It goes without saying that every movie has a story (hey, I just mentioned it anyway! I’m a rebel that way). And almost every horror movie featuring a deranged murderer has a backstory (or should). With a few exceptions (the original Michael Myers just was and that was scary!), the killer is often motivated by a past act which was done unto him or someone he loved. Thus, a course of events was set, and eventually, the triggered pulled. Sometimes, it was the backstory to these unstoppable killing machines that made the movie that much more intriguing, and sometimes it was the reason the film was even memorable at all… So I present the most often used motivations behind the (sometimes) masked marauders of the slasher genre.
I’m sure many of these titles could fit in several categories, but I put them into the one that instantly struck a bell.
Beware of many, MANY Spoilers ahead, yo!
Motivation #1: The Self Important Killer
You would do well in Hollywood with your it’s-all-about-me attitude. It’s your self-centered stance that makes you want to exact revenge on those who did you wrong. Like the rest of us didn’t have some kind of trauma in our lives?!? A part of me wants to scream, “Get over it!” But who doesn’t want to see you rid the world of snarky cool kids for being… uh… snarky and cool?
Watch the beautiful people meet an ugly end in:
Massacre at Central High
Nail Gun Massacre
Pick of the Litter: Killer Workout – Woman goes nutzo after horrible (and hilarious) tanning bed accident. Killer Party is a beautiful train wreck about revenge and leg warmers.
Motivation #2: The Avenging Unstoppable Killing Machine
You are probably my favorite motivation. You kill because the loss of someone you loved is too great of a burden to carry. You most likely started off fairly normal but were pushed over the edge thanks to some cruel undoing to a family member or lover at the hands of someone else. Your backstory carries the most depth for me, and it’s the one I find the most relatable too. Cuz, you know, I’m all scary and stuff.
Don’t mess with my family, yo:
Happy Birthday To Me
To All a Goodnight
Pick of the Litter: Prom Night – And accidental killing trips the postal effect on one kid and a dance floor.
Motivation #3: The Crazy Insane Doppleganger Who is Actually a Twisted Twin:
You are a mouthful of vengeance that can be extremely effective. Think about it, you’re twin has gone on to live a fairly normal life while you rot away in some hole because you’re supposedly insane. Well, there’s no supposedly about it, based on these few films that prove that two great tastes don’t always taste great together.
Watch the Doublemint Twins go all psycho in:
Girl’s Nite Out
Pick of the Litter: Madhouse – Underrated chiller about one angry, deformed sibling’s jealousy for her pretty counterpart. Creepy.
Motivation #4: A Lover Scorned:
OK, so you do not like getting dumped. I mean, none of us like it, but you take the cake! The wedding cake that is! You are pushed to the limit when your love is completely disregarded. One is the loneliest number which might by why you attack in multiple digits. How thoughtful!
I want my ring back:
He Knows You’re Alone
New Year’s Evil
Pick of the Litter: Hide and Go Shriek – Another train wreck of homoerotic symbolism, cooking with woks and banana clips. Pure awesomeness can be found in one very skinny actress named Bunky Jones who tells her dear friend/victim-to-be to “Buzzzzz off, Buzzzzzzhead.”
Motivation #5: Childhood Traumas
Maybe you saw mama kissing Santa under the mistletoe, right before he took a chainsaw to her! You probably did witness something kinky mixed with a little bit of something violent and your prepubescent brain couldn’t process the whole sordid scene. Oh well, it makes watching you stalk sexed-up teens and adults alike a total, unmitigated blast!
Watch something kinky turn bloody here:
Don’t Go in the House
House of Death
My Bloody Valentine
Silent Night, Deadly Night
Pick of the Litter: Nightmares (aka Nightmares in a Damaged Brain) – What this little guy saw wasn’t exactly that traumatizing, but boy did he take it to another level. Add a little scientific experimentation to an already warped mind and stand back! This guy takes no prisoners!
