ONTD Halloween Original™: The Killers' Motives in 20 Slasher Movies

Record © 2000 Sam Wu Communications

"Actions are visible, though motives are secret."
- Samuel Johnson

Why do killers kill? That is something every true crime follower wants to know. What was the motive for taking someone else's life? Unfortunately in reality, the answer is never clear cut or one we want to hear.

As for many slasher movies, the motives are almost always very simple. Either from a baser and taboo instinct to kill, or for revenge. The latter is present in most slashers. Rarely the reason is entirely different and unexpected.

Below are twenty horror and suspense movies (with a slasher element) where the killer has a specific motive. Be aware of spoilers.


During prom night, a teenager and her friends are picked off by a masked killer.

[The motive]As kids, the protagonist and her friends played a game that ended in her sister's death. They never told anyone what happened. However, her brother figured it out and he got revenge for his dead sister. This is why he killed his other sister's friends and tried to kill her as well. Instead he died in his sister's arms.


Around Valentine's Day, a group of friends begin to get picked off by a killer in a Cupid mask. But why?

[The motive]When the women in the movie were teenagers, they were mean to a boy named Jeremy Melton. One of the girls even lied and said Jeremy attacked her, which caused him to get beat up by some other students. In the present, one of the now grown-up girls, Kate, is dating a guy named Adam. In the end, Adam turns out to be Jeremy Melton. He framed another of Kate's friends to make it seem like she was the killer all along. With everyone else dead, Kate is left alone with Adam/Jeremy, not realizing the truth.


When the sisters of a sorority mistakenly murder someone, they hide the body on the grounds so they can throw their graduation party in the house. However, someone knows their secret - and they're going to make the women pay for their crime.

[The motive]The sisters killed their house mom, Mrs. Slater. What the women didn't realize was that Mrs. Slater had a secret son named Eric. He was living on the grounds the whole time without them knowing it - and he knew what they did to his mother. So he took revenge and murdered the guilty parties. The last victim, Katey, battled Eric in the attic in the finale. She stabbed him, but the wound wasn't fatal as the last shot showed Eric waking up.in proximity of a weak, vulnerable Katey.


The young residents in a mining town defy the cautionary legend of a deranged killer, who supposedly murders anyone who celebrates Valentine's Day after a tragedy befell the town two decades ago on the holiday. As it turns out, the legend is true.

[The motive]The town banned its annual Valentine's Day dance twenty years prior because of a tragedy: two supervisors at the mine left the miners unsupervised so they could attend the town's dance. There was a cave-in that left the miners dead except for one, who resorted to cannibalism to survive. The survivor killed the two supervisors before being hospitalized at mental institution. The survivor swore if the Valentine's Day resumed, he'd return to take revenge. With all that time gone by, the town decides to hold the dance again. Well, the killer isn't happy about this nor is he the mine survivor as everyone suspected - it's Axel, one of the protagonists. He faked his death later near the end in the mine. Axel is the son of one of the slain supervisors, and he wanted revenge for his father after the town resumed the Valentine's Day dance.


Some students at a women's finishing school decide to stay behind over Christmas break. They invite some men over, which is against the rules. Eventually, people start to go missing. The cops are brought in the protect the house, but it's of no use - a killer dressed as Santa Claus is out for blood.

[The motive]The movie immediately opens with a scene two years before the current story. In it, a young woman is accidentally killed during a prank at the same school. Fastforward to the present day: Mrs. Jensen, the house mother, is the killer. There are two murderers here: she and her husband, who is a police detective. Their daughter was the one who died in the accident at the start of the movie. Viewers can even see a photo of her in Mrs. Jensen's room. The grieving parents never got over their daughter's death obviously. So they decided to kill the students left behind for Christmas. However, none of these women attacked in the movie had anything to do with the Jensens' daughter's death - they just conveniently happened to be there.


When Kurt was young, he brutally murdered his mother. Since then, he has been living in a mental institution. Until he escapes one night, looking to find his family and finish what he started.

[The motive]During his escape from the hospital, Kurt killed a security guard and stole his uniform. He pretended to be the guard, Gary, and he went undetected throughout the movie. He tried to kill his sister Sara, her mom, and her friends. In the end, Kurt's father Sheriff Pat Baker, shot Kurt in Sara's room. This segued into the revealed truth: after escaping the hospital, Kurt was almost immediately shot to death by Sheriff Baker. Kurt had come to realize that as a child, he was abused by his dad (who wore clown-ish makeup while committing the act). Baker then killed his wife and blamed it on his son to ensure that word of the abuse never became public. The girl "Sara" and her friends and family that Kurt stalked (as "Gary") were not his real sister, etc. They were just the people he saw in a photo every day inside of his hospital room, and he imagined they were Sara and so on. Kurt concocted this whole fantasy to cope with his past. The only things that actually happened were Kurt's escape and his father killing him on the side the road. The other stuff that followed was just part of Kurt's imagination. The movie ends with the sheriff coming home to his new wife and the real Sara as well as his new son. It is hinted that the man was abusing this boy, too.


