• ERIC BUTLER

1983 - Top Heavy In Horror

After 2 packed years of important or genre-defining films, horror seems to have hit a bit of a speed bump in 1983. While there are a handful of standouts, there was a lot of filler and people trying to bandwagon onto the trends of the last 3 years or so. Let's get into it ...

We've been following Cronenberg's rise since 1975 as a director, and while Videodrone was a bomb at the box office I think it's one of his top 3 films. Now considered a cult classic, this movie is one of the best examples of both body horror and science fiction horror. While he's had a film almost every year I've covered, this is the beginning of his genius for me. You can stream for free on Peacock.


Blurb - A programmer at a TV station that specializes in adult entertainment searches for the producers of a dangerous and bizarre broadcast.


Note - Much of this trailer was done on a Commodore 64 computer.


Psycho II is an important film in my eyes because of the writer, Tom Holland. As we discussed in the 1982 post, his script from The Beast Within was used and it gave him the confidence to pursue more writing and fewer acting gigs. This lead to his writing Psycho 2. At first, the producers were looking to make a made-for-TV movie that wouldn't even bring back Anthony Perkins as Norman. However, Holland's script was so good Perkins jumped at the chance to portray the character he made famous 23 years earlier.


With Perkins on board and the producers happy with the script, the movie was green-lit for the big screen. It went on to do well at the box office and receive critical success which lead to Holland stepping away from acting and focusing on getting more writing gigs. Of course, he planned to use his success to springboard his career into the directing chair. We'll see more from him in 1985. Stream it on Peacock.


Blurb - After twenty-two years of psychiatric care, Norman Bates attempts to return to a life of solitude, but the specters of his crimes - and his mother - continue to haunt him.



Sleepaway Camp continued the slasher at camp sub-genre and came away as a surprise hit and cult classic. It contains a number of fun kills, and interesting characters that scream early-80s in appearance and actions. The shock ending may be the reason so many loved it, and man is it shocking when you see it for the first time.


Interesting note - in an industry that often hires people 18+ to play underage characters, Felissa Rose is only 13 in this picture. She's wasn't old enough to buy a ticket to see her acting debut. Stream on tubi, Peacock, IMDBTV, and Shudder.



And just like that, Cronenberg is back. The Dead Zone came out at the end of the year to modest box office money but big critical acclaim. One of 3 movies based on Stephen King novels to come out in 1983. While it was the first to take place in the fictional town of Castle Rock in the books, the movie came out 2 months after Cujo. Cronenberg pulls back from the amazing special effects his previous movies employed and instead focuses on tight storytelling and amazing performances from a "before they were all-stars" cast. This movie


Walken is amazing as the central character and we get a taste of Martin Sheen as a politician years before he's President. The Dead Zone is another of the top-3 Cronenberg pictures. You can stream on Paramount+ or Amc+.


Blurb - A man awakens from a coma to discover he has a psychic ability.



The 2nd Stephen King book to take place in Castle Rock is Cujo. While it is a sequel of sorts to Dead Zone in the books, as it makes several references to the previous novel, the movies remove all these references since different studios produced the 2 films.


A couple of fun facts from the movie - there were 5 Saint Bernards used during filming. Many times they had to have their tails tied down because they were so happy during filming, their tails wagged. A rottweiler was brought on set to use for some of the more scary scenes as the Saint Bernards just didn't have it in them.


King thinks this is one of the more successful adaptations of his work, and he praises Dee Wallace's performance. Stream it on amc+.


Blurb - Cujo, a friendly St. Bernard, contracts rabies and conducts a reign of terror on a small American town.



The 3rd Stephen King movie of 1983 is Christine. King was so big at the time, that the movie was purchased before the book was even written. This is the film Carpenter pivoted to after the flop of The Thing and being removed from Firestarter(another King adaptation). You can stream it on PlutoTv.


Blurb - A nerdish boy buys a strange car with an evil mind of its own and his nature starts to change to reflect it.




Not every horror movie that came out in 1983 was rated R. One of the scariest is the PG masterpiece released by Disney, Something Wicked This Way Comes. Man, did this movie give me the creeps when I first saw it.


