This follow-up to last weeks list was much harder to compile than its predecessor, due to a few, somewhat related reasons. Firstly, for every slasher film ever made, there's maybe, I dunno, 5% that received a sequel/became a full-fledged franchise (this figure is a total guess on my part; if anyone can ever be arsed compiling proper statistics on it I'd be curious to see how close that guess-timate is). Due to the resultant drop out of many of the unique or high-concept one-off slashers that never made it past their first film, any favourites list compiled from what is left is inevitably going to be somewhat homogenous, with certain series dominating and a few underdogs filling up the remaining slots. Finally, with some of these franchises I find it really difficult to pick certain entries over others. So as you might guess, this list is even more subject to potential change than the last.
10 - Jason X (James Isaac, 2001)
As anyone who read the previous top ten will have noticed, Jason was completely conspicuous by his absence. Don't get me wrong, I love the original Friday the 13th and, to be fair, it probably should have been on my list of originals, seeing as it was another watershed movie from my youth. But frankly, I've drained the blood out of it through over-watching, so these days I'm much more likely to reach for one of the sequels. Jason X is certainly one of the more unique entries in the series, mainly due to it future setting and sci-fi tropes. Probably my favourite film of the 'slasher in space' sub-sub-genre, it's also one of the most overtly humorous and knowing of the Friday the 13th movies, and this, coupled with the delightfully over-the-top nature of much of the action, makes it for eminently re-watchable to me.
9 - Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994)
This is another of the first slashers that I saw as a kid, so nostalgia obviously plays a big part in my continued enjoyment of it. But beyond that I'm genuinely of the opinion that it's highly underrated, even if it has undeniable flaws/slightly irritating elements; mainly, I'm not completely sold on the kid, but the little bugger certainly makes an effort to be fair to him. On the positive side I'll just mention two elements that make it stand out for me. Firstly, and most obviously, this is a relatively early (although probably not the first by far) example of the playful, post-modern 'meta-movie' that Scream later popularised (and possibly perfected). Also, the inclusion of certain autobiographical elements (i.e. Heather Langenkamp apparently had a real-life stalker) give the story (and the leading lady's performance) an element of believability that makes the film, for me, actually quite affecting.
8 - The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (Tobe Hooper, 1986)
Perhaps something of a borderline-slasher (edging into the 'backwoods brutality' sub-genre, mainly by proxy to its predecessor), TCM 2 still contains enough of the key tropes and conventions to count as far as I'm concerned. This would probably be higher on my list if not for a for a recent re-watch that I had with a friend who found it disappointing, which has given me a bit of a temporary contact downer on the movie. I'm sure I'll get over that when I next re-watch it alone though, especially if (okay when) I get the Blu-Ray that Arrow's releasing in October. To be fair to my friend though, I don't think he was expecting such a highly stylised black comedy, with its comic book visuals and a tasty sprinkling of 80's cheese, even though I think I told him he wouldn't be getting the same vibe from it that the original exuded so potently. But the real draw of this movie for me is Dennis Hopper's characteristically unhinged performance. He ploughs through the entire film like Dr. Loomis gone postal, chewing (and eventually chainsawing) through all the scenery in sight in order to "BRING IT ALL DOWN!!!" upon the heads of the bastards that have wronged him. Finally, there are a couple of scenes here which are as arguably unsettling as anything the first film had to offer.
7 - A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (Jack Sholder, 1985)
I remember seeing this years ago as a VHS rental (ah, those were the days...) and writing it off, probably due to similar reasons to those that led to my friend disliking TCM 2... I'm sure many a snarky, adolescent comment was hurled at the TV set that night. Earlier this year though I was compelled to give the film another chance, after hearing some interesting comments about/defences of it, mainly relating to its heavy homoerotic overtones. And I'm glad I did as this is now another of my go-to guilty pleasure slasher flicks. There's a few scenes in this which make me chuckle just thinking about them, but at the top of the pile has to be this gratuitous dance number, which always makes the room I'm sat in at the time feel a little bit gayer... I mean as in cheerful, in case anyone's thinking I'm some kind of bigot... okay, I meant it both ways.... probably shouldn't use those words in this context... Moving on...
6 - Slumber Party Massacre II (Deborah Brock, 1987)
Wow, I'm starting to see a pattern here... this is the third movie in a row from the mid-80's-ish that leans perhaps more heavily towards humour than it does horror, and, come to think of it, what a riotous triple-bill that would make for. This is another movie that never fails to brighten my day, even just in recollection. Owing more to A Nightmare on Elm Street than Halloween, this is almost a world away from the original movie (though both certainly contain their fair share of tasty cheddar), but is just about as equally entertaining. I'm not sure whether it'll hold up to multiple repeat viewings as well as its predecessor (having only seen it twice so far) but for a fun, and in places, frankly fucked up (in a good way), party of a movie, you can't go wrong with this.
