When you think about searching out slashers from the eighties, you might not think of looking in Canada. You probably underestimate Canada’s impact on the rise of the subgenre.
I want to take a brief look at some of what Roger Ebert called Dead Teenager Movies that were made in Canada in the eighties, and then to look at two slashers that many consider to be the top two best slashers of all time: Black Christmas (1974) and My Bloody Valentine (1981).
Happy Birthday To Me (1981)
Director: J. Lee Thompson
Starring: Melissa Sue Anderson, Glenn Ford, Lawrence Dane, Sharon Acker, Frances Hyland, Tracey Bregman, and Lisa Langlois
Happy Birthday To Me is a Canadian film with a large cult following. Some fans, like myself, even consider the film to be a Giallo, with its killer sporting a trenchcoat and black gloves. It also has one of the most bizarre endings to any slasher film. ever. For many slasher fans, Canada’s Happy Birthday To Me is set firmly in their top five.
Prom Night (1980)
Director: Paul Lynch
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Leslie Nielsen, Casey Stevens, Jeff Wincott, Anne-Marie Martin, Antoinette Bower, Michael Tough, and Robert A. Silverman
When it comes to Jamie Lee Curtis, I’ve always preferred Terror Train (1980) over Prom Night (1980). With that being said, I cannot deny the former film’s long lasting prominence. It makes up for its lack of gore with its charm. I’ve enjoyed most of the characters in Prom Night, and I especially love the disco soundtrack. It’s another Canadian slasher that has a great ending. While not the best that Canada has to offer, it’s still a genre classic.
Terror Train (1980)
Director: Roger Spottiswoode
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Ben Johnson, Hart Bochner, David Copperfield, Sandee Currie, Derek Mckinnon, and Timothy Webber
Speaking of Terror Train, it just so happens to be the next movie on my list. After the popularity of Halloween (1978), a lot of slashers start popping up in 1980. Terror Train and the aforementioned Prom Night tried to bank in on the success of John Carpenter’s film. In case you haven’t guessed, Terror Train is basically a slasher on a train. I commend Director Roger Spottiswoode for trying to do something different.
I know the film is often criticized because of the many death scenes that are off camera. For me personally, the overall creepy vibe sustains the movie despite the lack of onscreen kills. It feels creepier and grittier than Prom Night. It’s also another Canadian film that has an amazing ending. These Canadians really like their cool endings.
Some more Canadian slashers I recommend watching are: Curtains (1983), Humongous (1982), Deadly Sins (1995), and Visiting Hours (1982). Not as good as the films listed above, but still worth checking out.
No two movies have had a greater impact on the Canadian slasher subgenre than Black Christmas and My Bloody Valentine. There will always be a debate on which movie should be considered the first Great White North slasher. In my opinion, however, Black Christmas started the whole thing.
Black Christmas (1974)
Director: Bob Clark
Starring: Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder, John Saxon, Marian Waldman, Andrea Martin, Doug McGrath, and Nick Mancuso
Black Christmas was one of the first horror films to have the killer camera POV, which heavily inspired John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978).
Also in Black Christmas are the creative, elaborate death scenes that have become a staple in the slasher subgenre. The film sets up character archetypes in the Final Girl, the Mean Girl, and The Virgin, which can be seen in later slashers. The lasting impact of Black Christmas on the slasher genre can’t be ignored.
My Bloody Valentine (1981)
Director: George Mihalka
Starring: Paul Kelman, Lori Hallier, Neil Affleck, Keith Knight, and Cynthia Dale
When it comes to low budget slashers from the eighties, many fans will attest that My Bloody Valentine is the best one. If you aren’t familiar with the film, you might think that it is a typical holiday slasher. What makes My Bloody Valentine stand out above the rest is its killer’s origin, their reasons for taking down victims, and the amazing cast.
The most important factor in My Bloody Valentine is the story itself. Most low budget slashers from the eighties didn’t put much effort into characterization or plot. If you’ve seen My Bloody Valentine, you can tell that the Director George Mihalka put a lot of work into the making of this movie, and it really makes it stand out for that reason alone. This film is simply one of the best slashers in the genre.
One can clearly see the impact that Canada has made on the slasher subgenre. To many fans, My Bloody Valentine and Black Christmas are two of the best slashers to come out in the eighties, with Happy Birthday To Me, Terror Train and Prom Night hanging out at the top of their lists. Overall, I’d say that Canada’s impact on the slasher genre is more substantial than what some might have initially thought.