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The Quintessential Guide To 80's Horror: 130 Must See Flicks (Part 1)

When it comes to the 1980’s, it’s tough to deny the impact the genre had on cinema as a whole. Legendary creatures were born. Future superstar filmmakers were introduced to the masses and for those of us who are a bit older, memories were made.

Compiling a must-see list from the 1980’s is a bit like scanning a recycling plant with a metal detector: you’re going to get a whole lot of hits, and quite a few of them are going to prove fruitful. Sure, there were plenty of failures to flop their way onto VHS, but make no mistake about it, the 80’s yielded a tremendous amount of kick ass flicks that now live comfortably in many a movie collections.

Take a gander at the first batch of 130 awesome flicks to hit the market from 1980 to 1989, and make note of the fact that these numbers do not represent any official ranking, they act as a mple means of keeping track of this insanely long list.





1. Cannibal Holocaust: The essential early gorefest, Cannibal Holocaust was met with masve controversy, eventually earning bans in the UK and Australia. This one is a must see for anyone who enjoys gore or early found footage format features.

2. Don’t Answer the Phone: One of the genre’s earlier slasher pieces, this one tells the tale of a war vet two cans shy of a x pack. An obseson with a psychologist who hosts a radio show provides this freak with all the potential targets needed to build a healthy body count. It’s cheesy, it’s fun, it’s a perfect example of 80’s greatness!

3. The Fog: John Carpenter’s quirky little ghost tale sees a band of vengeful lepers linger under mask of a thick fog, waiting to issue a bit of fatal justice to the ancestors of those who once wronged them. It’s insanely atmospheric, creepy for a number of reasons, and boasts some fantastic performances from a few of the genres most recognizable. To ignore this one is to miss a small piece of horror history.

4. Friday the 13th: Sean Cunningham’s camper slasher is…well, campy, and extremely fun! In 1980 crowds weren’t all that accustomed to watching reckless teens slaughtered in gruesome ways. Mrs. Voorhees helped to change that, and even paved the way for the introduction of one the most iconic villains the genre has ever met, the hockey mask wearing, machete wielding madman, Jason Voorhees.

5. Inferno: Dario Argento slapped horror fans in the face with this chilling follow up to the immensely popular Suspiria. Misng persons, creepy locations, wicked witches and good old fashion giallo feel make for an awesome ride; toss in a creepy soundtrack and you’ve got an awesome clasc genre offering!

6. Maniac: William Lustig’s creepy splatterfest, Maniac remains a fan favorite some thirty plus years after its initial release. And honestly, why the hell wouldn’t it? We’ve got a victim-scalping serial killer on hand, and that alone qualifies this one as a “must-see” flick!

7. Motel Hell: This one feels like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre plunged face first into a bona fide horror spoof. It’s fun, never pretends to take itself too seriously, and will certainly make you think twice before you take a big bight of another hamburger.

8. Mother’s Day: What happens when a ck, sadistic, manipulative woman makes the mistake of reproducing? ck, sadistic, manipulative little minions are born, and they’re ready and willing to serve Mommy in any capacity.

9. Prom Night: This flick isn’t enjoyable because it’s a quality effort, because in all honesty, it’s a miserable little slasher flick. However, Jamie Lee Curtis in her prime Scream Queen days plus an appearance from the late, great Leslie Nielson make it mandatory viewing for any dedicated fan of the genre.

10. The Shining: Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s unbelievably popular novel, The Shining isn’t very faithful to the source material. Crucial plot points never hit the screen, and Jack Nicholson makes Jack Torrence look like an insane man from the jump, rather than one driven to the brink by slow, steady posseson. Having said that, The Shining remains one of the creepiest films you’ll find, and is generally viewed as the greatest “haunted house” film to hit the mass market.

11. Terror Train: By 1980 slasher pics were being released on a frequent bas. However, finding one that takes place on a train, features a freaky transsexual psychopath, loads of nauseating costumes and an appearance from Jamie Lee Curtis is imposble, unless you’re talking about the one and only Terror Train.

