31 Greatest 1980s Horror Films: Page 4 of 9

20. Return Of the Living Dead Part II (1988)

"Get that damned screwdriver out of my head!"

Movie sequels, especially ones belonging to the horror genre, rarely live up to their originals, and Return Of the Living Dead Part II is no exception.  Although a categorically flawed film, this is still an enjoyable one due in part to the casting of Thom Mathews and James Karen, the stars from Part One returning as two completely different characters with equally crummy luck.

Return Of the Living Dead Part II opens with a barrel of Trioxin, the gas that caused havoc in the first movie, falling off a military truck and rolling into a sewer pipe.  It doesn't take long before wide-eyed scamp Jesse (Michael Kenworthy) and his tormentor Billy (Thor Van Lingen) find the container and accidentally release the substance, infecting the townspeople of a sleepy housing development.  The gas eventually finds its way into a graveyard, allowing the dead to once again rise from their tombs.  The gore effects fail to live up to the film's predecessor and the ending isn't nearly as bleak, but if you're looking for an enjoyable way to spend 89 minutes, you could do a lot worse.  Despite its imperfections, Return Of the Living Dead Part II still entertains without much braaaaaaaains.


19. The Hitcher (1986)

"I'm going to sit here.  And you're going to drive."

Nothing good ever comes out of picking up hitchhikers in movies.  That goes for both the traveler and the driver; the odds are probable that you'll either be knifed behind the wheel or forced into sexual favors at gunpoint as the passenger.  The Hitcher displays the worst case scenario and demonstrates why it's best to pound the gas whenever these roadside wanderers stick out a thumb.

En route to San Diego from Chicago, Jim Halsey (C. Thomas Howell) combats the boredom of a companionless 2000 mile road trip by offering a ride to drifter John Ryder (the ever-brooding Rutger Hauer).  The vagrant seems detached at first until breaking the silence with this uplifting little sliver of conversation -- "Do you got any idea how much blood jets out of a guy's neck when his throat's been slit?"  Jim ejects Ryder from his vehicle before the psychopath is able to make a mask out of his face, but it's just the beginning of his nightmare, as the resilient drifter comes back again and again in this never-ending game of cat-and-mouse.  Ryder's motives are never made clear, but it's of little consequence; you'll be captivated by Hauer's intensity every mile of the way.


18. Gremlins (1984)

"If your air conditioner goes on the fritz or your washing machine blows up or your video recorder conks out, before you call the repairman, turn on all the lights, check all the closets and cupboards, look under all the beds, 'cause you never can tell -- there just might be a gremlin in your house."

As I mentioned before, Gremlins was marketed as a family film prior to its release in 1984.  What a shock parents must've received after the curtains drew back and the mischievous titular creatures began their rampage of terror.  The startling violence might be too much for today's children, but for those who grew up with it, Gremlins remains a renowned feather in producer Steven Spielberg's cap.

"It's one of the most original things I've come across in many years," Spielberg said of the Chris Columbus screenplay, which was penned solely to display the author's writing skills to potential employers.  We all know the story by now -- a young man receives a Mogwai as a Christmas present, it multiplies into an army of evil clones, the monsters wreck havoc.  The Joe Dante-directed film became an instant homerun, but what most moviegoers don't know is that the original script was much, much darker; scenes of the main character's mother's head being tossed down a flight of stairs by the devilish imps as well one of them chowing down on a dog were cut from the final project.  Had they been included, Gremlins might've creeped its way to the top of this list.


17. Night Of the Creeps (1986)

"What is this?  A homicide or a bad B-movie?"

Although a box-office dud upon its theatrical debut, Night Of the Creeps was a horror fan's wet dream.  It's a film that truly has it all -- aliens, ax murderers, exploding heads and truckloads of zombies.  Perhaps its erratic mixing of cliches was too much for audiences back then, but for genre buffs nowadays, this little curiosity stands on its own as somewhat of a minor classic.

From the opening scene, Night Of the Creeps astonishes.  An experiment from space plummets to Earth in the late 1950s, unleashing a batch of parasitic slugs on the unsuspecting township near Corman University.  Jump ahead 30 years as Detective Ray Cameron (horror veteran Tom Atkins in one of his most hysterical roles) is haunted by memories of his former girlfriend being slashed to death by a maniac decades earlier.  Cameron finds himself surrounded by undead ghouls as the killer leeches turn normal citizens into flesh-starved savages, forcing him to team with a couple of bone-headed college students to put an end to the menace.  Really, there's too much happening in Night Of the Creeps to explain in one paragraph.  You just have to witness the madness for yourself.


16. Hellraiser (1987)

"We have such sights to show you!"

English-born Clive Barker is one deeply disturbed individual.  As a writer of contemporary fantasy horror, Barker's work focuses primarily on the correlation between supernatural entities and human sexuality.  The author of dozens of short stories and novels, Barker birthed his grotesque visions from the page to the screen with ghastly results in the low-budget shocker Hellraiser.

Larry and Julia Cotton (Andrew Robinson and Clare Higgins) move into a London homestead previously occupied by Larry's half-brother Frank, who led a secret hedonistic life before mysteriously vanishing.  It turns out that Frank's mortal body was abducted by a band of diabolical beasties known as Cenobites, and now, his remains lurk in the attic.  Frank manipulates Julia into luring strangers into the house, killing them and consuming their flesh so that he can regenerate, but it doesn't take long before the Cenobites come to pick his bones clean.  The gore is heavy and often stomach-churning, but if you're a sucker for impressive effects work, Hellraiser provides more graphic flesh-rippings than you can shake a bloody stump at.

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