Motivation #6: The Mutated Monster (Not Quite as the Lord Made Him)
You have some real problems in life. Born deformed (a kind word for butt ugly), your anger at all things lovely has not been lost on us. OK, maybe you’re not ugly, maybe it’s nobody’s fault you can’t function among us normal folks, but we do love a good blood show!
Cringe at the uglies here:
Pick of the Litter: Hell Night – C’mon, like you never been gorked out at any point?
Motivation #7: You Raised a Demon, Vivia
You certainly did. You didn’t want to be there or you might have had some connection to a horrible act committed years before, or maybe you made a pact with the devil (Note to self: not a good idea), but you did it. You crossed over into the otherworld and now we have to pay. Well, they have to pay… I only have to watch!
Spiritual slaughter can be found here:
Class Reunion Massacre
Happy Hell Night
Pick of the litter: Killer Party – Based on my title for this motivation, I’m sure you could have guessed KP would be my film of choice. Take the hijinks, the (admittedly tame) slashings and one pissed of dead frat guy and mix it up with a little White Sister and you’ve got a Molotov cocktail of awesomeness!
Motivation #8: The Idiot-Man-Child
Let’s face it, you’re just some moron who probably had to fend for himself in the wild. Not always, sometimes you could surprise us with your settings, but your reaction to interlopers is still fairly predictable. And you wear diapers, don’t you?
Poopy pants slaughter here:
Don’t Go in the Woods
House on Sorority Row
Memorial Valley Massacre
Pick of the litter: Just Before Dawn – Dumb hillbillies with a penchant for blood, this film is one of the greatest works of slasher cinema ever committed to celluloid. A complete triumph of terror (with its own set of Doublemint Twins – both evil!).
Motivation #9: You So Crazy!
Let’s face it, you are just fucking nuts. And I love you!
Insanity, your table for one is ready:
Home Sweet Home
Slumber Party Massacre
When a Stranger Calls
Pick of the Littler: When a Stranger Calls Back – I still can’t figure out why this guy did what he did, but he had an awesome ventriloquist act, he painted himself to match the walls and he had a crazy knack for throwing his voice. Dude was scary!
Motivation #10: Killer Kids
You think you’re so cute and rambunctious but we know you better as the child without a conscience who only sees what he/she wants and will do anything to get. Your parents certainly raised you right!
Tykes of terror:
Pick of the Litter: The Pit – Jamie was a boy who loved his teddy bear, his hot local librarian and feeding his fellow Tralalogs humans. How sweet!
Motivation #11: Psychic Connections – You might not have raised a demon, but you definitely have an open phone line to them and help them make the trip over to our side. Gee, thanks!
Mr. Telephone Man, Satan is on the line:
Pick of the Litter: The Slayer – Another great underrated classic, the Slayer is one part Nightmare on Elm Street, one part gore galore and one part monster flick. A perfect combo for those cold, rainy nights when a good scare is needed.
Motivation #12: Greed
You want it all don’t you? And you don’t mind getting a little blood on your hands if you helps you down your path to riches. Or maybe you’re just ticked because others have benefited and you haven’t? Really, can’t you just, like, get a job?
Money & mayhem go hand in hand:
Pick of the Litter: Bay of Blood – Greed is an understament in the game of death as not one, but several killers enter the fold in the hopes of attaining a large estate. Dollar signs and gore reign.
Motivation #13: The Institution of being Institutionalized – Society tried to cure you, but something went horribly awry and now nothing anyone does can fix the damage they’ve caused. And now you you need to make sure we pay for what we did. Awesome!
You can check in because you’ve checked out:
Last Slumber Party
Pick of the Litter: Stagefright – One of Italy’s most underrated horror directors, Michele Soavi helmed this incredible slasher about an escaped mental patient who runs afoul of a rehearsing band of dancers. Locked in for the night, mayhem ensues as a crazed maniac wearing a giant (and effectively scary) owl head stalks his prey with finesse!
*Amanda By Night would like to thank Michael Ferrari from Cinema Du Meep and Nathan Johnson for their help with putting together this list.