Horror movies have been around since the invention of film but I’d argue they didn’t truly let their freak flag fly until the 1980s. This Renaissance of Horror brought about a lot of vocal detractors like conservative groups, Christian groups, conservative Christian groups and those cunt rags, the Reagans. But no organization was as detrimental to the creativity of up and coming horror artists as the gosh darn MPAA, led by some asshole involved with assassinating JFK. As we near both Halloween and the election this year, let’s defiantly celebrate with this ridiculously over-the-top and wildly inventive sub-genre of cinema. Fuck censorship (unless it’s hate speech, ya’ll) and let the proud boys choke on our cronenbergs!
Starting off the list of my personal Top 50 80s Horror films are selections #50 through #41.
50. The Stuff (1985)
Satire * Campy * Goofy * Alien Dessert * Evil Ice Cream Company * Social Message
I don’t usually go for Larry Cohen‘s low-rent, low-brow and low-intelligence horror/comedy shit shows, but The Stuff is different. A completely ridiculous and honestly inspired anti-consumerism PSA about the discovery of a dangerous alien substance that tastes delicious. But why warn people about the dangers when there’s a dollar to be made?
directed by: Larry Cohen ; screenplay by: Larry Cohen ; starring: Michael Moriarty, Garret Morris, Paul Sorvino, Danny Aiello, Scott Bloom, Andrea Marcovicci, Patrick Dempsey, Mira Sorvino, Eric Bogosian. AVAILABLE ON AMAZON PRIME STREAMING.
49. Dolls (1987)
Creepy Dolls * Likeable Protagonist * Some Humor
The first half of this below 80 minute movie is a bit dull (or doll–lololololol), but once 40 minutes have passed and the dolls get buck wild, shit pops off. While it delivers gory puppet murders it also delivers something unexpected – good-natured charm in an uncommonly likeable and earnest protagonist. Also, the dolls are totally adorable, just look at offended sailor boy up there.
directed by: Stuart Gordon; screenplay by: Ed Naha ; starring: Stephen Lee, Ian Patrick Williams, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Carrie Lorraine. AVAILABLE ON AMAZON PRIME STREAMING.
48. Alone in the Dark (1982)
Serial Killer * Slasher * Mental Hospital * Great Cast * Funny
A criminally under-seen and virtually unavailable indie horror gem from the director of queer classic A Nightmare on Elm Street 2, about a bunch of mentally-unstable individuals escaping a mental institution after a blackout. One is a killer in a hockey mask and one is a bat-shit insane Jack Palance, chewing up the scenery like an overcooked ribeye.
directed by: Jack Sholder; screenplay by: Robert Shaye, Jack Sholder, Michael Harrpster; starring: Jack Palance, Donald Pleasance, Martin Landau. FREE STREAMING ON YOUTUBE (360p tho :()
47. Ghost Story (1981)
Classic Ghost Story * Great Cast * Male Penis * Slow Burn * Scary
An anomaly in 80s horror in that this is the type of movie that gets made in the 50s and 60s, minus the graphic full frontal male nudity. Don’t worry, it’s none of these old coots! Screen legends Fred Astaire, John Houseman, Melvyn Douglas and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. star as old best friends who, in their golden years, get visited by the vengeful spirit from their past.
directed by: John Irvin; screenplay by: Peter Straub; starring: Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., John Houseman, Craig Wasson, Alice Krige, Patricia Neal. AVAILABLE FOR $3.99 RENTAL ON AMAZON.
46. Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
NO Michael Myers * Evil Toy Company * Irish Stereotypes? * Alien Shit * Dope Synth Score
Hated by many Halloween fans because their incel super idol isn’t slicing up horny co-eds, but I appreciated the change of pace here. It’s a goofy movie and outright dumb at points, but something about an evil Irish warlock turned toymaker plotting to murder all of America’s children with exploding masks that turn their brains into poisonous insects and reptiles is damn satisfying to me. Add onto that a great appearance by Tom Atkins as a horny middle aged doctor that loves fucking around on his wife, and you got yourself a real Fall classic.
directed by: Tommy Lee Wallace; screenplay by: Tommy Lee Wallace, Nigel Kneale; starring: Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkin, Dan O’Herlihy, Dick Warlock. AVAILABLE ON CINEMAX and $3.99 RENTAL ON AMAZON.
45. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
Jason * Slasher * Violent * Dead Teenagers * Some Humor
Look, so many of these movies are more or less exactly alike and The Final Chapter is certainly no different. However, this is by popular opinion, the purest distillation of the formula with a solid cast, inventive kills, good cinematography, some hearty laughs and the best Jason of the franchise – Ted White. It also features some bizarre ass dance moves by Crispin Glover, which we can all agree, is the best part of the movie. Although billed as “the final chapter”, there would be eight more sequels that followed.
directed by: Joseph Zito; screenplay by: Barney Cohen; starring: Ted White, Crispin Glover, Corey Feldman, Kimberly Beck, Joan Freeman. AVAILABLE ON AMC+ and $3.99 RENTAL ON AMAZON.
44. Demons (1985)
Italian but in English (Awkward Dubbing) * Violent * Heavy Latex Makeup Effects * META/Referential * Great Soundtrack * Some Humor
I’m usually lukewarm on Italian horror movies that aren’t directed by Dario Argento, but this one is just the right amount of fun and ridiculous. A movie theater is having a showing of a demon movie and then the audience starts turning into zombies themselves. What ensues is some fake-looking but visually compelling zombie transformations including this motherfucker up here popping out of a lady’s back. Don’t think you can see a chiropractor for that one.
directed by: Lamberto Bava; screenplay by: Franco Ferrini, Dario Argento, Lamberto Bava, Dardano Sarchetti; starring: Urbano Barberini, Natasha Hovey, Bobby Rhodes. AVAILABLE ON MUBI and $3.99 RENTAL ON AMAZON.
43. Night of the Creeps (1986)
Alien Creatures * Dead Teenagers * Funny * Campy * Violent
A celebrated cult classic in some circles, Night of the Creeps is a fun horror comedy about alien slug creatures possessing humans to do their bidding. Too bad all this shit HAS to happen on PLEDGE WEEK!!! European Vacation‘s Jason Lively (the Anthony Michael Hall replacement) is our protagonist with Tom Atkins appearing as what Wikipedia describes as a “haunted cop.”
directed by: Fred Dekker; screenplay by: Fred Dekker; starring: Tom Atkins, Jason Lively, Steve Marshall, Jill Whitlow, David Paymer, Dick Miller. AVAILABLE FOR $3.99 RENTAL ON AMAZON.
42. Pumpkinhead (1988)
Monster Movie * Heavy Latex Makeup * Violent * Strong Lead Performance
The definitive monster movie from the 1980s and one of the only movies directed by Oscar-winning makeup effects legend Stan Winston. The titular monster is quite the sight to behold, but most people don’t remember what a great performance character actor Lance Henriksen gives here. Adds some humanity to the proceedings.
directed by: Stan Winston; screenplay by: Stan Winston, Richard C. Weinman, Gary Gerani, Mark Patrick Carducci ; starring: Lance Henriksen, John D’Aquino, Jeff East, Kerry Remsen, Dick Warlock. AVAILABLE FOR $3.99 RENTAL ON AMAZON.
41. Parents (1989)
Monster Parents * Cannibalism * 1950s setting * Dark Comedy
Bob Balaban of all people directs this easy and breezy horror comedy about a little boy who suspects his parents are cannibalistic monsters. SPOILER ALERT – they’re just Republicans.
directed by: Bob Balaban ; screenplay by: Christopher Hawthorne ; starring: Randy Quaid, Mary Beth Hurt, Sandy Dennis, Bryan Madorsky. AVAILABLE ON AMAZON PRIME.