In 1978, John Carpenter released an independent horror movie titled Halloween. Stylish, creepy, and original, Halloween terrorized audiences and packed movie theaters for several months, the popularity fueled largely by word of mouth. Halloween became one of the most successful independent movies ever released, and the slasher era was born.
Riding the coattails of John Carpenter’s classic, slasher movies poured forth between 1979 and 1989 like torrents of gore from a Jason Vorhees machete wound. Some movies hit, and some missed. Instant classics such as Friday the 13th, When a Stranger Calls, and Just Before Dawn represented the very best of the sub-genre. Others, not so much.
Some combined elements of pop culture to truly awkward effects, and others were just plain weird. Here are a few of my favorite awkward moments in slasher movie history. And just so we are clear, I actually enjoy all three of these movies. So don’t send me hate mail for ripping on your favorite slashers.
Let’s start at the bottom, shall we? The prom dancing scene of Prom Night (1980) is a flamboyantly gaudy reminder that disco was actually popular at one point in history. When you watch this scene, be sure to catch a glimpse of Airplane’s Leslie Nielsen in the foreground.
Yep, that isn’t going to go down as Jamie Lee Curtis’ proudest onscreen moment. Once the jackets get thrown off, you just know that some bad-ass disco dancing is going to go down. Saturday Night Fever this is not, and I half-expected the male dancer’s jacket to fly into the screen and land on his head, ala Airplane!
Prom Night (1980) is a film that is as much a time capsule of its era as it is a slasher film. The disco-infused prom scene, complete with over-the-top dance moves and questionable fashion choices, is a glaring example of this. Yet, despite its dated and sometimes laughable elements, the movie has become a cult classic among horror fans.
Jamie Lee Curtis manages to lend a sense of credibility to an otherwise campy production. Her performance as the lead character, Kim, is a highlight, showing her ability to rise above the material.
But Prom Night is more than just its infamous dance scene. Its plot centers around a group of teenagers being stalked by a masked killer seeking revenge for a tragic accident that happened years earlier. The suspense is built methodically, and the film does an effective job at creating an atmosphere of dread as the prom night draws closer.
Though the film’s pacing may feel uneven at times, especially with the inclusion of humorous elements like Leslie Nielsen’s unexpected appearance, it does manage to deliver on the slasher thrills. The kills, while not as gory or inventive as other films from the same era, are still satisfying for fans of the genre.
What truly sets Prom Night apart, however, is its ending. The reveal of the killer’s identity and the motivations behind the murders add a layer of tragedy and complexity to the story that is rare in slasher films of the time. This twist elevates the film from a mere exploitation flick to something more thoughtful and engaging.
In retrospect, Prom Night may not stand shoulder to shoulder with the more acclaimed horror films of its time, but it has its charm. Its blend of ’70s disco culture, classic slasher tropes, and unexpected emotional depth make it a unique entry in the genre.
So, while the prom dancing scene may not rival Saturday Night Fever, and some moments may induce more laughter than terror, Prom Night’s cult status is well-deserved. It’s a film that embraces its identity, flaws and all, and offers an entertaining and sometimes surprisingly poignant ride for those willing to step onto its dance floor.
And now we move from the absurd to the bizarre. Girls Nite Out (1982), also known as The Scaremaker, featured a psychopath stalking pretty girls on a college campus. Seen it all before? Well, what if the killer was dressed up as a big, loveable teddy bear? Bet you haven’t seen that before, have ya, Slick?
Oh, where to start with Girls Nite Out? If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like if Teddy Ruxpin decided to throw his innocent persona aside and go on a killing spree, then boy, do I have a film for you.
Directed by Robert Deubel, Girls Nite Out doesn’t just push the envelope of bizarre; it tears it up and sets it on fire, then dances around it in teddy bear slippers. The plot is your standard slasher fare: a college scavenger hunt turns into a night of terror as girls are picked off one by one. But here’s the twist: the killer’s dressed as a dancing teddy bear. You heard me right. A teddy bear.
And this isn’t just any teddy bear. Oh no. This teddy bear’s got claws – literal claws that pop out when the bear decides it’s murderin’ time. This bear doesn’t hug. It hacks and slashes while yelling some very un-teddy-like language. It’s like Winnie the Pooh’s evil twin who was raised in a biker gang.
Hal Holbrook, a respectable actor, finds himself trapped in this fur-flying madness. He plays the security guard who’s supposed to stop the bear. Hal’s performance is so lackluster it’s as if he knows he’s in a film where the killer is a swearing teddy bear, and he’s just wondering how his life has come to this.
But for all its absurdities, Girls Nite Out is oddly endearing. The bear costume, the over-the-top deaths, the cheesy dialogue – it all adds up to a slasher film that doesn’t take itself too seriously. And thank goodness for that, because it would be hard to keep a straight face watching a furry fiend terrorize a college campus.
The movie is filled with all the hallmarks of 80’s horror: bad hair, worse fashion, and acting that’s just a little too enthusiastic. But all these elements come together to create a guilty pleasure that’s as much comedy as horror.
In conclusion, if you’ve ever looked at a teddy bear and thought, “I wish this plush toy would become a psycho killer,” then Girls Nite Out might be the film for you. It’s a unique experience that blends humor and horror in a way that’s entirely its own. So grab some popcorn, put up your feet, and prepare to bear witness to one of the strangest slasher films ever made. And remember, no teddy bears were harmed in the making of this movie – but your sanity might be!
The only thing better than seeing a teddy bear murder someone is listening to the same teddy bear screaming, “B*tch” and “Whore” over and over. Gotta love that. As bizarre as Girls Nite Out is, I admit to watching this one every few years. It’s not a bad movie to be quite honest, despite an absolute mail-in of a performance from Hal Holbrook.
But wow. Really bizarre.
Now let’s press the accelerator to the floor, shall we?
“Bigfoot’s not playing games anymore. Next time he won’t be happy just to scare us.”
This line is just one of many such gems from Night of the Demon (1980), the only slasher movie I am aware of featuring Bigfoot. Warning – this trailer is extremely graphic, as well as great, wicked fun. No seriously, it’s really graphic. Bigfoot is not to be messed with, kids.
At one point in the movie, the searchers in the woods find their boat oars smashed. Wondering who or what could have smashed their oars, one of the searchers suggests that it might have been an elephant. I laughed for about five days after I heard that line.
In another scene, Bigfoot uses some sort of demonic telekinesis or possession ability to cause two girl scouts to murder each other. Bigfoot had mad skillz in this movie. In yet another scene, a man had his member…uh…dismembered by Bigfoot. Jack’s Beef Jerky, anyone? Stop messing with Sasquatch!
I don’t watch Night of the Demon often, my friends. But when I do, I consume every last cheesy morsel of it.
Those are my three favorite awkward slasher movie moments. What are your favorites?