25 Must-See Halloween Horrors of the 80's | Fanboys Anonymous

25 Must-See Halloween Horrors of the 80's

Posted by Fellonius Munch Tuesday, October 29, 2013
There are a jaded few, myself being one of them, that have seen just about every B-movie and every horror movie in existence, and just don't think the picture-perfect productions of the last decade can compare—especially the remakes!

But what is it about the films that geeks like me grew up with decades ago, that modern cinema fails to measure up to? Is it the old-school political incorrectness? Is it originality? Is it the actors? (Today's acting "veterans" really do pale in comparison with the acting legends that cut their teeth in the industry when I was a kid—the physically and methodically distinctive character actors of the '80s, such as Bruce Campbell, Robert Davi, Tom Atkins and Fred Ward, who made those films so much fun.)

Or is it the complete lack of CGI that really tested the mettle of visual special effects professionals and amateurs alike? In some instances it was the 100% hand-crafted prosthetic special effects from legends such as Stan Winston, Rick Baker, Tom Savini and Rob Bottin that literally had the juices flowing. But it's never just the one thing.

If any one decade can provide the most examples as to what made a horror film great, that would be the 1980s—the era of "video nasties," post-punk/hair metal/ridiculous fashion, independent producers, and now-legendary directors that still wrote most of their own movies. As Halloween approaches, we're going to need something to watch, and while there are a few good modern films that get the job done, sometimes we do need the classics.

As to why we need the classics? Well, if you're a horror fan, call it an education. And if not, yesterday's production values can easily remind you that what you're watching isn't real. But, collectively, we need old horror movies for Halloween BECAUSE THEY'RE FUN! So...

Halloween horror films 1980s

1. The Monster Squad

Manphibian, Dracula Frankenstein's Monster Mummy Wolfman Monster Squad
Smile bitches, you're famous!

From workshy writer and director Fred Dekker, who hasn't made a movie since the abominable/watered down Robocop 3, Monster Squad was pretty much a Hammer Horror take on 80's classic The Goonies, with children running around spouting bad language, sexual innuendos, and some hilarious one-liners that you just don't get anymore ("WOLF-MAN'S GOT NARDS!"). As corny as it gets, I don't see it as cheap at all. It has an unashamed love for the theatrical, and despite starring a gang of children, it was still very adult, lending it a great deal of charm. And by '80s standards, Tom Noonan should have got an Oscar for his methodical take on Frankenstein's Monster! 

2. Maniac Cop

Slasher film cop Matt Cordell Robert Z'Dar
We got a picture of his badge because his massive chin keeps crashing our database!
One of the better Bruce Campbell films of that decade, Maniac Cop ushered in a new generation of slasher films that had more beating people to death than actual slashing, so it was brutal but aimed for suspense over gore. It also starred Tom Atkins, who was one of the '80s' best B-movie character actors, so if you know him, you know you're getting a more compelling horror movie. Quite the little gem!

3. Night of the Creeps

Tom Atkins Ray Cameron Night of the Creeps sci-fi zombie B-Movie
"Did I fire five shots into your face or was it six?"
The other awesome Fred Dekker film, Night of the Creeps oozes B-Movie charm but also dresses itself in classic '50s sci-fi vibes, meaning that hammy acting is the order of the day and bad acting is exploited for comedy purposes. Essentially, it's half college comedy, half zombie movie. And with the addition of Tom Atkins in a lead role, it has credibility. Highly enjoyable, fun and gross. Also, notably great use of a flamethrower!





4. Pumpkinhead

Pumpkinhead Special Effects Stan Winston Lance Henriksen movie
The directorial debut of late special effects guru Stan Winston (Terminator, Aliens, Jurassic Park), Pumpkinhead is much more than a "college kids in the bumpkin backwoods" horror movie; it's a cautionary revenge tale steeped in witchcraft and demonology. The awesome Lance Henriksen leads as Ed Harley, a man whose son is killed in an accident. Enter the titular demon Pumpkinhead, who will exact revenge (for a price, of course). Brilliant old-school effects meets advanced prosthetic effects and animatronics. If anything, it's just awesome to sit and watch!

