Once upon a time, I had said that 1981 might have been the greatest year for horror movies, ever. Little did I know I would be having to pick and choose from the banner year of 1986 and fulfill my horror blogger duties by selecting only ten horror films of this year- which honestly is a task I don’t wish on anybody. How the fuck can I decide between Troll and Critters, or Terror Vision or From Beyond without having to subtract one entirely.
This is some horseshit. But, this is the online job I signed up for. Which at the end of the day, all came down to my own personal favorites. Don’t kill me in the comments later.
Anyways, the slasher era was well established by 1986 while birthing its way into mainstream pop culture, and horror films really began to venture into pushing more boundaries in the realm of body horror. Films like The Fly, From Beyond, and Night of the Creeps really go balls deep into graphic transformation and destruction of the human vessel. Hell, even Poltergiest II threw in some body horror apart from its supernatural element.
If you actually look at all the films that the genre released this year, you might get easily overwhelmed with all the titles; with every one of them being GREAT in its own respect. Beyond said visceral horror, franchise sequels, and beloved, good time 80s horror cheese ruled the year. That being said, here are some honorable mentions that deserve all the recognition, but didn’t quite make my top ten personally:
- Chopping Mall
- Henry: Portrait of A Serial Killer
- Night of the Creeps
- Class of Nuke ‘Em High
- April Fool’s Day
- Slaughter High
Alright, now that I’m recovering from all my anxiety of having to dissect and put these beautiful classics in a top ten list, here’s the final result.
At the end of the day, I couldn’t ignore the fact that Critters is a goddamn good time. What’s not to love about this fuckin’ film? The cheesy B-horror answer to Gremlins is full of alien puppetry, homages (Dee Wallace and a Crite biting off the head of an E.T. doll), and a great cast to pull it all off. If you’re a horror movie snob, Critters isn’t for you. But, if you’re the kind of guy/gal who has seen Slumber Party Massacre 3 an honorable seventeen times, then you’re already a fan too and respect that Crite Life. But in case you haven’t, pick up the whole collection from Shout! here at Amazon.
9. FROM BEYOND
The loose adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s 1920 story of the same title originally published in The Fantasy Fan in 1934, is a visual nightmare of biological horror and not nearly spoken enough about in my opinion. Hot off Re-Animator, Stuart Gordon is back at it here with Jeffrey Combs and Barabra Crampton once more in probably one of the top-ten grossest movies I’ve ever seen in the genre. Some scenes are cringe in terms of adult themes, but the underlying tone along with really cool monster effects stand above the rapey shit.
The first time we actually got to see Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lector on-screen was in 1986’s Manhunter starring Will Peterson, Tom Noonan, and Brian Cox as the cannibal doctor. Five years later Anthony Hopkins would blow the top off the cinematic world with his portrayal in Silence of the Lambs and played that character for over a decade in future sequels/prequels- including Red Dragon, which of course is a re-telling of Manhunter. However, Hopkins aside I much prefer this version of the story between Will Graham and his relationship with Lector. While Brian Cox’s Lector stands in the shadow of Hopkins’, the dialogue and tension between Graham and the psychologist are not as “Hollywood” and more natural- which makes it way more terrifying on-screen. And let’s not forget Tom Noonan as Francis Dolarhyde- who absolutely fucking nails it as a goddamn creep.
7. MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE
Stephen King has no qualms about killing kids in his books/movies and with his directorial overview of Maximum Overdrive, he makes that clear as fucking daylight. I can appreciate the balls he has here.
Before Skynet became self-aware, every moving machine in the world went batshit homicidal crazy thanks to a passer-by comet in King’s on-screen adaptation of his 1973 short story, “Trucks”. This movie is just fun as fuck to me. Emilio Estevez VS the Green Goblin toy truck? Sign me up over and over again.
6. LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS
I literally can’t get enough of Audrey II and their hellbent destruction of the human race. The remake of the 60s’ on-screen adaptation of the musical by far exceeds its predecessor and is a damn delight to watch every time. National treasure Rick Moranis along with Bill Murray and Steve Martin almost seems like a bonus and not the main selling point when you look at the movie as a whole. I’m not a musical type of gal, but I’ll sing the shit out of that “Dentist” song.
