With Halloween fast approaching in just a month and October often resulting in many channels such as TCM, AMC, and HDNet airing horror movies nonstop throughout the month I thought it would be fitting to do an early countdown of my personal underrated 1980’s horror movies.
A lot of horror fans will quickly tell you about the prime movies of the decade ranging from series such as Child’s Play and Alien to continued movies such as the Friday the 13th series and A Nightmare on Elm Street series. Other horror fans digging a little deeper may push you more towards the 1970s and Italian Horror or into the 1990s and cult movies such as Event Horizon from 1997.
This list, however, is for some obvious 1980s films but also some that a lot of fans may overlook or even have never seen before themselves as they are a bit out of the way in terms of notoriety and tend to lean more on the cult horror fan’s list. So without further adieu let’s get onto the list!
Number 5: The Changeling (1980)
Directed by Peter Medak
One of my earliest memories was seeing this ghost story movie and it made an immediate impact on me. A man, played by George C. Scott, is staying at a secluded mansion and soon starts to experience the effects of a ghost haunting the mansion. It takes a little while to get warmed up but once the activity and action starts, it really heaps on the tension without needing jump scares. One of the most memorable scenes in the entire movie is towards the end of the movie and involves a little red ball with a white star. It’s a testament to Medak’s directing and the editing that the scene itself is so terrifying in the context of the story despite largely being simplistic on the surface.
Number 4: House (1986)
Directed by Steve Miner
I greatly adore this movie. William Katt plays a writer returning to his childhood home in order to search for his son, Jimmy whom has gone missing. Katt’s quick to learn that there’s more to the house than meets the eye. The creature effects are really well done, the set design confined mostly to the home itself is solid, and the acting by Katt and particularly George Wendt as the next door neighbor are great. The film is at its best when Katt and Wendt are together including a very memorable scene involving a closet as they wait.
Number 3: Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)
Directed by Tony Randel
While the original was memorable, this movie managed to try to tie the original with an absolutely off the rails, bonkers second half that really doesn’t make much sense and yet is so enthralling that it kind of doesn’t matter. Ashley Laurence and Clare Higgins return as Kirsty and Julia Cotton and both play their roles equally as well as the original film. Pinhead and the Cenobites get a bit more screentime here which helps establish them a bit more while leading to an arguably okayish ending. The Cenobites are again well designed and the set designs help convey a similar mood and vibe to the first movie.
Number 2: Pumpkinhead (1988)
Directed by Stan Winston
While Winston is best known for his astonishingly great creature designs, here we saw his directorial ability on display and he did an absolutely wonderful job bathing the movie in blues and reddish hues. Lance Henriksen is a small town grocer whom ends up calling upon Pumpkinhead for revenge after city kids come into the area and end up effecting him on a personal level. The creature of Pumpkinhead is a true sight to behold and sears itself in your brain when on the screen in movement. Winston does a great job setting up the mood and establishing the characters while reveling in the sheer demonness of Pumpkinhead’s form and structure.
Number 1: Critters (1986)
Directed by Stephen Herek
What do you get when you cross bounty hunters chasing alien creatures that land smack dab in a small town? You get this great little film. There is surprisingly a lot of tension throughout, with effective use of shadows hiding the creatures and effectively building up the characters. The original film also had some good one liners that were memorably featured in the trailer and actor Scott Grimes had an early albeit memorable role as the young son, Brad Brown. The movie and its series also featured Don Keith Opper as Charlie, a character that would appear in every film in the series run.
So those are my top 5 underrated 1980’s horror movie gems. Definitely check them out if you never have and get yourselves ready for popcorn, candy, unlit rooms, and the glow of your television screen as Halloween draws nearer!