Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Eric's Ten Favorite Horror Movies of the 1980s

By Eric Polk-
I don't know where to begin when it comes to the 1980s in the world of horror. It's the decade where I was first seduced by that dark, disturbing, demented corner of cinema. It's where, for many, eyes were opened to a torrent of lesser-known fare thanks to the development of cable tv and the explosion of the vhs. Countdowns are so subjective due to one's personal taste that it can be hard to be objective, let alone opening the door for criticism. "What about ?", "You're an idiot because you didn't include." The years from 1980-1989 were such a fantastic time for horror fans, doing a countdown is actually a disservice because there are a plethora of movies that won't make my cut. Nevertheless, everyone else has their favorite ten, why not me? My criteria is solely based on personal impact and not necessarily the varied opinions of the masses. So, sit down with a glass of New Coke and a bowl of Nintendo cereal(yes, it did exist) and prepare to be either dazzled or enraged.

10)Basket Case-Released on vhs from the late, great Media Home Entertainment and later shown on the USA Network's Saturday Nightmares, this low-budget feast was one of the first horror films I cognitively understood as a youngster. This movie has everything for the horror fan. Blood, a naked girl, an actual story. There's actually an underlying sadness throughout that only adds to the fun of Belial breaking bad on the doctor's who separated him from brother Dwayne. Plus, though you may laugh at the stop-motion effects, you freak when you see the fate of the veterinarian.

9)My Bloody Valentine(1981)-It was released in the middle of the early-80s slasher glut, but consistently  holds up as one of the best of the era. For one, unlike other movies of the time, there's is some genuine tension among a couple of characters. For another, the people acting actually seem to give a damn and make this My Bloody Valentine alot better than its counterparts. Needless to say, there are some great kill scenes and it does keep you guessing as to who is doing the killing. I first noticed this hidden(at the time) gem courtesy of USA's Saturday Nightmares. The show was such a gateway for those of us fortunate to have grown up in that decade.

8)The Changeling(1980)-Atmospheric, cold, slow-to-build, dare I say elegant. The Changeling is perhaps the finest supernatural movie ever made. It didn't need blood or cheap gimmicks to get its point across. Oscar winner George C. Scott and a fine storyline takes care of this. In a way, it's an investigation movie. The deceased owner of a Victorian mansion tries to convince the new renter to find his actual killer. George C. Scott may not seem very scared but the pervasive sense of dread may just scare the viewer.

7)Trick or Treat(1986)-The first curve ball of the countdown. I know it's cheezy and very laughable but that's what makes this movie great. An outsider metalhead(oh how I can relate) lives, eats, and breathes the music of Sammi Curr. When he dies, outsider a.k.a Skippy from Family Ties is handed a record(gasp)by Gene Simmons who cameos as a DJ in this one and after playing it, guess who comes back to reek havoc? I can watch this movie over and over again, jamming to the Fastway soundtrack, thinking back to my high school days in my preferred band shirts. Watch this one for the appearance of Ozzy as a....preacher!

6)Tenebrae-It's not a countdown without the appearance of my favorite director, Mr. Dario Argento. In the early 80s, the Italian Hitchcock was at the height of  his film wizardry. Tenebrae, to me, is the best of a rich crop of goodies. Mr. Argento makes a triumphant return to giallo in this movie about an American writer in Italy on the hunt for a serial killer inspired by his novels. All of Argento's beats are played well throughout, from the beautiful scenery, the second-to-none kill scenes, and the over-the-top acting. Plus, it has...JOHN F'N SAXON!!!

5)Friday the 13th(1980)-Halloween was the archetype for the American slasher genre, Friday the 13th was the film that made it safe to watch. On it's own, stripped of its countless sequels, crossovers, etc, this film surprises the initial viewer with its slashings, gougings, arrow tips to the throat. Plus, first-time viewers will probably get goosebumps regarding the ending. Jaded horror fans such as me may treat F13 like a cuddly, tame teddy bear but make zero mistake, F13 is genuinely a great film and a great intro into the horror world.

4)City of the Living Dead-Much as I enjoy 28 Days Later and The Return of the Living Dead, when people discuss zombie movies that changed the rules, they seem to neglect this Lucio Fulci near-masterpiece. Zombies teleport, they stare at you until you vomit entrails(making you a zombie), they levitate, and are super strong. George Romero never did this with his dead walkers! Magic brain-eaters aside, this movie puts fear around every corner, color in every scene possible.

3)Slaughter High-Of this film, Joe Bob Briggs mentioned that it's one of the best of the high school revenge films. For me, it's the best slasher of its genre. It plays every element of the slasher from initial prank to the twist ending, it plays it well, fast, loose, and funny. No, it's not a serious horror movie but it's one that walks the fine line between comedy and fright. The kill scenes are just wicked:gut busting, sex and electrocution, acid baths. As a kid, this movie always beckoned me to rent it but it was in my early-20s before I heeded the call. Glad I did.

2)Demons-For 90 mins, this no subtly, no message in the undercurrent, just kill after kill, fantastic practical effect after practical effect. You are run through with a buzzsaw and the action just doesn't stop. The transformation sequences are genuinely scary, the 80s rock soundtrack only adds to the flavor. If you haven't seen this film, do it NOW!!!

1)A Nightmare on Elm Street(1984)-I've lauded heaps of praise on the original NOES for years so I won't go into a whole lot more on this countdown. Through its sequels, tv show, reboot, toys, games, cards, it's real easy to forget that Freddy Kruger is a filthy child murderer who has zero sympathy for anyone in the first film. All in the name of revenge. Something you may or may not have noticed, everyone in this film becomes either scarred or dead. No one walks away either physically or mentally unscathed. Just a thought.

There you have it. There are many, many honorable mentions I could add so if your favorite movie from the 80s didn't make the list, I probably love it as much as I do these ten, I just didn't have the room.



Bob R Milne said...

Oh, great . . . now I'm going to have Fastway running through my head all day. :)

Kev D. said...

Nice to see Demons so high up on the list. Great to see Fulci represented too (can't help but MAD respect the fact you have this on here as opposed to Day of the Dead, Return of The Living Dead etc...).

So yeah, great list. It's always fun to see what films are important to other people!

For me, Evil Dead 2 and The Thing are two that come to mind if I were to make an essential 80s list (along with countless zombie films).