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The Best Horror Came from the 80s: Horror movies that stand the Test of Time and their more modern counterparts, Part 2

July 4, 2013

It’s hard to put it any better than to simply say “the best horror movies came from the 80s.”  The 80s spawned so many beautiful franchises and, down the road, remakes and reboots–for better or for worse.  But even when sequels begin to go sour and remakes fail to do justice to the originals, we must acknowledge that it was a legacy of greatness that compelled horror filmmakers to simply not give up and keep trying.

Here are some of the greats, in no particular order, continued from PART 1.

6. Evil Dead 2 (1987) and, for that matter, Evil Dead (1981).  These movies really changed the face of twisted and slapstick horror with a homicidal smile.  While I also loved Army of Darkness (1992), I couldn’t help but to feel that the comedy to horror ratio was way too biased towards the comedy.  That said, I still laugh through almost every minute.  Practical effects, intensity and creatively re-architected scenes made the recent remake Evil Dead (2013) one of the best and cleverly made remakes of the last 10 years.  Another of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead-spawn was another of my favorite’s of the last decade: the gastrointestinal gross-out feature Drag Me to Hell (2009).  Movies like these–when Raimi puts his lead protagonist through the ringer as if the UFC was crossed with Nickelodeon’s Double Dare–are just the best.

Classic!  Homicidal severed hands and dancing, flying, soul-sucking demon-zombies.

The Cabin in the Woods (2012), Final Destination 5 (2011; and the rest of the series) and Tucker and Dale vs Evil (2010) all seem to be following the gore-slathered path to cult-classic-dom-ness secreted by Raimi’s vision.  While each of these movies takes a completely unique angle, they all converge on that which simply works for the gorehounds in us.


Thank you Sam Raimi. You’ve influenced so many other filmmakers with your work.  Thank you so very much for breaking the mold and just doing what you felt like doing!

7. The Howling (1981).  Werewolves taken seriously and done well!  Perhaps the second best werewolf movie on the market and it takes itself quite seriously.  I can still watch and enjoy this movie alongside new releases–and not because it’s so bad it’s good, but because it’s just plain good!  This is the second only to An American Werewolf in London (also 1981).

There are a lot of major familiar faces in this movie.  The director also took every possible chance to throw wolf cartoons, movies and books in the background, werewolf movie directors’ names for characters, etcetera throughout.  This could make for a great horror geek drinking game!

8. An American Werewolf in London (1981).  If you’re in the market for a great werewolf movie that has a sense of humor, then see this classic–hands down the best werewolf movie ever made!  Steering clear of formulaic horror movie plot clichés, An American Werewolf in London avoids immature promiscuous summer campers and delinquent drug-using twenty-somethings with loose morals as we are introduced to more mature protagonists.  Yes, they’re twenty-somethings.  And yes, they have their quippy repartees.  But their immaturity is no more than an otherwise responsible pair of men enjoying a night of manhood away from the wife and kids.  They’re actually somewhat mature when things aren’t crazy.

They also fit in some well-placed dark humor in the form of an undead avatar sent to educate his killer and the movie audience just how the curse of lycanthropy works.

Both The Howling (1981) and An American Werewolf in London (1981) revitalized the lycanthropic subgenre, spawning a sea of new approaches to the mythos and unique moods.  These movies also really ignited the celebration of the now-requisite “transformation scene.”  A most dramatic example a la The Howling can be found in In the Company of Wolves (1984) and the recent Netflix series Hemlock Grove (2013).

This may have been the first depiction of a painful transformation scene.

In the Company of Wolves took a very provocative, shocking approach to the transformation–as if the wolf was tearing itself free from its prison of human flesh.

Whereas Ginger Snaps took a more contemporary approach to the transformation scene, making the “scene” the entire movie as Ginger slowly took on more lupine characteristics and personality traits.

Another fun-spirited were-film is Cursed (2005), which is loaded with clichés and honors many past horror flicks.   Ginger Snaps (2000) brings us a metaphor for puberty, Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed (2004) is a worthy sequel that takes a strange turn, and An American Werewolf in Paris (1997) serves as a coming of manhood from college man-childhood–but it’s more of a positive journey.  If you want another utterly ridiculous werewolf movie, then move on to Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf (1985) and Howling 3: The Marsupials (1987).  But skip Howling IV: The Original Nightmare (1988), Howling V: The Rebirth (1989), Howling VI: The Freaks (1991) and The Howling: Reborn (2011).  The Howling series seemed to drop the ball swiftly after the original.

