31 Greatest 1980s Horror Films: Page 5 of 9

15. Fright Night (1985)

"He got me, Charley!  He bit me!  You know what you're gonna have to do now, don't you?  Kill me.  Kill me, Charley, before I turn into a vampire and... give you a hickey!"

Earning the achievement as the second highest-grossing horror film of 1985, Fright Night stakes the competition when it comes to bloodsucking 80s cinema.  The blending of humor with legitimate shocks is perfectly executed in writer / director Tom Holland's tale of terror highlighted by superior portrayals, namely by stars Chris Sarandon and Roddy McDowall.

Perhaps taking a cue from Hitchcock's Rear Window, Fright Night centers around Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) and his obsession with finding out the truth about new neighbor Jerry Dandridge (Sarandon in an awesomely flamboyant role), who Charley believes is a vampire.  The nervous lad enlists the assistance of Peter Vincent (McDowall, having a great time with the material), a washed-up late night TV host whose on-screen persona creates the illusion that he's an expert in dealing with these undead monstrosities.  When the pair finally squares off against the fanged menace, the special effects take over, squeezing every penny out of the movie's meager $9.5 million budget.  Without a doubt, Fright Night stands as my personal favorite vampire movie of the 1980s.


14. Child's Play (1988)

"Hi!  I'm Chucky, and I'm your friend till the end!  Hidey-ho!  Ha ha ha!"

Still riding his success garnered from Fright Night, Tom Holland stepped up once more as director and co-writer of Child's Play, the irrefutable king of the killer doll brand.  Originally scribed as Bloody Buddy, the film created one of the genre's tiniest icons in Chucky the Good Guy Doll, spawning a string of progressively comical sequels which can't hold a candle to this staple of 80s horror.

Loving single mother Karen Barclay (Catherine Hicks looking MILF-y) surprises her wide-eyed and innocent son Andy (Alex Vincent) with the last-minute birthday present of a Good Guy Doll.  Unbeknownst to the happy family, this particular toy is a vessel carrying the soul of recently-deceased serial murderer and voodoo cultist Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif in a career-making performance).  Chucky systematically kills off those who wronged him during his human life before turning his attention to young Andy, the only person knowledgeable of Chucky's true identity.  For all its positives, the film's greatest strength lies in how if flirts with the idea that Andy is actually causing the carnage until the unforgettable scene when Chucky finally springs to life.


13. Poltergeist (1982)

"Theeey're heeeeeeeere!"

When it comes to high-profile Hollywood ceremonies such as the Academy Awards, horror films remain largely absent from nomination pools.  But when three-time Oscar winner Steven Spielberg attaches his sterling reputation to a project, one can bet that the Academy will be waiting with bated breath to see what the world-reknowned cinematic genius churns out next.

Though Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) retains the official title of director of the 1982 haunted house classic Poltergeist, it's commonly accepted within the filmmaking community that producer Spielberg basically held the reins.  Casting relative undiscovered actors, including a pre-Coach Craig T. Nelson, the duo aimed for a realistic approach to the tried-and-true ghost story formula.  A suburban family becomes victims of a supernatural force which kidnaps the younger daughter (an angelic Heather O'Rourke) and tortures the rest with hallucinations, possessed tree monsters and other assorted wickedness.  A truly paralyzing experience, Poltergeist earned three Oscar nods, proving that horror movies can be just as moving as they are terrifying.


12. Re-Animator (1985)

"Who's going to believe a talking head?  Get a job in a sideshow."

Death is never the end in the world of horror, a conception addressed in Re-Animator, director Stuart Gordon's twisted tale of human resurrection.  Loosely based on H.P. Lovecraft's story "Herbert West -- Reanimator," the film cunningly harmonizes shocking gore effects with gut-busting laughs thanks in part to the wily script by Gordon and cohorts Dennis Paoli and William Norris.

What was originally intended to be a stage play morphed into an idea for a television show before Gordon and company settled on molding Re-Animator into a feature film.  Seasoned horror actor Jeffrey Combs shines as Dr. Herbert West, a socially-inept scientist embroiled in a heated feud with fellow researcher Dr. Carl Hill (the stone-faced David Gale) over the specifications of regenerating dead cells and ultimately bringing the dead back to life.  West's infatuation with his specialty drives him to experiment liberally with a serum that awakens corpses from their eternal slumber, and the zombies begin to pile up with chaotic results.  Heavily praised by horror fans and critics alike, Re-Animator dazzles as one of the strangest yet most entertaining oddities of its or any decade.


11. Day Of the Dead (1985)

"The power is off on the mainland now in case you haven't heard, and all the shopping malls are closed!"

George Romero, the chief pioneer of American zombie cinema, rounded out his original Dead series following 1968's Night Of the Living Dead and 1978's Dawn Of the Dead with Day Of the Dead.  The three films spanned nearly two decades and put to bed any doubts that Romero, even while working with a limited budget, knows the genre better than any other director to ever tackle the undead.

Day zooms in on a band of survivors, military grunts with a few egghead scientists sprinkled in, taking shelter in an underground bunker as a world of walking dead stagger around on the surface.  Tensions escalate between the two factions and the zombies nearly take a back seat to the rivalry between the meathead soldiers and intellectual researchers.  Don't fear, however, as the drama brewing with the living leads to a fantastic conclusion featuring some of the bloodiest flesh-ripping special effects ever committed to celluloid courtesy of Tom Savani.  Romero surrendered a $7 million allowance in order to push the carnage to extremes never before seen.  The risk paid off; regardless of its shortcomings, Day Of the Dead supplies a thrilling end to the trilogy.

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