabin in the woods.
Buckets of blood and shock-value violence. While not all slashers are b-movies, and vice versa, a gritty excess in blood and gore can commonly be found in both.

The Mood


A crude, sometimes low-brow sense of humour, particularly in the 80s when the genre began to parody itself and grow exponentially because of it.

The Villain

Michael Meyers in a mask from Halloween Slasher film
Michael Myers masked slasher

The powerful masked villain is the most recognizable trait of the slasher genre, and we have Germany in the late 50s and 60s to thank for that. Based on the works of British novelist Edgar Wallace, Germany’s Krimi films (short for “kriminalfilm,” or “crime film”) focus mainly on these elusive antagonists, considering them important enough to frequently use them as the film’s title. Face of the Frog (1959) and Creature with the Blue Hand (1967) are prime examples of these. The stock cast archetypes found in slashers were also present in these pictures, in their more primitive forms. They usually include female protagonists, a group of victims to be systematically picked off, an officer on the case who is central to the plot and even a comic relief character. With all of these features, and of course the inclusion of some shock violence to spice up the proceedings, krimi films were some of the earliest artistic works laying the foundations for the slasher genre.

One type of early slasher that was directly influenced by krimi pics were Italian giallo films. Giallos often focus on a murder investigation featuring a masked killer, but they dial up the gore and sexuality to obscene degrees, carving themselves a distinct niche in the horror genre.

The Roots of Slasher Films

Blood and Black Lace 1964 Movie Poster from the original slasher film featuring two women and a skeleton hand with a knife in it


For all of its features, Mario Bava’s foundation-laying masterpiece Blood and Black Lace (1964) is as close to the first true slasher as an analysis could find. A mysterious killer in a huge black coat and hat stalks a group of female models while wearing a stocking over their face, creating an unsettling, featureless figure. This immediately iconic image burned an imprint into the giallo genre and its contemporaries.

The 1960s had only just begun when the UK was given two of the most legendary and influential releases in slasher history. For starters, Michael Powell’s controversial Peeping Tom shocked and confused audiences with its lurid sexual content and bizarre plot involving a serial killer documentarian who dispatches women using a knife stuck to his tripod, and films the results. While some see the thoughtfulness and understanding of human impulse and nature in Powell’s flick, others merely write it off as ridiculous proto-slasher voyeurism. Whatever your opinion, this is a chilling look into the psychology of a serial killer, with textured character exploration, heaps of satirical wit and a sense of colour use that still dazzles to this day.

Then came the big one. Psycho’s impact on audiences had Alfred Hitchcock’s storytelling and filmmaking mastery to thank, along with fantastic performances from Anthony Perkins

(Norman Bates) and Janet Leigh (Marion Crane). Perkins is especially unsettling as early-slasher Bates, delivering a performance that has been replicated (or attempted to be) to this day. Psycho is as effective today as it was in 1960, with its infamous shower scene accompanied by dissonant stabbing piano keys being one of the most recognisable images in horror today. Just try and say the word psycho in a crowd of horror fans without someone going “ree! ree! ree!” and stabbing the air.

“The calls are coming from inside the house!” We’ve all heard it before. Hopefully not in real life, though the number of scary stories and urban legends that climax with this unnerving statement are beyond counting. Black Christmas (1974), which was insipidly remade in 2006, boasts a status of being the first on-screen usage of the term. Not only this, it is the proud owner of a number of conventions which have been repeated in slashers to this day. Predating John Carpenter’s legendary Halloween (1978) by four years, it used many elements that Carpenter later employed, such as frequent POV shots from the killer’s perspective. Black Christmas was also integral in solidifying the misunderstood ‘final girl’ trope that has been worshipped by slashers to this day, with Jessica Bradford (Olivia Hussey) as one of the most resourceful and well-realised of them all.

John Carpenters Halloween Slasher Horror movie poster with a pumpkin and a knife

John Carpenter’s Halloween is often considered to be the first “true” slasher in terms of tying all of the components of the slasher checklist together. Black Christmas director Bob Clark was actually telling Carpenter his idea of a sequel when he gave him the idea, inadvertently or not, for a slasher all of his own, one that would secure itself in the annals of horror legend. Clark’s idea was simply this: A psychopath would escape from an asylum around the Halloween holiday and begin terrorising the surrounding area. From this Michael Myers was born, otherwise known as ‘The Shape’, one of the more terrifying and restless of killers. One who kills (mostly) without prejudice, and with great aplomb. Halloween is of course a descendant of Black Christmas, though Carpenter’s flick stands on its own merits, and could be argued as being by far the more well-known of the two (even though a slew of sequels could be to blame for that). Carpenter plays on a very real fear in modern society, one of being attacked in your own home. Without clear motivation for any of his kills, excluding the fact that Michael and Laurie Strode (portrayed by Jamie Lee Curtis, the daughter of Psycho star Janet Leigh) were later made siblings, Michael seems to kill at complete random, which is one of the most universally terrifying concepts when properly considered.

