10 off-beat slasher flicks to prepare you for 'Freaky'

Kathryn Newton in 'Freaky.'
(Image credit: Universal)

The slasher. The horror sub genre most able to generate “best kills” discussions and to get audiences to root for colorful villains. In the post-Scream world, slashers have had to get meta, get more self aware, get camp. With Freaky, Blumhouse and Universal’s next slasher that blends together Freaky Friday and Friday the 13th, on the horizon, the self-aware slasher boom has officially been extended. Recent film trends have given us a plethora of kicks at the slasher greats in ways that referenced classics, or brought brand new takes to the genre by layering in elements of the super-natural and science fiction. Though extended slasher franchises are no stranger to jumping off the rails, these ones throw machetes and axes at bonkers storylines that take on more than a masked baddy. So, in order to prepare you for the release of this new twist in the genre, or to get you building character backstories for your next round of 'Among Us,' here are ten off-beat slashers to get you prepped for Freaky.

Happy Death Day (2017)

It’s impossible to talk Freaky without mentioning Happy Death Day. Also from director, Christopher Landon, HDD is a super fun twist on the formula that doesn’t just introduce a new masked villain, but slaps it in the face with a time loop. Happy Death Day does for Groundhog Day what Freaky purports to do for Freaky Friday by taking a slasher storyline and throwing it at a moral-filled comedy. Tree Gelbman is a welcome addition to the Final Girl bench with her version of grief turning her into an angry and unlikeable sorority girl whose layers are pulled apart as we watch her die again and again. Endlessly rewatchable and the best case for watching Freaky, HDD and its sequel are ones you won’t want to skip.

The Guest (2014)

Bashing together elements of Halloween and Terminator 2, The Guest splashes a thinly veiled sci-fi thriller with the blood of a slasher. Dropping Dan Stevens’ David on audiences took the charismatic villain to a brand-new place where even the characters were confused about whether they would follow him to hell. The Guest is a perfect Halloween flick, and one of the best anytime off-beat horror movies that exploits the right amount of score, tone, and set-pieces to make you unsure if you should laugh, cheer or shudder. If the only thing missing from your favorite slashers is an unmasked barfight, then this film has a treat for you.

The Belko Experiment (2016)

Office themed horror flicks add new catharsis to a genre already filled to the brim with it. Many of us have dreamt of the release associated with slaying our boss or that co-worker who chews too loudly or talks over you in meetings. Or there are those of us who expect an apocalypse at any given moment and have considered how effective that monitor riser would be as a shield. The Belko Experiment takes on the office hierarchy and the theories of the personality type that tends to drive people to the top. Testing humanity for their willingness to kill to survive, The Belko Experiment tackles philosophical and psychological theories on self-serving behavior and obedience to authority. It does that by showcasing the goriest most messed up and disgusting version of the trolley problem.

Mom and Dad (2017)

Slipping dangerously close to zombie territory, Mom and Dad is a what-if tale about a world where parents are suddenly bombarded with an insatiable urge to kill their own children. Lead by the incomparable Selma Blair and Nicholas Cage, this one has two crisis-having parents spilling over their resentment for this new life into full blown slash-attacks. This absolute blast has Cage and Blair enthusiastically and pragmatically bringing guns to a knife fight which is made infinitely greater by their unhinged performances. From Blair crying in the car to Cage delivering the most self-aware performance to date, this one will have you laughing and screaming while watching someone casually mop up blood.

The Final Girls (2015)

Plenty of slashers live and die by their heart and The Final Girls dumps heart all over the place. Reminiscent of the off-beat action flick, Last Action Hero, this one sends Max (Taissa Farmiga) inside the slasher that made her mother, Amanda (Malin Ackerman) a scream queen. Thrust into a world where her late mother is young and warm, Max and her friends need to outwit the slasher film in order to reach the resolution and be free from the walls of the silver screen. The Final Girls plays to and subverts every slasher trope by having the gang do things like preventing campers from having sex to avoid the Voorhees-like killer from showing up and realizing what makes a true Final Girl. It’s heartwarming and sweet with stellar gags and a hilarious striptease from Angela Trimbur that could be the best performance on this list.

