Our Culture Mag’s recent review of the cult film ‘I Was a Teenage Werewolf’prompted us to think long and hard about some of the most unforgettable pictures in the rich world of horror cinema. Sure, Gene Fowler Jr.’s 1957 entry was a success despite it being a little rough around the edges, but it isn’t quite as hair-raising as many of the movies in the ensuing years.
What better decade to start with than the 1980s, which gave us an exciting mix of paranormal and slasher films? These 5 horror films from that decade may feature some terrible haircuts or tacky outfits, but they will definitely succeed in keeping you up all night. Take a look, if you dare.
The Shining (1980)
You can’t expect to have a list of horror films without an appearance from the master of horror himself, Stephen King. The renowned writer crafted a spectacular tale of a more or less harmless father who suddenly turns murderous under supernatural influence. Stanley Kubrick’s 18 film adaptation of the ‘The Shining’ is riddled with symbolism and subtle cues</a> that can make viewers question their own perception of reality. Changing names, hotel room numbers, and minute details are all part of the evil inside the Overlook Hotel. You also won’t forget Jack Nicholson’s eerie performance as the erratic Jack Torrance.
The Evil Dead (1981)
With a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, ‘The Evil Dead’ is one of the rare horror films that received critical acclaim. The film was so low-budget that some shots were filmed in the director’s Sam Raimi’s garage. Despite this initial difficulty, the original has since spawned two sequels, a reboot, video games, and even comic books — a mark of a successful franchise, despite the film being laughed at by film critics after its release. One of the first films to feature teenagers in remote cabins, The Evil Dead’ tells the story of a group of friends accidentally unleashing a horde of demons and evil spirits via an old cassette tape. The demons then begin possessing each friend, and the horror comes from the brutal and gory demise of each character.
The Thing (1982)
John Carpenter’s adaptation of a 1951 B-movie is a terrifying mix of science fiction and horror. ‘The Thing’ tells the story of scientists conducting research in Antarctica, who are then thrown off by an extraterrestrial that can shapeshift. The scariest thing about the parasitic alien is that it can be the person you are standing next to, which drives the group to paranoia. The appearance of the eponymous ‘Thing’ alone can give you nightmares.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Freddy Krueger is one of the most petrifying horror villains to ever appear on the screen and it’s because he lives in what we are already afraid of: nightmares. He doesn’t even have to try. ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ is one of those slasher films that you think are made up of tropes — which, to some extent, it is — but you will be scared to re-watch.
You can never be sure if the scenes unfolding before your eyes are still within the realm of reality or completely crafted by the serial killer who haunts the characters’ dreams. Wes Craven’s 1984 movie was so successful that it prompted a full-blown franchise with sequels, a remake, a TV series, and even a crossover with another cult classic of its time — ‘Friday the 13th’.
Its legacy even managed to spill over into other forms of media, like comic books and video games. Marvel, Innovation Publishing, Trident Comics, Avatar Press, and DC Comics all had a hand in enriching the ‘Nightmare’ universe on print. In the world of gaming, Cheeky Bingo has a variety of movie-themed games including a Nightmare on Elm Street slot title. The game features Freddy Krueger in all his gruesome glory front and centre. Perhaps the promise of winning will take away from the fear the franchise perpetuates, but it’s not easy to forget his horribly burnt skin and razor fingers.
Pet Sematary (1989)
Our last entry is another adaptation of Stephen King’s fiction — the book that even he deemed too frightening to publish, ‘Pet Sematary’. Directed by Mary Lambert, the 1989 horror film revolves around the Creeds, a family of four who move to Maine after Louis, the father, was offered a job. Jud Crandall, an elderly neighbour, warns them of a nearby pet cemetery, which seems to be a place to revive dead things. Without giving too much away, let’s just say that playing with the rules of nature has its consequences and sometimes, they can be downright abominable.
Pet Sematary has received a cult following over the years despite its mediocre performance at the box office, and a reboot was announced in 2017. Cinema Blend announced that John Lithgow, who delivered a chilling performance in the Showtime series ‘Dexter’, is to play the role of Jud. Following the success of the 2017 remake of ‘It’, it seems that there is no shortage of Stephen King remakes. For the sake of horror, let’s just hope that they do his story justice.
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