A slasher film is a subgenre of horror films, typically involving a psychopathic killer stalking one or more victims.

Although the term “slasher” originated as a marketing label, there is an established audience interest in the films.

Combining elements of horror, comedy, and science fiction, slasher films have developed into a well-defined genre in their own right.

The typical film involves an ongoing series of murders by the same individual or group, although some series have been portrayed with a revolving cast of killers.

Let’s take a look!


WHAT IS A slasher film

What is a slasher film?

Slasher films are a subgenre of horror movies that revolve around a psychopath, also known as a ‘slasher’ or ‘mass murderer’, who stalks, and subsequently murders people.

Title sequences often feature the murder of the previous victim. The killer is frequently depicted as being motivated by revenge.

The term “slasher” refers to the way in which the killer slashes at his or her victims with an often bladed weapon. The film typically follows one of two-story patterns:

1. Teenagers or young adults (either as couples or groups) who are stalked at a summer camp, school or somewhere else isolated by someone with a motive of revenge.

2. In some cases, a psychopathic killer simply stalks and murders people at random.



The genre was first popularized by director John Carpenter with his 1978 film Halloween.

Some hardcore fans distinguish between “true” slashers, which adhere strictly to the conventions of the genre; and “slasher films”, which feature similar themes but fall outside the genre’s conventions.

Here’s our guide to slasher films, including the history, origins and top films:

What Is A Slasher Movie?

From the music to the blood and the death scenes, slasher movies are some of the most entertaining movies ever made.

They are also one of the most popular genres in film history.


Trying to determine what makes a good slasher movie is a difficult task since there are so many different ones out there.

Some have been brilliant, while others have failed miserably.

The characters and plots are what make a movie great – or not so great.

There are literally thousands of different factors that go into making a movie great and it’s hard to nail it down to one thing.

However, we can look at some key points that can make or break a slasher film.

The plot is extremely important in any movie, but especially in a slasher film. You need to keep the audience engaged, or they will lose interest very quickly.

A typical slasher film has several characters introduced in an isolated location, usually a campground, forest or summer cabin.

This location is visited by the mysterious figure who often wears masks or bizarre clothing.. Don’t forget the ominous background music…very important!

Often victims are stalked one at a time until only one character remains to be killed in the final scene by the murderer, who often has a signature weapon.

Slashers are typically not concerned with providing explanations for their crimes; they exist simply to kill off characters in increasingly spectacular ways.

Slasher films appeared long before the term was coined and were not exclusive to any single filmmaker or studio.

It was not until the release of Halloween (1978) that the subgenre began to enjoy popularity and widespread success.


Slasher Horror Movies

Torture porn is a sub-subgenre of slasher horror films that focuses on the infliction of pain or mutilation as entertainment. 

While most “slasher” films involve a single killer, torture porn usually follows multiple torturers and their victims in an anthology format. The term is often used to describe movies with graphic violence, though it can also apply to movies with gratuitous nudity, sex, gore or profanity.

The genre began with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974). Films like Black Christmas (1974), Halloween (1978), and Friday the 13th (1980) followed soon after.

These films released during the height of the “video nasty” scare in England, when violent exploitation films made by independent filmmakers were blamed for a wave of crimes committed by teenagers.

Some critics have written that these early slasher films were inspired by real-life serial killers like Ed Gein and John Wayne Gacy. In the end credits of Halloween, there was even a disclaimer that the film was intended “as a fictional story”.


Slasher Horror Movie Characters

The first movie in this genre was Black Christmas (1974), followed by Halloween (1978) and  Prom Night (1980).

The genre reached its peak with the release of A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) which was released over the course of two years and grossed $25 million at the box office.

The boom continued with Friday the 13th (1980), My Bloody Valentine (1981), Sleepaway Camp (1983), Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984), April Fool’s Day (1986), A Return to Salem’s Lot, The Stepfather, and Happy Birthday to Me (1981).

There are many subgenres that borrow from the slasher genre, including:

  • home invasion,
  • killer kids,
  • medical thriller,
  • supernatural thriller,
  • asylum slasher,
  • psychological thriller,
  • holiday-themed, or
  • Christmas-themed films.

In the 1970s and 1980s, slasher movies were at the height of their popularity. Blood, guts and gore filled the big screen as serial killers found new ways to get revenge on their victims.

The killers weren’t born with a serial killer mentality, but rather, their circumstances turned them into monsters.

In recent years there has been a decline in the number of these films being produced for mainstream audiences as filmmakers seek out new ways to scare their viewers. 

Key Elements Of Slasher Movies

The slasher film genre has been criticized for its over-reliance on graphic violence, nudity, and gore.

The key elements of a slasher film are:


Plot is the structure that connects your beginning, middle, and end. It is about how you will build up suspense, tension and release it, keeping your audience interested all the time.

Plot is not just the sequence of events that happen in the story. It’s all those events combined with what you experience as you watch it. If you have a short attention span or are easily bored, there’s a good chance you won’t like this type of story.


Pacing is about how fast/slow you write your story. If a movie is too fast, it will be over in 2 hours and leave your audience unsatisfied. 

If it’s too slow, no one will be interested after 20 minutes because they fell asleep and missed something important. Your pacing will depend on your plot because pacing comes from plot.

What Was The First Slasher Film?

What was the first slasher film? The answer might surprise you. Despite what you might think, the first slasher film wasn’t Halloween or Friday the 13th. Instead, it was a little-known movie called Black Christmas.

Released in 1974, the film follows a group of sorority sisters being stalked by a killer over the Christmas holiday, and it’s considered to be one of the progenitors of the subgenre known as “slasher films.

Black Christmas is a Canadian horror movie that actually predates the better-known Halloween by nine months. While it wasn’t technically the first slasher film, it introduced many key elements that are now associated with these types of movies. 

For starters, it features a masked killer who stalks teenage girls (a trope that would later become inseparable from slasher films).

Even more interestingly, it was one of the first movies to include multiple murders within its runtime, which is something that would become commonplace in future films of this genre.

Despite its status as a true classic of horror cinema, Black Christmas has never received a sequel or remake (or even a direct ripoff for that matter). 


What Are Giallo Films?

Today, giallo films are known for their stylish set pieces, masterful use of color, and bloody violence. However, the genre’s roots lie in mystery novels and pulp thrillers. 

The first giallo film, The Mask of Satan (aka Black Sunday), was released in 1960. It was directed by Mario Bava, who would go on to helm dozens of other giallo films throughout his career.

The 1960s also saw a rise in giallo novels written by Italian authors like Giorgio Scerbanenco and Camille DeAngelis. These novels then inspired more Italian filmmakers to experiment with the murder mystery genre. 

Films like Blood and Black Lace (1964) focused on stylish set pieces and colorful imagery to tell stories of murder and mayhem.

As is often the case with cinematic trends, the United States soon caught on to this emerging genre. In 1971, director Dario Argento released his directorial debut, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. This giallo thriller is considered to be a classic in the genre and helped establish Argento as one of its most prominent directors of his generation.

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