Extreme Horror Thru the Ages: 1980's

Horror Extreme's look at Horror Movies in the 1980s.
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Horror movies in the 1980s

The 1980's was the decade of horror sequels and video nasties. The 1980's saw a boom in slasher flicks with loads of sequels and movies such as Halloween, Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street spawned numerous sequels that defined the standard slasher template that would influence slashers in the following decades and probably will for years to come.

The 1980's also saw the introduction of the UK's Video Nasties act that saw numerous movies banned in the UK and propelled them all to cult status making them "must have" movies for the discerning horror movie fan. The hysteria caused by the video nasty act had a much wider effect than just the UK and saw a number of movies unnecessarily censored around the world.

Despite all of this the 1980's is still responsible for some of the most original and influential horror movies to hit the video stores such as Clive Barker's Hellraiser, Tom Holland's Child's Play and Sam Raimi's Evil Dead as well as some more obscure movies which have become classics in recent years, Nekromantik, Bad Taste, Basket Case and Maniac to name a few.

Read on for Horror Extreme's movie recommendations from the decade that created a dramatic increase in mainstream interest in the horror genre.

Maniac (1980)

Maniac - Directed by William Lustig

Maniac is William Lustig's ultra-violent slasher movie following the day-to-day activities of Frank Zito, the tormented and twisted serial killer with a mannequin fetish. The movie is still quite extreme even to today's standards and disturbs as the movie's main character focus is the sick Frank Zito and inspires a sympathy for him and his demented acts of evil. The movie is basically a montage of extended and sadistic stalk and slash scenes as Frank Zito murders innocent women, haunted by the abuse that he suffered by his mother as a youngster interspersed with his struggle to escape his death addiction so that he can become truly close to a woman that he has fallen in love with. The most notorious scene in the movie involves a well-lit, close up shotgun blast to the head second only to the bizarre and open-to-many-interpretations ending.

The Evil Dead (1981)

The Evil Dead - Directed by Sam Raimi, starring Bruce Campbell

Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead is a dark comedy horror classic and has spawned a cult following from horror fans all over the world. Not only did the movie struggle to get a release in the first place due to excessive gore, it was one of the first movies to be added to the Video Nasty List, which only made its notoriety spread. The movie revolves around five students who go to an isolated house for a bit of a vacation only to unwittingly resurrect an evil demon via the "Book of the Dead". Unable to leave the area, and with his companions slowly succumbing to the undeadifying power of the demon, Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) must banish the demons back to hell and escape. The movie was banned in a number of countries and is most notorious for the "misogynistic tree rape" scene and Ash chain-sawing off his own possessed hand.

Basket Case (1982)

Basket Case - Directed by Fank Henenlotter

Basket Case is the darkly humorous horror from Frank Henenlotter, known for it's over the top gore and violence. The plot is a simple revenge movie following Dwayne Bradley (Kevin Van Hentenryck) and his hideously deformed conjoined twin, Belial. The twins' mother died birthing the two and their father, repulsed at the sight of the hideous Belial, has them separated hoping Dwayne can lead a normal life and Belial will die and be nothing but a distant memory. Belial survives and, out of love for his brother, Dwayne packs him in a basket and the two set out to kill the doctors that separated them. Although produced on a shoestring budget, Basket Case is a creative horror inspired by a great idea and manages to shock with the gore no matter how unconvincing it is!

Xtro (1983)

Xtro - A British Video Nasty

The British horror Xtro is one of the few Sci-Fi horror's to make the Video Nasty List due to some nasty gore (most notably the female raped by an alien giving birth to a fully grown man), nudity and possibly the surreal atmosphere. The story involves the return to earth of a man abducted by aliens three years earlier, not only is his behavior now a bit different to when he left, he is also a four legged crab-like atrocity. He is not too pleased that his wife is now living with someone else and resolves the problem in his own alien-ish ways. Xtro is another low-budget gore-fest with enough over-the-top gore to make you forget about the tacky effects and enjoy the splatter concepts that the director is trying to portray.

C.H.U.D. (1984)

C.H.U.D. - Directed by Douglas Cheek

C.H.U.D (Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dweller) is a slasher stroke monster movie from director Douglas Cheek, featuring performances by none other than John Goodman and a number of underground dwelling radioactive mutants. People are disappearing from the streets or New York and being dragged into the sewers by deformed monsters. The only people that can get to the bottom of the mysterious disappearances are an officer of the law, a journalist and a hippie. Once again C.H.U.D. is a low budget affair (and it seems the budget became even tighter towards the end) but overall it is quite an entertaining romp and has achieved a culty following like many horror movies of the eighties.