I think this movie always gave me a soft spot for Jason Robards. He was so perfect as the older father of a young boy. Of course, at the time you don't really get it, but looking back at it with the perspective of a father ... man he killed it. And on the other side of that coin of perfection is Jonathan Pryce as Mr. Dark. He is such a silver-tongued devil in this film. He shines in the role. So if you want to watch it, I have bad news. I can't find it on any service - including Disney+ - and you can't buy it on DVD or Blu-ray without paying collector prices. I just hope they get it on Disney+ sooner than later.


Blurb - In a small American town, a diabolical circus and its demonic proprietor prey on the townsfolk.




Another PG scarefest based on the TV show, Twilight Zone the Movie used 4 directors - Steven Spielberg, George Miller, Joe Dante, and John Landis - to direct different segments of the movie. This movie was hit with scandal when a helicopter crashed and killed 3 people - Vic Morrow and 2 children. It led to new safety procedures in the film industry. While the critics were split on the film, it was a box office hit. Stream it on Starz.


Blurb - Four horror and science fiction segments, directed by four famous directors, each of them being a new version of a classic story from Rod Serling's landmark television series.



House of the Long Shadows brought together horror heavyweights: Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and John Carradine. This would be the 24th time Cushing and Lee starred together and sadly, their last. A throwback to the days when horror was a bit campier and lighthearted. It's just cool to see them together and working at the craft they all so dearly loved. Looks like you can stream it on Youtube.


Blurb - An American author finds a dilapidated Welsh manor perfect for writing until the residents host a bizarre family reunion.



Before he became a director of action films, Tony Scott's first movie was a slick-looking vampire flick starring David Bowie and Susan Sarandon called The Hunger. You can stream it on HBOMax.


Blurb - A love triangle develops between a beautiful yet dangerous vampire, her cellist companion, and a gerontologist.



Are you ready for your WTF did I just watch moment? You'll find it here in Xtro. More HP Lovecraft than any other kind of extraterrestrial, Xtro pulls no punches. Good luck finding it, I'm going to guess Youtube.


Blurb - An alien creature impregnates a woman who gives birth to a man that was abducted by aliens three years ago. The man reconnects with his wife and son for a sinister purpose.



The Keep is based on the F. Paul Wilson novel, this is Michael Mann's 2nd feature film before he goes on a run of making incredible Oscar-worthy films. Many hated the movie then and still do, and when you read Mann's original cut is over 3.5 hours long you can see what the issue might be. This is the first Hollywood film by Ian McKellen (Gandolf). It did not do well in the theater and Mann ran back to TV to create Miami Vice. It's a cult favorite now, but the studio is reluctant to release it on DVD until 2017. You have to rent/buy it if you want to stream.


Blurb - Nazis are forced to turn to a Jewish historian for help in battling the ancient demon they have inadvertently freed from its prison.



Dennis Quaid was in this money grab. Jaws 3-D was Lea Thompson's film debut. I hate to say I remember seeing it in the theater and liking it but I was only 8 so don't hold it against me. Wow, it's on Netflix.


Blurb - It's Jaws but in 3-D or something ...



And we return to the gallery of movies that affected my childhood and my love of certain films, actors, or genres. 1983 had some amazing comedies, but I want to highlight 3 films.


The first 2 are the last pictured, Nate and Hayes and Wargames. These 2 movies are special because they remind me of one of the best days I spent with my father when I was 8. He had a friend in town and that day we went to see Wargames in the theater in town, have Pizza for dinner, and then see Nate and Hayes playing at the Army Base theater. It was the first and only time I remember doing something like this with the family and it stuck with me as something special. It took me years to figure out which movie had been the 2nd one. I just knew it was a pirate movie. When I did, I sat down to watch Nate and Hayes ... and it is terrible. That said the memory is still a happy one, lol.


The other movie I want you to see if you like animation or music. I watched Rock & Rule on a worn-out VHS tape for years. It could fall under horror as the main bad guy is trying to raise a monster from another dimension to destroy the world. You can buy it on Amazon or head over and we can watch it on Blu-Ray.



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