Well, here we are again nostalgic nuggets! Another year has passed and that means another round of classic horror masterpieces turn a healthy 40. The year is 1983. A little game called Super Mario Bros first appeared in Japan. The first Cabbage Patch Kids dolls are sold in stores and nearly got people killed. And the very first cell phones were introduced to the public via Motorola.
It’s also the year where we got to see a little Felissa Rose sport a mighty prosthetic dong to horror audiences everywhere.
What a year, eh?! So let’s pop right into it. As per usual, these are just my personal opinions and only an official ranking if you see my dumb opinion as some sort of value. So take it as you will and let’s talk some 1983 horror!
10. Twilight Zone: The Movie
I initially struggled with the concept of even including the Twilight Zone Movie here; obviously because of the tragedy that befell on the set that involved the death of three people-two of them children. For that reason alone I can’t ever watch the movie anymore without getting upset. But, before that knowledge as a child, I did enjoy it and it is rather decent-not at the expense of three lives but I’d feel like shit as to not at least give this a mention because it shouldn’t be forgotten. So trying to insert some professionalism here with this movie landing at #10.
The film is constructed by modern filmmakers into an anthology borrowing from the brilliant mind of Rod Serling in recreating segments from the original program. Scatman Crothers is phenomenal. Lord Farquaad having a panic attack on a plane is probably my favorite entry- and those two reasons alone are why it’s ranked this high. But in all seriousness, fuck John Landis.
9. House On Sorority Row
A classic tale of a prank gone wrong and sorority sisters who don’t know how to use a bra! I remember seeing the “head in the toilet” on the back of the VHS box as a kid and being sold based on that alone. The power of VHS art fellas. Sorority Row takes place around a sorority house at a Maryland university. A group of sister seniors are fed up with their mistreatment via house mother Mrs. Slater. So they throw a party at the house, and the girls come up with an initially harmless-sounding prank on their house mother that later turns deadly.
It’s got everything for that classic 80s horror slasher flick. Blood. Gore. Nudity. AND a creepy Jester! Just a little something different that I admire.
8. Deadly Spawn
Deadly Spawn is a horror movie barely even mentioned by the big boys so let’s give this passion project and underrated gem a little love.
This movie is horror-fan service at some of its finest and has a genuine charm that ANY fan of the genre would love and embrace. A band of worm-like mutant aliens with thousands of teeth comes to play on Earth and hilarity ensues with horrendous acting and the kind of practical effects that one truly appreciates in the genre. For low-budget, the effects are something that every fan craves from an 80s genre film such as this, and honestly, I don’t know how anyone could hate this movie. If you do, I don’t think we can be friends, man.
7. The Keep
Michael Mann comes in balls swinging with the mind-fuck that is THE KEEP. Taking place during the Nazi regime, this supernatural fantasy of fairy-tale horror where bitch nazis get their asses kicked by Satan is almost impossible to keep up with coherently as the studios really butchered this one down. It’s a shame really. But, the Tangerine Dream score is sweetly undeniable and the effort put forth is there for us to take in all its solid yet weird glory. Somewhere in Paramount Studios lies an untainted director’s cut containing an extra hour and 30 minutes of this film, and by Goddess release already you cowards!
6. The Dead Zone
The first of several Stephen King adaptations here comes courtesy of Johnny Smith and his visions of death via The Dead Zone. King and Cronenberg is like a match made in movie heaven as King’s literary verbiage can be complex to adapt to the screen. Cronenberg is clearly the master of visual terror so taking the raw emotions and political climate of The Dead Zone and turning it into something even more horrifying than his signature body-horror films, is truly something to take in and resonate on. Nothing is scarier than politics people- yesterday and today.
Another Cronenberg classic, Videodrome is basically the body-horror master taking notes from David Lynch by dropping some acid and not giving one fresh fuck about anything other than doing what he does best here- and that’s freaking us the fuck out. This movie feels like it’s going to try and say something to you about the nature of consumption and the act of viewing it, but instead of doing the 1983 equivalent of saying “time to take out our phones” it just looks like you dead in the eye and says “long live the new flesh (bitch).” Fantastic. Plus it has a dude with a gun hiding in his stomach-vagina. Bonus points for that visual that will never escape my brain.
4. Sleepaway Camp
I know a lot of you might think I’m on drugs for putting this cheese-fest in front of visual Cronenberg stunners- but this is the 80s and crackers-on-cheese side dishes like Sleepaway Camp made the slasher decade what it was. So I believe I’m justified in sticking Felissa Rose and her prosthetic peen in this well-deserved slot. Besides, there’s so much to love about this film from the Camp Melodrama to the fact that literally no one besides Reverand Henry Kane, has made me feel quite as uneasy as Aunt Martha. A film like Sleepaway Camp can’t be made anymore. It is completely bonkers, with a hint of self-awareness and it actually pushes the boat out a bit further than most of its genre contemporaries. I got your back, Angela.
3. Psycho II
It’s pretty difficult to follow up on something as sacred as Psycho (1960) and is risky as hell considering the movie is near perfection and really no further context is needed. However, we were proved wrong in 1983 when Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates returns home and serves as basically The Godfather II of horror movie sequels. I realize that’s a bold statement but the continuation that no one knew we needed is a prime example of taking an excellent film and expanding on it with us really understanding Norman’s psyche, allowing us to really have some empathy. It’s a great taboo piece on mental health and a damn fine movie that more often than not, gets swept under the rug in favor of snooty fan politics.
I’m the trash critic that will watch Motel Hell maybe twice a day over something of real substance so what do I know anyway.
The horror version of Old Yeller forever traumatized the shit out of me worse than that Disney classic. Stephen King’s cocaine-fueled and drunk-driven literary genius of a novel about a rabid dog got adapted to the screen in 1983 and I’ve never looked at a St. Bernard the same way since. Feeling both sympathy and terror, this movie is just a roller coaster of either you crying or feeling anxious as fuck for both the dog and little Danny Pintauro. You feel exhausted from just ONE viewing so this is one I haven’t seen too many times because I need my energy but boy, did it stay with me; and that’s how a horror movie is successful guys.
Stephen King’s malicious tale of toxic masculinity and its effects on everyone and everything is well, the cherry 1958 Plymouth Fury on top of a delicious 1983 sundae. Arnie did about everything as wrong as you could do as a guy fed up with his minuscule lifestyle with the exception of fucking this car that he should have never bought in the first place, but hey, that’s rebellion for you. The superficial pleasures of life paraded as a killer and terribly jealous car named Christine pairs Carpenter at his best with his metaphors for the horrors of reality, so giving him the project to direct was nothing short of pure brilliance. It’s also a real spit in the face to those 1950’s Greaser guys that became a nostalgic obsession in the 80s thanks to films such as American Graffiti and Grease. And I appreciate the hell out of that.
Also, paired with what is Carpenter’s finest score for a film (next to Season of the Witch that is), that scene of Christine just rolling out of that gas station after the explosion on fire is worth every damn penny you paid to see the film.