Saturday, March 29, 2014

Top 10 Horror Films of the 1980's

With the advent of VHS, the horror genre experienced a revolution during the 1980's. Literally hundreds of  titles started being produced and some even became smashes at the box office. Others  found their way to a cult following on the direct-to-video market, but there is no denying the impact that horror films had on the decade and pop culture itself. So, without further adieu lets take a look at the top 10 horror films of the 80's.

1. The Evil Dead (1981). Sam Raimi's low budget "Evil Dead" began captivating horror fans upon its release in 1981. With the art of extremely clever film-making, atmosphere and storytelling, this became one of the biggest cult movies of all time. It is one of those movies that has the same effect on you today as it did the first time you had the guts to watch it as a cowering child. In an era of computers and CGI, you really have to marvel at the incredible film wizardry that this group of film students came up with on a $350,000 budget. The film would also create one of horror's great heroes in Ash, who spends the bulk of the film in a terrifying fight to the death with demonic entities. In a decade filled with amazingly good (and equally bad) horror films, this is the movie that all the others must be compared to.

2.  The Shining (1981). Stanley Kubrick's vision of the horrifying Stephen King novel has been widely regarded as a horror classic for over 30 years. Jack Nicholson provides a riveting portrayal of a hotel manager spiriting into madness as he slowly succumbs to the spirits of the Overlook. The film's visuals are almost as stunning as the macabre events that are taking place within the hotel themselves. Set in the dead of a Colorado winter, you feel as if you are trapped inside the hotel along with the characters which only adds to the dread. There are many scenes in this film that stand out in horror lore, but no one will ever forget the sea of  blood rushing down the hallway as the little boy peddles his trike.

3. The Lost Boys (1987). This is a film which certainly transcends the horror genre and may well have been more of a quintessential pop-culture piece for the 80's. We have a group of cool, sexy vampires terrorizing a California beach community which provides a tremendous setting visually. The music, hair and clothing absolutely scream "80's" and  having younger characters help blurr the line between horror and comedy. This is the movie that our parents would actually let us watch, which takes some of the true magic away, however, there is no denying the impact that "The Lost Boys" had on the vampire genre and the 1980's in general.

4. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). Director West Craven based this film on a story that he once read that people were dying in their sleep after having severe nightmares. And with that, we are introduced to Freddy Kreuger in 1984 and none of us have likely been the same since. Obviously, this movie spurned many sequels throughout the decade, and created a horror icon in Freddy, but as a stand alone, "A Nightmare on Elm Street" is an instant classic. This was very original for the time and threw a new kink into the formulaic slasher genre. The dream sequences and special effects are top notch for the era and we will never forget watching the poor teenage girl getting dragged around and clawed to death on the ceiling of her room.

5. Day of the Dead (1985). Long before AMC's "The Walking Dead," we were left with George A. Romero films to quench our thirst for zombies. "Day of the Dead" is actually the third installment of Romero's "Dead" trilogy following "Night of the Living Dead" and "Dawn of the Dead." This film takes place in an underground military bunker where a group of survives are trying to keep the zombies at bay. The social commentary here is certainly not subtle as we are shown a glimpse of how humanity faces extreme adversity. The gore effects (created by legendary Tom Savini) are amazingly done in this film. No two zombies look the same and you cringe every time one of them happens to get a hold of a human victim.

6. Friday the 13th (1980). We started the 1980's with a small, low-budge independent film that would wind up changing the genre as we knew it. "Friday the 13th," which as an admitted "Halloween" ripoff, steered the slasher genre in the right direction and provided us with a perfect horror setting in Camp Crystal Lake. Of course, the original film did not feature Jason Voorhees as the killer, but it was his vengeful mother who started all the mayhem. "Friday the 13th" is a solid and impactful slasher film as a stand-alone, but the fact that it created the greatest horror icon of all time in later films bumps it up on the list for sure.

7. Return of the Living Dead (1985). They are back from the grave and ready to party!  In this zombie parody, we find out exactly why zombie want to eat us: because it hurts to be dead! Makes sense right? "Return of the Living Dead" provides a fun, humorous view of the zombie genre long before it became cliche'. Despite the campy feel of the movie, there are still some wonderful zombie effects and kills. If the horror universe wasn't zombie-crazed before 1985, it definitely would be after as both "Return" and "Day of the Dead" fed our appetite for mindless zombie killing.

8. Silver Bullet (1985). Based on Stephen King's novella "Cycle of the Werewolf," "Silver Bullet" would provide us with a wonderfully told story based on the popular werewolf legend. A young Corey Haim plays a handicapped boy who believes that a werewolf is responsible for several killings around town that just happen to occur during full moons. Gary Busey is a huge highlight playing Haim's uncle, who might be the only one in town who believes that a werewolf is actually alive and well in Tarker Mills. There is something about movies that take place in small towns that give you a different vibe and this is no different. You really do not know who the werewolf is until very late in the movie and everyone is a suspect!

9. Fright Night (1985). This is just a really fun movie from the word go and reminds you why the 80's were so great. Definitely a perfect drive-in type film that also combined horror and comedy wonderfully. "Fright Night" plays off the 80's cliche of something horrifying occurring and a kid (high school student in this case) seeing it happenwith NO ONE believing him of course. Here, we have a cunning vampire moving next door to this kid and starts preying on various women from the town. Charlie Brewster must enlist the help of a TV "vampire hunter" (who doesn't believe him either) to stop this prince of darkness before it's too late!

10. Waxwork (1988). Waxwork is one of those movies that deserves far more accolades than creeping on to this top-10 list. This is the ultimate USA "Up all Night" flick and if you've seen it, you probably love it. A local wax museum opens up although there seems to be something fishy going on inside. When a group of friends take a tour, they find themselves being lost in various terrifying wax scenes. The visuals are stunning and the story is quite creative as the group navigates through the different wax horrors.

Underrated Gems Also Deserving of Mention: American Werewolf in London, The Howling, Sleepaway Camp 1 and 2, Night of the Creeps, Hellraiser, Creepers, The Burning, Near Dark, Aliens, The Thing, Trick or Treat, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Critters. 

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