November 9th marked the 35th anniversary of the release of A Nightmare on Elm Street and the world’s introduction to the dream stalking Freddy Krueger. And most horror fans will tell you that Freddy, Friday the 13th’s Jason, Halloween’s Michael Myers and Leatherface of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise, make up the Mt Rushmore of slasher movie icons. But who is the best slasher movie icon?
To answer that question four horror movie fans came together to hack and slash it out. With a SPOILER ALERT here is our Freddy vs Jason vs Michael vs Leatherface aka the Ultimate Slasher Showdown:
Freddy Krueger aka The Springwood Slasher
Franchise Period: 1984-2010 (newest)
Total Films: Nine (3rd)
Total Box Office: $457 million (3rd)
Total Kills: 42 (3rd)
Champion: Michael Yuka Toshi Richards, Guest Writer
It takes a lot to make a truly scary horror villain. There is a fine line between menacingly unnerving and hilariously unorthodox. None straddle that line better than Freddy Krueger, whose legacy has survived more than three decades and who has successfully crossed over into other forms of media. Showing an unmatched level of creativity and uniqueness in his kills that leave you most times rooting for the bad guy, it’s no wonder that Freddy has stood the test of time.
Also unlike his other horror counterparts, Freddy is almost an anti-hero. Murdered for crimes that he may or may not have committed, Freddy is simply attempting to balance the scales of those who have wronged him in life and their offspring, even going to such lengths as to resurrect villains from other franchises to do his bidding and finding his way out of his own film universe to attack the filmmakers themselves.
While other slasher movies feature antagonists who rinse and repeat the same old boring tropes of wearing masks, chase-walking behind their hapless victims, catching said victim when they invariably fall over due to the combination of an utter lack of coordination and the killer’s inexplicable ability to teleport, Freddy relies on a much more subtle and nuanced array of strategies that take full advantage of him being the ruler of his domain. No other horror icon has shown quite the creativity, humour and variety of attacks as Freddy has over his long and illustrious career. Attacking his victims at the places and times where they should feel most comfortable there is no escape, and nowhere to run. Freddy relishes in the unbridled possibilities while bringing along the audience for the fun.
Even though he was the last in this list to come to the silver screen, it’s not hard to see the influence Freddy has had on pop culture as a whole, and particularly in characters such as Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice, Pennywise, Mumm-Ra, Chucky and even Shang Tsung.
Franchise Period: 1981-2009 (3rd oldest)
Total Films: 11* (1st)
Total Box Office: $529 million (2nd)
Total Kills: 160+ (1st)
*Part V excluded
Champion: Sommerleigh Pollonais, RMR Horror Head Writer
Halloween kinda gave birth to the Slasher genre, but let’s face it, when you think 80’s Slasher flicks, the first thing that comes to mind is Friday the 13th. This franchise was my go-to as a kid when I wanted to marathon horror movies and it checks all the boxes. Scary location? Check! Slutty teens who love drugs boobs and camping? Check! Memorable kills? Check and check!
The kills ranged from the “how did they do that” of Kevin Bacon getting an arrow through the throat, to the now infamous bashing someone trapped in a sleeping bag against a tree and, we can’t forget, they were foreshadowed by the most iconic theme ever associated with a killer on the loose (Jaws ties for first place), Ki-Ki-Ki, Ma-Ma-Ma. You just KNEW some counselor/hitchhiker/slutty teen, was about the bite the dust when you heard those notes kick in. Here’s a cool bit of trivia for you, the sound was meant to represent Jason’s voice saying to his Mom (the first killer in the franchise) “kill kill kill, her, her, her.” #TheMoreYouKnow
But the icing on the crazy cake is my boy, and the best son a mother could have, Jason Freakin’ Voorhees. Often imitated, never duplicated, Jason evolved like no killer before him ever did. Unlike Michael Myers, there was actually a valid reason this hockey mask-wearing monster couldn’t be stopped, as he’s basically a zombie from hell. I always thought it was unbelievable that Mikey, who is just some dude in a Shatner mask, could get shot multiple times and still be alive. And unlike Freddy K, who could only get you in your dreams and needed people to remember him to keep his power like some kinda washed-up reality TV celebrity, Jason has no rules, no bedtime and no weaknesses. He’s been to Hell, he’s been to Space, and he even faced Freddy himself and who came out on top? That’s right, the man with the machete!
Which just leaves Leatherface and while I’ll be the first to admit, a chainsaw vs a machete might give Leatherface and his weird-ass family the upperhand, it all comes down to who wants it more and Jason Voorhees is basically the Hulk of the slasher franchises. He gets angry and people get dead, chainsaw or not. He’s an unstoppable force and he’s gonna feed that family of cannibals a meal of murder they won’t soon forget. It’s simple really folks, which killer between Freddy, Jason, Michael and Leatherface has the highest body count?
I’ll give you a hint. Ki-Ki-Ki, Ma-Ma-Ma. I rest my case.
Michael Myers aka The Shape
Franchise period: 1978-2018 (2nd oldest)
Total Films: Ten* (2nd)
Total Box Office: $620 million (1st)
Total Kills: 121 (2nd)
*Halloween III: Season of the Witch excluded
Champion: Alicia Veliz, Guest Writer
After being released in October 1978, Halloween went on to become one of the biggest Horror franchises. It was responsible for the popularity of Slasher films during the 1980s and began the interest in the development of the genre, even though it can be argued that it all started with Black Christmas in 1974.
