Scream, Queens! The Top 40 Horror Films of The 80’s!

For the last couple of months in The Daily Briefs, I’ve been counting down my list of the top 40 horror movies of the 80’s, and now it’s time to unveil #1. But first, here’s a look back at #40 – 2.

Thank you for all of your comments, and I hope I triggered some fun memories. But now it’s your turn! What are your favorite horror films from that bygone era? Do you prefer the Jason franchise, or Freddy? Any obscurities you think should be more well known? Let’s see your lists!

40. Rats:Night Of Terror
39. Visiting Hours
38. The Boogens
37. Blood Beach
36. New Year’s Evil
35. The Beast Within
34. Dolls
33. I, Madman
Director Tibor Takacs followed up his surprise hit The Gate with this sadly overlooked, well-crafted slasher, written by David Chaskin (who wrote A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddie’s Revenge). Sadly, there’s no gay subtext in this one, but it does have Jenny Wright as the plucky heroine, and 80′s favorite Clayton Rohner as her boyfriend, as they deal with a mad killer who has sprung to life from the pages of the pulp novel she’s reading.

32. Curtains
31. Night Warning
30. Christmas Evil
29. Scanners
28. The Howling
27. Pieces
26. Deadly Eyes
25. Demons
24. The Lair Of The White Worm
Ken Russell brought Bram Stoker‘s novella to the big screen …as only he could. Hugh Grant stars with the faboo Amanda Donohoe, who gives one of the most memorable, go-for-broke performances of the decade. If, like me, your idea of a good time is watching Catherine Oxenberg bound and gagged, dangling over the mouth of a hell snake pit while wearing white panties and a bra … then this is your movie!

23. Silent Night, Deadly Night
22. The Burning
21. Motel Hell
20. The Thing
19. An American Werewolf In London
18. Terror Train
17. PIN
16. Hell Night
15. The Funhouse
14. Fright Night
13. Friday The 13th, Part Two
12. Child’s Play
11. A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge
Freddy’s Revenge will always have its place in horror history. So much has been written about the “subtext,” but let’s face it, there’s nothing sub about it. This is the gayest horror film ever made (besides Showgirls, of course), and while it’s not the scariest Elm Street, or the most well-made Elm Street, it will always be the most memorable Elm Street. Here’s one of my favorite scenes, as Jessie (Mark Patton) dances in his room, before he’s discovered by Mrs. Muir, and fetus Meryl Streep.

10. The Children

I hated going to the Drive-In when i was a kid. First, we were never allowed to go to the snack bar. My mother would pack some sandwiches and RC Colas, and that’s all we were allowed to have. Then we had to contend with mosquitos and bees. It was never a happy experience, but the greatest time I had at the Drive-In was when I was ten years old, and my sister took me to see a double feature. I honestly can’t remember what the main feature was, but I will always remember the second film, The Children. It had kids … killing their parents, which my sister and I found hilarious … and cathartic. A busload of happy schoolkids accidentally drive through a toxic gas cloud, causing the children to spontaneously develop black fingernails … and a burning desire to kill everyone. Did I mention burning desire? How bout a hug?

9. Poltergeist

One of the great special effects extravaganzas of the early 80’s, it stills holds up incredibly well thirty years later. As much as I love the set pieces (the pool of skeletons, Jobeth William’s ceiling tumble, the … clown attack (shudder)), It’s the little moments I remember the best. The maggots on the chicken leg, the crawling steak, the thunderstorm countdown (for years, I tried using that little trick when lightning flashed). A true classic.

8. Sleepaway Camp

What the F*ckety-F*ck?

That’s the only way to describe this batshit teen camp slasher. Poor Angela is not having a good time at sleepaway camp. She’s constantly being picked on, and what’s odd is that the people who torment her keep turning up dead. That’s really … all I can say without revealing too much. But I want to give special attention to Aunt Martha, (played by the faboo Desiree Gould) who walked in from a completely different film (a film I would love to see, BTW), and stole both scenes she was in.

In the Broadway version, Aunt Martha will be played by John Cameron Mitchell (if Desiree is not available).

7. The Evil Dead

I had to decide which of Sam Raimi’s 80’s horror classics to include, and I went with the original, because it provides a more visceral horror experience, and was really the template for low-budget horror filmmaking in the 80’s. Evil Dead 2 was loads of fun with its slapstick gore and “everything including the kitchen sink” approach, but the original was something fresh and unique, and still holds up over thirty years later (well, most of it. Some of the effects are wince-worthy, which is understandable given the time, and I can really do without the Tree Rape scene).

