As with all the lists that I do, I end up remembering a ton of stuff that goes beyond my intended number of entries. So here are five more horror movie gems from the ’80s that I feel are overlooked. Like I stated before, they may have a presents in pop culture somewhere in the world, but I hardly hear of them in my little corner of the universe. So here are some horror movies I love that deserve love in return.
1. House II: The Second Story (1987)
An old and haunted house has new owners that soon discover the sinister secrets that surrounds the home and a crystal skull.
A departure from the original, House II is a horror comedy that tells the story of Jesse, a yuppie that returns to his childhood home. After discoving a picture of his great-great grandfather holding a crystal skull (and note that the skull be buried with him), Jesse and his friend decide to dig up his great-great grandfathers body to get the skull. When they exhume the coffin, they soon discover that the dead adventurer is now undead and willing to help them stop the evil they just unleashed. The whole thing comes to a head at a Halloween party with the whole world at stake.
This movie has some really neat beats that tried to tell us there was more to the world than we saw. John Ratzenberger this time makes an appearance to round out the Cheers connection, and his character is awesome. He is a repair man that just happens to carry a rapier in his toolbox and eludes to an unseen monster hunting group of “repair men”. The movie is ripe with zombies, demons, and creatures from other dimensions, even a super cute green dog/caterpillar thing that they keep as a pet. Worth a view and will always have a place in my heart.
2. Dreamscape (1984)
A young psychic is recruited by the government to test their new dream sharing technology. After navigating through people’s nightmares, he is given the task of implanting an idea into the President’s dreams.
Alex Garner is a psychic who enjoys his carefree life. After running afoul of some gangsters, Alex joins up with a government funded project that allows psychics to enter test subjects dreams to help them cope with their fears. The focus of these experiments is to enter the Presidents dreams and help cure him of the nightmares he is having regarding nuclear war. When one of the test subjects dies during one of the dream experiments, Alex believes that one of his fellow psychics is to blame. With the fate of the President and the whole world at stake, Alex must uncover the murder and the shadowy conspiracy that surrounds the project.
I was obsessed with this movie as a kid. Going into dreams would be kick-ass and fighting the monsters that lurk there. Not too many monsters in this flick but the one that is stands out and is worth the price of admission…at least to me (lol). Dennis Quaid is great in this movie and I was a big fan of his through out the ’80s (even Innerspace). The nightmare landscape was very well done in this film and maybe not a horror movie per say, it’s still a great Sci-fi / horror hybrid with good scares.
3. The Gate (1987)
After their parents go outta town, two siblings decide to invite friends over. Too bad the hole left in the backyard after lightning strikes a tree is a gateway to hell.
After a nightmare wakes him, 12 year old Glen finds that lightning has struck a tree in his backyard. While investigating the site the next day with his best friend Terry, the boys find a geode while Glen accidently dripped blood in to the hole after getting a splinter. Glen’s parents leave for the weekend, leaving Glen’s older sister in charge. After the boys read from weird writings left on a notepad where the now opened geode was sitting, all hell breaks loose as small demons besiege the house and they learn not to trust anything that they see.
First off these demons scared the shit outta me as a kid. Hell, I still find them creepy because the stop motion used for them is on point. This movie has everything when it comes to trippy mind games akin to Phantasm. The little demons have a lot of tricks up their sleeves that include shape changing and a zombie. This movie is also a great ’80s time capsule that paint heavy metal musicians as practitioners of the dark arts. Great movie. Oh, and bonus points for being Stephen Dorff’s first movie.
4. The Lady in White (1988)
While locked in the school’s cloak room over Halloween night, young Frankie witnesses the murder of a little girl that happened many years before. After that frightful night, Frankie is now stalked by the killer.
When a famed horror author returns home, he recounts a tale that happened to him in 1962. After nine year old Frankie is locked in the school cloak room by two bullies, he witnesses the ghostly reenactment of a murder of a little girl that happened 10 years before. Later that evening a man draped in shadow comes to the cloak room in search of something, startled by Frankie the man tries to choke him. Blacking out, Frankie is soon in a dream like state and meets the little girl whose ghost he just saw. Coming to, Frankie is saved by his father giving him CPR. As the story unfolds Frankie befriends the Little girl ghost and helps her to find her mother and her murderer.
In a story that is equal parts Stephen King and camp fire tale, The Lady in White is a classic ghost story that has some very interesting ideas. The idea of a ghost being still “alive” in a sense but trapped to relive their fate over and over again was a neat touch to the story. When the time comes to play out their death, they have no control and are whisked away to the horror of their demise over and over again. The whole small town serial killer mystery is one I really got in to as a kid and this movie was an instant classic around our house. Bonus points for starring Witness’s Lukas Haas and Alex Rocco as his father.
5. Cat’s Eye (1985)
Adapted from Stephen King’s short stories, and an original he wrote for the movie, Cat’s Eye follows the travels of a tomcat through two tales of real life horror to reach a little girl in trouble by a paranormal creature.
We begin with a simple tomcat. He hears the voice of a little girl pleading for help. Following the voice on the wind he ends up walking in to the first tale in this small anthology movie. The first tale, Quitters, Inc. focuses on Dick Morrison, a man struggling to quit smoking. After joining a company called Quitters, Inc., Dick is tormented and threatened by the company until he can quit. With the safety of his family in the balance, will he give in or give up? In the second tale, The Ledge, we follow a gambler named Johnny Norris. After sleeping with a casino owners estranged wife, Johnny is forced into a bet that may cost him his life. Either walk the entire way around a buildings penthouse ledge, or go to jail for a crime he didn’t commit. Still following the little girls voice the cat finally finds her in the last tale, General. After finding the girl, the tomcat is adopted and named General. During his first night at his new home, General’s quest is finally revealed. He must save the little girl from a breath stealing troll that lives within her bedroom wall.
As a kid Quitters, Inc. was my least favorite of the tales leading up to the finale. Over time and being an ex-smoking adult, the story has much more weight and horror. The Ledge was always a good tale of suspense and a fine example of real life horror created by its setting and how evil plain ol’ humans can be. Honestly the highlight of this movie for me then and now is the finale tale, General. Based on the myth of cats stealing babies breath, it paints a picture of guardian cats that have been protecting children since the dawn of time (yes, I read a little more in to it than what is shown). The troll is awesome and is a great villain that feeds on the breath of innocent children. So evil and so powerful in a small little body. Just talking about it gets my mind spinning at the sheer awesomeness of the possibilities of a world of unseen monsters. Thank you again Stephen King for shaping my childhood.
Well there you have it. Another list of five of my favorite horror films. The best thing about horror is how it can be intertwined into any type of story and be as abstract or realistic as the author and artist see fit. Some may not view all on this list as “horror” because of lack of gore or blood, but horror in its truest form is something to shock and titillate and I think these movies fit that bill. Grab some popcorn and enjoy this Halloween season.