12. The Watcher in the Woods: While it’s rather easy to label this one a “family feature”, its core seeps horror, and though tame in nature, this tale of a long lost girl and what seems a traditional haunting packs a punch, and a few genuine scares. An absolutely fantastic cast adds to the appeal of the feature. For years this one was damn near imposble to track down, thankfully the feature finally earned a DVD release in recent years.

13. An American Werewolf in London: Arguably the greatest werewolf flick in history, John Landis’ tale of victimized Americans in London is frightening, funny, gory and wonderfully paced. Stellar special effects pale only to top lining storytelling, and if you’ve somehow missed this clasc, you may be as dead as Jack Goodman.

14. The Beyond:

The Beyond drops viewers right into a hotel from Hell, well almost. Actually this hotel holds one of seven doors to Hell, which is re-opened after a new owner renovates the place. Get ready for plenty living dead and creepy creatures in this one, which is oft regarded as one of Lucio Fulci’s finer pieces.

15. Blood Beach: If you love the beach, avoid this this movie at all costs. Something horrific dwells beneath the sands of Venice Beach, and it’s eager to snatch anyone clad in SPF 20. Thankfully John Saxon is around to save the day. If you spot a copy of this one in any format, take advantage and grab it, it’s become damn near extinct these days.

16. The Burning: Despite its official release date, this one is said to have been shot prior to Friday the 13th; sadly, many conder it a worthless imitation. It’s not. It’s actually a fun flick based upon fairly old east coast folk lore. “Cropsy” was once a grumpy camp janitor, until a childish prank goes horribly awry and leaves the old goon burnt beyond recognition. nce the burning, Cropsy (as he’s nicknamed) lurks in the forest ready and willing to chop up any youngsters who shamble in the wrong region.

17. The Entity: Before found footage features exploded in popularity, resulting in a whole new way to approach the ghost invaon tale, there was The Entity; a disturbing little gem that centers on Carla Moran (Barbara Hershey), whose world crumbles when an unseen entity turns her into an object of phycal abuse. There are some surpringly disturbing sequences in this film as well as a lengthy nude scene that should please any testosterone filled fan of Barbara Hershey.

18. Evil Dead: Sam Raimi’s creepy clasc is a fun little indie gem that takes your typical undead clichés, turns them on their heads, then spins them like a series of nister tops. There’s fear, there’s gore, there’s humor, and of course, there’s bad ass Bruce Campbell!

19. Final Exam: It’s a shame that this film has been forgotten. It’s not monumental, but there’s a nice subtlety to the content that you don’t traditionally see in slasher flicks and there’s legitimate attention invested in the characters. As far as I know, this one has yet to hit disc, though I understand an eventual release is indeed planned.

20. Friday the 13th 2: World, meet Jason Voorhees. ‘Nuff said!

21. The Funhouse: Tobe Hooper’s tale of a twisted funhouse and the freakish brute that travels with this little carnival is fun and annoying, multaneously. It’s a bit tough to like many of the characters, and the screaming during the films climax surpasses annoying (there’s a good 5 minutes straight of wretched, high-pitched screeching that’ll likely make your ears bleed), but the pacing of the film is fun, the atmosphere is wonderful and for what amounts to little more than a cheesy slasher, it’s a fairly clever story.

22. Halloween II: This direct follow-up to John Carpenter’s shocking tale of terror follows Michael Myers in his trek to slaughter poor Laurie Strode. This one is stellar, and serves as one of the greatest slasher sequels in the history of the sub-genre. Kudos go out to Carpenter and Debra Hill, who penned this perfect example of sound continuity.

23. Happy Birthday to Me: Yet another slasher feature lands on the list, which should come as no surprise condering the decade we’re discusng. This one’s a bloody good time, as Virginia finds herself in the midst of mass chaos as her friends are disposed of one by one. Any guesses as to who the killer may be?

