Screams from the 1980s
“Darkness falls across the land. The midnight hour is close at hand. Creatures crawl in search of blood, to terrorize y’all’s neighborhood. And whomsoever shall be found without the soul for getting down, must stand and face the hounds of hell and rot inside a corpse’s shell.”
For those of you who don’t know, that was part of the Vincent Price voiceover from the video of Michael Jackson’s 1983 music video Thriller. It seemed to be an appropriate beginning to this week’s column.
Looking out the window, I’m seeing the leaves beginning to turn colors and fall, and feeling the cold air coming in from the north signifying winter is on the way. You know what time it is. That’s right. It is time to honor my favorite holiday, Halloween, or All Hallows Eve, with yet another top 10 horror movie list. I try to get one of these in at the beginning of October to set the mood for the month. This year, in the spirit of all the time traveling horror movie sequels (strangely there are quite a few), I decided that it was time to take a trip back to my teenage years and talk about the horror movies we had during the 1980s. You know, the age of drinking Seagrams Golden Wine Coolers and voting for Ronald Reagan.
I tried to pick movies for this list that had an ‘80s feel. You know, that certain something that smiled at you when you watched it. Be it the cool synth soundtrack, the neon lights, the stone-washed denim or the leg warmers. Whatever. Movies from my high school days had a much different feel than they do now. They just seemed more fun.
As always, this is just my list. I grant you it is fun for me to come up with a new list every year. I hope it is equally fun for the reader to come up with their own list of scary movies to watch during the month.
So, without further ado, in the immortal words of The Rocky Horror Picture Show – “Lets do the Time Warp Again.”
10) Girlfriend From Hell – This isn’t so much a horror movie as a laugh-out-loud comedy. In it, Satan possesses the body of a prudish girl, turning her into a loutish party animal and ruining (or making, depending on your point of view) a friend’s birthday party. A devil chaser with a love of wine, women and song is close on Satan’s trail. The two duel in typical ‘80s party fashion. This video is kind of hard to find, but it is well worth the effort.
9) Night of the Demons – A group of friends hold a Halloween party in an abandoned funeral home on a Native American burial ground. During the festivities, a horde of demons is awakened and begins possessing and/or killing the teens. I guess you can’t have a movie where teens go somewhere on Halloween and nothing happens. This movie is ‘80s schlock at its best. There is a scene with a lipstick that is now a classic. I usually watch this around Halloween every year. It spawned two sequels, both of which are watchable but do not hold a candle to the original.
8) Return of the Living Dead – Campy fun. During an accident at a medical supply warehouse called “Uneeda,” a tank containing a captured zombie is accidentally ruptured, spilling a chemical that reanimates corpses. To get rid of a reanimated cadaver, the crematorium that happens to be across the road and conveniently right in front of a cemetery is used. This results in the releasing of more of the chemical into the air that revives all the inhabitants of the cemetery. The zombies proceed to terrorize a mortician, workers from the medical supply house and a group of punk rockers. This is also the first time you hear the call – “B-R-A-I-I-I-N-S!!!”
7) Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers – After a Myerless Halloween 3, which turned into a tremendous bomb, the producers of the Halloween series decided they needed to bring back everyone’s favorite silent masked killer. In it, Michael comes back from his injuries (I thought he was blown out of his socks - shows what I know; I guess that is why he is an unstoppable killer) at the end of Halloween 2. He begins to hunt his niece, a young girl being babysat by an older sister. You can really tell how much care was put into the making and it doesn’t seem like something a film studio cranked out just to make money. This is the best of all the Halloween sequels. Even if it is a sequel, this would be a very good stand-alone movie.
6) A Nightmare on Elm Street – While the later entries of this series turned more to comedy in an effort to make it more appealing to a wider audience, the first movie is, for lack of a better term, the stuff nightmares are made of. There is tension that you can cut with a bladed glove. There is a truly scary villain who brutally kills people inside their dreams – without uttering any stupid quips, I might add. There are heroes you care about and want to see all right. There is always the question while watching the movie if the characters are awake or asleep. This is Johnny Depp’s first movie and he provides one of the most memorable scenes. Check out the original and skip that inferior remake that came out a couple of years ago.
5) Friday the 13th 3D – The third entry of the series is the one where Jason gets his now iconic hockey mask. The story is … well, it’s pretty much the same as all the other movies in the series. It follows a group of teens who travel to the woods to have some fun. Immortal party pooper Jason shows up and ends the fun in short order. This is one of the movies that was actually made when film writers worried about such things as character development. Today a group of stereotypical faceless teens are just thrown in for the purpose of padding the body count.
4) Night of the Comet – This is a classic ‘80s sci-fi horror movie. In it, two Valley Girls and a trucker are the sole survivors (almost) of the fly-by of Halley’s Comet, which reduces the population of Earth to red dust. The movie chronicles their run-ins with zombies, a nest of scientists, and a perpetually open shopping mall where everything is free. Check this one out. In the age of political correctness, where would you hear the line, “Daddy would have gotten us Uzis.”?
3) Creepshow – This movie is actually a series of five stories that is an homage to several horror comics, such as Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror. ‘The Crate’ is my favorite of the five. It is the story of a crate discovered under the stairs at a university that contains a big scary monster that is hungry for the main character’s unpleasant wife. It’s no use my trying to explain. You just have to see it.
2) Chopping Mall — Another horror/sci-fi crossover about teens who are trapped in a mall while three heavily armed and armored security robots run amok. The movie shows the main characters banding together to “send the robots a Rambogram.” The scene with the girl’s head outside the store is one that has to be seen to be believed. The shot is replayed in the credits.
1) Lost Boys — Any movie that contains the two Corys (Haim and Feldman) is definitely ‘80s fodder. In it, a teen falls in with a bad crowd who happen to be vampires. The teen’s younger brother teams up with two comic book peddlers/monster hunters. The sets and the feel of this movie are tremendous, from the boardwalk plastered with posters of missing teens, to the vampire gang’s underground lair. It is scary. It is funny. It is a classic. BTW – don’t get either of those Lost Boys direct-to-video sequels that were made in the last few years. Forget Twilight. Only settle for vampires who actually drink human blood.
Top 5 runners up
5: Killer Clowns from Outer Space
4: Trick or Treat
1: The Fog