When a small group of women audition for a role at a remote mansion, they are systematically picked off by a killer wearing a hag mask.

[The motive]Of the five women auditioning for the coveted role, two of them were murderers. Uninvited guest Samantha killed the director, Stryker, as well as veteran actress Brooke. Comedian Patti admits she killed the other women so she could win the role for herself. After confessing that, Patti kills Samantha. The movie ends with Patti being checked into a mental hospital.


College students invited to a friend's remote mansion on an island are picked off by an unseen killer.

[The motive]No one killed in the movie actually dies. It was all faked and planned by their host, Muffy. She wants to open a murder mystery resort and she was using her friends as guinea pigs.


Upon Virginia's return to an elite academy, those closest to her start to suffer grisly deaths.

[The motive]Four years earlier, Ginny was humiliated when her guests skipped out on her birthday celebration in favor of going to rival Ann's party. The reason why no one showed up was that the community did not like Ginny's promiscuous mother, Estelle. Ginny was dragged by Estelle to Ann's party, but the hostess denied them entrance. This caused Estelle to get drunk and she had a car accident. Ginny survived, but her mother did not. Those guests as well as Ginny and Ann all grew up to be part of the most popular clique, the Top Ten, at their school. Once her friends, including Ann, start dying off, Ginny is thought to be the murderer. Yet there are no bodies left behind. Back early from his trip in time to celebrate his daughter's eighteenth birthday, Ginny's father finds his sedated daughter, the other Top Ten corpses, and his late wife's body inside of a cottage. A Ginny doppelgänger was behind the murders, but it is really Ann disguised as Ginny. The two are half-sisters since Estelle had an affair with Ann's father, and this secret enraged Ann. In hopes of framing Ginny, Ann killed the people who did not come to Ginny birthday party four years ago. The siblings' struggle results in Ann's demise. A detective shows up and asks Ginny, who is holding a knife and singing "Happy Birthday" to herself, "What have you done?"


Years after a prank on a classmate went horribly wrong and evidence of the incident was seemingly erased, the high school perpetrators are hunted down by someone who knows their shared secret.

[The motive]The bullied student is invited to hang out with the popular students close to summer break at a remote cabin. There, they play a prank that ends in his death - they accidentally used a real knife instead of a prop to stab him during a staged home invasion. So the bullies bury his body. The problem, though, is that he didn't die. He woke up while being torched alive and eventually fell to his demise from a cliff's edge. The bullies make a vow of secrecy rather than turn themselves in. As school resumes, the group is menaced with footage of that terrible night (recorded by the bullies themselves) as well as hunted down and tortured. The killer turns out to be the bullied student's sister. However, she did not act alone. Her teacher was her accomplice and he tries to finish what she started at the very end.


The overnight stock crew of a small supermarket are trapped inside with a killer.

[The motive]One of the store's owners decided to sell the business. As it turns out, the co-owner, Bill, wasn't too happy with this decision and he killed him and then the employees. At the end, the two survivors are framed by Bill, who claims they killed everyone else. Their fates are unknown as the movie ends.


The teenage virgins of a small town are targeted by a crazed killer.

[The motive]The killer is a teacher named Mr. Marliston. He wanted to scare the town's teens into having an orgy, which would cause chaos among their parents. Mr. Marliston's mother was raped by the protagonist Jody's father, Brent, as well as four other teenage boys back in high school. Mr. Marliston was abused by his mother, and he blames Brent and his partners in crime for that. It's implied that one of the rapists - specifically Brent - is his biological father. In the end, Brent is killed, but Jody defeats Mr. Marliston by letting him fall off a balcony and impale himself on a fence post.


Siblings Laura and Henry witnessed their parents being killed by a hooded figure as children. As adults, Laura has a phobia of the Boogeyman, and so does her brother. However, she's checked into a hospital for therapy while Henry goes out of town for a job interview. At the hospital, Laura and the other therapy patients are preyed upon by the Boogeyman.

[The motive]Unlike in the previous movie, the killer here is not supernatural, as revealed near the end. It is Henry who was killing everyone. As a form of immersion therapy, Henry was locked in a closet by a therapist named Dr. Ryan, and he was forced to wear a Boogeyman mask. This intensified his trauma, even making him become the Boogeyman in a way. Laura thinks she's decapitated Henry, but it was actually Dr. Ryan under the mask. Henry already escaped by the time the cops arrive, and Laura is framed for all the murders.


Sarah and her mother move from California to a New England town where Sarah is accused of being a witch. Her case for innocence isn't helped as someone dressed in a cloak stalks her classmates.

