I’m straying from usual go-to form of doing these lists in milestone anniversary manner as last year’s shit show threw a machete in the machine; and I’m sure as hell not going to wait ten years to write it so here we go nuggets- Let’s talk about the year of our Horror Lord, 1980.
1980 begat the decade that brought us some of the most beloved horror classics and birthed an entirely new generation of fans with the Slasher enterprise. Although, many can argue over which horror franchise exactly started the slasher fiasco. Was it Halloween, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, or Black Christmas? Technically I’d say all are right. However, I want to say Friday the 13th, which of course debuted in 1980, did really kick off the slasher sequel phenonium the best and set the gold standard for what a good, classic 80s’ cheesy-gorefest should look like; and keep you coming back for more.
1980 was also the grand year of Jamie Lee Curtis with who clocks in with a solid three films on this list. After her massive success in her debut with Halloween, she was a definitely a hot commodity in the genre bizz. And for some reason or another, cannibals seem to be the popular go-to this year with more than handful of films at our disposal in this ONE year alone that include Cannibal Holocaust, Eaten Alive!, and Long Island Cannibal Massacre.
I don’t know man, those are all great, but it’s all about the man-eating oversized alligator for this horror girl over here that gets me excited to write this up.
So let’s plundge into those delightful, swampy waters of horror’s best from 1980!
10. Motel Hell
Motel Hell doesn’t get a lot of credit for being one of the great satirical, dark horrors of it’s kind. So let’s rectify that bullshit right now. It’s my goofy, guilty pleasure of this list and by judging from the above image, why question it?
Motel Hell is like the Scary Stories books, bridging your way into that gateway of horror with enough gore while having a chuckle at the same time. Hell, even the entry from the books “Wonderful Sausage” kind of reminds me of this movie. Which might be why I love it so much. Now, if you are familiar with “Wonderful Sausage” that’s really all you need to know, but for those who need a little context: A pair of siblings run a motel attached to a farm, and specialize in selling some of the world’s finest sausages… I’m fairly certain you get it now.
9. Terror Train
Ahh, here we go. The first of the Scream Queen Jamie Lee Curtis 1980 trilogy begins with Terror Train. The premise is simple enough and formulaic as far as teenage slasher pictures are concerned. A gang of fraternity guys and sorority gals charter a train to party yet a revenge, seeking murderer that is traumatized by past events is on board waiting to cut them down one-by-one. So what makes this one so special?
Well, it’s on a train for one. Which is pretty cool in itself as there’s really no where to go but so it really prepares the victim to either fight, or throw yourself to your death off a 100 mph moving train. I mean, that’s pretty terrifying. Also it’s Jamie Lee vs another Masked Maniac. It’s pretty cool for what it is.
Before there was Buffalo Bill, we had Frank Zito. And man, he knew how to induce the skivvies all too well.
Coming out of one of the most vicious decades of prolific crimes against women (Ted Bundy, Ed Kemper), MANIAC flies on those fears in a very grotesque yet satisfyingly manner. With Joe Spinall writing and starring in the title role as a madman serial killer who does unspeakable things to his women victims, most notably taking their scalps and parading it on some of his mannequin heads with his buddy, horror icon Tom Savani behind the special effects, Maniac is a tried and true entry not just for this decade; but for the entire genre alone as a stand-alone WTF-fest that will forever haunt us.
7. Cannibal Holocaust
Not for the faint of heart, Cannibal Holocaust ranks right up there as one of the most fucked up films of all time. People had no idea that what they were looking at was real or just fake. The power of found footage-style horror movies all began here folks. And it came in with a BANG.
Love it or hate it, the message is clear. It is undoubtedly, one of the most highly gruesome and shocking films of the twentieth century. But the catch is, it’s well written too with a purpose. If you can get past all the gore, rape, and death (and if you’ve never went down this film’s rabbit hole, I can’t stress this enough to proceed with caution as it could trigger some anxiety in some), especially the animal killing scenes as they killed REAL ANIMALS on the set. Which I want to also stress, do NOT condone and have never watched the film since learning it. However, it does have it place in the ranks for being a breakthrough movie in its own by placing the point on the viewers themselves. Hey if you haven’t seen it and you’re curious, watch at your own risk.
Sometimes all we want in a horror film is giant, oversized homicidal animal wreaking havoc. Films like JAWS and King Kong have shown us the way and now enter a cult favorite: ALLIGATOR. While it may not be seen on an OSCAR level as the former mentioned, ( and I goddamn could care less) it packs a
punch, erm, chomp as one of the great horror films of the decade that is severely under-appreciated.
