Welcome to part three of the best 80s horror movies, as rated by me.
Some people I know in horror movie groups do the 30 nights of Halloween where they watch horror movies all month. I don't do that, every day is Halloween at my house. I'm still not sure how long this list will be.
The story of a man returning to his family after being abducted by aliens it was marketed with the tagline "Some extraterrestrials aren't friendly", a clear reference to ET. Xtro is one weird movie. Lots of horror movies are weird, but Xtro has scenes like a woman giving birth to a full size man, a child's toys coming to life and killing people, and a random panther that comes out of nowhere and also starts killing people. Xtro may be a fairly simple movie plot wise, but its just so strange that it makes up for it. Watching this film will cause you to say WTF? several times.
Critics did not like this film, Roger Ebert said:
"Xtro" is a completely depressing, nihilistic film, an exercise in sadness....It's movies like this that give movies a bad name".
But who cares what critics say? Roger Ebert really shit on a lot of movies I love, he and his other thumbs up buddy Gene Siskel had way too much power in the 80s. A thumbs down could break a movie, they sure didn't seem to mind that movies could fail just because they trashed it. They seemed drunk on the power actually. I love this flick, it's mean, its nasty, but it has great special effects. The music is a great synth score too. I just think when I ask my horror friends about Xtro, and they all love it, that is what matters, not some cranky old mans opinion. Avoid the sequel(s), it's a sequel in name only and had nothing to do with the first film.
22 The Blob (1988)
The Blob may be my favorite remake. The original 1958 film was somewhat constrained by the technology of the time, but by 1988 special effects (SFX) were pretty much an art form. An alien crashes into middle America in a small Colorado town and begins to consume everything in it's path. Teenagers try to warn the town, but no one listens (do they ever?) This is one of those rare remakes you could argue is better than the original.
The Blob has a decent body count, great effects and Kevin Dillion's long flowing mullet.
23 ) The Burning (1981)
The Burning is the story of a summer camp janitor named Cropsey who who was badly disfigured by a bunch of no good kids who were trying to prank him. Cropsey decides to come back for some revenge. While the deformed horror movie killer who comes back to get those who wronged him is pretty much done to death, The Burning differentiates itself with some great kills and gore effects courtesy of Tom Savini. Some 80's slashers were terrible, the Burning is quite watchable.
The Burning may just be standard slasher fair, but I like that it doesn't have 19 sequels and reboots. Just a stand alone horror movie that features George from Seinfeld with a lush head of hair:
24) Children of the Corn (1984)
One of the better "children are evil" horror movies Children of the Corn was based on a Stephen King short story in the collection "Night Shift". It mixes small town religious fervor with the supernatural, as a demon encourages the children of the fictional town of Gatlin Nebraska to ritually murder all the adults in order to ensure a successful corn harvest. This isn't a place you want to celebrate your 18th birthday.
Starring Linda "Terminator" Hamilton. The kids in this are great at being scary, with Issac being a standout. Children of the Corn isn't perfect, but it is effective. It starts out quite strong, and then its a bit of a stretched out exercise, the source material was only a few pages. It spawned numerous followups, none of which I have seen, and don't plan to see. I would still recommend this first one to horror fans. To this day creepy radio preachers really spook me out.
25) BASKET CASE (1982)
Earlier in the list I covered the film Brain Damage, well basket case is from the same director Frank Henenlotter, and its quite a messed up little movie. It is the story of Siamese twins who were separated by surgery, but unlike all the happy newly split up conjoined twins, these two and not happy about the situation. One of the twins is normal looking but the other is hideously deformed and gets carried around in a basket. This was filmed in early 80's times Square and it is super sleazy. Its also pretty much essential viewing for those into cult films. Censored in the UK during the video nasty moral panic.
26) Poltergeist (1982)
Seeing this movie in 1982 at the age of eight was terrifying!
