Todd Martin’s List of Top Ten Most Underrated Horror Films from the 80’s
If you ask me some of the best horror films were produced in the 1980’s. This decade saw the birth of such icons as Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger and gave us a ton of awesome slasher flicks such as Sleepaway Camp, Slaughter High, and Silent Night, Deadly Night just to name a few. I was lucky enough to grow up in the 80’s and being a horror fan from birth I was in heaven during this time as there was a new horror film coming out pretty much every week to enjoy. While there were some big horror movies released during this period that became popular with fans of the genre there were also a lot that never quite got the love that they deserved. Some of them were just released on video and were never shown in theaters, but in my opinion they were just as great as the juggernauts of horror that came out in the 80’s such as Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Demons, and The Howling. Join me now as I give you my list of the Top Ten Most Underrated Horror Films from the 80’s. I really think that you should check these movies out as I think that they all kick all sorts of ass and deserve a little more credit than they get.
Be aware that there may be some spoilers…
10. Black Roses
I caught this film on the USA Network one Saturday night at my grandparents’ house when I was 14 and absolutely loved it. Basically it is about a popular heavy metal band named Black Roses that a lot of parents hate because of their lyrics and onstage antics (think Ozzy Osbourne, Alice Cooper, or Marilyn Manson). They want to play a concert in a small town and even though a lot of the uptight citizens that live there object it ends up eventually happening anyway and then all Hell breaks loose. You see, the members of the band are actually demons and their music has a way of hypnotizing the people who listen to it and they end up doing all sorts of horrible things (which includes turning into monsters for some listeners and chopping up their parents for others). Since I was really into heavy metal at the time this movie really spoke to me and I dug it. I watched it again not too long ago and while it is a little cheesier than I remember it being (there is actually a scene where a guy is eaten by a concert speaker at one point that is pretty goofy) I still enjoyed the hell out of it and thought that it was just a fun movie in general. I know a lot of people who haven’t even heard of it but believe me when I tell you that it is definitely worth a look (plus it has a pretty awesome sound track to boot).
9. The Pit
This is an awesome little movie about a weird kid that comes across a pit in the middle of the woods that is full of these weird little creatures he calls Tra-La-Logs. He realizes that since he is the only one that knows about them it is up to him to feed them so he starts throwing people who are mean to him into the pit where they are then devoured by his new pets. I love this movie and think that it is totally underrated for a number of reasons. Jamie, the main character, is a creepy and odd little boy but in a way you can’t help but feel sorry for him. His only friend is his stuffed teddy bear (that he thinks talks to him) and even though he feeds people to these little monsters that live in the pit he isn’t actually evil. He’s just trying to take care of his pets like any normal person would do as he doesn’t want them to starve to death and he truly cares for them. The Tra-La-Logs are pretty hardcore and creepy as hell in their own way and they sort of freaked me out when I first saw this movie as a kid. I think that it is a great movie with some interesting characters (I really liked his babysitter Sandy and hated that she doesn’t make it out alive as even though Jamie has a crush on her she eventually becomes a snack for the little monsters at one point) and I totally love the ending as I just didn’t see it coming. This film is totally worth your time if you can find a copy of it.
8. Lone Wolf
I love werewolves and was happy that there were a lot of movies featuring them released in the 80’s. While we got big ones such as The Howling, An American Werewolf in London, and Silver Bullet there were also a slew of lesser known ones that came out during this time period as well and Lone Wolf was one of the better ones if you ask me. Yes, the acting is horrible at times and some of the characters are a little unbelievable (there is no way that the main character is in high school as he looks like he is in his mid-twenties) I still dig it. It is all about a group of high school kids trying to figure out who (or what) is behind a slew of brutal murders in their town and lo and behold it turns out that a werewolf is the culprit. I like it because the werewolf’s identity is a secret and part of the fun is trying to figure out who it is before all is revealed toward the end. I thought that the creature’s true identity was pretty cool and the movie features some fun death scenes. I also like the fact that it has some subtle humor at times (the bit with the costume contest toward the end is nothing short of priceless) and I just always have a blast when I watch this movie. I love the final scene of the movie and think that it is just beyond awesome (and could have led to a sequel that sadly never materialized). If you are into werewolf movies like me then check this forgotten gem out sometime, you definitely will not regret it.
This is the second movie on my list that deals with a demonic heavy metal musician and I’ve always thought that it was one of the best horror films of the 80’s in general but unfortunately it just never seemed to get the respect that it deserved. Sammi Curr (the film’s villain) is just as cool as Freddy if you ask me and when I first saw this movie I was sure that he was destined to be the next big horror film icon but it just didn’t happen for some unknown reason. It was released in theaters back in 1986 but I didn’t get to see it until it was on video and I just totally loved it. It’s a fun movie with an awesome villain, some excellent death scenes, and likable characters so I’m not really sure why it wasn’t better received by the horror community as it has all the essential ingredients needed to make a kick ass horror flick (plus Ozzy Osbourne and Gene Simmons both make appearances in it). Though I don’t think it will ever happen I am still holding out hope that someday someone will make a series of sequels to it and Sammi will finally get the recognition that he deserves.
