Horror movies from 1989
There are a handful of original films in 1989, but the studios are embracing sequels & remakes. So let's dig into what was important to horror fans, especially this one ...
One of the best adaptations of a Stephen King story is Pet Sematary. King's go-to director and friend George Romero was set to direct, but scheduling delays forced him to drop out of the project. Enter Mary Lambert, a director looking at only her 2nd feature but with a number of popular music videos under her belt. I think her fresh eyes on the genre, helped her to tackle the project in unexpected ways. It led to her making a truly scary film. Watch it on Netflix.
Blurb - After tragedy strikes, a grieving father discovers an ancient burial ground behind his home with the power to raise the dead.
Before David Twohy wrote The Fugitive, GI Jane, and the Riddick trilogy, he wrote Warlock. This was one of the last films to be completed by New Line Cinema before they filed for bankruptcy so even though it was advertised in 1989 in theaters and released in foreign countries, the movie itself didn't show up in US theaters until 1991.
Steve Miner returns to his horror roots after a small run directing Soul Man & the main part of season 1 of The Wonder Years. If you remember, he cut his teeth on Friday the 13th Parts 2 & 3, and House - all of which were high on previous lists. Because of his background, when Julian Sands received the script he simply put it aside, thinking it was more of the popular slasher trend. After some time, he glanced at it and became excited about the project. I think because this movie is so different from what was hot at the time, it really stands out as something special.
The cast is fantastic, almost all classically trained, and they play their roles straight forward. Sometimes when you have a movie like this, the actors or director want to be in on the joke, and everything becomes very tongue-in-cheek. You don't get that with Warlock. The only issue I have with the movie is 1 special effect. Either due to budget restraints or simply still too early to take advantage of CGI, there is a flying scene that stands out. The rest is spectacular, including the ending which I believe does have a little CGI manipulation. You can watch it on Prime, VUDU, and tubi.
Blurb - A warlock flees from the 17th to the 20th century, with a witch-hunter in hot pursuit.
I love this next movie, Leviathan. Directed by George P Cosmatos(Cobra, Tombstone, Rambo 2) and starring Robocop, one of the idiots from Home Alone, and a Ghostbuster, Leviathan is an underwater take on Alien or The Thing. It was 1 of 6 movies to come out with an unknown underwater entity theme in 89-90. 2 of the others will appear below, with one having an almost identical script.
This is my favorite of the horror movies with this theme. The cast is just perfect, and they have a very natural feel to their relationships. You have to rent/buy to stream right now, but it pops up on Prime from time to time.
Blurb - Perched on the hull of a wrecked Soviet freighter, a team of deep-sea miners led by head oceanographer Steven Beck comes face to face with a mutant creature that's the product of a failed genetic experiment.
Wes Craven returns to his Nightmare on Elm St ways with Shocker. Using a relatively unknown cast and crew, Craven was able to get this thrown together in 10 weeks on a pretty low budget. Director Peter Berg, in one of his first feature films, and Mitch Pileggi (Skinner on X-Files) face off. This ended up being another film that Craven had to submit to MPAA multiple times to get an R-rating.
The special effects are a bit hampered by the time, and both Berg and Pileggi ham it up a bit - one on purpose, the other because he's a terrible actor who later became a director, but it's a fun addition to the Craven catalog of films. You have to rent/buy to stream it.
Blurb - After being sent to the electric chair, a serial killer uses electricity to come back from the dead and carry out his vengeance on the football player who turned him in to the police.
Sam Neill pops up in another horror film after several dramas and manages to find himself as #3 in a cast of 3. Dead Calm is the first movie I remember seeing Nicole Kidman in, and Billy Zane shines as the psycho in this movie. Although you'd think his experience in this movie would have warned him off the Titanic.
This is based on a book by the same name. Orson Wells had almost completed his take on the book in 1970, but a death to one of the cast stopped him from completing it. So technically this could have been a remake and fall into our theme of the year. You have to rent/buy to stream.