Leather face Texas chainsaw massacre slasher movie scene of a man being sawed in half

It’s sometimes hard to believe The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) even made it to the world of mainstream cinematic horror, as it remains to this day one of the more shockingly brutal, nihilistic and frequently hard-watching of slasher films. Tobe Hooper came along and redefined fright films forever with this monster. Based on the exploits of real-life serial killer and body-part handyman Ed Gein, Texas Chainsaw pushed the idea of a masked killer with a devastating signature weapon to new heights, creating one of the most infamous and universally terrifying killers in fiction, Leatherface. While the sequels made a blundering, almost lovable idiot of the man, the original shows him in all his ignorantly brutal glory. I won’t spoil anything for those who haven’t subjected themselves to Hooper’s masochistic classic, though the chainsaw wielding giant’s first appearance still sends chills down my spine. While Texas Chainsaw was one of the first to use the ‘Final Girl’ trope to such obvious effect, it will always be the relentless ferocity of the brain-damaged hulk Leatherface that defines the timeless greatness of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

While many directors still try to capture the classic slasher feel in their own unique way, many have taken the genre to more comedic and self-referential territory. Wes Craven’s worldwide hit Scream (1996) acted as a meta analysis of all slashers, constantly referencing the classics while being original enough in itself to secure a place alongside them. The Wayans brothers took things a step further with Scary Movie (2000) where they played meta on meta and turned Scream and many other horror movies into a flat out ridiculous comedy. Both of these franchises have dropped dramatically in quality over many, many sequels though the potency of both originals cannot be ignored. Some manage to work laughs in between the blood in different ways, one prime example being Tucker and Dale vs Evil (2010) where two lovable hillbilly brothers are mistaken for killers when a group of camping teens begin dying around them in ridiculous accidents. Happy Death Day (2017) and its direct sequel combine slashers with the consistently growing “groundhog day” subgenre to hilarious effect, while The Cabin in the Woods (2011) tries to create lore to explain literally every other horror movie in existence. As people’s love for slashers grow and expand, so do the ideas contributing towards the genre, though even the rawest, crudest and most ludicrous of these movies will alway hold a place in the hearts of the morbid.






The Legendary Wes Craven

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Featured Scary Movies and Series

Wes Craven has been praised as one of the most imaginative and exciting horror creators in cinema. His legendary Nightmare on Elm Street series which birthed the insidious dream-weaving villain Freddy Krueger, and the hyper-self-aware Scream series which spawned the knife-wielding Ghostface killer, are just two of the many properties Craven has used to scare audiences the world over. Everyone who owns a television can probably tell you at least what these two aforementioned mass-murderers look like, but did you know prolific terror maestro Wes Craven actually started his film career in pornography? Or that Elm Street was actually based on the deathly nightmares of Cambodian refugees who had witnessed the American bombing of Cambodia?

Here we take a look at some of the most influential, and also the more obscure of Wes Craven’s directorial works, in order to pay tribute to and properly learn about a man who caused more sleepless nights than European Techno.

Last House On The Left (1972)


Craven clearly wanted to shock the world from the get-go. His first horror outing centred around two girls looking for drugs after attending a concert in the city. They run into a gang of escaped convicts who kidnap them for a night of rape, torture and their eventual muder. When the convicts later hide out at the home of one of the murdered girls, her parents soon work out what happened and plot their revenge. Last House managed to land itself on the Video Nasties list and was actually refused a certificate for cinema release by the British Board of Film Censors for its depictions of horiffic sadism and sexual violence.

The script, written by Craven in 1971, was originally intended to be a hardcore pornographic feature before filming began, whereupon it was decided that a much softer approach would be taken. One can only imagine what the original idea had in store for viewers. The story is inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s Swedish film The Virgin Spring (1960), which in turn is based on a Swedish ballad, Töres döttrar i Wänge. Who would’ve thought such classic and artistic inspiration could have gone into what is now an infamous rape/revenge horror?


The Hills Have Eyes (1977)


This is one of the rare occasions in horror where I actually prefer a remake to the original. Perhaps it has something to do with the similarities of Craven’s Hills with Tobe Hooper’s classic (and far more expertly crafted) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), or perhaps I simply didn’t feel that the gut-wrenching implications of some scenes could be fully realised with this particular cast of actors. That being said, this is still a fairly competent and satisfyingly violent film based on the legend of Sawney Bean, a scottish clan leader said to have lived in a sea cave and cannibalized over a thousand people in the 16th Century. Craven’s depiction features the Carter family on their way to Los Angeles who crash their camper in an area of the Nevada desert inhabited by murderous cannibals. When they start to die off the family must fight back against the savages, which they do in quite spectacular fashion. Craven’s vision was raw and unflinching with this piece, even if some of it did need to be trimmed due to an X-rating. While it doesn’t jump out as a masterpiece in the genre, it would be a crime to write it off as just another cheap shock-horror.