24. Hell Night: If you enjoy slashers, youth being slaughtered during a hazing ceremony in an old manor should sound like bloody good fun. If it doesn’t, conder the incluon of a prime Linda Blair. If you’re still hanging by a mere thread, go watch a Disney film.

25. The Howling: The Howling is another stellar werewolf flick that boasts an awesome cast (that includes Dee Wallace, then husband Christopher Stone, John Carradine and Elisabeth Brooks), some impresve special effects and a fantastic nude scene. This one is a must see for any genre fan, regardless of sub-genre preferences.

26. My Bloody Valentine: This holiday based horror tells the tale of Harry Warden, his fabled murder spree and a current string of murders associated with Warden and the ever-romantic Valentine’s Day. It’s been panned beyond belief, but believe me when I tell you this one is an absolute blast, and early slasher shiner!

Matt_Molgaard Friday 7/29/2011 at 10:43 PM | 79549
Good lord this is a great list! Well done Matt! Well done!
Shakelford, J. Rusty Friday 7/29/2011 at 11:33 PM | 79553
That Evil Dead box-art is hilarious.
AgnesItsMeBilly Friday 7/29/2011 at 11:42 PM | 79554
It's nice to see you're including the more unknown ones. I hope you include Blood Diner, Dreamaniac, House by the Cemetery, City of the Living Dead, Madman, Maniac Cop, Dead Heat, Phenomena, Ghost Town, Prison, etc. If you haven't seen some of these, I'd highly recommend looking them up. I can hardly wait for Part 2!
ObscureCinema101 Saturday 7/30/2011 at 01:08 AM | 79561
Matt you seriously rule man. I've been wanting to do something very milar to this for weeks, but with writing a lot of the news articles on the te, I just didn't have the time. I can't wait to see the next 104 titles. AWESOME JOB BROTHER!!!
Anonymous Saturday 7/30/2011 at 11:05 AM | 79587
there are definitely plenty more obscure selections included in the list; I think you guys will dig them.

Brian: shakleford's been tearing up the news lately, you should work on a 90's veron - BTW, did you put the graph together? (If so, can you shoot me images for parts 2-5?
Matt_Molgaard Saturday 7/30/2011 at 03:11 PM | 79590
90s veron?? Maybe...

Although I've been known to sneak in some images/graphs from time to time. I'm gonna say that Justin created yours.
Anonymous Saturday 7/30/2011 at 08:54 PM | 79600
I have seen 23 of the 25,

looking forward to the next part in the series.

latingoddyss Wednesday 8/03/2011 at 01:16 AM | 79823
it's officially up!
Matt_Molgaard Thursday 8/04/2011 at 05:29 PM | 79967
I love the fact that you've included, Watcher in the woods, The Fog, The Shining, An American Werewolf in London, Evil Dead, Friday The 13th, Happy Birthday To Me, The Howling & Halloween 2. Wasn't a big fan of Maniac -- and I haven't heard of the others, or Dario's film (which I'd like to see now.)

However, have you heard of the movie, Blackout? It's a great film by the way; underrated and one of those HBO made for cable movies that's definitely a good thriller/horror movie from the 80's!
VeganRichy Thursday 8/04/2011 at 10:10 PM | 79999
I love the fact that you've included, Watcher in the woods, The Fog, The Shining, An American Werewolf in London, Evil Dead, Friday The 13th, Happy Birthday To Me, The Howling & Halloween 2. Wasn't a big fan of Maniac -- and I haven't heard of the others, or Dario's film (which I'd like to see now.)

However, have you heard of the movie, Blackout? It's a great film by the way; underrated and one of those HBO made for cable movies that's definitely a good thriller/horror movie from the 80's

Blackout doesnt sound familiar - share a few plot points that might help me out? I've seen a disgusting amount of 80's films (128 of the 130 listed in the overall piece here), so I may have at one point caught it and just don't remember right now...
Matt_Molgaard Thursday 8/04/2011 at 10:31 PM | 80003
That Terror Train artwork is strange!
joshk1986 Thursday 8/18/2011 at 11:56 AM | 80974