It may be regarded as the decade that fashion forgot but the 1980s had a remarkable array of films. Even in the horror genre, this decade provided a futile ground for innovative and groundbreaking ideas. Now, you may be thinking that the 1980s was simply a collection of ‘slasher’ films. That Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees reigned supreme in an ever-growing collection of repetitive, violent outings.
However, I like to think that there was far more than that in the field of film horror. I believe that some really great examples of the genre came from a place that dared to use a combination of imagination, special effects and even humour (black , of course) to achieve its goals.
The Fog (1980) was a nice lead into the decade with its sombre ghost story and use of the ‘less is more’ technique that John Carpenter honed with Halloween in the 70s. However, special effects had advanced quite a bit since then, with An American Werewolf in London (1981) and The Thing (1982) proving that showing everything could be just as horrific. Creepshow (1982) and Fright Night (1985) took advantage of special effects, but also blended genuine dark comedy to create unique outings that are both quite frightening in parts but tongue in cheek when appropriate.
Similarly, Re-Animator (1985) and Return of The Living Dead (1985) took the ‘mad scientist/zombie’ horror tropes and combined them to make gory outings that also remain humourous and disgusting in equal measure.
Another great example of unique horror focused on the body as a tool for pain and revulsion in a way slasher films might not have thought possible. The Fly (1986) and Hellraiser (1987) are definitely two effective examples of using the body as a jumping off point for horrific consequences.
Horror in that period might be predominately known as the era of razor gloves and hockey masks, but it also brought a few unique things along for the ride too. Just make sure you check those out before writing the 1980s off. And don’t forget the soundtracks too. 80s horror soundtracks are amongst the best.
Halit Bozdogan loves films and thinks 3 of the best soundtracks ever are from 80s horror: Return of the Living Dead, Fright Night, and The Lost Boys.