This is the latest of a whole series here at Grizzly Bomb. For each feature we will examine an individual genre and the quality of its films produced within a specific decade. These lists will be compiled from a point system determined by votes from each member of the staff. It’s very scientific, we used Excel.
Not much says horror like 80’s horror. A genre defining decade if ever there was one, the 80’s brought us some of the classics as well as those cult favorites that most love to hate. We saw the start of never-ending franchises and one-offs that lasted longer in our nightmares than they did in the theater. Remember that short period of time when horror movies were scary? I do. It was the 80’s.
This list was populated by 14 Grizzly Bomb staffers and 2 additional guest voters. It resulted in a whopping 63 different movies being listed, which we scientifically put together into a list of the top 25.
*Our Guest Voters this time around are friends of the site Stephen Scarlata, who is currently finishing up some work on the Documentary ‘Jodorowsky’s Dune‘, and David E. Williams who is an Executive Producer on Femme Fatales.
24. The Beyond (1981)
23. Stephen King’s Silver Bullet (1985)
22. Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
21. Bad Taste (1987)
20. Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)
19. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)
18. Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)
17. Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)
15. Return of the Living Dead (1985)
14. Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
13. Day of the Dead (1985)
12. An American Werewolf in London (1981)
11. The Lost Boys (1987)
And the TOP 10….
SCOOT: Hellraiser comes to us from horror visionary Clive Barker, and was adapted from his novella The Hellbound Heart . It was wide renowned for its shocking gore and out of this world storyline, with state of the art special effects (for its time, of course). It tells the story of a man seeking the ultimate in pleasure, and finding the ultimate in pain. The movie chronicles his return from Hell after he uses the mystical Puzzle Box, and the brave heroine who sends him back to dwell with the keepers of this particular Hell, the Cenobites. Hellraiser spawned a ton of horrible and doomed to be straight-to-video sequels, but no one can deny the kind of effect Hellraiser had on them during their first viewing. An original story, and a new face of horror with Pinhead and the Cenobites. The Puzzle Box has floated through a few other Clive Barker stories, as well as cameos in other movies. A lasting tradition of horror that carries on today, as plans for a remake of the popular franchise is underway.
US Release: September 18, 1987
Director: Clive Barker
Notable Cast: Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, and Ashley Laurence.
Oscar Wins/Nominations: 0/0
US Box Office/Adjust. for Inflation: $14,564,027/$29,165,302
Best Quote: “Explorers in the further regions of experience. Demons to some. Angels to others.”
Trivia: The concept of a cube being used as a portal to hell has basis in the urban legend of The Devil’s Toy Box, which concerns a six-sided cube constructed of inward facing mirrors. According to stories, individuals who enter the structure and then close it will undergo surreal, disturbing phenomenon that will simultaneously grant them a revelatory experience and permanently warp their mind.
9. The Fly
SCOOT: A remake of the classic 1958 horror with one of the most memorable scenes in cinematic history (“Help me…. Help me…”) this movie truly elevated the original. It tells the story of the brilliant yet eccentric Dr. Seth Brundle (played masterfully by Jeff Goldblum), who is experimenting with matter teleportation. Of course the test takes a drastic turn when he discovers that a house fly shared the pod with him when he transported himself, mixing their genetics. What follows is a frightening and disgusting transformation as Dr. Brundle mutates into a freaky human/fly hybrid.
With Jeff Goldblum at his finest, and directed by master of horror David Cronenberg, The Fly presented one of the best remakes to date. It established the horror of the first one while engaging the audience with a compelling story and nerve-wracking journey as Dr. Brundle teaches us a golden rule in life. Never try stuff on yourself… hire an assistant.
Best Quote: How does Brundlefly eat? Well, he found out the hard and painful way that he eats very much the way a fly eats. His teeth are now useless, because although he can chew up solid food, he can’t digest them. Solid food hurts. So like a fly, Brundlefly breaks down solids with a corrosive enzyme, playfully called “vomit drop”. He regurgitates on his food, it liquifies, and then he sucks it back up. Ready for a demonstration, kids? Here goes…
Trivia: The line, “I’m saying I’m an insect who dreamt he was a man and loved it, but now that dream is over and the insect is awake,” is a reference to author Franz Kafka’s 1912 story “The Metamorphosis,” in which a man wakes from a nightmare to find himself transformed into a giant insect.
8. Child’s Play
KRONNER: Charles Lee Ray – serial killer, Voodoo enthusiast, and doll. While fleeing the authorities, Mr. Ray, wounded and desperate, transferred his soul into the body of a ‘Good Guys’ doll, but a good guy, he is not. Before long the possessed doll becomes the center of a back alley deal directed at making the Christmas of a young boy named Andy.
Andy is thrilled with his new friend, cause he’s a bit of a loser, and he has no real friends. Chuck (Charles Lee Ray – Named for Charles Manson, Lee Harvey Oswald, and James Earl Ray) is willing to play along with the charade for a bit while he tries to find his way out of his plastic prison. Eventually he learns that his only way out of the doll is to inhabit the body of Andy, which means bad news for Andy. And everyone else involved.
