So here we are at the end of another year of Census Bloodbath. It's been quite a journey to get here, and I would especially like to thank you all for bearing with me during the period of pandemic/job stress where I was unable to write for *checks watch* seven months.
The thing about agreeing to watch all the slasher movies from the 1980's is that there is no definitive resource handily listing them all. So before we dive in, I leave you all with the caveat that some dusty VHS from 1983 might be discovered in a cave somewhere and I'll have to go back and watch it at some point. In fact, my previous post mortems are all about to be amended as I spend the next several weeks going back around the horn to catch up with some slashers that escaped my detection in my first round of research. But I've tightened up my research and selection process considerably and can say with 95% certainty that we've covered every slasher that fits my criteria from the year of our Lord 1983.
So without any further ado, let's spill the guts of '83 and discuss the best and worst the slasher genre had to offer four years in!
The Five Best Slashers of 1983
#5 Deadly Lessons
I feel like there's always at least one TV movie waiting in the wings of every Census Bloodbath year to be absolutely delightful. Sure, the kills pretty much have to be either bloodless or offscreen, but that's kind of what we were getting in the theatrical entries around this time anyway. And Deadly Lessons brings a jam-packed cast (Ally Sheedy! Nancy Cartwright! Bill Paxton! Larry Wilcox! Donna Reed!) to a delightful soapy story of the murderous goings-on at a girls' school where everyone is a red herring and did I mention Donna Reed is there?!
#4 10 to Midnight
10 to Midnight is a bizarre hybrid of the action-thriller and the slasher, much like the previous year's Silent Rage, only instead of Chuck Norris we get a sleepwalking Charles Bronson. I know I'm not exactly selling it, but that combination of subgenres makes this a hotbed of the weirdest impulses of mid-80's filmmaking, and the film is full of odd fillips and weird blind alleys that couldn't have existed outside 1983. Oh, and did I mention the killer is a hot dude who runs around naked? Yeah, I love this movie.
#3 Psycho II
Richard Franklin's Hitchcockian masterpiece Road Games from 1981 got him the gig to helm the long-awaited [sic] sequel to Psycho, and he's such a mastermind he actually made it good, which is something literally nobody could have expected from a sequel to a horror classic that only exists to capitalize on the popularity of the cheap rip-off films it inspired.
#2 Sleepaway Camp
Sleepaway Camp has a complicated history with its queer audiences, but it's nevertheless a schlocktacular camp-fest with creative kills, a dynamic storyline, the backbone to actually murder children, and also James Earl Jones' dad is there!
#1 The House on Sorority Row
Not only is The House on Sorority Row the best slasher of 1983, it's one of the best slashers of the entire damn decade. The gore isn't quite there, save in one or two key moments, but it's a deliciously high-strung tightrope act of tension, as a group of sorority girls must hide the grisly remains of their house mother during a party. It's a splendid splash of Hitchcockian terror that actually does it better than the explicitly Hitchcock-themed movie at #3, features my new favorite 80's band 4 Out of 5 Doctors in an extended live music performance, and dumps you into a psychotropic nightmare sequence in the third act. What's not to like?
The Five Worst Slashers of 1983
#5 The Antwerp Killer
The Antwerp Killer is under an hour long, and yet it felt like it took a year off my life. It's a haphazard collection of shots that only intermittently cohere into actual scenes.
Blödaren might be more coherent than The Antwerp Killer, but that coherence is in service of one of the most boring, rote slasher films ever conceived. The later, rinse, repeat approach to the body count has never been more tedious than when these Swedish rockers wander into house after house with identical "creepy" production design, then peel off one by one to be murdered without sharing a character trait among them.
#3 Mountaintop Motel Massacre
I do love a "madwoman tears through people in an isolated setting" film, but the kills are so deeply noncommittal and poorly executed that it drains all the energy out of this supremely boring collection of half-assed tropes.
#2 Killing of the Flesh
This movie is far more interested in depicting its characters having sex than having anyone murder anyone else. This giant cast is ripe for some And Then There Were None mayhem, and yet almost none of them die. They do have lots and lots of boring sex though.
#1 A Night to Dismember
To be fair, A Night to Dismember is assembled from the footage that remained after a disgruntled film technician destroyed most of the reels. To be unfair, they shouldn't have asked anybody to watch it.
1983 Body Count: 234 (8 decapitations and 6 slit throats)
Highest Body Count: 18 (Boogeyman II), although 8 are flashbacks to the original film, so if we're counting contiguous kills, then the number is 17 (Skullduggery).
Lowest Body Count: 3 (Angst, The Antwerp Killer)
Five Best Kills
#5 The Triple Sex Kebab (Skullduggery)
#4 The Floating Coffin (Frightmare)
#3 The Vanity Kill (A Blade in the Dark)
#2 Ruining Miles' Smile (Psycho II)
#1 The Fountain Drop (Mausoleum)
Best Decapitation: The House on Sorority Row
A severed head is only as good as the receptacle it's dispensed into, and a toilet is such a wonderfully perverse place for it.
Three Best Final Girls
#3 Louise (American Nightmare)
#2 Marci Burke (Sweet 16)
#1 Stefanie Aggiston (Deadly Lessons)
Three Worst Final Girls
#3 Jun (Sketch)
#2 Marília (Momentos de Prazer e Agonia)
#1 Christie Parson (Mortuary)
Four Best Killers
#4 The Killer (Sledgehammer)
#3 Conrad Radzoff (Frightmare)
#2 Norman Bates (Psycho II)
#1 Warren Stacy (10 to Midnight)
Four Worst Killers
#4 The Samurai (Blood Beat)
#3 Elliot Scott (Hanging Heart)
#2 Adam (Skullduggery)
#1 The Bleeder (Blödaren)
Handsomest Lad: Barry Wyatt, Hanging Heart
Hanging Heart might ultimately be homophobic in its messaging, but much in the way of old biblical epics that could show all manner of debauchery as long as the people doing it were punished in the end, we get so much delicious homoeroticism to contend with before the ultimate sucker punch.
Handsomest Lass: Lynda Day George, Mortuary
(Right) You just gotta love a woman who is only seen at bedtime and sporting a full soap opera face of makeup.
Best Location: The London Bridge, Olivia
#3 The Jingle Bell Legwarmers (Blödaren)
#2 Baseball "Uniforms" (Sleepaway Camp)
#1 The Hag Mask (Curtains)
Best Poster: The House on Sorority Row
Best Song: "Melissa" Sweet 16
Best Score: Olivia
The score for Olivia isn't available anywhere, and there aren't even any clips to share that feature it. But alas, it is quite good if you're willing to commit to sitting through all 85 mediocre minutes of it. Jerry Goldsmith's son Joel was the composer here, and he delivers a Carpenterian score that defies logic and the laws of physics, because instead of ripping off Halloween (1978) like all the other slashers out there, he seems to be ripping off Halloween (2018). It's full of aching, droning lamentations and lush orchestral moments that really make you want to call the film "atmospheric" even if nothing else in it is delivering on that level.
Elite Champion Dialogue: "Without people, there wouldn't be... anybody." (Boogeyman II)