This is probably the best known movie on my list as it was directed by Wes Craven and was in theaters back in 1986. I absolutely love this movie and don’t understand why it is so hated by most people. It is my second favorite movie of all time (as Sleepaway Camp is first of course) and a lot of my friends who are into horror are always giving me shit because I dig it so much. It scared the living piss out of me when I first saw it back in the day and to be honest it still bothers me a little bit to this day (I am terrified of robots). A lot of people talk crap about it but I think it is a lot better than most people realize. It is well-written, a little depressing, and is actually scary to boot (well, to me anyway). Craven has said several times that he hates it but I actually think that it is one of his best films for a number of reasons. If you haven’t seen it just check out the trailer for it and tell me that the music in the background isn’t one of the creepiest things you’ve ever heard (brrr..it makes the hair on my arms stand up just thinking about it) and then watch the movie and see how good it really is. If you’re one of those people who saw it and hated it I urge you to watch it again with an open mind as I think you will realize just how awesome it actually is. Though a lot of people (including Craven) hate the final scene I dig it and can admit that I have had a lifetime of nightmares about it since I first saw it as it stays with you long after you watch it. I know that I am going to take a lot of flak for including it on this list but I truly believe that it belongs as it is nowhere as near as bad as a lot of people say it is.
This movie is a favorite of Joe Bob Briggs as he showed it quite a bit on Monster vision during his stint on TNT back in the day and I have always dug it as well. I remember seeing it in the video store when I was a kid and I thought that it looked creepy as hell. I finally saw it one night on cable with my mom and dad when I was about ten or so and it freaked me out. I like the premise and even though there are a few hokey bits here and there throughout the movie I still think that it is awesome. The special effects are quite impressive and were ahead of their time, especially when it comes to the lengthy transformation scene that takes place toward the end which is pretty much the film’s money shot. I think that the movie is effectively creepy in its own way and though it is a little dated now it still holds up pretty damn well for the most part. While a lot of people don’t really know this movie even exists it does have a small, well-deserved following and I think that it deserves to be a little more well-known because it really is a great movie in a lot of ways. Written by the always awesome Tom Holland and starring genre regular Ronny Cox, The Beast Within is a great movie to watch late on a Friday night with the lights out and a big bowl of microwave popcorn.
This is a nice and creepy little forgotten horror flick that hit the scene back in 1981 and it still holds up nicely today. Though he will never admit it hack writer/director M. Night Shyamalan basically stole the big twist from this movie and put it in The Sixth Sense. This film is genuinely creepy and atmospheric and the opening scene-which includes a man being brutally beaten and set on fire by a group of men while a woman smiles and takes pictures of the entire thing with the poor guy’s own camera-really bothered me when I first saw it when I was younger and I think a lot of other viewers that have seen it would agree. The ending is disturbing and a little depressing, and is one of those that is pretty hard to forget after you see it.
I have always loved this movie and always thought that it was quite underrated. The first film directed by Robert Englund, it tells the story of a bullied teen (played by Fright Night’s Stephen Geoffreys) who gains revenge on his tormentors after calling a 976 number (which of course is all sorts of satanic in nature). Combing elements of films such as Carrie and Evilspeak, 976-Evil is just an all around killer horror film that I think is loads of fun. Geoffreys owns this movie as the nerdy and oddball main character Hoax, and I had a blast watching him take out all of the people who made the mistake of ever picking on him. For some reason this movie just sort of came and went when it was in theaters back in 1988 without really making much of an impact which is unfortunate because it is definitely a lot better than some viewers gave it credit for. It has some awesome characters (is it just me or is Hoax’s relationship with his cousin Spike-who he idolizes early on in the movie-a nod to the old Looney Tunes cartoon that features the little dog and the big bulldog?), an interesting premise, and some pretty cool death scenes (Hoax doesn’t mess around once he becomes possessed and I thought that he looked pretty bad ass to boot). I even like the sequel that came out a couple of years later and while it is nowhere near as good as the original it is still worth a look as well. If you haven’t seen this movie check it out because you are really missing out.
This movie revolves around a group of friends who find themselves stranded on an island with a very bizarre family. I know that it doesn’t sound like anything special, but believe me it truly is. Part slasher flick and part suspense/thriller, this movie really delivers thanks to an awesome screenplay and a truly excellent cast (which includes Rod Steiger, Yvonne De Carlo, and the always great Michael J. Pollard). One of the things that I really like about it is that the group of friends terrorized by the family is made up of young adults as opposed to your typical bunch of goofy teenagers and for the most part most of them are realistic and fleshed out, which helps you actually care about what happens to them. I actually liked the weird family as well as in a lot of ways they are not truly evil and just have their own way of doing things and looking at life in general. I always thought that the ending was brilliant and was pretty creative and original. I don’t know a lot of people who have seen this movie as it just seemed to fly under the radar when it was released back in 1988, but trust me when I say that it is one of the best horror movies that you probably haven’t seen and totally worth seeking out. An underrated horror classic for sure if you ask me.
I think that this is one of the best slasher flicks from the 80’s for a lot of reasons but it just never quite seemed to get the love it deserved. Directed by Scott Spiegel, it tells the story of an unknown maniac stalking and killing several employees of a grocery store as they work late into the night. This film has some awesome camera angles, cool, gruesome, over-the-top death scenes (it’s all about the head in the box crusher and death via band saw if you ask me), and an very likable cast of characters (which includes Sam and Ted Raimi, Renee Estevez, and even Bruce Campbell, who pops up briefly toward the end). I like it because you don’t know who the killer is until the end, and the last scene is completely freaking genius in my opinion. Released in 1989 during the tail end of the slasher craze of the decade I think that it arrived a little too late to the party and this hurt its popularity in a lot of ways. Had it been released in 1985 or so I think it would have been one of the biggest slasher flicks of its time because it really is that damn good. It is one of those movies that is just loads of fun and no matter how many times I have seen it I don’t think that it ever gets old. I think it rules and deserves a lot more respect and attention than it gets, so if you have the opportunity to see it you really need to do so because I think you will end up enjoying it as much as I do.
There you have it guys, my list of the most underrated horror films from the 1980’s (in my humble opinion anyway). Feel free to agree or disagree, and please let me know what films you feel should have been mentioned that I may have missed.