5 - Friday the 13th Part 2 (Steve Miner, 1981)
I enjoy all of the Friday the 13th sequels that I've seen in varying degrees, especially the aforementioned Jason X, Part IV (The "Final" Chapter) and Part VIII (Jason Takes Manhattan), but if pressed (and depending when you asked me) I'd probably say that Part 2 is my favourite, though this wasn't always the case... in fact, far from it. In the interest of full disclosure, I'll confess that this was another film from my bygone VHS days that failed to find an appreciative audience at the time, due to me and my friends being philistines. If memory serves, I think it was one of the only movies from that era that we failed to get all the way through... though now that I think about it I have a feeling that we might actually have been watching Part 3... in which case this confession is completely redundant... fuck, I really can't remember... At any rate, when I did finally get round to watching it properly, I absolutely loved it, from the atmospheric, bold (in a Psycho-esque sense) beginning, right through to the awesome final showdown, which was made particularly ass-kicking via the presence of one of my favourite final girls... the smart, hard-as-nails (even if she does wet herself at one point) Ginny Field, played by the appropriately named Amy Steel.
4 - Halloween II (Rob Zombie, 2009)
My favourite of the three Rob Zombie movies that I've seen so far, (I'll be getting to the others later this week, and revisiting those previously seen, when I sit down for my 'Rob Zombie-thon'), and the one that completely sold me on the guy, this has gone straight into the top half of my list based on the first viewing alone. From the first Halloween remake and House of a Thousand Corpses, I knew that Zombie is capable of taking us down some dark, strange, yet oddly alluring roads, throwing in some abrupt left turns along the way to keep us on our toes, but I never anticipated how wonderfully weird this movie would prove to be. I'll say no more for now, as I'll be revisiting this in depth very, very soon...
3 - Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (Dwight H. Little, 1988)
Another formative film for me, this is one more that's mainly on the list for nostalgia reasons. However, despite its flaws and occasional deficiencies (mainly the mask and some fairly weak peripheral characters), I still find it immensely re-watchable. This is mainly thanks to the presence of future genre star Danielle Harris (in her feature film debut here), who makes the movie, for me, the most emotionally involving of the series. Furthermore, some of her scenes (especially those involving that clown costume) never fail to give me the creeps for some reason.
2 - A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (Chuck Russell, 1987) and A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (Renny Harlin, 1988) - tie
Admittedly I'm somewhat cheating here, but I found it practically impossible to pick between these two. The former is another old favourite, which I've probably watched to death by now, where as the latter is a much more recent discovery, and, if I really had to choose, probably my current reigning favourite of the two. Now some write The Dream Master off as merely a hollow exercise in showcasing special effects (and what spectacular effects they are) but personally, I think there's a lot more going on here than mere visual pyrotechnics. I won't go into it too deeply here, but I really dig the arc that Lisa Wilcox's character Alice follows throughout the film (cleverly signalled through the repeated use of the mirror, which is gradually unveiled as the the story progresses), and I absolutely love the final showdown, even if elements of it (such as Alice's awesome preparation scene, where she clothes herself in various personal totems inherited from her fallen friends) are pure, Grade-A, 80's cheese (not that I'm complaining of course). Both movies have some rather stupid parts that I can't really defend, but I wouldn't have it any other way as they're now part of the films' charm. By the way, I know I've barely said anything about Dream Warriors, but that instalment gets more than enough love, so I don't really feel the need to sing its praises any further.
1 - Halloween II (Rick Rosenthal, 1981)
So, how many of you saw this one coming? Sorry if it seems like another lazy or obvious choice, but as with last week's number one, I really couldn't conceive of any other title I've currently seen topping it. And to be honest, if that former list had featured sequels, then this would have made joint first place with its older brother, as the two are completely inseparable in my mind. This is for two reasons, one of which is completely obvious and the other being more personal. Firstly, and this somewhat goes without saying, but seeing as it's a direct continuation of its predecessor, it arguably makes sense to see Halloween and its sequel as one film in two parts. Furthermore, as I first encountered both of them back-to-back on a single VHS cassette, they'll always be one, three-hour long slasher epic (with a short interval) in my mind. By the way, I managed to find a photo of the actual tape and sleeve from eBay (thanks random person!)...
But nostalgia, and the movie's proximity to its progenitor aside, I still really love Halloween II, even as a stand alone film. For one, any slasher set in a hospital is always going to score highly with me, as those places give me the creeps, period. And thanks to using some of the same talent, this shares many technical merits with the original; kudos especially to cinematographer Dean Cundey for providing all those strangely cosy looking blue and orange hues for us to ravish our retinas with. There's not a lot more I can say here that hasn't already been endlessly repeated, so I'll simply finish by saying that for me, Halloween II is "comfort horror" at it's best; I know exactly what I'm getting, sure... but watching it, I feel strangely at home... or to put it another way, I find myself frequently drawn back to it, but never bored when I stick it on.