5. The Lost Boys

Lost Boys Corey Haim Corey Feldman
Truth, Justice, and the American Way!
If you don't know The Lost Boys by now, you're either a pensioner that doesn't do that sort of thing or you're a baby and have no concept of real horror entertainment. Decades later, the only thing that's dated about The Lost Boys is the fashion. Amazing production value and credible acting make this film almost timeless, as does the comedy, the soundtrack and the badass action and scares!



6. The Fog

John Carpenter's The Fog Jamie Lee Curtis Janet Leigh
"We don't want your bloody gold, we just want to prevent a Tom Welling remake!"
The one John Carpenter horror of the 80's best suited to a Halloween viewing, The Fog is classic ghost story material with a stellar horror cast (Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Atkins, Adrienne Barbeau, Janet Leigh, Hal Holbrook) and a great story. Carpenter really was the master of suspense back then and this movie is exemplary as to why. It may have aged, but only like fine wine. The horror, the chills and the creepy soundtrack, produced by Carpenter himself, all add up to a memorable night... and a sleepless one!

7. Day of the Dead

Tom Savini zombie effects
George A. Romero's final movie in the original Dead trilogy ran into problems from the onset, not having anywhere near the budget he needed and having to completely overhaul the story he originally wanted to tell. However, knowing that just makes Day even more amazing to watch. Effects legend Tom Savini provided some of his best ever work, Romero had an amazing cast to work with, and Joseph Pilato as Captain Rhodes is arguably one of the best-ever villains in horror—and he wasn't even a zombie. Day of the Dead is broodingly dark, shockingly gory and twisted, and yet it isn't as tacky or sickening as your usual '80s video nasty gorefests. If you're squeamish, though, watch it with friends, and a lot of ice cream!

8. House

Friday the 13th producer Sean Cunningham director Steve Miner writer Fred Dekker
"It's your fairy godmother!" (no, he really says that)
More comedy than horror, House is tacky, random and often laughable, but it really does capitalize on the old haunted house genre and throws some creature features in for good measure. It's the best thing awful director Steve Miner will ever make—2008's Day of the Dead, anybody?—and is helped along by the performances of William Katt, Cheers regular George Wendt, and resident bad guy Richard Moll as Big Ben!


9. The Burning

The Burning video nasty slasher movie
"I shoulda been a barber!"
One of the video nasties that was initially banned in the UK, The Burning can be considered the prototype for Friday the 13th, only it gets it right. Tom Savini lent his sickeningly realistic special effects to this movie about a scarred psychopath looking for bloody revenge on a holiday camp, while future movie and television stars such as Jason Alexander, Fisher Stevens and Holly Hunter provide acting support. The Burning is so much more fun a slasher than many so-called classics, and it is so much more shocking and realistic at times. Rocker Rick Wakeman's synth soundtrack is also deeply unsettling!

10. Near Dark

The cast of Aliens hops over to James Cameron's ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow's vampire western for a tale of forbidden love, undead outlaws and deadly road trips, as farm boy Caleb falls for a strange girl in the wrongest of ways. Near Dark sports some great actors, an undeniably spooky '80s soundtrack from Tangerine Dream, and special visual effects that make this classic STILL A BETTER LOVE STORY THAN TWILIGHT!!!, and quite a badass action film at times!

11. A Nightmare on Elm Street

Johnny Depp debut Wes Craven horror Robert Englund Freddy Who wants to forget the original and best Freddy movie, starring a baby-faced Johnny Depp in his movie debut? This surreal nightmare horror was big on scares and had a cutting-edge storyline about a deceased child abuser terrorizing the dreams of teenagers from beyond the grave. The more films they made, the more we appreciated Robert Englund's Freddy, and the more we egged him on as he hacked and slashed his way through our heroes—which is kind of sick of us, if you think about it!

12. An American Werewolf in London

John Landis is a fantastic writer and director who knows the perfect blend of horror and comedy, and David Naughton's chemistry with Jenny Agutter makes this chilling England-based lycan tragi-horror-comedy even more inimitable. The Yorkshire Moors and the look of old London really contribute to an atmosphere of darkness and isolation, but it's Landis's story and Rick Baker's prosthetics that make the movie legendary. Look out for comedy master Rik Mayall in the scene at the Slaughtered Lamb!

