Cassette tapes and catchphrase killers-Horror films in the 80’s

This is my second short look at a specific decade in the history of horror films. With the 1980’s we have my decade. This was the time when I first started to rent any kind of creepy, spooky and horrible VHS video tape horror movies, usually a couple every weekend when I was well, yes just a bit too young to really be seeing these kind of things.

But you know, I must have seen practically nearly all of the horror movies available (officially) in the late 80’s, some a good number of times. So what did we get in this decade which brought a new fresh take on scares and fear film?

Of course probably the biggest and most obvious film and soon series to make a huge impact was A Nightmare on Elmstreet. Director Wes Craven who died recently had already given us a small few very original and creative fear films such as The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes, but …Elmstreet was the movie which elevated him to horror filmmaking legend status. We had a new classic monster named Freddy Krugger to join the likes of Frankenstein’s monster, the mummy, Dracula. With the new bogeyman, soon he was joined by Jason in Friday the 13th and Michael Myers continued to slash and kill in their many sequels.

Italian horror continued to disturb with Cannibal Holocaust (banned soon after home video came along) and City of the living dead. The always flamboyant and inventive director Ken Russell gave us the unsettling head-trip Altered States. City of the living dead director Umberto Lenzi also gave us the nasty Eaten Alive! which soon disappeared onto the video nasty list.

The decade began with 1980 a very good year providing classics like The Fog from John Carpenter, the very first Friday the 13th (arguably the most chilling in the series) Italian master Dario Argento continued on his great run with his Suspiria sequel Inferno-again very surreal and hallucinatory as well as terrifying.

The decade gave birth to a good few dozen or more very infamous and extreme horror movies, which were in just a couple of years banned from the UK due to Mary Whitehouse and the film censorship laws. This did not stop keen fans tracking many or all of these movies down and a strong underground video tape trading circuit existed right until the early 2000’s when censorship rules were greatly relaxed.

Continuing on from the seventies, there were so many from different parts of the globe, many increasingly gore-filled and extreme in their scenes of killings and death due to advances in practical special effects and small but numerous international film studios and distributors. It was soon noticed that cheap horror films, like kung Fu movies made good money and fast.

The auteur filmmakers would still come out with impressive slightly arthouse but classic films like Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, which was great in many ways but did not actually please author Stephen King.

1981-All time genre classic An American Werewolf in London from John Landis. What a movie. Oh man, I think I actually recorded from tv and just watched it many, many times after that. Such a great film. The balance of comedy and terrifying horror was nailed just right. Added to the video nasty list we had from Italy The Beyond, The Burning and Cannibal Ferox. I’ve only seen the first of those, which is a good if confused movie.

A very young Sam Raimi gave us the soon cult surprise hit Evil Dead. Made on a low budget but actually extremely inventive visually and in direction and sound, this was a film which influenced many kinds of filmmakers for the next couple of decades. Joe Dante put out The Howling, which is often ignored or forgotten but I think it is fairly influential on werewolf movies even if the many sequels were mostly increasingly terrible.

In 1982 Creepshow was an interesting and unusual anthology film directed by George A Romero (Night of the living Dead, Martin) and with help from Stephen King. John Carpenter moved on into sci-fi horror with an update version of black and white B movie The Thing. At the time, this had special effects that were absolutely gruesome but also like nothing seen before, technically amazing. It also had an extremely suspenseful and dramatic screenplay.

1983 spat out stylish but possibly too simplistic lusty vampire film The Hunger from Tony Scott. All 80’s visuals and not enough of a story? David Cronenberg put out one of his genuine challenging and radical films in Videodrome. Dated to some extend today but still disturbing due to themes of sex, violence, voyeurism, and Freudian nightmarish imagery.

Into the mid-1980’s we saw The Company of Wolves from Neil Jordan which brought well known faery tales into a much darker vision. The first Children of the Corn film I personally did like and thought that while it was not one of the more visually over the top gore-filled bloody films, it had a strong feel of foreboding terror. Friday the 13th:The Final Chapter of course really was not at all. Gremlins was a fantastic mix up of creepy comic book horror with genuine emotional and warm moments. But 1984 gave us A Nightmare on Elmstreet and horror movies were changed for many years to come.