Day of the Dead (1985)

Day of the Dead - The third of George A. Romero's Zombiefests

George A. Romero's third outing into zombieland is Day of the Dead (after Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead). This movie takes a much darker tone than its predecessors focusing more on the world issues of the zombie infestation rather than a few individual characters fighting for survival. The army wants to annihilate the zombie threat, the scientists want to study them for a cure and the civilians just want to enjoy the rest of their short life expectancy. The story takes place in a military base that the occupants believe is the last safe haven in a zombie infested world. The usual Romero satire is present but addresses much bigger issues than "consumers are zombies" and suggests that humanity is it's own biggest threat, more so than ravenous flesh eating undead. Although widely criticized upon release, Day of Dead is now considered to be the best of Romero's five Living Dead movies. A murkier plot, but still with lashings of guts.

From Beyond (1986)

From Beyond - Starring Jeffery Combs

From Beyond is an extremely innovative splatterfest based on H.P. Lovecraft's short story of the same name with a sci-fi-esque plot and some grotesque and over-the-top gore. Starring Jeffery Combs from Re-Animator fame (also a H.P. Lovecraft story), as the reserved partner of a mad scientist working on stimulation of the pineal gland (a gland in the brain that regulates seasonal functions such as sleep and previously thought to be the "seat of the soul" by certain hippie types). Using a machine called the resonator they manage to produce a euphoric feeling but also open a gateway into a monster filled dimension. The lead scientist, Edward, soon becomes addicted to the pleasure that this new world provides and is drawn in and become a power crazed monstrous freak who preys on those from the realm of the normal.

Hellraiser (1987)

Hellraiser - Classic horror from Clive Barker

Hellraiser is a seminal horror movie following Frank Cotton in his search for the ultimate sadomasochist pleasure. His journey leads him to Morocco and a mysterious puzzle box rumored to be the source of the ultimate pleasure through pain. Solving the puzzle summons demons from hell known as the Cenobites (lead by the now infamous anti-hero Pinhead) who will provide a lifetime of punishment to those who seek it. Frank is soon torn to bits by the box and is dragged into hell. Larry, the brother of Frank, moves into Frank's abandoned house with his wife Julia unaware that under the floorboards is the few remains of Frank's body needing only a few drops of blood to bring him back into the realms of the living. As everyone knows, moving into a new house usually results in the loss of blood and before long the barely formed Frank has seduced Julia and she is soon bringing him fresh meat so that he can be human again. Obviously his escape from Hell upsets the Cenobites who return to reclaim their toy or a suitable replacement...

Phantasm II (1988)

Phantasm 2 - The Tall Man is back

Phantasm 2 sees the return of another slasher anti-hero, The Tall Man, and starts off right where the first Phantasm ended. As the movie begins The Tall Man's dwarves have invaded Mike's house and try to kidnap him but Reggie tries foils their plan. Seven years later, Reggie is in a mental hospital where he has convinced the doctors the he is convinced that all the happening of the first movie was a mental delusion, but whilst he has been institutionalized the Tall Man has been busy plundering graves to create undead slaves in his dimension. After his release Reggie teams up with Mike and they arm themselves to the teeth and prepare to battle The Tall Man again and put a stop to his morbid activities once and for all. With a much bigger budget than the first Phantasm outing a lot of the charm of the first movie has been lost within the explosions and special effects but there's more gore and more metal balls.

976-Evil (1989)

976-Evil - Directed by Robert Englund

Directed by Freddy Krueger himself, well Robert Englund the star of A Nightmare on Elm Street, 976-Evil is a typical 1980's horror movie concerning the lives of two cousins, Spike, the neighborhood bad boy, and the introverted and nerdy Hoax. The two discover a novelty phone line that will tell you your frightening fortune for a couple of dollars. Hoax soon discovers that the phone line is a little more sinister that he first suspected as it is a direct line to Satan himself, who uses the fortunes to corrupt the innocent into doing his evil bidding. Hoax uses this to his own advantage to get revenge on all those that have wronged him in the past, but is rapidly overwhelmed by Satan's power and becomes truly evil himself.
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