Ranking the Classic Slasher Icons

As I confessed the other day, I wasn’t allowed to watch many slasher films when I was growing up. They were deemed “too stupid” for me to watch. This is especially problematic because I grew up in the late 1970s and throughout the 80s- the Golden Age of the Slasher™. I missed out. But I’m an adult now, a “big boy” as it were. That means I can watch whatever slasher films I want. I’ve spent the last two Octobers filling in those cracks, and I’m ready to speak about what I missed. Here’s how I rank the classic slasher icons, including the more recent ones.

Note, of course, that this is all personal preference. And if you asked me to rank the quality of the original films instead of the icons themselves, I’d give a slightly different order. I’ll also add that I’d have the creepy bag-faced kid from Trick ‘r Treat up here somewhere but he’s only been in one film and doesn’t really qualify.

1. Pinhead and the Gang
My love for the Hellraiser goons is twofold. First, they have a supernatural element to them that’s rooted much deeper than their counterparts. They’re “demons to some, angels to others”, taking on a biblical context. It’s half psychological, really, mixing pain and pleasure in some goofy/great S&M way that only the 80s would produce. Second, it’s not JUST Pinhead in the original Hellraiser. He’s only one member of the gang, albeit a pivotal member. There’s also The Chatterer, The Female, and Butterball. Those are their actual names according to the cenobite Wikipedia page. They all had their own special brand of oddity on display. Of the classic slasher icons, Pinhead and the Gang were the most intellectual.

2. The Candyman
What separates the Candyman from the others is how much he’s rooted in urban legend. The film manufactured an urban legend that’s still floating around. It’s straight out of classic folklore, and there’s an amazing hint of a ghost story in the Candyman’s tale. In other words, he’s not just a slasher. He’s an urban legend and a ghost story, as well. Also, the bee stuff was very, very unique.

3. Michael Myers
Let’s break down the Michael Myers mythos a little. He’s a deranged lunatic with a hardcore grudge against Halloween. And his time to shine- 1978- was a point in history in which few people had made films revolving around the scariest holiday of all. Throw in a certain level of immortality, a perfect victim-in-peril (Jamie Lee Curtis), and an expressionless face warped from a death mask of William Shatner* and you’ve got yourself a legend.

4. Chucky
A vicious, murderous doll that spouts out “I’m gonna get you fuckers” in Brad Dourif’s voice is pure magic. Unlike the other classic slasher icons, Chucky embraces the absurdity. The Child’s Play films never hide from the fact that Chucky as a slasher is a ridiculous concept. And it also embraces the creepiness of childhood toys, which have lifeless faces and are ripe for this kind of send-up.

5. Ghostface
I would love to put Ghostface higher. Actually, Ghostface was the slasher that really introduced me to the genre, and the physical appearance is as good as any other slasher. But the truth is that Ghostface wouldn’t exist without the work of all of the other slashers that came before him. He’s an enigma, proving that the slasher genre can be hilariously formulaic while also giving us a genuinely great slasher.

6. Freddy Krueger
I recently saw Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994), in which Craven took his icon and made him darker, less humorous, and much more menacing. Had the entire series been about THAT guy, Freddy would rank much higher here. I appreciate the camp and humor in some of the other movies, but they’re mostly just some dude in makeup calling women “bitch” and morphing into bad special effects. They’re over the top, and only occasionally over the top in a good way. Again, this is personal preference, so reasonable minds can disagree. Still, despite my reservations, the background is a good one. It’s easy to see how and why Freddy has an intense following.

7. Jason Voorhees
This is where my old psychosis won’t die. Even when I was a kid, I laughed at how many sequels the Jason series had. Every year, I’d laugh as a new Jason film came out. I’d wonder “What the hell do they have left to do by now?” By the time I finally watched the original Friday the 13th, I was very excited. I thought most of my preconceptions had died. “Surely,” I thought, “there’s a reason these have such a cult following.” And then I was massively disappointed. But, gentle reader, rest assured that I’m going to plug on and watch several others in the series. This isn’t over between you and me, Voorhees.

8. Jigsaw
The concept was fine, but the acting made me laugh and the villain seemed horribly formulaic to me. Instead of a tongue in cheek derivative like Ghostface, Jigsaw struck me as a mediocre attempt at reliving only the bad parts of the classic slashers- the clichés. Then to compound it, they kept bringing Jigsaw back, year after year after year after year.

