The Top 10 ’80s Horror Movies
The ’80s were a good decade for horror fans. New concepts emerged and terror was abound in cinema, and the following is our list some of the best ’80s horror movies. Beware that this article does include some spoilers!
Chopping Mall (1986):
Originally titled Killbots but changed to avoid accidental association with the Transformers series, Chopping Mall was a unique slasher flick featuring not monsters or serial killers, but robots. When a mall’s new security droids malfunction, they begin killing a bunch of kids who stayed after hours in the locked mall for a secret party. The result is a self aware movie that isn’t quite a parody of horror films, but it does realize that its concept is almost inherently ridiculous. Because of this, the deaths were allowed to be imaginative and the creators were able to get a lot of milage out of the movie’s weird concept.
Pumpkinhead, oddly enough, was not about anyone with a pumpkin for a head. Instead it was about a being of vengeance summoned by a grieving father after his young boy is accidentally killed in a motor biking mishap, setting the stage for a tale of revenge and regret. While the plot is a fairly standard, a predictable set of teen monster killings, a unique monster design and some convincing acting helped to set the movie apart from others like it. Especially clear was the father’s suffering after the death of his child, lending a real heart to the film that would’ve been skipped over in lesser movies of its time.
The Shining (1980):
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, but the Stephen King movie adaption was anything but dull. Thanks to solid performances from the cast including a very unhinged Jack Nicholson, this translation worked very well. Unfortunately some elements from the book did need to be cut, but what was kept in remained unsettling and at time surreal. The visual element also worked in its favor, creating some truly memorable shots like the famous “Here’s Johnny!” image and of course the two twins by the elevator flooded with blood. We also got to see a kid talking to his finger, so there was that too.
The Lost Boys (1987):
Vampires. They suck, right? The Frog Brothers would tend to agree. When a couple of boys move to Santa Carla with their mother, they begin experiencing some uncomfortable vibes. The older brother ends up unknowingly riding with a gang of vampires, and the younger brother makes friends with some weird kids in a comic book shop calling themselves the Frog Brothers who claim to be vampire hunters. The result is a mad dash to rescue the older brother from the vampires and put a stop to their haunts for good, and it’s as fun as it is freaky. This movie set the stage for more off-beat vampire franchises like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so its importance can’t be understated. It also got two sequels of its own a full two decades after the original came out.
Society is a slow burn. It takes a long time for it to work up to its nightmarish turning point, but once it does it smashes down on the gas and doesn’t let up until the bitter end. Employing Cronenberg-esque body horror, the film takes one young man’s suspicions of not fitting in and drives them to their absolute most extreme by placing him smack dab in the middle of a horrific orgy of violence and sex where human-like aliens fuse themselves together and eat human beings alive. All this comes from such relatively tame beginnings that the shift from unnerving to openly terrifying is both earned and exceptionally jarring at the same time, and it even manages to make a literal butt face scream-worthy. This film is not for the faint of heart, or for anyone planning on eating anything any time soon.
Based very loosely on the H.P. Lovecraft stories revolving around the title character, Re-Animator is the story of Herbert West and his obsession with bringing the dead back to life with a special reagent of his own invention. Like the original stories, this film was not meant to be taken completely seriously. At the same time, it’s gory and unsettling enough to hit on the sort of horror comedy mix that the Evil Dead series would later perfect. Featuring such oddities as a zombie cat, a laser lobotomy, and a headless man scorned, the movie was certainly memorable for anyone who saw it and it spawned two sequels as a result.
Friday the 13th (1980):
The ’80s started off with the creation of a horror icon. Friday the 13th was the first film to tell the tragic tale of eventual slasher Jason Vorhees; a victim of counselor neglect at a summer camp, he was destined to come back and “kill for mother” as revenge for this negligence. It wasn’t until later that Jason actually became the killer though — in this first film, it was his mother who killed the campers for her son. The movie spawned a franchise that would continue to this day in movie sequels and video games and it was an effective horror viewing in its own right.
Child’s Play (1988):
A kid’s toy? How do you make that scary? Well, how about if it gets possessed by a serial killer bent on vengeance and willing to commit child murder to get it? That’s what you get with Child’s Play and the infamously creepy Chucky doll. What’s more though, it also came packaged in with a psychological drama — modern audiences know that Chucky is really alive obviously, but at the time the movie got a lot of mileage out of playing with viewers’ doubts and making it seem like the kid who owned the Chucky doll might’ve actually been the killer. The reveal that it’s definitely the doll is a disturbing flurry of vulgarity and violence, and everything goes downhill from there into pure slasher horror territory. The movie might’ve been about a child’s toy, but it was anything but a movie for children.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984):
We’ve all had nightmares, but we’ve all woken up from them. The kids on Elm Street? Not so lucky. This was thanks to Freddy Krueger, an inventive horror villain icon who stalked kids in their dreams and turned them into night terrors that were as frightening as they were deadly. A solid performance by the talented Robert Englund, some trippy special effects, an original concept, and a sarcastic attitude that set him apart from other horror icons made Freddy stand out and led to him becoming one of the most well-known monsters in movies. The kills were creative and the scares lingered long after the movie ended because going to sleep suddenly became a dangerous idea in the minds of affected viewers. What Jaws did for the beach, Freddy did for dreams.
Evil Dead II (1987):
After discovering the Necronomicon in an old cabin in the woods, a bunch of creepy stuff starts happening. Sounds like standard horror fare, right? Well, not quite. Evil Dead II was an odd film because as much as it worked as a straight-up splatter horror movie, it was also a bizarre hybrid horror parody of the very same concept which included its own direct predecessor. The main protagonist Ash had to deal with, among other things, a mirror version of himself, a basement witch, fighting his own hand, weird moose heads, and time travel shenanigans. All of this blurred the line between funny and scary and it did so without sacrificing either, which is an extremely fine balance to achieve. The result was a gory mess made with a chainsaw strapped to one amputated hand and a middle finger held up to genre conventions in the other hand. And it was groovy.
What are some of your favorite ’80s horror movies? Let us know in the comments!