Five 1980s Horror Films To Watch This Halloween
Scanners, 1981. Photograph by Everett Collection/Alamy
The gory, gruesome and downright terrifying retro movies to spook yourself with.
Between the BMX-powered trip into the hair-raising supernatural that was TV’s Stranger Things and September’s big-screen take on Mr Stephen King’s It — which, just like the Netflix series, centred on a gang of Converse-clad kids battling spine-chilling phenomena — it’s safe to say that a 1980s horror-inspired aesthetic is ruling the screens at present.
But before Mr Finn Wolfhard and crew return to tackle a second season of Stranger Things in time for Halloween 2017, you should probably remind yourself what made the 1980s so full of brilliantly nerve-shredding viewing in the first place. Think screen-filling mist, zoomed-in visions of dismemberment and blood-letting, gargantuan kitchen knives and unisex perms. Don’t say you weren’t warned – scroll down for our favourite horror movies of that decade.
Mr Michael Ironside in Scanners, 1981. Photograph by The Moviestore Collection
While Scanners touched on Western topics of the day when it came out in 1981 – Reaganomics, government censorship, military security and general pre-millennial tension – it is perhaps best known as the film with the wickedest head-exploding scene in history. Mr David Cronenberg’s cult masterpiece tells the story of ConSec, a private weaponry firm who hire people with telekinetic powers to spy on enemy forces. Moody, political, and gory as hell – Scanners is essential viewing for intellectual scaredy-cats.
Mr Doug Bradley in Hellraiser, 1987. Photograph by Cinemarque Entertainment BV/Photo12
Released 30 years ago last month, Hellraiser is a gore-soaked, trippy, kinkily transgressive classic from novelist and filmmaker Mr Clive Barker. When a British woman unlocks a portal to Hell, a sect of body-modified, leather-clad “Cenobites” ascend, demanding a supply of human corpses in order to power up on blood. After watching, if you haven’t had lead Cenobite Pinhead appear at the end of your bed in a nightmare, you’re surely desensitised. Pinhead’s pain-commentary is just as haunting as his appearance, whispering iconic lines such as “Your suffering will be legendary, even in hell” and “Pain has a face. Allow me to show it to you” in a frosty, olde-English accent.
Mr Jeff Goldblum in The Fly, 1986. Photograph by 20th century Fox/Archives du 7e Art/Photo12
Another one from Mr Cronenberg. And why not? When a reclusive scientist, played by Mr Jeff Goldblum, invents a teleporter and climbs inside it with a rogue fly, he and the insect become one. “Be afraid… be very afraid” is the much-imitated line uttered by his love interest Ms Geena Davis in this eerie and vomit-inducing horror film from 1986, which depicts Mr Goldblum’s physical unravelling in visceral detail. Gooey, greenish, half-decomposed flesh and bug-slime dominate this jump-laden gem, typical of its type in dovetailing cod metaphysics with body horror and re-animation.
Mr Kurt Russell in The Thing, 1982. Photograph by Universal Pictures/akg-images
Here’s the “thing” about Mr John Carpenter’s much-heralded The Thing: it’s scary because its baddie is not, in itself, visible. Yes, it erupts in various grotesque forms – ingeniously rendered in animatronics, prosthetics and (as Mr Carpenter has since revealed in interviews) plenty of melted chewing gum, but essentially it is a force. It lurks. It is evil. Set in Antarctica, the 1982 film tells the story of a shape-shifting alien presence that stalks and devours the members of a scientific research team, led by Mr Kurt Russell. For much of its duration, neither the on-screen characters nor the audience know who exactly the creature is currently inhabiting, making for a thrillingly paranoid final reel chock full of nasty surprises.
Mr David Warbeck and Ms Catriona MacColl in The Beyond, 1981. Photograph by Mr Alberto Corchi/Fulvia Film/Archives du 7e Art/Photo12
What would the horror genre be today without the Godfather of Gore himself, Mr Lucio Fulci? Considered the high watermark of the Italian director’s career, this 1981 Giallo nasty unfolds after a lynch mob accidentally unlocks one of the “Seven Doors of Death”. Cue ear-clattering sound-mares and eye-gouging scares as zombies take hold in 1920s Louisiana. In one particularly gruesome sequence, tarantulas tear off and devour a man’s face. Fun, creative and properly shocking pre-CGI splatter cinema.