Incomplete: Leatherface
This is the final frontier for me. I’ve seen only the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and that was over 20 years ago. I don’t remember anything about it. In other words, commenting on the icon would be a completely uneducated affair.

Honorable Mention: The androgynous kid in Sleepaway Camp
I haven’t seen the sequels, so I have no clue if the character returned. But purely on the basis of the hilarious ending of the first film, the he/she villain of the original deserves a mention here.


Filed under Movies

19 responses to “Ranking the Classic Slasher Icons

  1. Oh you gotta rewatch The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It’s still probably my favorite horror movie.

  2. How about “The Tall Man” as portrayed by Angus Scrimm in the “phantasm” movies…one of my favorites, and no-one can yell “BOY” like he does!!

  3. I always appreciated Ghostface because he actually ran after his victims instead of walked. I really enjoyed the first Texas Chainsaw, but the rest of them suck. He’s still a badass for having a chainsaw. Great list!

    • Haha… the run/walk dichotomy in serial killers is hilarious. That’s great. Jason’s a limper for sure. Chucky’s more of a leaper. Pinhead and the gang just kind of hang out and look creepy.

  4. aleksa

    Pinhead had a great, scary voice, but for some reason it was the Chatterer that totally creeped me out.

    • The Chatterer was awesome! I liked Butterball, too, but I kept waiting for him to do anything besides be a big fat S&M blob, and he never delivered.

  5. goregirl

    In almost 4 years of blogging I have not posted a single review for any of the above iconic slasher dudes films. Yeesh! What kind of horror blog am I running anyway? Sequels are sketchy. I love Hellraiser, Candyman, Halloween, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street and ESPECIALLY Texas Chainsaw Massacre but pretty much every single one of these series has an utterly shite entry (if not several!). And yet, I have seen every single freaking sequel for every single one of these films. What can I say? I guess I am a completist. Scream 3 is unwatchable-my utter hatred of that film is actually bordering on unreasonable. I have no idea how I would rank this group other than to say Leatherface would be my number one. A lot of people hate part 2 which is intentionally comedic, I understand the complaint since the original is one of the most intense and perfectly executed horror films ever made. Personally, I love part 2 and Dennis Hopper was an inspired choice to play Lefty. i even kinda liked part 3 (although I am not exactly recommending it – it is at your own risk my friend) – Viggo Mortensen plays one of the psychotic family members!

    • The consensus seems to be that I really have to re-watch Texas Chainsaw.

      How’d you feel about Scream 4?

      • goregirl

        Have not seen four. Read some favorable stuff about it but just can’t get excited. I guess I will probably see it eventually…maybe.

    • Jason 6, is one of my favourites, with a great Alice Cooper soundtrack and some of the Halloween sequels are underated, especially Season of th Witch (can’t remember what number this was?) It didn’t even have Michael Myers in, very strange film. Also not a slasher but worth watching is The Exorcist III, very spooky one to watch especially this time of year. I am off to watch The Shining at the cinema on Halloween, it has been re-released in extended form 🙂

  6. I haven’t seen much Slasher films. But discovering in the past weeks the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Halloween made me realize how much I need to fill those gaps in my knowledge.

  7. Cody Morgenstern

    My older brother passed down the folklore of The Candyman to me at a very young age, to this day i still haven’t said Candyman three times in front of the mirror. Which is the reason i waited until i was 20 to watch the film, which was not a disappointment i might add! I would have to go with Micheal Myers as my favorite of the slasher films, he is the only one i have had dreams about and Carpenter is a god to me, the first film is in my all time top ten, but i will watch any of the Halloween films including Rob Zombie’s remakes. Nice job on the list, mate!

  8. The guy who met Kevin Meany

    I’m not sure Ghostface should be seen as a single slasher as each movie in the Scream franchise had a different person who ended up being Ghostface. Although, even Friday the 13th had a fake Jason in Part V.

    • I’m going to pretend that the real reason all of those people in Scream were murderers is that they were possessed by the mask and therefore Ghostface was the same murderer each time.

  9. ilovethatfilm

    Hooray for Chucky! He was awesome in the first three films! But Leatherface should definitely be higher. It’s all about the first one. I recommend a re-watch!

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