Whether it was from fright, or from laughing myself to involuntary incontinence, these 10 Horror Films left a lasting impression on me since I originally watched them in the 1980’s. Possibly tame and silly by today’s standards, these Horror classics were my first foray into the genre when I was but a wee lad in the 1980’s. Ranging from blood soaked knives, mad science, and haunted houses, these 10 films prepped my pants for future frights.
THE CHANGELING (1980)
Directed By: Peter Medak
Written By: Russell Hunter, William Gray and Diana Maddox
Starring: George C. Scott; Melvyn Douglas
Released: March 1980
Music Composer John Russell (George C. Scott) moves into a Victorian era mansion north of Seattle, Washington. He has relocated from New York following the tragic death of his wife and daughter in a car accident. Concentrating on getting his life back together, starting with composing music once again, Russell soon realizes that he is not alone in the house. Russell begins to unravel the mystery of his unwanted house guest, which involves the murder of a child in the house more than 60 years prior.
The Changeling is one of those horror films that you’ve never heard of, but love once you’ve seen it. It could very well be the best haunted house horror film of the modern era. Critically acclaimed, and winner of 9 Genie Awards (the Canadian Oscars) including the first ever Genie Award for Best Picture. George C. Scott gives a stellar performance as Dr. Russell a man who is just as haunted internally as the house is externally. You`ll also do a double take the next time you step into a bathtub!
THE FOG (1980)
Directed by: John Carpenter
Produced by: Debra Hill
Written by: John Carpenter, Debra Hill
Starring: Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis
Tom Atkins, John Houseman, Janet Leigh,
Released: February 1, 1980
I had originally seen this film when I was in my pre-teens and I remember not thinking much of it. I watched it again years later, and fairly recently, and I couldn’t believe how wrong I was about The Fog. It’s a really good flick.
Set in a coastal marine town, The Fog is actually a rather interesting hybrid of classic ghouls and ghosts stories and tales of urban legends and local lore. Hot off of his preceding successes Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) and Halloween (1978), director John Carpenter was just starting to hit his stride when he shot ‘Fog; and he brought his lucky rabbit’s foot from his last film to star in this film — the incomparable Jamie Lee Curtis! The movie also starred other fellow horror icons in Tom Atkins and Janet Leigh, as well as venerable screen stars Adrienne Barbeau and Hal Holbrook.
The Fog tells the story of a strange, glowing bog that sweeps in over a small coastal town of Antonio Bay, California. Lurking within the cloudy darkness are the ghosts of scorned mariners who were killed in a shipwreck there exactly 100 years earlier. An old journal is found in a church where the last passage is 100 years prior to the night. It reveals that, in 1880, six of the founders of Antonio Bay sabotaged and sank a clipper ship named the Elizabeth Dane. The ship was owned by a man with Leprosy named Blake, a wealthy man who sought to develop a colony near Antonio Bay. On the evening of the last passage, a terrifically foggy night, the six conspirators staged a fire on the beach beside hidden rocks. Deceived by the false beacon, the ship crashed into the rocks and sank – killing all aboard. The conspirators were motivated by both greed and plundered the vast riches that Blake and crew had aboard the ship. One hundred years later, the crew of the Elizabeth Dane lead by Blake, have risen in with the fog to seek their brutal vengeance.
All-in-all not too bad a picture. There’s good frights, nice screams, decent FX and solid performances by the principle cast.
THE SHINING (1980)
TERROR TRAIN (1980)
Directed by: Roger Spottiswoode
Produced by: Harold Greenberg
Written by: T. Y. Drake
Starring: Ben Johnson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Hart Bochner
Distributed by: Astral Films, 20th Century Fox
Released: October 3, 1980
Made almost simultaneously with Prom Night (1980) in the latter half of 1979, Terror Train was shot outside of Montreal, Quebec in the snowy hills north of the city. Jamie Lee Curtis stars in this outing as Alana Maxwell, a bright young medical student that is a bit haunted by a prank she was a part of three years prior that caused an awkward frat pledge, Kenny Hampson (Derek MacKinnon), to go insane from being traumatized and he was admitted into a psychiatric hospital. Three years later, it’s New Year’s Eve and Alana and her class of graduating Medical Students; including her boyfriend Mo – frat head Doc Manley (Bochner) – and best friend Mitchy (all of whom had a role in the infamous prank on Kenny) decide to ring in the New Year by having a costume party aboard a moving train. Joining the raucous students on their evening trip is Carne (Ben Johnson), a generally well-liked train conductor; and a costumed killer that snuck aboard the train and has a strong predilection for murder!
As the night progresses, and the train ventures further and further into the dark of nowhere, the students responsible for the prank three years prior, are systematically murdered one-by-one – with the unseen killer adopting their costumes after each bloody murder. The bodies are eventually discovered, and Carne does his very best to keep it under wraps as he hunts down the perpetrator hoping to avoid further bloodshed. But his efforts are in vain as the body count piles higher.