13. The Evil Dead

Evil Dead poster art buried alive
Ah-ah-ah-ah, stayin' alive, stayin' alive...
Before all the talk of hailing kings and smart-shopping boomsticks from S-Mart, The Evil Dead was one of the original, most talked-about horrors ever made. Looking back, it's so badly dated and unbelievable. But the reason why this is still one of the top horror movies of all time, even today? It's so much fun, it's so ridiculous and sick and twisted, and it's really  dynamic. Despite its shoe-string budget, Sam Raimi's visionary direction made The Evil Dead an example of how to make a perfect horror film with little or no money. Before there was Pixar, there was Raimi!

14. Creepshow

George Romero and Stephen King joined forces to deliver a comic-styled anthology of horror in the early '80s, starring a veritable cast of television and cinema greats (Leslie Nielsen, Ed Harris, Ted Danson, Hal Holbrook). Hell, even Stephen King took a lead role, while Tom Savini played a bin man/garbage collector. It will never go down as one of the best horror films ever made, but it's a popcorn movie and it's a lot of fun. Think Twilight Zone or Tales from the Crypt, only more absurd and gory. Excellent fun!

15. Poltergeist

They're here poltergeist ghost horror movie
Life without 24-hour television was scary back then!
If you like your Halloween movies more family-friendly, straight-laced and "Spielbergy", try Steven Spielberg's Poltergeist (see what I did there?). Because if you haven't even seen this, I swear, I will run cross-country and even swim the Atlantic to slap the lips off your face. Poltergeist is not just one of the greatest and best-made horror movies ever, it's a rite of passage into maturity for any so-called fan of film. Pardon me, rant over!

16. Return of the Living Dead

Once upon a time, two guys made a zombie film in a farmhouse. They were George Romero and John Russo. The film was Night of the Living Dead. Before Dawn of the Dead, they fell out and a legal agreement was made. If Romero wanted to make another zombie movie, he was only allowed to use the word 'Dead' in the movie title. Russo took the rights to the keywords 'Living Dead.' And in 1985 came Return of the Living Dead, the first movie to feature "runner-zombies" and to build on the mythology that zombies only ate brains. It's really decent, colourful, comedic and pretty adventurous. It also has a great punk soundtrack and is a lot more "comic book" than Romero's other works!

17. Fright Night

Roddy McDowall Peter Vincent Fright Night vampire horror comedy
"Good evening, sir, I was wondering if you could spare a moment to talk about God?!"
Director Tom Holland made two great horrors in the '80s, putting him on the same level as John Landis for style, creativity and enjoyability. Fright Night was the first, and in it he found the brilliant acting talents of Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, Stephen Geoffreys and Roddy McDowall (Planet of the Apes) are hilarious as his neighbours, discovering he's a vampire and trying to get rid of him. This is one of the elite vampire movies, and the remake is a completely different creature altogether, meaning that it doesn't get to ride on Holland's coattails to glory!

18. Child's Play

Chucky Brad Dourif possessed doll
I've seen more convincing Miley Cyrus dolls...
Holland's other fantastic horror was the tale of a murderer possessing the body of a child's toy. Chris Sarandon leads once again, as a detective following the trail of murders after he's taken down Brad Dourif's murderer Charles Lee Ray, and having to eventually accept the unbelievable. This movie's strength is that it doesn't care what you believe. This is a frickin' work of fiction, a horror movie where the most likely end victim will be the kid himself. It wants you sitting on the edge of your seat, where Chucky will most likely be lying in wait with a kitchen knife between his teeth. Highly enjoyable characters and some much needed comedy relief!

19. Reanimator

Jeffrey Coombs mad scientist Reanimator zombie movie
One of the grislier movies on the Halloween list, Reanimator should be a failure on so many levels, whether because of Jeffrey Combs's incredibly camp acting or because H.P. Lovecraft doesn't transfer so well to low-budget horror (as Brian Yuzna discovered by the time he started crediting himself as Alan Smithee). But Reanimator is the one film that got it right. It's a zombie movie, it's Frankenstein's Monster, it's so Lovecraftian that you forget it's about a couple of university medical students in the modern day. But when the shit hits the fan... man, you might want to finish that popcorn quick so you've got something to puke into!

