Friday, October 26, 2012

The Best and Worst Horror Films of the 1980's

Of the almost three thousand votes I have listed on Internet Movie Database (, I recently noticed over one hundred and fifty of those were for horror films released in the 1980's. What better time than now to revisit the decade of slasher films and big hair, and do a top ten list? I certainly did not even see ten films released in 2003, and I certainly do not want to be left out of all the list making activities happening right now...

The Top Ten Best Horror Films of the 1980's:

10. Scarecrows 1988 (Directed by William Wesley)
Scare-wha? This violent little story plops a bunch of payroll robbers in the middle of some green acres, and the local scarecrows begin killing them in grisly ways. The unrated version of this tape is a gore lover's dream, I haven't seen it in years, but I will always remember it.

9. Contagion 1987 (Directed by Karl Zwicky)
Contay-huh? Another obscurity, this one from Down Under, mate. Man's car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, he seeks refuge at the only house close by, and becomes involved with its strange inhabitants. I picked this up on a whim at the video store, and it weirded me out, especially living up here in a rural state.

8. Pin... 1988 (Directed by Sandor Stern)
Okay, my final "say again?" video. Another whim rental that had me creeped out, this psychological chiller involves a boy, his sister, and their medical dummy who may or may not be alive. Really creepy, despite predictable end.

7. Gremlins 1984 (Directed by Joe Dante)
I hated the sequel, so this original Christmas nightmare is still the best of the two. Creatures take over a small town and wreak havoc, it's as if demons had come to Bedford Falls. While parents were shielding their children's eyes in the theater, I was flabbergasted at its darkness, and dark comedy.

6. The Dead Zone 1983 (Directed by David Cronenberg)
I made my poor Dad drag me to this one after I read the novel, and I will never regret it. Christopher Walken is great as Stephen King's hero, who can see the future and runs into crazed politico Martin Sheen. Putting Walken into his own visions is a stroke of pure genius.

5. Poltergeist 1982 (Directed by Tobe Hooper)
The ultimate suburban nightmare, as an every-family is terrorized by ghosts in their brand new house. Too many quotable lines to list, but it still chills. The second one wasn't as good, and the third just plain stunk. This house is clean.

4. Tetsuo 1988 (Directed by Shinya Tsukamoto)
From suburban nightmare to mechanical nightmare. A man slowly evolves into a machine, all done in gritty black and white, with subtitles. Disturbing images abound, I have no real idea what it means, but it still gets to me just thinking about it.

3. Dressed to Kill 1980 (Directed by Brian De Palma)
A dressed up slasher film that victimizes women? Sure, but no one else this decade did it so well (just try and watch Lauren Bacall in "The Fan"). The cast is great in De Palma's homage to "Psycho," his camerawork is so bold and blatant, he makes the case against "less is more."

2. The Changeling 1980 (Directed by Peter Medak)
Grieving widower George C. Scott is haunted by the tortured soul of a child in this creepy Canadian import. Here, less is more, as the effects are minimal but the scares are there. I saw this when I was twelve years old in 1980, and once in a while I'll see it on television and cower behind the couch.

and the winner is...
1. The Thing 1982 (Directed by John Carpenter)
Remaking a beloved classic is one thing, but to actually improve on a sometimes stilted black and white 1950's film is another. Carpenter pulls out all the stops, after "Halloween," when he could do no wrong. Some of the grossest special effects ever populate a creepy paranoid thriller, with one of the best endings of all time. I simply love this movie, and Carpenter was my favorite director for a long time...until another remake, "Village of the Damned."

That's all fine and good, Chuckie-Doo, but what about the bad? Out of those 157 movies on my list, an astounding 43(!) had a vote of "1" out of "10." Over twenty five percent! I picked a few out, the worst horror films of the 1980's might make a long book one day...

5. Silent Night, Deadly Night Parts I-III 1984, 1987, 1989 (Directed by various)
The first one sucked, the second one sucked as badly, and the third sucked even more. This loser series' first entry made a lot of parents mad back in the day, depicting a killer dressed as Santa Claus. Forget psychologically scarring little Timmy with the preview, parents really should have protested the sheer awfulness of the film itself.

4. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 1986 (Directed by Tobe Hooper)
Hooper makes both the best and worst lists, using this ill conceived dung heap to cash in on some of that home video slasher sequel cash. You know those are left over sets from his equally awful remake "Invaders from Mars," and Dennis Hopper turns in his worst performance ever, and that is saying a lot.

3. The Final Conflict 1981 (Directed by Graham Baker)
Hmm, let's go ahead and kill off "The Omen" series with this depressing lost opportunity. Sam Neill plays a grown up Damien, but he looks lost most of the time, as Baker throws in everything he can think of to match the first two superior films, except a cohesive plot and suspense.

2. C.H.U.D. II- Bud the Chud 1989 (Directed by David Irving)
There's a special place in hell for the creators of this disastrous zombie comedy that has little to nothing to do with the first "C.H.U.D." A zombie loose in suburbia is okay, but throwing in lame comedy, dumb effects, and a Bianca Jagger cameo (she's eternally making amends by working for Amnesty International) just proves how desperately the film makers were hiding the fact that they knew this was one of the worst films ever.

Let's keep riding the sequel train right to the worst of the worst...
1. Amityville 3-D 1983 (Directed by Richard Fleischer)
This was a tough choice, but this third installment of the loser series was an unintentional laugh-fest. Meg Ryan is in it, and she obviously made a deal with the devil to keep her career afloat after this polluted theater screens. Other cast members like Tony Roberts and Candy Clark were not so lucky. If the Amityville house holds the gateway to hell, somebody throw this film in it.

Well, that's that. With the amount of videos I rent, this list could change, and I am readying a best and worst of the 1990's as well. I do love horror films. When they are done right, they should be cherished. Trust me, after reviewing my votes, I know that better than anyone.