Also is probably the main reason why I, and many others of my generation have an irrational fear of
Dr. Death, I mean, the dentist. Speaking of which, here’s a recap of that song, just because.
5. POLTERGEIST II: THE OTHER SIDE
Sure, The Other Side doesn’t quite have the same magic as the first film in the Poltergeist trilogy, but damn if it didn’t make a bold impact scaring the shit of just about everyone with Julian Beck’s performance alone as the ghostly Reverend Kane. Case in point, that paired with some unforgettable practical effects with monsters created by H.R. Giger, makes this not only a worthy sequel to one of the greatest horror movies of all time but a stand-alone among the greats in 1986.
4. TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2
Unlike Tobe Hooper’s 1974 film, TCM 2 is fucking BONKERS and that is exactly why we love it. I’ll never forget being six years old and walking in on my cousin watching a rented video cassette of this at precisely the scene of the above-animated GIF; I was both horrified and highly intrigued and further traumatized myself as this was my first introduction to Leatherface. Which was great because when I got around the first film later on, its sheer perfection made an even greater impact on my little horror-fueled mind.
TCM 2 has all the right horror elements of a perfect 80s movie. Shock, gore, comedy, and pure entertainment. Unless something better comes along in terms of sequels/prequels, speaking on the heels of the Netflix news of bringing Leatherface to the streaming service with a new film, this sequel will forever be the goddamn best of not only the franchise but a strong contender in the class of 1986.
3. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 6: JASON LIVES
Jason Lives is a popular installment among fans via the Friday franchise, but I’ll go as far as saying it’s THE BEST along with the (brace yourselves) BEST Jason- CJ GRAHAM. Yeah, I said it.
That being said, Jason Lives embraces every damn thing that is an 80s horror film. There’s cheese, gore, quirky kills, and a masked maniac. What more can you ask for, eh? This is also the first time in a Friday film where Thom Matthews puts on his Jarvis hat and becomes the iconic face for the character- well deserved if you ask me. Also, the first time surprisingly in any film in the series to actually feature children at the camp! Pretty wild that six films into this we are just now seeing these campers and not just the counselors. From the James Bond parody intro to the final showdown at the lake between Jarvis and Jason, this is where Friday the 13th certainly peaked and considering the significant importance of the franchise’s contribution to 80s’ horror, is well-deserving of a top 3 spot here.
Aliens is a masterpiece that nearly sets the first film on fire and no one can tell me any different. The film blows the doors open on the original premise giving us a complex yet comprehensible story along with memorable characters we all want to root for. Everything about this sequel is bad-ass, including expanding the hero of Ripley giving us a tried and true female Action Hero. It’s a beautiful thing to witness her journey from the first film well into the second as she transforms from a science nerd astronaut into a one-woman army machine. Also to note, pitting Human Mother against Alien Mother is nothing short of sheer brilliance. But I always can’t help but feel some sort of empathy for Alien mama here. She’s just laying her eggs doing her thing only to have all her homicidal babies blown up by Ripley.
I’d be pretty pissed off too.
1. THE FLY
David Cronenberg’s ultimate visceral horror The Fly stands the test of time as one of the greatest goddamn horror movies, EVER. A love story more tragic than that of Romeo and Juliet, Seth (Jeff Goldblum), and Veronica’s (Geena Davis) tale of love, loss, and destruction is what really makes this movie the ultimate experience apart from all the projectile vomit this film can induce with its extreme transformation scenes.
The Fly is not only a triumph in storytelling but in the visual effects as well. Makeup wizards Chris Walas and Stephen Doo Pwah deservedly won an academy award for their makeup effects on The Fly, but they didn’t forget to thank the actor who brought Brundlefly to life. With the collaboration of these genius and stomach-turning prosthetics along with Goldblum’s brilliant acting chops, this movie gave us the most disgusting character that we’ve ever fallen in love with. The Fly gets all the awards here, and throw in the magic word cheeseburger to boot.