1985-We had Demons from Lamberto Bava (son of legendary Italian horror and B-movie director Mario) with the excessive but very creative monster and gore effects, aided by Dario Argento as producer. George Romero continued with zombies in Day of the Dead, the effects increasingly realistic thanks to FX legend Tom Savini. Troma films came along with their low-to-no budget films such as Class of Nuke Em High. Trashy, corny madness but like almost nothing else you would see. Cronenberg was back in ’86 with his own remake version of The Fly. This was a very significant and startling film. Of course coming from Cronenberg it was terrifying but intellectually challenging and stimulating while making want to puke a few times before the credits rolled. Henry: Portrait of a serial killer was banned in the UK quickly and with good reason really but it did stand out as a very different horror movie, as the film follows Henry almost from his point of view and has a number of challenging and unflinching scenes which question how we watch and why we watch horror films.

I have a number of possibly guilty pleasure from the 80’s horror movies and one of them is Maximum Overdrive, directed by horror author Stephen King. The plot is fairly bonkers nutty but it has a good mix of comedy and quick moving thrills and pulp horror.

A notable series personally was also the Poltergeist movies. The very young lead actress died tragically after the third film but these films each had a good strong script and repeatedly very good groundbreaking visual effects for the time.

1987 offered us Angel Heart from great Brit director Alan Parker- detective noir thriller with voodoo occult chills and Robert DeNiro as the devil, perfect. Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson put out his very first home made film Bad Taste, showing again like Sam Raimi with Evil Dead that literally anybody could made an original horror flick in their backyard if they had the desire and creativity. One of my own favourites Hellraiser came along from the amazingly talented playwright/author/artist/filmmaker Clive Barker of Liverpool UK. Influenced in ways by Hammer horror and Roger Corman’s Poe films, Hellraiser again really pushed special practical effects much further while featuring a number of very believable and captivating performances. The Lost Boys really took off in a big way, with the beautiful young male biker vampires and gothic rock soundtrack. Near Dark gave a fresh twist on how we might see vampires in modern times.

1988 brought to screens a memorable remake of The Blob, this time much more graphic with bloody horror and hysteria. We had the first Child’s Play movie and nasty foul-mouthed killer doll Chucky crawling up beside Freddy and Jason for attention. The Hellraiser sequel Hellbound was surprising as it actually moved on and progressed with the characters and opened up the world and themes of the original film even if it was badly edited toward the end of the film resulting in some confusion of plot. Ken Russell returned with another at times trippy and bizarre adaptation of Lair of the white worm, but we could always rely on him for that kind of thing. A second Phantasm movie attempted to compete with the increasingly OTT style of the Elmstreet and Friday the 13th sequels and it was entertaining for what it was. Wes Craven gave us a very underrated and unusual film called The Serpent and the Rainbow, which focused on Haiti voodoo zombies.

With the end of the decade we had Robert Englund (Freddy Krugger himself) directorial debut 976-Evil, which was unusual and a little camp but fun. The Church from Italy, looked fantastic but featured a fairly random plot toward the end mostly serving the many visual set pieces. The first Puppet Master film was actually very different and featured some really impressive effects work with the nasty little killer puppets. From Japan we had the massively insane and terrifying in a very different way Tetsuo:Iron Man film. This was a nightmare mash-up of David Lynch, Cronenberg , cyberpunk and science fiction.

So a number of the big popular horror series including A Nightmare on Elmstreet, Friday the 13th, Halloween continued on through the decade in varying levels of quality while their iconic killers and monsters became mainstream pop culture characters somewhat diminishing their original terrifying impact on the big screen. We can see thought that there were in-between the many cheap and disposable video nasty titles from around the world a good number of films which did push the limits of visual effects, horror storytelling and the style of horror through the 80’s.


James E. Parsons is a SF/Horror author. His first two SF books, Orbital Kin and Minerva Century are available from all good bookshops and sites now including Waterstones, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, WHSmith. His first horror novel due to be published in 2017.








