80’s Monster Flix – The Golden Decade
One of the best parts of doing this blog the past 5 years has been the people I’ve met (both online and in person) who share the same passion for all things horror and monsters and insane. Today I present a great article by a returning guest to the blog and chain, Spencer Blohm, this time to talk about his 5 fave monster movies from the 80s. I saw them all in the theater when they came out and ended up buying them on VHS a few years later. Wish I had a damn VCR to watch them now!
The eighties. What a crazy time period, in the most general terms. In terms of horror? There was no other decade like it. Filmmakers took elements of classic Universal monster films and threw them into a centrifuge with the raunch and gore of H.G. Lewis style exploitation.
Here’s a look at some notable titles.
- Deadly Friend
Although best known for A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream, Wes Craven is the man behind some of the strangest horror films ever made. One that gets overlooked is Deadly Friend, which stars Kristy Swanson (who you may recognize from the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Swanson plays a young woman who dies and is resurrected by her nerdy neighbor, who is also an amature roboticist. But wouldn’t you know it, she glitches out from time to time, and has these sporadic impulses to kill. Still not sold? The movie can be summarized by the following three words: “decapitation by basketball.”
- The Beast Within
Loosely based on Edward Levy’s eponymous novel, this film takes many of the conventions of lycanthrope films and places the story in a small southern town. A young woman is impregnated by a giant cicada monster. The woman bears a child named Michael, who appears to be normal until his 17th birthday, when he begins to slowly transform into a cicada beast himself. The film’s high point (or nadir, depending on who you talk to) is the film’s outrageous transformation sequence. Seeing is believing. The script was written by Tom Holland, who would go on to script and direct Child’s Play.
- Killer Klowns From Outer Space
You could say that the story is a tad thin, but that confuses the point. This is what happens when special effects artists decide to direct films — the emphasis is placed entirely on visual trickery. The Chiodo Brothers directed this self-aware horror comedy, wherein a gang of killer clowns descend upon a small American town. What the film lacks in nuanced dialogue or character development, it makes up for with highly imaginative sequences (including the scene where we see the interior of their spaceship…the clowns hibernate in pods of cotton candy). There was also the memorable theme song provided by California punk band The Dickies.
There is a legion of “Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers” living beneath the city streets of New York. Legions of subterranean homeless people have come into contact with chemical waste, thus rendering them a bunch C.H.U.D.s. THe most memorable aspect of the film are the rather poorly constructed, fanged puppet heads. The film has been showcased pretty frequently on Robert Rodriguez’s El Rey Network (details about where you can watch it here) and stop by your local swap meet to find 70+ copies of the film on VHS.
You may know Stan Winston as the special effects wizard behind blockbusters such as Terminator and Jurassic Park. This was one of Winston’s only outings as director.The film centers around a grieving father in Appalachia whose son is killed in a vehicular accident by a group of reckless teenagers. The father goes to summon “Pumpkinhead,” a demon who lives in under a pumpkin patch. Not the smartest script in the world, but the effects are second to none. It’s the epitome of bad, special effects heavy, eighties horror films.
Pumpkinhead is one of my yearly (or at least every-other-yearly) picks for October horror movie junkying. That and the Millennium Halloween episode. The two choices have Lance Henriksen in common – that and they are both AWESOME!