Poltergeist is the story of a family that moves into a haunted house. All those paranormal ghost hunting shows would not exist without this film. JoBeth Williams and Craig T. Nelson (TV's Coach) are the parents, but the show stopping creepy center of it all is Carol Anne played by Heather O'Rourke (RIP 1975 – 1988).
That kid is scary. She is more in tune with the spirit world than those around her, and it appears the spirits want to take her back to their realm, which is accessed thru a static filled TV.
On paper Tobe Hooper directed this movie, but most people agree it was Steven Spielberg calling the shots. He was making ET at the time, and because there was already a fear there was too much Spielberg in cinemas that year he was not allowed (by contract) to make another movie that summer. So he didn't, Tobe Hooper did, Spielberg just happened to be there on set every day. The film looks and feels like Spielberg, very much so. I am not a big fan of his overly cutesy style, but Poltergeist is effective.
27) The Gates of Hell aka City of The Living Dead
This movie was directed by the great Lucio Fulci and was released as both the Gates of Hell and City of the Living Dead. Many Italian horror movies would get renamed, get a new poster, and trick people into seeing it twice. I thought City of the Living Dead was a Fulci movie I had never seen, then I bought the blu ray and flipped the title card over and saw it was AKA Gates of Hell which I had seen a million times.
Despite the shady title switcharoo this is a decent Italian horror move. A New York reporter and a clairvoyant race to shut the Gates of Hell after a priest's suicide caused them to open, allowing the dead to rise from their graves. This a somewhat Gothic film with lots of gross out moments, its a good place to start with Fulci. It will not be the last Fulci on this list.
28) Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
Silent Night,Deadly Night is the story of Billy, a young guy who goes on a murder rampage dressed as Santa Claus after spending years in an orphanage with PTSD after witnessing his parents' murder on Christmas Eve.
A pro Santa Claus protest against the film souce
This film was highly controversial in the 80s. They had an ad campaign that stressed the Santa as a slasher thing and it upset the PTA as they were showing them during Little House on the Prairie. The director stated Santa is not some untouchable religious figure, he is just a myth. It seems weird now because holiday themed horror like Krampus or Black Christmas don't even raise an eyebrow. In the 80's people acted like this movie was somehow ruining kids childhoods. It was a weird reaction, it seems now, but this was the era of the panic about heavy metal, and Dungeons and Dragons and horror movies got caught in it too.
Siskel and Ebert, the critics, read out the names of the crew and said "shame on you" after each one, LOL. At the end of the day all the protests and hysteria just made me want to see it even more. Forbidden fruit and all that. Silent Night Deadly Night isn't an essential 80's horror movie, but serious horror movie fans should see it. Its not great, but its an important slasher. Little known fact it opened the same day as A Nightmare on Elm Street and actually did better box office opening weekend.
29) The Gate (1987)
The Gate is a pretty decent horror film about a couple of kids whose parents go away and leave them alone at home. During that time they uncover a hole in the backyard, which just so happens to be the gate to hell.
The Gate has awesome stop motion creatures. In today's CGI infested cinema you never see stop motion anymore. I consider it an art form. Some people don't like the Gate, considering it a children's film. I like that it has a decently sinister vibe, even though it stars children. One of the kids is Stephen Dorff in his first ever role. Also filmed in Canada, so bonus points for that, because I'm Canadian.
30) CHUD (1984)
When it comes trashy 80s horror flicks, nothing beats C.H.U.D. (which stands for Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers). John Heard and Daniel Stern are probably the most recognizable faces here. They team up to investigate a series of missing persons cases that seem to be tied to something happening underground. Something involving humanoid monsters that is almost certainly related to toxic waste dumping in the sewers and its effect on the homeless population living there.
Your typical toxic waste creates a monster film, I like CHUD because it's shot in a pre gentrification NYC and all its sleazy charm. When its all said and done one may sit back and realize there were very few monsters actually seen on camera. It is probably because of budget constraints that most of the monsters remain hidden in the shadows. John Goodman has a very brief role, as a cop.