I debated long and hard as to whether or not to consider Final Destination a slasher, and I finally said, "Why not?" After all, just because the villain isn't human or even visible doesn't mean that he/she/it is any less of an unstoppable killer. The killer in question is Death itself, and it's a tricky, heartless bugger who seeks to claim the lives of the high school French class members who got off a plane before it crashed. Since they had been fated to die on the plane, they broke Death's plan, and now it's got unfinished business, picking off the kids one by one in extravagant, red herring-filled "accidents." It's an ingenious concept and one that's perfectly executed -- although diminished somewhat by the derivative sequels.
The pinnacle of the Friday the 13th series is wonderfully cartoonish from the get-go, with an opening scene in which Jason is revived by a bolt of lightning that segues into a title sequence that parodies James Bond. Part VI, which had to come strong to make up for the betrayal that fans felt from Part V, infuses a great dark sense of humor without sacrificing the scares or the gore. Although the first seven films in the series are remarkably solid, if you have to see only one Friday the 13th, make it this one.
A true groundbreaker and one of the first legit slashers, Black Christmas predated the more well-known Halloween by four years and features a "killer making crank call from inside the house" concept that predated the original When a Stranger Calls by five years. Even to this day, its tale of a maniac terrorizing a sorority house can make your skin crawl -- largely because of the über-creepy phone voice (done in part by director Bob Clark himself) that makes you want to shower after hearing it.
Perhaps the ultimate slasher, Scream smartly built upon the tradition that its predecessors had established, taking bits from here and there and fusing them with a clever plot, a snappy, self-conscious script that pokes fun at the genre, a masterful director (Wes Craven) and a modern flair. It single-handedly reinvigorated slashers, which had run their course by the end of the '80s, making serial killing once again marketable to teenagers.
The film that started it all. Although there were technically a few other slashers before Halloween, none came close to having the lasting impact of John Carpenter's classic. Thanks to Halloween, we now have genre standards like virginal heroines, masked, unstoppable killers and open-ended conclusions. Its success opened the door for the flood of slasher movies during the '80s and helped sustain the viability of independent film in general -- horror or otherwise. The story is as simple as a scary bedtime story -- an escaped mental patient who murdered his sister returning to his childhood home to wreak havoc -- but it's so exquisitely executed, from the direction to the acting to the creepy score, that Halloween has become legend.