9. Aliens (1986).  This is sort of a stretch, I know.  While the original Alien (1979) served as a sci-fi with VERY strong horror elements (or, perhaps, a horror delivered in a sci-fi setting), this sequel was more of an action movie appeal accompanied by some scares.  But I’m including it anyway because it was epic!

After all, if you’re going to do a make-up and prosthetics job like this on Lance Henriksen, then I get to call this horror.

After all, as H. R. Giger’s terrifyingly crafted xenomorphs converged on Ripley, Newt and the colonial marines it was nothing short of scary–the words “game over” come to mind.  As we watched, we’d grip the theater seat arm rests, slouch down and press the back of our heads into the cushion as if it would get us farther from the screen.  That was a little more than simple anticipation.  It was a lot like watching The Thing (1982).

Everything about this epic film seemed to be done flawlessly.  Such a precedent was set between this and its prequel (Alien) that you’d think no one would dare try to follow it up.  But no….they did.  Alien 3 (1992) came along.  That was bust!  Alien Resurrection (1997) was certainly fun.  But it had more of an over-the-top Resident Evil appeal with each “stage” bringing its own unique background, a group of very different looking heroes and a variety of battle scenarios.  It was a lot like Resident Evil: Retribution (2012).  Oh, and Ripley’s clone baby albino alien thing from the “live birth?”  Yeah, it got a little weird there, didn’t it?  Then there was AVP: Aliens vs Predator (2004) and AVPR (2007), dozens of video games and comic book series, and even plush toys.

Most recently, Prometheus (2012) has come to change the face of the franchise while starting its own franchise (as there is a sequel lined up).  In a series called Prometheus Vivisected I look in great detail at the continuity between Prometheus and Alien including the monsters.

10. Hellraiser (1987) and Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988).  Hellraiser was something truly original and creepy.  Naturally, following in the footsteps of so many other franchised horror movie series, the story was continued with a sequel.  The best quality of this sequel was that Hellbound managed to capture everything that fans loved about the original, added more character and story development with well-formed characters and thoughtful writing, and the sequeled story was told in such a different way that it both functioned as a solid stand alone film as well as a great next storytelling step for the franchise with its own entirely different style.

Hellbound brought us the Cenobites, and they were about as varied as any crew of horror antagonists.  It wasn’t really until the Puppet Master (1989) franchise that we met another “team” of recurring horror villains, each of which with their own power, personality and appearance.  I mean, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) sort of did this, but the Sawyer family was usually divided into two groups: Leatherface, and then all the other crazy disorganized Sawyer family members.

Meet the Cenobites: Butterball, Pinhead, Female and Chatterbox.  They kind of look like they belong in an 80s death metal band, don’t they?

It’s a shame that the franchise lost its way as it was continued in the 90s.  Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992) was admittedly funny–the first of the series to embrace B-horror humor.  But the first two movies were completely series, brutal in fact, and suspenseful.  They weren’t B-horror movies.  They were seriously well done horror films!  So, however entertaining this third installment was, this B-style humor harbingered the major quality drops to come in yet future installments…Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996), Hellraiser: Inferno (2000), Hellraiser: Hellseeker (2002), Hellraiser: Deader (2005), Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005), Hellraiser: Revelations (2011).  That’s nine movies!  Well…I guess even though I don’t think they do the franchise justice, clearly producers have been comfortable with the prophet margins.

A message from the filmmakers of more recent Hellraiser installments.

I doubt we’ve seen the end of this franchise.  In fact, given recent Hollywood trends, perhaps Hellraiser is do for one of those remake/reboot/re-imaginings. It hardly needs it, but that tends not to stop Hollywood from making a buck.


11 Comments leave one →
  1. Victor De Leon permalink
    January 28, 2014 4:56 pm

    Awesome post! Man, I miss the 80’s.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      June 26, 2016 12:15 pm

      These posts were so fun to write. I need to do more like this!


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