1984 - I remember it well
We are getting to the point where I remember going to the theater to see many of the hot movies of 1984. As I've stated in earlier posts, my father had a dislike for horror so I didn't start seeing many of these in the theater just yet. However we are still in the time when many movies got a PG rating and slipped through the cracks. It wouldn't be until June of this year that the PG-13 rating would be introduced to try and balance out movies that were closer to R-rated but not quite there.
I'd say 1984 was a big year for horror if only the top 2 movies on my list were produced. After a moment of thought, I realized there was no option but to have A Nightmare on Elm Street first. This movie is unique, introduces a new horror icon, and is a well put together horror spectacular. It checks all the boxes of a great horror film.
While this is Johnny Depp's film debut and that's a big deal, it's the introduction of Freddy Krueger that really rocks the horror world. It is rare for a horror movie villain to take on a life larger than the movie in which he stars. Robert Englund made Freddy his own and gave horror fan's a bad guy to love and love to hate. A Nightmare on Elm Street became a franchise that keep New Line Cinema in business for years.
Blurb - The monstrous spirit of a slain child murderer seeks revenge by invading the dreams of teenagers whose parents were responsible for his untimely death.
Many think Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter is the best in the series. I think Part 6 might have an argument, but either way part 4 is an important movie to both the franchise and the genre.
Released on April the 13th, a Friday of course, and on a budget of just under $2 million, Part 4 raked in $32.6 million before closing. It was made to be the final picture of the Jason saga and it is the last movie where Jason is "human" in nature. Part 4 was directed by Joseph Zito, who gave us the Prowler in 1981, and included Crispin Glover and Corey Feldman. It was at the time the bloodiest of the Friday's and included the most nudity - a growing staple in the slasher genre. Ebert called it "an immoral and reprehensible piece of trash." That said, it has what many claim to be the best Jason - Ted White - and is one of the best of a franchise that spans over 10 pictures.
Blurb - After being announced dead and taken to a morgue, Jason Voorhees spontaneously revives, escapes from the hospital, and stalks a group of friends renting a house in the countryside near Crystal Lake.
A lot of talent came together to give us Gremlins. Coming of his success with Producing Poltergeist, Speilberg returns with a Chris Columbus (Harry Potter 1 & 2) script and Joe Dante (The Howling) directing. Add a terrific mix of established and up-and-coming actors and you have a really fun and scary Christmas horror film.
This movie and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom led to the rating board to invent a new rating, PG-13. This is an important development as many studios thought they could pull in more teens with this rating and many horror movies had to decide if they wanted the hard R rating or the newer PG-13 in an attempt to drive up the box office numbers.
Blurb - A young man inadvertently breaks three important rules concerning his new pet and unleashes a horde of malevolently mischievous monsters on a small town.
Speaking of getting a PG-13 rating, let's go ahead and talk about Dreamscape. This is the 2nd movie to get the PG-13 rating - 1st one was Red Dawn. This movie has a tremendous cast fronted by Dennis Quaid, who's about to go on a run of hit movies and cement himself as one of the top leading men of the 80s & 90s. Stream it on tubi.
Blurb - A young psychic on the run from himself is recruited by a government agency experimenting with the use of the dream-sharing technology and is given the inverse task of planting an idea into the mind of the U.S. president.
2 more Stephen King based movies came out in 1984. First up is Children of the Corn. Linda Hamilton had 3 movies come out in 1984, 2 were important - this one and The Terminator. It has spawned the most sequels of any of the "King" movies. Stream on Prime, Hulu, tubi, and Shudder.
Blurb - A young couple is trapped in a remote town where a dangerous religious cult of children believes that everyone over age 18 must be killed.
The movie taken from John Carpenter because of the poor showing of the Thing in 1982 was Firestarter. Instead Mark Lester got to direct the 2nd King movie of 1984. He would go on to direct 2 of my favorite movies of the 80s - Commando and Armed and Dangerous. Drew Barrymore, fresh off of ET, drew the part of the main character Charlie McGee and got to star with some huge names in Hollywood. Stream on HBOMax.
Blurb - A couple who participated in a potent medical experiment gain telepathic ability and then have a child who is pyrokinetic.
Excessive violence: Check
Located in New Jersey: Check
Before Marvel was dominating the superhero genre, Troma Entertainment gave us The Toxic Avenger. I'm not sure if it's the budget or the writing that makes this a true horror picture. It's one of those cult classics that has to be seen to be believed. This one is a rent/buy to stream.
Blurb - Tromaville has a monstrous new hero. The Toxic Avenger is born when meek mop boy Melvin falls into a vat of toxic waste. Now evildoers will have a lot to lose.
The werewolf picture of 1984 was The Company of Wolves. Directed and written by Neil Jordan in only his 2nd film, this movie is filmed in what he called "a Chinese box" format - meaning it contains stories within a story. Stream it on tubi.
Blurb - A teenage girl in a country manor falls asleep while reading a magazine, and has a disturbing dream involving wolves prowling the woods below her bedroom window.
In an updated take on The Omega Man or The Last Man on Earth, we got a teenage girl's version in Night of the Comet. Starring Catherine Mary Stewart who also appears in 1984's The Last Starfighter, this movie is a taste of what's to come with many of the PG-13 style of horror movies. You can stream on PlutoTv.
Blurb - A comet wipes out most of life on Earth, leaving two Valley Girls fighting against cannibal zombies and a sinister group of scientists.
Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers, or C.H.U.D., was the film debut of both Jay Thomas and Kim Greist and one of John Goodman's earliest film roles. Stream it on Tubi and Prime.
Blurb - A bizarre series of sudden disappearances on the streets of New York City seems to point toward something unsavory living in the sewers.
Finishing up our movie list is the controversial Silent Night, Deadly Night. It opened the same weekend as A Nightmare on Elm Street, but was pulled from many theaters after just a few weeks because of all the protests. Many parents were upset with the marketing approach that centered around a homicidal Santa Claus.
Gene Siskel read out all the companies that had a piece of Tri-Star Pictures and said "You people have nothing to be proud of."
Blurb - Little Billy witness his parents getting killed by Santa after being warned by his senile grandpa that Santa punishes those who are naughty. Now Billy is 18, and out of the orphanage, and he has just become Santa, himself.
Now to be honest there's enough non-horror movies to showcase in another post but there's just too much going on this week for me to do that. So I've highlighted a few, ignoring the mega-blockbusters as they are implied.
I mean all of these are great movies, and should be seen.
I don't know why, but something about the chemistry of the actors and the tragic nature of Amadeus has always fascinated me. Starman is a non-horror John Carpenter movie. Cloak and Dagger is writes by horror master Tom Holland. Streets of Fire might be one of the greatest original soundtracks ever for a movie. Before he was a Highlander, Christopher Lambert was my Tarzan. Tom Selleck in a science fiction movie. Ice Pirate's is hilarious fun. Red Dawn fed off the fears that we were fed daily in the early 80s about the Soviet Union. The last 5 are comedy masterpieces.