I love 80’s horror movies for completely different reasons than I love horror films from other decades. Of all the time capsules (which is ultimately what a film is), 80’s horror films often act as a mirror to that time, reflecting just how cheesy we really were. From giant hair to tight jeans, it was a decade where everyone’s fashion sense seemed to just vanish. You add to that the sudden insurgence of prolific serial killers from that time (Bundy and Berkowitz, to name a few) and you had a nation that was walking around, looking ugly, and being afraid.
And while the 80’s horror classics are well known to all at this point (the slasher family of Michael Myers, Jason, and Freddy OWNED horror cinema in the 80’s, and most new horror IP’s were just movies attempting to rip off the formula of those movies), but there are some amazing eighties horror movies that somehow, amid all the coked-out confusion, got buried and forgotten. Allow me a moment to blow the dust off some of the 80’s horror films that just clearly did not get enough love. Also, if I miss one you loved, take to the comments and let me know. I tend to find new movies I adore because of stuff I learn on the threads from the readers.
As much as I would love to tell you otherwise, what you think is happening in this pic is happening in this pic.
Oh Pin, why did I not find you until this year? How is it I made it through the eighties and nineties and never heard one word uttered about you? Then, on fateful night, when I was lazily searching for full length horror on Youtube, I found you, and knowing nothing except you had the awesome Terry O’ Quinn starring beside you, so I watched. And what did I see?
An incredibly messed up movie about a doll named Pin who may or may not be alive. Initially you think that the Dad is using Pin as a sort of way to teach his children about the human body and the birds and the bees and such (the Dad is a doctor), but then (slight spoiler, but not really) the parents die, and somehow, Pin keeps coming around. You hear that premise and you see that picture of what Pin looks like, and you HAVE to be intrigued.
While this 1988 movie is definitely a slow-burn, there is an unmistakable eighties creepiness that seeps into every frame, and the film has a pretty stellar conclusion that is well worth getting to. Also worth seeing for the mindfuck that is the above pictured scene. Takes a bit to drop my jaw, but that scene did it.
Why is Edgar Allen Poe having sex with a new wave store mannequin?
Alright, I know all horror purists have seen this movie, and it is pretty well known in the horror circle, but Unreality is not a horror site, so I hope by bringing it up here I can introduce it to a new generation before the AMAZING remake drops (which was one of my favorite horror films of last year, even though it’s not out yet).
Maniac is about a man who had some serious Mommy issues, and took those issues out on random woman in incredibly violent ways. While the movie seems strange while you are watching it (where are the redeeming characters?), it culminates with an ending that still, honestly, scares the living shit out of me. The film also featured some spectacular and practical special effects work from gore master, Tom Savini. Like, for example, this awesome scene where he gets his head blown off.
The old “jump on the windshield and blow your head off” trick we see so often.
Maniac is amazing, and before you see the (even more amazing) remake, you need to stop and pay homage to the original. I never looked at store mannequins the same way.
You know the movie is good when it looks like a young Tim Burton may have dreamt it up.
Much like Pin, Paperhouse is a little gem of a horror film that came out in 1988, yet no single soul saw it. Why? Well, it didn’t have the backing or support of the big budget horror movies that were coming out at the time, so it just sorta got lost in the shuffle, but if you give it a chance you will see, Paperhouse is a wonderfully creepy movie that manages to sit with the viewer for a long time after seeing it. In may ways, the polar opposite of a movie like Maniac, Paperhouse is about a young girl who draws a house, and then arrives there in her dreams. As she draws more things, she keeps going back, and finding those things there, including Marc (I won’t say anymore than that), but she comes to slowly find out, some of the things she draws exist in real life, too, like Marc. I know this sounds vague and cryptic, and it should. I am trying to entice into watching these films, afterall.