20. Critters

In the '80s, puppetry was going fully-fledged animatronic. They had to start out small, and so you have the likes of Gremlins and the godawful Ghoulies. Like Ghoulies, Critters was the more adult-oriented version of Gremlins, and it was much better. Just stay away from the sequels. Intergalactic killer furballs that like to eat people, being hunted by alien bounty hunters on an infested farm? That's Halloween, folks. Bonus: Billy Zane being eaten alive, heehee. Critters is a great mix of wholesome American family drama, blood and guts horror, and wacky comedy!  

21. Little Shop of Horrors

Little Shop of Horrors Audrey II Singing killer plant musical
Somebody had to throw a musical in there somewhere, and this musical stars some of the best American comedy actors ever: Rick Moranis, Bill Murray, Steve Martin, James Belushi, Christopher Guest and John Candy. It's not just catering to people that are fond of rainbows and unicorns, but you can watch it with the family for a well-rounded Halloween before you put your foot up the children's arses and send them to bed in time for the real horror to start! 


22. The Gate

animator Randall William Cook Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings
"Wait for the humans to slumber... then we swoop in for the McNuggets!"
Another low-budget classic here, this one starring a baby Stephen Dorff. The Gate is a far-fetched but ultimately fun horror about a bunch of kids left home alone who accidentally open a portal to hell in their back garden. Full of some full-on freaky chills, not to mention cute little stop-motion clay animation demons and such, The Gate is definitely worth a watch, especially if you would have liked The Monster Squad a few darker shades of black!

23. Hellraiser

Scream Queen Ashley Lawrence Nude Butterball Cenobite hell horror
"Like my head massage? You should try my acupuncture!"
Clive Barker's inimitable horror—now also set to jump on the remake bandwagon—is so dark, so chilling, so scary, so gory... you wonder how the '90s sucked so much for horror outside of anything Clive Barker-related. This is one for the hardcore horror fans. Andrew Robinson is one of the greatest actors to lend his talents to horror, and Ashley Lawrence was definitely the cutest horror actress ever. Overall, this low-budget fairytale horror is an example of filmmaking perfection and doesn't need much more than that to be a great recommendation!

24. Shocker

Mitch Pileggi X-Files Deputy Skinner paranormal serial killer Horace Pinker
Mitch Pileggi really went out of his way to engage his audience...
One last Wes Craven outing, and his last before the Decade of Excess crashed into a heap of alcoholism, debt, and cocaine psychosis. This is one of his very best, in terms of straightforward thrills, laughs and strangeness—before he went on to make The People Under The Stairs and other more conventional horror films—and totally ignored all factors that go into creating credible, believable horror. No! Screw that! We don't need believability! We have Mitch (Skinner from X-Files) Pileggi as a maniacal serial killer turned into pure energy, selling his soul to the devil before being sent to the electric chair. We also have chaotic action and violence and some Megadeth. Craven really knew how to amp up the excitement!

25. Ghostbusters

Bill Murray Ghostbusters 3 horror comedy
"This List is TOAST!!!"
What Halloween list would be a Halloween list without the Ghostbusters? Actually, it's still relevant, not just because it's still awesome, but because today's generation are stating more and more that they've never heard of Ghostbusters. PIMP SLAP!!! What are you waiting for, an invitation?

With an unbeatable cast, memorable characters, countless quotable moments, and lashings of comedy and creeps, regardless of the fact it's not really a horror film—at least not a full-blown horror with death and dismemberment etc—Ghostbusters still holds the standard as one of the greatest Halloween movies of all time. Everybody can enjoy it, at least children of most ages. Just don't ask me about the Twinkie!

And there we have it, 25 must-see Halloween horrors from the '80s. What will you be watching, Fanboys?

If you would like to join the team as a contributor or are interested in sponsoring a post on this site, purchasing an ad, becoming an affiliate, or taking part in any kind of promotional opportunities, please use this contact form to send us an email and we will get in touch as soon as possible with more information.