The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)

The Serpent and the Rainbow Movie Poster
The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)


Bill Pullman is excellent in this mystifying mashup of Live and Let Die (1973) and In The Mouth of Madness (1944). Anthropologist Dennis (Bill Pullman) heads to Haiti, in a time of severe social and political unrest, to study an alleged voodoo drug that has been bringing the dead back to life. With the help of a witch doctor (Brent Jennings) and a fellow researcher (Cathy Tyson) Dennis must dodge Haitian authorities and solve the deadly mystery before it consumes him completely. With some genuinely unsettling imagery, fantastically engaging performances from its lead cast and implications around life, death and madness that have the potential to chill viewers to the core, The Serpent and The Rainbow proves itself to this day one of the more original and enthralling of Craven’s back-catalogue.


The People Under the Stairs (1991)


I’ll start by saying that I had no idea what to expect from this film. Having borrowed the dvd from a friend and basing my expectations on its goofy cover art, I was expecting something akin to other campy 70s and 80s horrors like Fright Night (1985) or perhaps even Beetlejuice (1988). After multiple viewings I now class this as one of Craven’s darkest films, straight-up shocking in many places while crawling under your skin in others. Craven was adamant to portray a respectful account of class warfare and personal struggles in poverty-stricken ghettos, and has expressed in other films such as Scream 2 his views on the need for “black representation” in horror, so what better villain than a couple of rich, incestuous white landlords? The violent psychopathy displayed when things start to kick off is unrivalled, with much of the terror being derived not from monsters or ghosts, but the potential of pure evil from humans. With a stellar performance from Brandon Adams as ‘Fool’ and Everett McGill and Wendy Robie as the nameless, psychotic Landlord and Lady, this is close to the top of a list of personal favourites, not just of Craven’s work but of horror in general, and should not be missed.


Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)


Everyone is familiar with the Nightmare on Elm Street legacy, from the original breakout hit all the way to Freddy vs Jason, but I’d rather talk about what I consider the most interesting and underrated in the series. Now I’ll admit that when I first watched New Nightmare I was far too young to really be able to appreciate horror, never mind understanding any of the meta-layers underlying this gory flick. It still managed to shock me, and stick in my mind to this day, and it was one of my later revisits that helped me realise just what Craven was going for. Heather Langenkamp plays herself, years after the shooting of the original Nightmare films, when visions of Freddy begin to plague her in real life. This was definitely the beginning of Craven’s more self-aware phase which led onto the Scream series, and his playfulness in flirting with the fourth-wall more than pays off in breathing new life into Freddy as a villain, and the Nightmare series in general. I won’t give away too much, as there are several payoffs in Craven’s 1994 rethink that scream for multiple viewings.


Scream (1996)

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Scream is such a fun ride. Somehow Craven managed to craft a film that is blatantly self-aware yet balanced enough so that the self-referential comedy doesn’t once get in the way of bloody scares. It is witty and clever in similar ways to New Nightmare but a lot more playful and sometimes goofy in execution. Some references and nods to horror tropes and even Craven’s earlier pictures are terrifically on the nose, and more than welcome in that, though repeated viewings are warranted with plenty of subtleties to find. Matthew Lillard is brilliant as Stu Macher, wacky and on the border of being a complete clown while somehow retaining an imposing and intimidating air through his sheer size and intensity. Scream gleefully and violently subverts expectations set by genre greats, while paying homage to all that inspired it, and somehow having a better ending to many of the films it parodies.


Scream 2 (1997)


Somehow this one passed me by until very recently, though I’m almost ashamed to admit it now. Scream 2 is one of the better horror sequels out there, majorly due to its self awareness (as if it only exists as a punchline to scream’s continuous mention of a sequel) though also due in part to Craven’s consistency in style and substance. I found myself overjoyed when characters from the first began popping up and reuniting, and enjoying the introduction of new characters that, like the film itself, feel more an extension of Scream rather than a tacked-on rethink. Featuring possibly a better ending than even its predecessor did, all while retaining the meta-layers in almost every scene that made the first great.