Triangle (2009)

Less comedic and campy as lots of the others, Triangle is a true-blue slasher with an axe-wielding killer that dips into off-beat with its science fiction elements. Starting with a bang, the hacking and slashing in this terror takes place on an abandoned ocean liner that friends stumble across after a boating accident. Jess (Melissa George) has an unshakeable sense of dread and deja vu.  and after some time on the large vessel, realizes she is onto something; her friends and her are being hunted. What’s an otherwise hellish tale of murder at sea is made all-the-more compelling by a storyline that throws Jess into a perceived time loop that makes the hunt for the killer both terrifying and more necessary. The story is so well-crafted that the loop reveals are used in such a way to shake-up reality before letting the audience in on the gag. For a heady fright at sea, Triangle is the ship to board.

Tragedy Girls (2017)

Lampooning Gen Z internet culture, Tragedy Girls comes for blood when it presents Sadie (Brianna Hildebrand) and McKayla (Alexandra Shipp) as a pair of social media obsessed teens bent on getting the most likes, comments and subscribes. Blowing up the desire for internet clout and lengths people will go to chase it, this film posits a world where two young women take to serial murder to get their online fame. The teen horror for a generation, this one is stuffed with the laughs that can only come from two tiny teens trying to hack apart a body with increasingly intense sharp weapons. Many of us would argue in favor of riotous laughter in the face of all slasher kills, but by adding the element of slang spewing teens and a scathing indictment of social media culture, Tragedy Girls forces the giggles. 

You Might be the Killer (2018)

With Zola on the horizon, maybe movies being based on twitter threads seems commonplace, but You Might be the Killer certainly blazed the trial. Lifted from a berserk twitter thread between Chuck Wendig and Sam Sykes, this takes on a meta-slasher bit when Sam was asked by his buddy to consider whether he might be the killer taking life at a summer camp. Another take on Friday the 13th slasher tropes, Brett Simmons’ hilarious self-aware slasher plays with what we know about the genre and gives us Alyson Hannigan’s take on the learned film-bro that makes the character loveable and warm. It’s an absolute riot that looks slasher fans right in the face and says, “I see you and I love you.”

Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)

A pioneer of the meta-sequel, this installment in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise is a titan of self-aware slashers. Freddy Krueger is one of the all-time most notorious slasher villains that ran with the trends of the time and took them to new berserk chatty killer lengths. This return of Craven to the franchise takes on the filmmakers in the “real world” where Freddy is a dream that begs to be captured on the page. As ahead of its time as much of Craven’s work, New Nightmare cleared the path for the meta-slasher he would ultimately crystalize as a staple with Scream. What’s more is that is takes on deeper themes with questions about career, motherhood, identity and where one ends up after a slasher film consumes their life. Without Craven’s twisted take on the slasher formula, there might not have been any space for the remainder of these to exist.

Ready or Not (2019)

Samara Weaving has cemented herself in the center of off-beat horror with her work on Mayhem and The Babysitter, but nothing rocks quite like Ready or Not. Starting the flick as the cool-girl bride, Grace (Weaving) is soon chucked into the center of a bloodbath when her husband’s eccentric board game empire family forces her into a killer game of fate’s choosing. Hide and seek has the highest stakes as the family has the night to hunt Grace and kill her lest they upset an unseen entity. Grace swims through blood in this game of death that’s more The Evil Dead and The Cabin in the Woods than it immediately lets on. Writer and Directors Guy Busick, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, and Tyler Gillett are slated for Scream 5 so off-beat slashers seems to be their wheelhouse.

Lindsay Traves

Lindsay Traves is a Toronto-based writer. After submitting her Bachelor’s thesis, “The Metaphysics of Schwarzenegger Movies,” she decided to focus on writing about her passions; sci-fi, horror, sports, and comic books. You can find her writing on CGMagazine, Pajiba, What to Watch, Grim Magazine, StarTrek.com, and Bloody Disgusting and can follow her work on Twitter and Instagram. You can also check out her podcast, The Pod and The Pendulum, at your usual podcast spots and find The Smash List on YouTube for tech reviews.