The movie is not violent or graphic, but there is a quiet feeling of heaviness that permeates every frame, and it leaves the movie feeling incredibly haunted, as do we after having seen it. Quiet and slow, but why Paperhouse has not gotten more attention is beyond me. This is the kind of movie Giullermo Del Toro builds shrines to.
Yes, his teeth are impractical, but they are also damn scary.
This movie is from late 1979, and I know this, but I still feel obligated to include it because it is Salem’s Lot, and all fans of vamp tweens need to know what vamps are supposed to elicit in the viewer. Fear.
Listen people, I know I talk about this movie a lot, but that is because I assume most of you are fairly young and may have missed it, or may have fallen victim to the WHOLLY unnecessary remake from a few years back, so I will continue to plug it until you all have seen it. You see, I come from a time when vampires were still f*cking scary. When they were shown to us as monsters, skulking through the night, hunting us for our blood. Using our own fears against us. And I still TRULY believe that vampires were NEVER as scary as the way they were represented in Salem’s Lot. These were not teenagers, content on sparkling whilst they lay beside you in a field and count hummingbirds or some other stupid shit. These were creatures of the night, who looked as dangerous as they were.
The above image of a vampire wins above all else, because it was based on the Max Schreck version of Nosferatu, which we all know, is the TRUE grandfather and greatest vampire movie of all time, but I digress, because this section of the article is now becoming like Vampireception. Either way, see Salem’s Lot sooner than later, and expect to be scared. Also, read the book to be even more scared.
I would make an Anne Hathaway joke here, but I would rather f*ck this demon than her, so there’s really no joke.
Ah, Italian horror. So grand. So gory. So poorly acted at times, but undeniably enjoyable. Demons is a movie that I secretly wish would get a remake, and with its ties to the ghost in the machine idea of technology spawning evil, I am shocked it hasn’t been updated.
So what is it about? People locked in a movie theater where people are turning into demons, and one by one, attacking and turning everyone else into them, too. It is the zombie ideal, but with giant teeth and a more feral side. It is a loud, fast film, but the demons are kinda creepy looking, and mostly, this is an 80’s movie you appreciate for being an 80’s movie, which is something it seems to embrace. Cheesier than the other movies on the list, but also, a bit more fun, too.
Like this scene which features a dirt bike AND A katana:
Man, every 80’s movie had a f*cking dirt bike scene and I have no idea why.
At times, this movie seems like a game that Suda51 would make, and I can’t help mean that in the most complimentary way to all parties involved. And this movie MIGHT BE available in full on Youtube right now. Might be. *Whistles and walk away casually
Return of the Living Dead
Rarely in the eighties did anyone get this close up of a photo of Michael Jackson resting at home.
Okay, I know everyone has seen this movie, and knows how punk rock, funny, and badass it is, but I had to include it on this list or else I would think myself a tourist. Zombies never spoke before this movie, and suddenly, BBBRRAAAIIIINNNNSSSS, which may be silly, but so were the eighties, and that “BRAINS” thing has truly become a staple in the zombie genre (or atleast when we all do zombie impressions, which used to look freakishly similar to Frankenstein impressions).
Also, naked Linnea Quigley for the win.
The Burning: It’s Friday the 13th, though not, though it is, though it’s not. Still, see it for the young Jason Alexander and Fisher Stevens, which will fill you full of lulz. And the raft scene is awesome.
Creepshow: A team up of George Romero, Tom Savini, and Stephen King, and it’s a horror anthology? Yes, yes, and yes. Also, WHERE’S MY CAKE, BEDELIA?????
The way it would transition to a comic book between stories was amazing, too.
Possession: A young Isabelle Adjani possessed by sex demons? Sign me up!
Angel Heart: Robert DeNiro as the devil? Yup. Come for the sexy Cosby kid. Stay for the super twisted, twist ending.
Rourke is on so much coke here, he thought putting his hand down his pants was a good idea.
And if you think these movies have some great stories, you should go read about the vet who wanted me to get my head cut off this week at the dollar store…