Terror Train has some interesting atmosphere-setting camera work of snowy rural Quebec, which builds a nice sense of isolated claustrophobia. This heightens much of the tone of fear and foreboding, as there really is nowhere for the partying passengers to go to escape the killer’s wraith. Despite Jamie Lee Curtis’s involvement in the movie, however, it was critically panned and is often considered a “paint-by-numbers” slasher film. My only real gripe is the inclusion of non-actor David Copperfield playing the role of a hired magician for the trip. It’s as if he was substituted in for the usual overly-long rock band performances that were used as time fillers back in the 1970’s. His poor acting performances, and his one-too-many sleight-of-hand tricks, are huge detractors for me. However, perhaps this reviewer has too big a soft spot for both slasher films and Canadian horror movies, but I really enjoyed Terror Train. Sure, it’s not the best that the sub-genre has to offer, but it’s bloody entertaining.
Directed By: Tobe Hooper
Written By: Steven Spielberg, Mark Victor and Michael Grais
Starring: Craig T. Nelson; JoBeth Williams
Released: June 1982
The Freeling`s, Steven (Craig T. Nelson) and Diane (JoBeth Williams), move their family to a new sub-division in California. Their youngest of three children, daughter Carol Anne, wakes up one night and starts talking to the T.V. She does so again the next night and is abducted into it by a ghastly apparition. Other incredible supernatural occurrences happen throughout the house and the family fears the worst as young Carol Anne’s voice can be heard emanating through the television set. The Freelings discover that the homes have been built over a cemetery and that they are being tormented by ghouls and ghosts. With the help of a group of Parasychologists and a Spiritual Medium, Steven and Diane hope to get their little girl back and rid the home of it’s uninvited houseguests.
What I love most about this movie, is that it’s fun. Not particularly the scariest of haunted house movies, Poltergeist makes its way into my favorites because there are a lot of fun elements to it:
Little girl gets sucked into a tv; the tree outside of older brother Robbie’s window tries to snatch him up; Tangina the medium is a hoot to watch on the screen; melting faces and objects whizzing through the air as if perpetually stuck in a twister; and portals to and from another dimension. With all that going for it, Poltergeist is definitely a fun horror flick to curl up on the couch with your honey to with a bowl of popcorn. But if the T.V. starts vomitting phantoms at you, it might be best to run out of the house immediately!
THE THING (1982)
Directed By: John Carpenter
Written By: Bill Lancaster
Based on the Novel Who Goes There? By: John W. Campbell
Starring: Kurt Russell; Wilfred Brimley
Released: June 1982
What I Love About This Movie:
I remember watching The Thing on First Choice (a subscription movie channel available in Canada in the early to late 1980’s) and loved it! A murderous monster from beyond the stars that assumes your form after it kills you. The film is a great example of paranoia run wild, as each person in the isolated Antarctic science base violently turns on one another as they start believing that any of them could be an alien beast. This is probably my second favorite Kurt Russell movie too, sandwiched between Big Trouble in Little China and Tango and Cash. Kurt is pretty cool to watch in this film, and definitely nudges the movie onto my favorites list. Add in a great score by director John Carpenter and what you have is a legendary sci-fi horror masterpiece.
*A little bit of fun trivia: in Carpenter’s Halloween, little Lindsay and Tommy are watching the original Thing From Another World on television. A little snapshot into the mind of John Carpenter and his love of the movie.
Directed by: David Cronenberg
Produced by: Claude Héroux
Written by: David Cronenberg
Starring: James Woods, Sonja Smits, Deborah Harry
Released: February 4, 1983
Videodrome is the kind of horror movie that you watch while stoned. So that when you see a dudes’ (James Woods) stomach turn into a pseudo-vagina VCR, or fingers stretching outward from a human chest or television, you can blame it on the funny mushrooms you just had about 45 minutes ago. The movie is a trip, and it’s one of director David Cronenberg’s biggest cult films from an experimental era. Debbie Harry from the 1970’s band Blondie, plays the lead sexual conquest with the bizarre fetish palette. There’s some very bloody visuals in this film, and at parts you may find yourself scratching your head wondering just what exactly is going on. But it plays like a car accident where you can’t look away. It’s dated and cheesy, but different and bizarre enough to deserve a quick watch.
Written and Directed by: Stuart Gordon
Starring: Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton, David Gale
Theatrical Release: October 1985
A classic horror recipe re-tooled for the 1980’s. An H.P. Lovecraft story infused with an element of Frankenstein. Jeffrey Combs steals the movie as obsessive medical scientist student Herbert West. In the movie, he has developed a serum that can reanimate the dead. His discovery piques the interest of his roommate Dan, when the latter witnesses his dead cat come back to life. Both men begin experimenting on the recently deceased, as Dan’s job at the hospital has him working in the morgue and thus easy access to dead bodies. The duo’s twisted science has them expelled from school, Dan is put on the outs by his creamy breasted girlfriend and her father – the Dean of the University, and Herbert is also pursued by the sinister and creepy Dr. Hill who steals the formula for his own gain. Re-Animator is incredibly amusing, has some great bloody scenes, some fun but awkward scenes with Barbara Crampton lying mostly naked on a gurney and being sexually advanced upon by a severed head and its reanimated former body. The film is a cult classic that has spawned two sequels, turned Barbara Crampton into a Horror Convention fan favorite, and immortalized Jeffrey Combs (or at least the deplorable yet loveable Herbert West) as one of the greatest Horror movie anti-heroes ever.
**THOSE WERE MY FAVOURITE 80’S MOVIES THAT SCARED THE $#%* OUT OF ME. WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITES?**