A tale as old as time: The star here, Ramon the alligator, is bought for a little girl by her mother as a new pet. But the fuckhead father doesn’t want it around so poor Ramon is flushed down the toilet as a baby and this just breaks my heart. He survives in the sewers by eating dead rats leftover by a lab who were experimented on with growth hormones by some dickwad scientists. And hey, you guessed it: he gets good and goddamn HUGE and people start disappearing. And you know what I say? Screw ’em. Poor Ramon could have had a great life and this little guy gets flushed down a toilet no less and then mutates into a freak reptile. Bad humans. CHOMP, CHOMP.
5. Prom Night
The Scream Queen Jamie Lee Curtis is disco-dancing her way into the top five spot with the classic teen slasher, Prom Night. Much like in Terror Train above, the antagonist is fueled by revenge with the death of a girl bullied by her classmates. The kids responsible are now dancing the Bungalow at the Senior Prom by being picked off one by one. Also worth noting the late, great Leslie Neilson plays the High School Principal and throws a bit of mystery in the mix of this “who dunnit” mystery slasher epic.
The film is exactly what it’s supposed to be but so much more fun that it should be. Sort of like Sleepaway Camp– you just gotta love it and if you don’t, I don’t want to know you.
4. The Changeling
I might get some blowback for putting this one high above others. But eh, it’s my list so I’ll have my moment. The Changeling starring the forever fantastic George C. Scott is by far, one of the most beautifully done haunted house films done in the genre and I’ll proudly die on this hill,
Scott may have been the reason this movie is so good, and that’s ok. He plays a widowed man suffering from the loss of his family. He moves into a new home that is obviously got some spooky shit going on it; like the ghost of a boy who died in the home. He enlists the assistance of his realtor (Trish Van Devere, Scott’s real-life wife), and things go WOO-SAW from there. It’s tension driven and a real nail-biter. Again, probably one of the best haunted house movies ever done but hey, that’s just the humble opinion of a horror-retro fan blogger.
3. The Fog
And now we’ve come to the end of our JLC holy trinity with John Carpenter’s The Fog. Beyond the Halloween star’s presence, the film plays host to mega horror stars like Adrianne Barbeau, Hal Holbrook, Janet Leigh, and the man, the myth, the mustache, Tom Atkins. And to boot, is the most atmospheric, visionally appeasing piece done by Carpenter even ’till today along with its colorful cast.
A California coastal town prepares to commemorate its centenary when a host of supernatural shit starts to happen. Inanimate objects spring to life. We stumble upon a dark secret about the town’s founding. Then a mysterious iridescent fog descends upon the village, and more people start to die. It’s a real wild ride once it gets going and a fun one at that towards the end.
2. Friday the 13th
And for those wondering, Jason’s birthday is June 13th, 1946. Although it’s common knowledge now, I gloat in the fact I’ve known forever because Jason is my birthday twin, (don’t get it twisted though- I was born 40 years later). As a woman, I gotta hit that one home. Anyways, the first Friday the 13th began in 1980 and had a sequel every goddamn year in the decade- with each and every one charming us into a Voorhees hypnosis clamoring for more until the steam finally let out in the early 90s’ with that really weird Jason Goes To Hell flick. Yeah I know, some of you really probably love it and that’s totally ok. But it’s also fair to say the films lost their way and it was time for zombie Jason to take a breather.
As the Jason saga unfolded throughout the 80s’, the first movie in the beloved series is a stand-alone masterpiece. The only entry in the films to NOT have Jason as the maniac, but instead his mother. Sorry if I just spoiled it for any of you who haven’t seen it but at this point in the game, I don’t even know what to say to those that haven’t except WHAT IN THE FUCK and just click the link below to remedy that please. Sheesh.
And to the surprise of no one, Stephen King’s The Shining adapted by Stanley Kubrick is of course going to be number one! And why not? It’s just about the perfect damn, film to just about everyone- well except Stephen King but goddammit it’s good enough for me.
Inspired by his stay at the Stanley Hotel, King wrote one of the scariest stories of his career about a severely haunted inn at the heart of the Colorado Rockies. Rocked by numerous ghouls and poltergeists, Jack (Nicholson) and family are selected to tend to the Overlook in the downtime winter months. This doesn’t bode well with Jack’s highly intuitive son, as he senses danger before they even get there. From creepy hacked up twin girls hanging out in hallways to blood-soaked elevators, The Shining is an experience and a rite of passage for every horror fan. You just haven’t peaked until it hits you in your eyeballs and gives you multiple panic attacks.
As always, sound off below and let me hear your favorite from this list or tell me what a loser I am and add your own! Pick your poison!