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 buttheads, 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!
Let’s continue this list of my personal Top 50 80s Horror films with selections #40 through #31.
40. The Hidden (1987)
Detective Story * Alien Possession * Bug Creatures * Violent * Kyle MacLachlan
The movie Alien Nation should have been. The Hidden has most likely a third of the budget of that film, but compensates with three times as many ideas. Kyle MacLachlan is simply divine as an alien posing as an FBI agent (paging Agent Cooper!) to stop this other alien that is going around killing motherfuckers. He teams up with a cop (Michael Nouri) that has no problem with shooting an unarmed suspect and might be racist towards aliens.
directed by: Jack Sholder ; screenplay by: Jim Kouf ; starring: Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Nouri, Ed O’Ross, Claudia Christian, Clu Galager, Richard Brooks, Danny Trejo, Frank Renzulli. AVAILABLE FOR $2.99 RENTAL ON AMAZON PRIME.
39. Night of the Demons (1988)
Haunted House * Demonic Possession * Dead Teenagers * Violent * Heavy Latex Makeup Effects * Weird Nipple Stuff
Terrible? Maybe, but Night of the Demons encapsulates the greatest hits of 80s teen horror in the most concentrated dose I’ve ever seen in a movie. It’s campy, fun, gross, outrageously violent, terribly acted (with the exception of Linnea Quigley) and the perfect treat for a good COVID-ween night in!
directed by: Kevin Tenney; screenplay by: John Augustyn ; starring: Amelia Kinkade, Linnea Quigley, Cathy Podewell, Alvin Alexis. AVAILABLE ON AMAZON PRIME.
38. Angst (1983)
Austrian * Indie * Serial Killer * Violent * Slow Burn
One of those “see only once” films, this incredibly disturbing serial killer drama is Austria’s answer to Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. Shot like a snuff film your uncle made, Angst is only for the strongest of stomachs and the most die hard genre fans of the lot. It’s Lars Von Trier level bleak!
directed by: Gerald Kargl ; screenplay by: Gerald Kargl, Zbigniew Rybczynski ; starring: Erwin Leder. AVAILABLE ON SHUDDER.
37. Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)
Demons * BDSM * Fantasy * Violent * Heavy Latex Makeup Effects
Before the Hellraiser franchise was a straight to VHS time killer, it was some of the most intelligent, provocative and dare I say, erotic horror cinema out there. While this sequel isn’t as powerful as its predecessor, it’s a damn good effort and manages to expand the world from which these fuckers come from and introduce a compelling new villain played by Rome‘s Kenneth Cranham, a for sure stand-in for Mitch McConnell.
directed by: Tony Randel ; screenplay by: Clive Barker, Peter Atkins ; starring: Clare Higgins, Doug Bradley, Kenneth Cranham, Ashley Laurence, Imogen Boorman. AVAILABLE ON HULU and AMAZON PRIME.
36. Re-Animator (1985)
HP Lovecraft * Funny * Violent * Heavy Latex Makeup Effects * Problematic Cunnilingus
Stuart Gordon explodes onto the scene like Sam Raimi with this hilarious, brutal and all together ridiculous H.P. Lovecraft adaptation. Jeffrey Combs is truly something to behold as the Re-Animator‘s mad scientist, a performance that kicked off a solid career of great character work.
directed by: Stuart Gordon ; screenplay by: Dennis Paoli, William J. Morris, Stuart Gordon ; starring: Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Bruce Abbot, David Gale. AVAILABLE ON SHUDDER and SHOWTIME.
35. Child’s Play (1988)
Killer Doll * Dark Humor * Violent * Single Mom Movie * Voodoo Shit * Bad Kid Actor
Evil dolls were already well treaded upon territory before Chucky, but Child’s Play does something different with it. By having the spirit of a wisecracking Chicago serial killer possess the most popular toy doll in America, Don Mancini manages to create a darker, more humorous variation of the concept while making subtle jabs at the consumerist culture of the 1980s. The success of the movie owes a lot to the voice behind Chucky, Brad Dourif, who does more with his voice than most actors can do with everything.
directed by: Tom Holland ; screenplay by: Don Mancini, Tom Holland and John Lafia ; starring: Brad Dourif, Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, Alex Vincent. AVAILABLE FOR $3.99 RENTAL ON AMAZON PRIME VIDEO.
34. Prince of Darkness (1987)
Satan * Apocalypse * Demonic Possession * Science/Faith Team-Up * Grad Students * Violent * Alice Cooper
The son of Satan threatens to break out of his cage and free his dad, Satan Sr., from the hell dimension so they can treat our world like a tampon. It’s up to a crafty old priest (Donald Pleasance) and a gaggle of theoretical philosophy graduate students to stop them! This is one of John Carpenter‘s most underrated and bizarre films, sloppily packed full of interesting ideas that go against the norms of 80s horror. My favorite – a major character is gay and nobody gives a shit. Sounds like whatever, but for a mainstream movie in 1987, that’s unheard of.
directed by: John Carpenter ; screenplay by: John Carpenter ; starring: Donald Pleasance, Victor Wong, Dennis Dun, Lisa Blount, Jameson Parker, Peter Jason, Alice Cooper. AVAILABLE FOR $3.99 RENTAL ON AMAZON PRIME.
33. Night of the Comet (1984)
Post-Apocalypse * Teen Survivors * PG-13 Horror * Campy * Funny * Strong Female Characters
I just recently saw this for the first time and it charmed the pants right off of me! The world ends when a comet vaporizes almost everybody (while turning some people into zombies for some reason) and two teenage girls are some of the only survivors. Rebuild society? Nah. Check out the mall? You betcha!
directed by: Thom Eberhardt ; screenplay by: Thom Eberhardt ; starring: Catherine Mary Stewart, Kelli Maroney, Robert Beltran, Sharon Farrell, Geoffrey Lewis. AVAILABLE FOR $3.99 RENTAL ON AMAZON PRIME.
32. The Lost Boys (1987)
Teenage Vampires * Glam Rock * Homoerotic * Campy * Funny
Probably the most blatant horror movie allegory for the stigma of homosexuality/AIDS in the mid 80s. Sure, the script has Jason Patric‘s character pursuing Jamie Gertz, but everyone knows the real sexual tension is between Patric and Kiefer Sutherland. “What’s a matter Michael? Don’t you like my noodle?” He fucking does, that’s for sure. This is a fun, funny, energetic and pretty low stakes summer blockbuster that pretty much anyone can get behind.
directed by: Joel Schumacher ; written by: Janice Fischer, James Jeremias ; starring: Jason Patric, Corey Haim, Kiefer Sutherland, Jamie Gertz, Dianne Wiest, Barnard Hughes, Edward Herrmann, Corey Feldman, Jamison Newlander, Alex Winter. AVAILABLE FOR $3.99 RENTAL ON AMAZON PRIME.
31. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)
Dark Comedy * Goofy * Violent * Gory * Crazy Dennis Hopper * Chainsaw Battles
Certainly one of the most divisive movies on this list, Tobe Hooper‘s ridiculous follow-up to his terrifying genre classic pissed a lot of horror fans when it came out, and it still pisses them off today. But when tasked to make a sequel to one of the scariest movies ever made, what the hell do you even do? Make it a comedy. It’s one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen, but I’m so on board.
directed by: Tobe Hooper ; screenplay by: L.M. Kit Carson, Tobe Hooper ; starring: Dennis Hopper, Caroline Williams, Bill Moseley, Bill Johnson, Jim Siedow, Lou Perryman. AVAILABLE ON AMAZON PRIME.