6. Happy Birthday To Me

Melissa Sue Anderson was really trying to shake Mary Ingalls off in the early 80’s. First she became one of Girls With The Power, and then she made this Canadian (yay again!) slasher pic, about a clique of high school kids getting offed one by one. Beside the presence of Melissa, the movie is best known for the ending, which TPTB admit … they pretty much made up on the spot. But it’s so cuckoo it ends up working.

And I have to give a special shoutout to the closing theme song, which is performed by Syreeta (of Billy Preston and Syreeta “With You I’m Born Again” fame). It’s the THIRD GREATEST 80’S HORROR FILM CLOSING THEME SONG. Enjoy the deranged fragility!

5. The Fog

My favorite John Carpenter film, and one of his most underrated. Halloween was such a pop culture milestone that when Carpenter presented this followup, it was met with scorn and disappointment from people who weren’t expecting a classic ghost story. The opening narration from John Houseman, which leads into the fog-enshrouded coastline and the credits, is one of Carpenter’s greatest moments. And everything, from the wonderful score, to the cast of Carpenter … regulars?, works splendidly. And let me tell you how much I love the faboo Adrienne Barbeau. First, her character’s name is Stevie. Plus she had a fabulous beach house, and she had my all-time dream job … A LIGHTHOUSE DJ!
Of course, The Fog also has the dubious distinction of giving us what may be the absolute worst remake in history.

4. Day of The Dead

Like The Fog, Day Of The Dead is another follow-up to a classic film that received nothing but scorn upon its release. George Romero hit the jackpot with Night Of The Living Dead, and its sequel Dawn Of The Dead is, in my opinion, the greatest horror film ever made. But this 1985 continuation was not well regarded, to put it mildly. As I’ve mentioned before, I love claustrophobic horror movies, and this fit the bill perfectly, as it took place mostly underground, which is the last place you want to be when the inevitable zombie onslaught begins.

3. Prom Night

Disco Death! Five young schoolkids taunt a fellow classmate to death (that falling pane of glass was just … overkill, literally), and years later at the senior prom, someone … exacts revenge! Jamie Lee Curtis has said this was her least favorite slasher film, but it’s one of my favorites. But I can’t quite figure out why. The photography is shockingly muddy (we’re talking Lucille Ball in Mame), and the characters are either forgettable or unlikable (i found myself rooting for Classic Bitch Wendy to get away, simply because she was the most interesting character in the film).

But there’s something compelling about watching these snotty kids get their comeuppance, and the ending is undeniably sad (if inevitable). And then there’s the fabulous soundtrack, which does contain THE #1 GREATEST 80’S HORROR MOVIE CLOSING THEME SONG. It’s called “Fade To Black,” performed by Gordene Simpson, and it reveals the entire plot of the movie in a classic power ballad. It’s been a permanent part of my iPod for years.

2. Night Of The Creeps/Night Of The Comet

It’s difficult to do horror satire successfully, but the films tied at #2 not only achieve that goal, but they also work as straight horror films, and in the case of the latter film, as romantic fluff.

Night Of The Creeps isn’t very well known, but it should be. Alien slugs crash to earth, turning frat kids into zombies. Two frat pledges discover the grisly truth, and try to fight the invasion. Oh, did I mention they’re at Corman University? If that means something to you, then you’ll probably enjoy this underrated gem. And I think this may have been the first time I ever heard the expression “Screaming Like Banshees.”

Part horror, part sci-fi, part romance, Night Of The Comet stars Catherine Mary Stewart and Kelli Maroney as Valley Girl sisters who survive when a comet brings the zombie apocalypse. Featuring Mary Woronov, Chakotay and an awesome 80’s synth soundtrack, it’s a lot of fun, with some actual scares along the way. A perfect 80’s time capsule.


I’ve mentioned before that i love claustrophobic horror films, and it probably started with this Canadian (yay!) classic, which is my choice as the greatest slasher film ever made. Unlike the anonymous chum fed to Jason and the rest of the slasher Gods, the kids in My Bloody Valentine are actually likable, and when they venture into the bowels of the earth, it becomes a crapshoot who will survive.

If you get a chance, check out the Special Edition, which restores almost ten minutes of footage that was deemed too extreme for the theatrical release. It’s worth it just for the … laundromat scene. And who can forgot the closing theme “The Ballad Of Harry Warden,” which explains the plot in a creepy “Edmund Fitzgerald”-esque way. It’s the second greatest 80’s horror movie closing theme song (between Prom Night and Happy Birthday To Me).

Okay, your turn!

80's Pop Culture Expert, Shooting At The Walls Of Heartache.