My first experience seeing Michael Myers on my screen as kid opened my interest in the Horror genre. He seemed to be so simple by carrying out menacingly brutal killings and doling out punishment to misbehaving teenagers. I was raised to believe that I should always be the good girl and not to let anyone make me stray onto the path of promiscuity, drug-taking or under-age drinking. Now here comes Laurie Strode aka the good girl…the Final Girl. She becomes the lone survivor and heroine after a night of terror where her wayward friends each die at the hands of Michael Myers aka The Shape. I looked to Laurie Strode as the hero because she was the teenager that was innocent, and she survived. Hence my love of the Slasher genre and Halloween franchise began because in my mind, I could have a chance to be like Laurie. The franchise has withstood the test of time quite nicely with Michael’s origins being rewritten a few times and reviving an interest in the franchise and Slasher genre. The premise is so brilliant at this stage that I wouldn’t change a thing.
Now comes the time to ask ourselves how Michael Myers squares off against our other Slasher counterparts/franchises. Let’s start things off with Mr. Freddy Kruger (A Nightmare on Elm Street). You may say that he is super powerful as a dream demon. The franchise began with a bang with Freddy’s origins being left a mystery up to the viewer. But as time went on Freddy became less scary and campier. See Part 3: Dream Warriors if you don’t believe me. But, even in that movie people actively took control of their dreams and eventually kicked his butt in the end. I’m sorry Freddy you are no longer scary enough for me. Our other candidate is Jason Vorhees (Friday the 13th) our resident Camp Crystal Lake killer. Copying the tropes from Halloween, Jason goes after misbehaving teenagers or in this case negligent camp counsellors. They have unsuccessfully tried to revamp this franchise many times by even changing the killer at one point, which is what I thought they were going for with the introduction of Tommy Jarvis. The Friday the 13th films do not hold up well and they ventured into a somewhat mediocre remake in 2009 which failed to breathe life back into their franchise.
Lastly, Leatherface (Texas Chainsaw Massacre). The only thing that character has done for me is left me feeling totally grossed out every time I watched one of the films. The environment is always so dirty, greasy and rotten. Not to mention Leatherface’s look is so off-putting that it’s hard to connect with the character. Michael kills the victims, victims die, a little blood is spilt and there is no endless torture and rotting flesh to have to get through onscreen. It’s quick and the impact of the death has the desired effect without being too extreme. Michael Myers has broken through and proven that franchises can be revived after many years. And this has happened because you have people that are true fans of the genre in charge of the writing and directing. Evil Never Dies!
Leatherface aka Jedidiah Sawyer aka Thomas Brown Hewitt
Franchise period: 1974-2017 (oldest)
Total Films: Eight (4th)
Total Box Office: $235 million (4th)
Total Kills: 31 (4th)
Champion: Julien Neaves, RMR Editor
Full disclosure folks: Leatherface is not my favourite slasher icon; I’ve always been a fan of the quick-witted Freddy. But Michael called dibs on old claw hand and we tried to find a Leatherface super fan but everyone kept mysteriously disappearing. But these Sawyer burgers with the very rare patties are delicious though. Meat-y! Anywho, I shall give it the old college try and prove that, while Leatherface and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre series may not be the best slasher franchise, it is the scariest.
I had to binge this series for this article and I will admit after the first and stellar film the others are not that great, though I would say that parts III and Leatherface are decent enough. The sequels are worth it though just to see actors like Viggo Mortensen, Matthew McConaughey and R. Lee Ermey ham it up as kill-happy cannibals. Leatherface himself has the smallest kill count of the four icons and is not the most creative with his kills, though he will satisfy the gore hounds. That cutting-off-the-face-and-wearing-it habit? That is some Hannibal Lecter- style creepy. But you know what is the most consistently terrifying thing across the series? That chainsaw! There is something chillingly primal in that grinding sound that it instantly induces pants-wetting. And then you see that gigantic hillbilly chasing after you with said chainsaw and it is Pants Fudge City. That freaking chainsaw is more bone chilling than any Kiki’s mama or John Carpenter theme.
Now let me cut up the competition. Freddy is my boy but after Dream Warriors he got progressively less scary and more campy. And his kills became way less inventive and sillier. Death by video game? Seriously? Jason is the most recognizable of the four but his unstoppable killer shtick was so played out they had to turn him into a body-swapping spirit and then blast him into space and make him a cyborg. You know space? It’s the place where horror movie franchises go to die before rebooting. And Double M is scariest when he is playing stalker and the more he is on camera the less terrifying he becomes. And he once had a kung fu battle with Busta Rhymes. That is just unforgivable.
And Freddy is a dream demon, Jason is a rage zombie and Michael…well… nobody really knows what the hell Michael is. I think it has something to do with a Celtic curse. I dunno. All I know is, he’s harder to kill than 90s Steven Seagal and that ain’t natural. All three of these killers are supernatural but Leatherface? He is a hulking, disfigured, cross-dressing, cannibalistic, chainsaw-wielding murderer and he is 100 per cent human. And his hillbilly cannibal family? That could happen in real life. The content of the first film was so realistic director Tobe Hooper even tried to trick people that it was based on a real story (it wasn’t). So the fact that we could (God forbid) have a real-life Leatherface and Texas cannibal clan and that any one of us on a dusty road trip could randomly stumble upon them, makes the character the scariest one of them all.
Well that was our views on the four slasher movie icons. Now it is time for your voice to be heard:
A very special thanks to our guest writers Michael (not Myers) and Alicia for joining Sommer and I on this blood-spattered list. And also thanks to cbr.com for the kill count and Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights for the main photo.
For Sommer’s Top 5 Iconic Weapons in Horror Movies you can click here.