Full Filmography

1972The Last House on the LeftHallmark Releasing / American International Pictures
1977The Hills Have EyesVanguard
1981Deadly BlessingUnited Artists
1982Swamp ThingEmbassy Pictures
1984A Nightmare on Elm StreetNew Line Cinema
1985The Hills Have Eyes Part IICastle Hill Productions
1986Deadly FriendWarner Bros.
1988The Serpent and the RainbowUniversal Pictures
1989Shocker
1991The People Under the Stairs
1994Wes Craven’s New NightmareNew Line Cinema
1995Vampire in BrooklynParamount Pictures
1996ScreamDimension Films
1997Scream 2
1999Music of the HeartMiramax
2000Scream 3Dimension Films
2005CursedMiramax
2005Red Eye
2010My Soul to TakeUniversal Pictures
2011Scream 4Dimension Films
from wikipedia.com

The History of Halloween

Categories
Featured Horror Mystery and Lore Lifestyle

September is coming to a close and the heat, brief as it was, is beginning to wane. For some this is a dark time, one foretelling many months of bitter cold, long stretches of darkness and bouts of seasonal affective disorder. Though for others an excitement builds through these darkening months that leads to the spookiest and one of the most beloved traditions in recent history; Halloween. Explore the history of Halloween from ancient Celtic traditions to trick or treating today in the U.S.

History of Halloween Celtic Roots

For many Americans, Halloween will feel as culturally homely as eagles and apple pies, although, (hold awed gasps) the tradition didn’t actually start stateside. The origins of this delectably macabre holiday date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who occupied the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France over 2,000 years ago, celebrated their new year on November 1.

The date was considered the end of the autumn period and symbolizes the emergence of winter, when herds were returned from pasture and land tenures renewed. Legend told that during the Samhain festival, the souls of the departed would once more return to their homes and those who had died since the last festival would have their souls pass over to the afterlife. Bonfires were lit atop hills to ward off evil spirits, and to give the folk a place to relight their hearth fires over winter. They would wear animal heads and skin masks to the ceremonies to avoid being recognized by those spirits, while sacrificing animals to appease the gods. It was believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between our world and that of the dead became thin, allowing them to communicate with spirits. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.

According to historical records,the Celts believed that the spiritual communication on Samhain enhanced the premonitory powers of the Celtic druids, allowing them to predict the future in a far more accurate way. 

Bats and Halloween

Bats Flying by a full moon on Halloween

The widespread modern association of bats with Halloween actually has its historical origins too. The Samhain bonfires lit by the Celtic Druids attracted swarms of bugs from the surrounding wilderness which, in turn, drew flocks of bats to enjoy a rather fruitful supper. In later years, various folklore emerged citing bats as harbingers of death or doom. In Nova Scotian mythology, a bat settling in your home foretells that a man in your family will die. If it flaps around the place trying to escape, a woman in the family will pass on instead.

History of Halloween Roman Influence

According to other records, some Halloween traditions are actually rooted in ancient Roman history. By 43 A.D. The Romans had conquered and occupied most of the Celtic’s territory, bringing with them festivals such as Feralia, which took place in October and also commemorated the passing over of the dead to the afterlife. Another holiday, Pomona, was held in honour of the Roman Goddess of fruit and trees, which developed to this day as the reason why we bob for apples on Halloween.

A few Centuries later saw the further development of the festivals that would eventually become Halloween, as several Christian figures attempted to replace the pagan traditions with ones closer to God. By 1000 A.D., All Souls’ Day was announced on November 2 as a time for the living to pray for the souls of the dead. All Saints’ Day, or All Hallows, honored the saints on November 1. That made October 31 All Hallows Eve, which later became Halloween.

Halloween in The United Kingdom

Of course, old habits die hard, and people in England and Ireland mostly continued on as they had done, using the time of year to focus their attention on the wandering dead. They set out gifts of food to feed the peckish spirits, and as time went on and the tradition continued, folk would dress in creepy masks in exchange for treats themselves. The practice was called “mumming,” and was the beginning of a tradition we now know as trick-or-treating.

Trick or Treating in America

Scary Halloween Mask

In America, the southern colonies were the first to adopt the original festivities resembling Halloween, these early renditions of the festivals being called “play parties”. Towns would gather to celebrate the harvest, swap ghost stories and read each other’s fortunes, with far more events and activities being added over the years.

By the 1950s Trick-or-treating had exploded in popularity around the US, and Halloween had become a true national event. Today the holiday is celebrated by over 179 million Americans who spend around $9.1 billion on it per year, according to the National Retail Federation. 

Halloween obviously remains a popular holiday in America and the UK today, but it actually almost didn’t make it across the Atlantic in the first place. Puritans shunned the tradition, disapproving of its Pagan roots, though once Scottish and Irish immigrants began to arrive in America in greater numbers, Halloween made its way back into the zeitgeist. The very first American colonial Halloween celebrations featured large public parties to commemorate the upcoming harvest, tell ghost stories, sing, and dance.

https://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-halloween

https://www.countryliving.com/entertaining/a40250/heres-why-we-really-celebrate-halloween/

https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/holidays/halloween-ideas/g4607/history-of-halloween/

https://www.businessinsider.com/history-of-halloween-2017-10?r=US&IR=T

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Halloween

https://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/Halloween/

https://www.worldhistory.org/article/1456/history-of-halloween/