31 Greatest 1980s Horror Films: Page 6 of 9

10. The Fly (1986)

"Be afraid. Be very afraid."

Three years after adapting Stephen King's The Dead Zone into a feature film, director David Cronenberg commandeered the remake of The Fly, putting his own deliciously unsettling spin on the cherished 1958 science fiction classic.  The film barely resembled its precursor, trading in the original's slightly goofy execution for a full-on exercise in monster movie madness.

Defying his producers at 20th Century Fox, Cronenberg insisted on casting a relatively unknown Jeff Goldblum as scientist Seth Brundle, an anomalous researcher on the brink of discovering the complexities of teleportation.  Goldblum nails the role, his trademark stammering adding to his charm until he tests his "pods" out on himself, not realizing that a common housefly as entered the chamber with him.  His DNA mixes with the insect's, and before long, his humanity melts as quickly as his features do.  His transformation is magical yet nauseating due to the Oscar-winning effects work by Chris Walas, and although Seth's relationship with reporter Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis) ends on a down note, The Fly impresses in all of its slimy, dripping, acid-vomiting glory.

9. House (1986)

"It won, Roger.  It tricked me.  I didn't think it could, but it did.  It's going to trick you too, Roger.  This house knows everything about you.  Leave while you can!"

Helming back-to-back sequels to one of the most decorated slasher flicks of all time might cause a director to want to dabble in slightly less sadistic fare for his next project.  So was Steve Miner's situation after 1981's Friday the 13th Part II and 1982's Friday the 13th Part III when he stepped up for House, a tamer yet still entertaining take on the unfailing haunted house genre.

As if horror novelist Roger Cobb (William Katt) hadn't endured enough psychological anguish during his tenure as a Vietnam soldier, his grief is intensified when an unseen force abducts his son.  Roger returns to his aunt's estate where the disappearance took place after the old bat hangs herself inside, forced into self destruction after angry spirits drive her bonkers.  George Wendt takes a break from Cheers to play the bumbling next door neighbor who wants to believe Roger's claims that the house kidnapped his son, and the script by Fred Dekker (The Monster Squad, Night Of the Creeps) gives him plenty of opportunities as the comic relief.  House's greatest attribute lies in not taking itself too seriously, even when the random assortment of ghoulies and goblins bust loose.

8. The Return Of the Living Dead (1985)

"Let me ask you a question -- did you ever see that movie Night Of the Living Dead?"

Crammed to the brim with self-aware buffoonery, The Return Of the Living Dead knows it's just a movie, but it's that quality that rises it above the myriad of zombie films that overpopulated the 80s.  Alien scribe Dan O'Bannon made his directorial debut with this riotous tribute to the George Romero Dead series, creating a film that surpasses even some of The King Of the Zombies's best efforts.

Though not an official chapter of Romero's undead universe, The Return Of the Living Dead borrows heavily from the brand while simultaneously turning common zombie movie trends on their heads.  For instance, the corpses terrorizing medical supply warehouse workers Frank and Freddy (James Karen and Thom Mathews) cannot be killed simply by destroying their brains.  No, these suckers must be incinerated into nothing, but after one of them is burned in the crematorium near Resurrection Cemetery, the smoke causes a deadly rain that causes even more to dig themselves out from their tombs and attack a group of punkers partying in the graveyard.  An absolute must-watch for any zombie fanatic, The Return Of the Living Dead personifies its decade like no other.

7. The Blob (1988)

"Chew on that, slimeball!"

It can't be bargained with.  It can't be reasoned with.  It doesn't feel pity or remorse or fear.  And it absolutely will not stop... ever... until you are dead.  No, I'm not speaking of the Terminator.  This is the Blob, the amorphous mass of never-ending hunger gobbling up everything in sight.  It's seeping in through the crack underneath your front door.  Scream now, while there's still room to breathe.

This update of the 1958 Steve McQueen semi-classic takes everything from the original and cranks its awesomeness up to 11.  The plot concerns a meteorite that touches down in an average Colorado community only to hatch open and release a man-made bio-weapon onto its helpless population.  High school cheerleader Meg Penny (Shawnee Smith) and bad boy Brian Flagg (Kevin Dillon) try to warn the townspeople of the shapeless menace as it dissolves unlucky citizens into gooey leftovers.  The kitchen sink drain sequence remains a personal favorite scene of this particular horror enthusiast, just one shiny spot amongst many in the script co-written by Frank Darabont (The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption, television's The Walking Dead).

6. The Evil Dead (1981)

"Soon all of you will be like me... and then who will lock you up in a cellar?"

Few horror titles have accrued as much critical acclaim as Sam Raimi's cult smash The Evil Dead.  No one could've imagined the success that would follow for director Raimi and star Bruce Campbell, the latter since becoming an icon amongst genre buffs due to his ultra-cool screen presence.  All in all, it's impossible to deny The Evil Dead's status as one of the greatest horror films ever made.

Filmed in an actual deserted cabin somewhere in the Tennessee wilderness, The Evil Dead tells the tale of a party of young people who accidentally unleash an ancient demonic force by playing a tape recording of passages read from the Necromonicon Ex-Mortis (the Book Of the Dead).  Eventually, Ash (Campbell) is left to battle his possessed friends on his own, and the carnage that ensues generates just as many shocks as it does laughs.  The story behind the making of the film is truly a fascinating one, as funds ran out halfway through production, causing Campbell to surrender his family's property in Michigan in hopes that the movie would somehow earn back more than its budget.  The tactic worked, as this horror classic couldn't possibly be topped... or could it?

5. Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn (1987)


Literally everything that rocked about Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead was improved upon in its sequel Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn.  An increased budget handed over from producer Robert Tapert -- $3.5 million compared to Part 1's minuscule $350,000 -- allowed for even more hilariously exaggerated bloodletting, solidifying it as an obvious candidate for the greatest horror sequel of all time.

Often considered a reboot of the first film, Evil Dead 2 retreads to familiar territory, once again placing protagonist Ash (Bruce Campbell returning to the role that made him a household name) in that formidable cabin in the woods to square off once more against an atrocious legion of unholiness.  More experienced behind the camera than he was prior to the first installment, director Raimi amps up the action and humor, allowing Campbell to dazzle on screen, dismembering his tormentors with the help of his trusty chainsaw.  25 years later, few horror movies have matched up to the overall excellence of Evil Dead 2.  In short, if you were to tell me that you hadn't seen Evil Dead 2 yet, I'd say that you're a cinematic idiot and I feel sorry for you.

4. A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)

"I'm your boyfriend now, Nancy."

A trendsetter in the slasher catagory, A Nightmare On Elm Street still petrifies audiences nearly three decades later.  Wes Craven built his reputation as a force to be reckoned with beginning with this film which served as the foundation of a career that has since seen its share of ups and downs.  Nonetheless, A Nightmare On Elm Street makes its viewers never want to sleep again.

This box-office hit earned back its budget just one week after its release, raking in a total of $25.5 million on a $1.8 million allowance, saving its distributor New Line Cinema from complete financial ruin.  Teenagers Heather Lagenkamp, Amanda Wyss, Nick Corri and Johnny Depp become the targets of demented child murderer Freddy Krueger, a supernatural killer who invades his victims' dreams and slashes them to ribbons with his signature razor-clawed glove.  Robert Englund established himself as a horror legend in the Krueger role, setting the character apart from fellow slashers Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers by adopting a brash attitude, mocking his prey before delivering swift death.  A favorite film of mine, A Nightmare On Elm Street is the stuff of pure terror.

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