[The motive]The town is infamous for killing a supposed witch named Sarah Lancaster. The protagonist is also named Sarah. Her classmates accuse her of being an incarnation/descendant of Lancaster, looking to take revenge on her murderers' five descendants. Who coincidentally are the students that Sarah becomes acquainted with at the start of the movie. Soon, a cloaked figure begins to menace the descendants. Two of them are even killed. Sarah is suspected of being the culprit, but she is not. Nor is it the suspicious teacher, Ted, that Sarah's mom is dating. The cloaked figure is Charlie, the nerdy confidante of Sarah. He himself is the sixth descendant of Sarah Lancaster's murderers because of his mother, who years ago was shunned by the town and forced to leave after she became pregnant out of wedlock. Ted happens to be Charlie's biological father, too. Charlie's revenge had to do with the town's treatment of his mother and nothing at all to do with the curse of Sarah Lancaster. At the end, Sarah alludes that the curse -- killing Sarah Lancaster's murderers' descendants -- is still active and in progress since two of the now six descendants are gone.


Members of an asbestos cleaning crew begin to disappear during a project inside an abandoned mental hospital with a dark history.

[The motive]The owner of the asbestos cleaning crew, Gordon, has a psychological breakdown, which caused him to murder his family and then those working with him. It seems as if he has been "possessed" by Simon, one of several personaity states of the hospital's former patient Mary. It may also be possible that at some point, Gordon was also a patient there, and maybe he crossed paths with Mary. This is not confirmed.


During an all-night horror movie marathon hosted inside an old theater, the employees begin to die behind the scenes.

[The motive]The protagonist, Maggie, is haunted by dreams of being caught in a fire. She and fellow film student Toby devised a plan to raise funds for the department - they throw the movie-thon at a derelict theater. There, they find a copy of Possessor, a movie that Maggie's mother starred in. As it turns out, Toby is the one killing Maggie's friends at the movie-thon. He and his mother attended the premiere of Possessor, where a fire broke out. Toby was badly burned and his mother was killed. So he blamed Maggie and her mother for his past. Toby, who was deformed by the fire, wears prosthetics on his face. This was how he was able to get away with the murders that night. He planned on "finishing" Possessor as intended by completing the last scene on stage - killing Maggie. Luckily for her, Toby died after being impaled by a giant mosquito prop.


Every Halloween, the small town of Texarkana hosts the annual drive-in showing of the 1976 movie -- The Town That Dreaded Sundown -- based on the infamous 1946 Moonlight Murders. One year, a copycat Phantom Killer chooses his first victim in a series of grisly deaths to come.

[The motive]This movie is a meta-sequel of sorts to the original movie,and it is not a remake. It treats the original movie as a movie, which is screened in Texarkana every Halloween. The main character, Jami, learns from the original movie's director's son that there was a sixth victim, McCreedy, in the Moonlight Murders, but they were ultimately excluded from the movie. In the end, it's revealed that Jami's boyfriend, Corey, that died in the beginning is one of the two Phantom copycat killers. The two are partners and the other killer is a deputy, Foster. Corey is the grandson of McCreedy, and he is angry that his grandfather's death is not memorialized like the other Moonlight Murders victims. Deputy Foster kills Corey and plans on doing the same to Jami until Jami shoots him. His body is never found by the police.


A famous musician, Nick, ends his musical hiatus after divorcing his wife. As he sets to record a new album at a secluded manor, his ex-wife is murdered by someone in a hag mask at his old apartment. Now, the same killer is prowling the manor.

[The motive]The hag mask-wearing killer turns out to be the manor's gardener, Mr. B. His wife, Mrs. B, is the housekeeper. They both worked together to get revenge on Nick, who they blamed for the death of their daughter. She was a fan of Nick, but after he got married, she died by suicide. Mr. B. mistakenly kills his wife while trying to attack Nick. As the cops arrive, Nick finds his new girlfriend entombed alive in the manor's walls with Mr. and Mrs. B.'s dead daughter.


After an escort witnesses a murder only she saw, she is stalked by the killer.

[The motive]In the beginning, a patient of Doctor Robert Elliott is killed by a tall woman brandishing a straight razor. The escort, Liz, incidentally witnesses the act. The police suspect Liz is the killer and don't believe her about the tall woman. Meanwhile, Doctor Robert Elliott has been receiving angry messages from a transgender patient, Bobbi, whom he refuses to grant the reassignment surgery she desires. Liz befriend's the dead patient's son as she tries to outwit the tall woman who has been following her. Or so she thinks. In the end, it's revealed that Bobbi is actually Doctor Robert Elliott. Whenever a woman tried to come on to Elliott, "Bobbi" emerged and attacked the woman out of feeling threatened. The tall woman who was following Liz was just a cop assigned to watch over her. Before "Bobbi" can kill Liz, the cop shoots her. Doctor Robert Elliott is put away in a mental hospital in the end, but he still haunts Liz's dreams.


Police search for the one responsible for the decapitation of women at a local college.

[The motive]All of the victims were killed by Eleanor, the girlfriend of Professor Millett. Eleanor was incredibly jealous whenever Millett spoke to any other woman, including his students. Since Eleanor was also pregnant, Professor Millett helped her escape as the cops showed up at his apartment. Eleanor got away even though the detective on the case figured Millett was covering for her.

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