Top Ten Horror Movies of the 1980's (That Aren't Part of a Series)
Ah, yes, I know you want Friday the 13th and Evil Dead II to be on any list of the best of the eighties, but in order to make it a more interesting list, I've done away with convention, and am strictly using films that were never part of a series. That includes even just having a single sequel. So, bye-bye Nightmare on Elm St., Night of the Demons, Re-Animator, Slumber Party Massacre, Hellraiser, and all of you would-be top tenners. This is actually harder to do, because in the eighties, they wanted to enfranchise pretty much everything. On with the list:
10. Dead Heat (1988) - In the eighties, buddy cop movies were all the rage. And, dammit, I enjoy them. So what better possible idea could there be than to add zombies into the mix? Think Lethal Weapons meets Dawn of the Dead as directed by Harold Ramis. While it may not actually be as good as either on of the films mentioned, Dead Heat manages to be an extremely entertaining, campy-as-hell flick that makes for one great saturday night viewing experience. And, really, when a film features both Darren McGavin and and aged Vincent Price, you can count me in anytime.
9. The Burning (1981)
0 - One of the best slashers to never be franchised (and, subsequentily completely beaten to death), The Burning is very similar to Friday the 13th in that both take place at secluded summer camps and both feature creative kills. Interestingly enough, this and Friday the 13th both were filmed in the same year, and, somehow the producers of The Burning were able to seduce Tom Savini away from doing the effects in Sean Cunningham's film in order to do this one. What's different about the two is that, of course, in Friday the 13th the killer is Jason's mother, where as the killer in The Burning (Cropsy) is actually kind of a prototype for Jason.
8. Night of the Creeps (1986) - Fred Dekker is the man responsible for three wonderful genre expereinces from the eighties: Monster Squad, House, and Night of the Creeps. The latter makes out list at number seven. Coming soon to DVD (with both endings!), Night of the Creeps is the story of two college freshmen trying their best to make a good impression on some sorority chicks, when a prank goes horribly wrong, releasing a horde of parasitic "creeps" on their unsuspecting town. The film very deftly mixes that eighties college sex-comedy humor, with campy sci-fi/horror action to deliver a really excellent picture, that is enhanced even more by Tom Atkins excellently hammy turn as a local police detective out for revenge.
7. From Beyond (1986) - Along with his Re-Animator (which can't make the list due to its specifications), Stuart Gordon's From Beyond is an excellent example of what made eighties horror so great. A loose adaptation of an HP Lovecraft work, From Beyond relies on excellent, and gooey, practical effects to carry the picture along. The always wonderful Jeffery Combs and Barbara Crampton kind of switch roles from Re-Animator, and both do really great work here, in a story about scientists attempting to stimulate the pineal gland and gain access to a parallel universe.
6. City of the Living Dead (1980) - Lucio Fulci's first entry on the list comes in the form of his zombie opus City of the Living Dead (sometimes known as The Gates of Hell). Renowned for it's generally disgusting gore (gut vomit, anyone?), the film is enveloped with a sense of dread that can only be created by Fulci or Lovecraft. As is the case with most Fulci flicks, the atmosphere, set pieces, and gags take center stage above pesky things like plot, but anyone who can appreciate what the man brings to the table will love it. The first part of Fulci's loosely knit, themeatic "Gates of Hell" or "Dead" trilogy, this film should be a requisite DVD in any genre fan's collection.
5. Near Dark (1987) - Forget Twilight, this is the real get your frills deal when it comes to vampire love stories. Near Dark is the tale of a young man from Oklahoma that happens to find himself in a bit of prickly situation. So, the ending is a little implausible, big deal. Don't let the "romance" tag that I used, or the poster, fool you, there are significant scenes of brutality in this film. Tune in for fantastic performances by Bill Paxton and genre staple Lance Henriksen, as they maim and slice there way through the countryside.
4. The Beyond (1981) - Fulci lifts his hand out of the grave one more time and comes in fourth on the list, this time with his epic film The Beyond (aka The Seven Doors of Death). The Beyond is a very Lovecraftian story, that, similarly to City of the Living Dead, places most of the emphasis on anything but the story. If you must know, the plot is something like this: "a young lady inherits a very old hotel in Louisiana. Eventually, after some incidents, she comes to the knowledge that the hotel was actually built over one of seven entrances to Hell." Kind of trite, but workable. Regardless, the film manages to be an extremely creepy and macabre mix of gothic horrors and gory goodies.
3. The Shining (1980) - Stanley Kubrick's only true foray into horror as a genre is still one of the greatest films ever made. I'd be remiss if the first thing I mentioned wasn't Jack Nicholson's perforamnce as Jack Torrance in the film. Nicholson delivers the performance of his life in this one, as he shows us the transformation from recovering alcoholic father into all out, ghost-seeing maniac. Kubrick's eye for composition is really showcased in this one as well, as the enormous hotel provides him with a great canvas on which to work. If you haven't seen The Shining, you are doing yourself a grave disservice.
2. Videodrome (1983) - Sometimes difficult for me to actually categorize as horror, there's no doubt that David Cronenberg's Videodrome is a phenomenally, horrific tale of intrigue and exploitation. The film stars James Woods as Max Renn, a sleazy cable operator that gets caught up in a very mysterious and shady conspiracy. The film is what I would call a surrealist mind-fuck that really begs to be watched on more than once to fully try to come to terms with its intricacies. Videodrome is definitely one of the best sci-fi/horror films out there, and has a lot of underlying facets, which is typical of David Cronenberg's work.
1. The Thing (1982) - To me, there aren't very many films that are as taut and suspensful as John Carpenter's masterpiece The Thing. A loose remake of The Thing from Another World, The Thing is an exercise in crafting both eerily claustrophobic atmosphere and stunning pratical effects. Not for the paranoid, The Thing is the story of a small group of people in the arctic that are having to deal with a very strange epidemic that has infected their camp...that being, an alien being. Who's good? Who's bad? And there's lots of ugly to be seen in this fantastic picture.