The beloved British anthology comic 2000 AD has been published weekly since February 1977. The 40th Anniversary Special (22 February 2017) of “the galaxy’s greatest comic” features Judge Dredd, Zombo, Ro-Busters, Durham Red, Sláine, Nikolai Dante, and a 2000 AD 40th Anniversary Primer. Cover artwork by Carlos Ezquerra with a variant cover by David…

via COMIC REVIEW: 2000 AD 40th Anniversary Special — Geek Syndicate

Let’s be clear from the start: Stephen King’s book The Shining and Stanley Kubrick’s film The Shining are two completely different animals. All further understanding and appreciation of either incarnation spawns from that fact. Yes, the source material for the film is the book, but it’s just that: source material that Kubrick used to mold…

via The Misunderstood Perfection of Shelley Duvall in Kubrick’s The Shining — This Is Horror

Class-Doctor Who spin off series 2016-short review

Are you a huge Whovian? Been watching Doctor Who for decades, years or only just begun recently? What do you like most about the show? Have you seen any of the spin-off related show from over the years such as Sarah Jane Adventures or K-9?

At the end of 2016 we were taken to a familiar school in the world of Who over the years, Coal Hill academy. While there was a break from the Doctor and his own adventures last year, this location and a group of teenage characters came along to keep us entertained.

CLASS does come from the same place as Doctor Who (and even features him at the end of the first episode) but it is quite a surprisingly different show. This may have shocked or actually upset a great many people judging from the very mixed response in the last couple of months since it first aired in the UK on BBC3.

The eight episode series does have a loose story thread but starts with individual tales. This episodes are similar to quite a few Who episodes but edge closer to other sci-fi films and tv shows such as The Twilight Zone, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, X-Files and more. The series had been aired late night on Mondays on BBC1 due to the gore, blood, violence and occasional swearing at times.

A good few loyal Doctor Who fans may have been very surprised, and I know some have just not been impressed or happy with it at all. Why is this? It is really so bad?

Since Doctor Who successfully returned long-term in the mid-00’s and has been on the small screen ever since, the show creators have taken some inspiration and chances with that success at times, with casting, scripts and other projects. One successful early spin-off show which quickly gained a big fanbase was Torchwood. It was connected to Who and came from there but had its own set of characters and stories goin on separately. People loved that show and especially the lead character Captain Jack Harkness and his golden age Hollywood style adventure hero antics and fascinating sexuality. That show though did largely stay in the same area where the whole family could watch it together, all ages.

This probably does not really apply with CLASS. Your very small kids should not see most of this. I mean, its not as excessive as any actual 15 or 18 rated horror films but it does almost get to that level, almost. Some fans therefore may feel this betrayed where it comes from and what it should be coming from the world of Doctor Who.

This isn’t the main issue that most people have had with the show. Usually reactions I’ve read or heard take aim of the low or clichéd quality of the scriptwriting. Some thought the characters were terrible, just really predictable. Others may have commented on the acting.

For me personally, I actually did enjoy the series for most of the time and like a couple of people I know, I think it probably did get better toward the end. Some thought the opposite was true.

Well look, they couldn’t just go and make another Torchwood (though the fans have been waiting for that show to return for years now) and in a way it is like seeing a more naughty, offensive and slightly subversive part of the Doctor Who show where the lead character goes missing and the cameras turn to others around him, but for eight episodes.

I’m over twice the age of the young characters but I could mostly still believe them and understand their lives, even if sometimes maybe too tragic.

Like Doctor Who over the last decade and more it is brave at times to include people and issues relating to our modern times- gay characters, people of ethnic minority background, other countries and not have them simply be ‘joke’ characters but the ones we connect with and invest our interest in. But really the best character is Ms. Quill, who comes from Doctor Who and she acts like he ever rarely does. She is regularly aloof, obnoxious, sarcastic, funny, bored, self-interested even nasty. So then of course this all makes her very watchable and entertaining all the way through. And like the present Doctor at least, she is not young-well, she is probably middle aged at a push. While most of the series looks at each individual young character and their issues while some random wild alien invasion takes place, toward the end Miss Quill is revealed as a very interesting character.

The series comes to a highly dramatic and possibly OTT ending but this does probably leave things open for the show to return. If that will happen is yet to be confirmed. I would like to see the series return and maybe some of the flaws in the scripts and writing could be smoothed out with it next time.


James E. Parsons is a SF/Horror author. His SF books Orbital Kin & Minerva Century are available now from Waterstones, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, WHSmith, and other good bookshops. His first horror book is published later in 2017.