Chucky has become an icon of 80s horror spawning 4 sequels and talk of a reboot. That little bastard just wont die…
US Release: November 9, 1988
Director: Tom Holland
Notable Cast: Alex Vincent, Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, Ed Gale, and Brad Dourif
Oscar Wins/Nominations: 0/0
US Box Office/AFI: $32,842,703/$62,568,945
Best Quote: “Hi, I’m Chucky, and I’m your friend till the end. Hidey-ho!”
Trivia: To help get into the right mood for Chucky, Brad Dourif would run around the recording studio, work himself up into a real frenzy and then deliver his lines. This would often leave Brad feeling drained after each take. In fact he nearly fainted after recording Chucky’s scream when he gets burned alive.
7. Evil Dead II
SCOOT: Ash Williams, hero of The Evil Dead returns possessed by the evil of the Necronomicon. Taking place moments after the end of the first film (sort of), Ash is slowly turning into a Deadite until he does the unthinkable. He cuts off his possessed hand, and we are given our look at one of the most badass anti-heroes in Hollywood, complete with a chainsaw for a hand and a sawed off shotgun. Not much gets better than that, and fans across the world will be quoting “Groovy” for years to come.
The opening of the movie retconned a lot of the first movie, but it really took a look at what it could be and ran with it. Not only was Ash’s battle against the evil forces of the Necronomicon better than ever, his battle with himself was a great moment in film. Raimi took the unintended humor from the first and intensified it, breaking genre boundaries and setting up a nerd love fest with Bruce Campbell and all things Deadite.
Best Quote: “Workshed.”
Trivia: One of the books on the can that traps Ash’s possessed hand is Ernest Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms”.
KRONNER: Poltergeist was the first movie that ever scared me. The clown under the bed at the end – terrible. I was traumatized. And to this day, maybe no quote from any horror movie in history resounds louder with me than when Carol Anne announces the arrival of their unwanted house guests.
This is about as scary as it gets short of an R rating and with Spielberg producing and Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s Tobe Hooper directing. It’s your classic tale of “We built this Subdivision on top of an Indian Burial Grounds and now they are haunting the shit out of us.” You know, just everyday sort of stuff.
This movie still stands up today as one of the best ghost movies ever made, and has had me counting seconds between thunder and lightning for years…
US Release: June 4, 1982
Director: Tobe Hooper
Notable Cast: Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams, James Karen, Zelda Rubinstein, and Heather O’Rourke.
Oscar Wins/Nominations: 0/3 (Visual Effects, Score, Sound Editing)
US Box Office/AFI: $76,606,280/$204,022,848
Best Quote: “They’re here.”
Trivia: Heather O’Rourke, who played the little girl Carol-Anne, and Dominique Dunne, who played the teenage daughter, are buried in the same cemetery: Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles. Dunne was strangled into brain-death by her boyfriend in 1982, the year of the film’s release. Six years later, O’Rourke died of intestinal stenosis.
5. Friday the 13th
SCOOT: The decade started with a ‘slasher film’ that continued the trend of awesome from 1978’s Halloween. Gruesome murders plague Crystal Lake, a camp full of fornicators and generally expendable counselors. The mystery of the killer carries through the whole movie, and creates a legend that won’t even be fully realized until the second chapter.The terrifying reveal teaches kids around the world to be nice to other people, especially if their mom is a homicidal maniac.
Horror at its finest, full of gore, spooky music, awesome kills and boobs. Friday the 13th made a ton of money, spawned a ton of sequels and a remake, and featured Kevin Bacon in one of his first roles. And then he got violently murdered, it was great. While Jason doesn’t actually appear until the end and in full killing form until the second film, his shadow looms large in this start of a decades long franchise. No surprise here that it makes the Top 5.
Best Quote: “Did you know a young boy drowned the year before those two others were killed? The counselors weren’t paying any attention… They were making love while that young boy drowned. His name was Jason. I was working the day that it happened. Preparing meals… here. I was the cook. Jason should’ve been watched. Every minute. He was… He wasn’t a very good swimmer. We can go now… dear.”
Trivia: Betsy Palmer said that if it were not for the fact that she was in desperate need of a new car, she would never have taken the part of Pamela Voorhees. In fact, after she read the script she called the film “a piece of shit”.
4. The Evil Dead
SCOOT: Five friends drive out to a secluded cabin in the woods for some sexy party times. Unfortunately, they get snoopy and prove that they’ve never ever seen a horror movie when they play a recording of someone reading from the Necronomicon, the book of the dead. Classic horror erupts with awesomely bad but still impressive special effects. The character of Ash is played perfectly by Bruce Campbell and stands out as one of his best performances ever, as well as pretty much his first.
The Evil Dead is the definition of a cult classic. Produced on a low-budget and over a year spent filming, it wowed and repulsed audiences simultaneously. With Sam Raimi’s stylized film making at its rawest and a movie that is sure of its genre The Evil Dead gave us something different. A movie that was okay to laugh at while being frightened, and a movie you needed to share with all your friends.
