For years, the slasher subgenre has been a staple of horror itself. It’s often the first type of film that pops into someone’s head when the word “horror” is even uttered. And yet no one can seem to agree on what the first slasher movie truly was.
Different people use different criteria, and usually it comes down to 6 main contenders. So we thought it would be fun to take a look at each one and objectively determine which movie is the actual first slasher!
1. Peeping Tom (1960)
Probably the least well known film on the list, Peeping Tom is a hidden British gem. By today’s standards, it would be called to slowly paced, but it does a great job of building suspense and tension over its runtime.
While not technically a slasher as later defined by masked killers stalking teenagers, this film deals with a demented cameraman who murders women and films the entire thing.
It was a genuinely creepy voyeuristic feel to it as well. It doesn’t follow the formula that would later come to define a slasher film, but it was one of, it not the first horror film of its kind.
And the camera POV nature of his kills would later go on to inspire the entire “found footage” genre. Plus it has the glowing endorsement of Scream 4, in which it’s claimed to be the very first slasher.
2. Psycho (1960)
This film contains by far the most iconic scene in horror cinema, with the shower murder and terrifying violin music. It was directed by Alfred Hitchcock at the height of his career and it understandably considered to be a precursor to the slasher genre.
Although it is more of a psychological thriller, and the body count is only one, it does set the stage for other films with maniacal killers and twist endings, which many slashers would later follow.
But this shouldn’t discount its claim entirely. For without directors like John Carpenter and Wes Craven watching this film, it’s unlikely we would have ever gotten Michael Myers or Freddy Krueger.
While it doesn’t have much to with the formula itself, it does involve a group of people at a lake house being killed in brutal and creative ways. In fact, due to its overtly violent nature, it caused quite the controversy upon release in 1971.
However its overall tone and style, as well as the killer’s motivation, are more similar to that of a murder mystery than a typical slasher.
So it’s quite clear that its gory kills would later inspire many other films, however to call it a true slasher might be a bit of a stretch.
4. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Despite being known for being incredibly gory, the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre has very little blood. It deals with a group of friends who venture into the wrong house and one by one, are victimized by the Leatherface and his cannibalistic family.
In this regard, it’s the first film on this list that somewhat follows the “slasher pattern”. It’s also a much smarter film than it gets credit for. In many ways, it’s a commentary on animal cruelty in the meat industry.
This is evident by Leatherface’s use of meat hooks and the fact that the victims are being prepared for consumption; essentially treating them the same way animals are treated for their meat. But when it is done to humans, we are horrified.
Black Christmas combines elements of previous films on this list, like the POV of the killer (Peeping Tom), and the setup of said killer targeting victims one by one (Texas Chainsaw Massacre).
It definitely helped set the stage for the slasher genre, and if it weren’t released only two months after Texas Chainsaw Massacre, it might have a stronger claim to be the first.
6. Halloween (1978)
It’s the little independent film that launched a franchise that’s still very much alive! As mentioned with the previous entries, Halloween was far from the first to deploy masked killers after a group of unsuspecting victims, nor was it the first to establish certain tropes (the final girl, getting murdering while having sex).
However it was definitely the first to take these tropes and perfect them into an art form. There’s a reason that it was this film, and not the previous entries that kicked off the slasher craze of the 1980’s. It may not have done it first, but it most certainly did it best!
Final Verdict – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
The films that came before helped to set the stage, and Halloween may have perfected the style, but it was the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre that showcased and exhibited the tropes that would one day be associated with slasher genre.
Which one do you consider to be the first slasher? Let us know in the comments below. And for more reviews, rankings, and other fun horror content, follow Halloween Year-Round on Facebook and Twitter!
Based on an earlier article first posted on Dork Daily.