US Release: January 1, 1983
Director: Sam Raimi
Notable Cast: Bruce Campbell, Ted Raimi, Betsy Baker, Theresa Tilly, and Ellen Sandweiss.
Oscar Wins/Nominations: 0/0
US Box Office/AFI: $2,400,000/$5,965,714
Best Quote: “We’re going to get you. We’re going to get you. Not another peep. Time to go to sleep.”
Trivia: Bruce Campbell twisted his ankle on a root while running down a steep hill, and Sam Raimi and Robert G. Tapert decided to tease him by poking his injury with sticks, thus causing Campbell to have an obvious limp in some scenes.
3. A Nightmare on Elm Street
SCOOT: Another proud parent of the ‘slasher film’ with a twist. A vicious killer haunts a group of teens on Elm Street. Seems simple enough, but when dead child murderer Freddy Krueger comes after these teens in their nightmares, things get decidedly more interesting. Krueger is a terrifying, burnt and evil man with a bladed glove and tons of lethal imagination. But why this group of teens? Everything changes as they discover that Freddy Krueger is out for revenge against the people who killed him… their parents.
Nightmare on Elm Street managed to blur the line between reality and our imagination perfectly. Robert Englund created one of the most vocal and frightening slasher’s ever. This also has Johnny Depp in his first feature film. And then he got violently murdered, it was great. This movie has caused a few nightmares of its own, and spawned a decades long franchise that promises to keep scaring.
US Release: November 9, 1984
Director: Wes Craven
Notable Cast: Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon, Lin Shaye, Robert Englund, and Johnny Depp.
Oscar Wins/Nominations: 0/0
US Box Office/AFI: $25,504,513/$59,434,624
Best Quote: “One, two, Freddy’s coming for you. / Three, four, better lock your door. / Five, six, grab your crucifix. / Seven, eight, gonna stay up late. / Nine, ten, never sleep again.”
Trivia: Johnny Depp accompanied his friend Jackie Earle Haley to auditions for the film. Instead of Haley being chosen for a role, it was Depp who was spotted by director Wes Craven, who asked him if he would like to read for a part. Depp got a part in the film, Haley didn’t, but Haley would go on to play Freddy in the remake 26 years later.
2. The Shining (1980)
SCOOT: Jack Torrance (brought to life perfectly by Jack Nicholson) accepts the job as Caretaker of the Overlook Hotel, an ominous hotel with a tragic history plagued by troubled spirits. Locked down for the winter with his family, Jack is eventually driven insane by the evil within the hotel, and the only one who can save the day might be his son Danny, who is blessed with a rare gift known as The Shining.
Even if you haven’t seen The Shiningyou’ve seen The Shining in some form or another. Whether its being parodied on The Simpsons or pretty much everything else, this movie has carried on as a true gem of horror cinema. One of Stanley Kubrick’s most loved movies, and easily one of the few great Stephen King adaptations, The Shining is a testament to true psychological horror. Whether its being swept away in a river of blood, or slowly losing your grip on reality, prepare to be afraid.
Best Quote: “Wendy? Darling? Light, of my life. I’m not gonna hurt ya. You didn’t let me finish my sentence. I said, I’m not gonna hurt ya. I’m just going to bash your brains in. Gonna bash ‘em right the f–k in! ha ha ha”
Trivia: Every time Jack talks to a “ghost”, there’s a mirror in the scene, except in the food locker scene. This is because in the food locker scene he only talks to Grady through the door. We never see Grady in this scene.
1. The Thing (1982)
KRONNER: This is one of those movies that seems to get better every time I see it. It’s also one of the few remakes that I feel really surpassed it’s predecessor. The cast was awesome and the real effects are to me, much preferable to the more modern CGI tactics.
The story takes place in the desolate tundras or Antarctica, which provides the perfect setting to feel utterly trapped. The hopelessness bred by the situation, stalked in close proximity by a shape shifting killer alien, draws on the mystery of who is what they say they are, and who isn’t. That is something from the original story and was left out of the 1950s film version. The mystery is what makes the movie so memorable.
Arguably Kurt Russell’s greatest performance, the sight of MacReady, beard iced over, clutching the dynamite, unsure who he can trust – classic. The paranoia and acting, combined with the ground breaking practical effects make this the best horror movie of a decade known for horror movies.
US Release: June 25, 1982
Director: John Carpenter
Notable Cast: Kurt Russell, Keith David, Richard Masur, Donald Moffat, T.K. Carter, and Wilford Brimley.
Oscar Wins/Nominations: 0/0
US Box Office/AFI: $19,629,760/$52,279,258
Best Quote: “I know you gentlemen have been through a lot, but when you find the time, I’d rather not spend the rest of this winter TIED TO THIS F–KING COUCH!”
Trivia: The opening title exactly duplicates the original Howard Hawks film. To create the effect of the title, an animation cell with “The Thing” written on it was placed behind a fish tank filled with smoke that was covered with a plastic garbage bag. The garbage bag was ignited, creating the effect of the title burning onto the screen.