Blurb - After a tragedy, John Ingram and his wife Rae are spending some time isolated at sea, when they come across a stranger who has abandoned a sinking ship.
Brian Yuzna, Producer of Re-Animator and writer of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, steps behind the camera to direct his first feature film, Society. He wanted to make this film and was able to work a deal where he'd direct Bride of the Re-Animator but the backers would allow him to make this movie first. The weird thing is even though it was released abroad in 1989-90, it would be seen in a US theater until 1992. It didn't make much noise in the States but has grown in cult status. Check it out on tubi, amc+, and Shudder.
Blurb - An ordinary teenage boy discovers his family is part of a gruesome orgy cult for the social elite.
So Part 7 didn't do so well at the box office, so instead of pursuing the Tina storyline, Paramount went with a new director and a new direction to give us Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan. The only problem is Jason isn't in Manhattan for very long, which is weird since this is the longest of the Paramount Jason Films.
It's an interesting take on the series, but really not very important when all is said and done. This movie's biggest claim is that it failed so miserably at the box office, Paramount sold it to New Line Cinema. Paramount would regain control with the 2009 remake of the original. Stream it on Paramount+
Blurb - Jason Voorhees is accidentally awakened from his watery grave, and he ends up stalking a ship full of graduating high school students headed to Manhattan, NY.
Freddy's back in A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child. Honestly, the most impressive part of the big three is that they are still getting theater releases. many horror franchises that moved past 3 in the 80s & 90s started to head directly to video. And while this is the lowest-grossing film of the franchise, it was still pulling in cash to the studio. Simply put, audiences are starting to show Slasher fatigue. This combined with bad scripts and the number of cuts required to get past the MPAA gave fans a reason to stop looking for their thrills in these franchises. Stream it on HBOMax.
Blurb - The pregnant Alice finds Freddy Krueger striking through the sleeping mind of her unborn child, hoping to be reborn into the real world.
For the 2nd year in a row, all of the big 3 had movies, and Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers is the best 1 of those in 89. However slasher fatigue hurt this film as well, it also was the lowest box office grosser of the series.
Like part 2, this movie changes the ending of the previous movie so they can continue the story. Like Shocker, Nightmare, and Friday the 13th, Halloween 5 had to make a number of cuts to secure the R-rating. My previous thought that the ratings board was loosening what was acceptable seems to be challenged in 1989. They still let violence by, but they expected it in shorter bursts, and with no lingering shots. You can watch it on amc+ & Shudder.
Trivia fact - It's the only Halloween never released in Italy.
Blurb - One year after the events of Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988), the Shape returns to Haddonfield once again in an attempt to kill his now-mute niece.
I love the movie Murder at 1600, before Dwight Little (Halloween 4) directed that Wesley Snipe gem, he directed Phantom of the Opera starring Robert Englund. This is another movie that needed to make several cuts to get the R-rating. It stays pretty true to the original story, just with more violence and gore. It's not on any service right now but look out for it as Englund is great as the Phantom and it's Molly Shannon's cinematic debut.
Blurb - A young soprano becomes the obsession of a horribly disfigured composer, who has plans for those who oppose him or the young singer.
976-Evil is the 3rd Robert Englund project of 1989; this time he's making his debut in the director's chair. This movie was filmed in 1988 and the reason Stephen Geoffreys couldn't reprise his role of Evil Ed in Fright Night 2. It's a straightforward, low-budget horror movie. you can stream it on Starz.
Blurb - People who dial 976-EVIL receive supernatural powers and turn into satanic killers. When Spike dialed 976-EVIL, he knew it was an expensive toll call, but he didn't know that he'd have to pay for it with his soul.
Special effects expert Chris Walas gets his first crack at directing with The Fly II. Another movie that needed edits to get an R-rating, except instead of cutting, the director simply appealed the decision and it was pushed through. Some theaters had nurses on hand to help with any audience member sickened by the violence and gore of the film. It's not streaming anywhere right now.
The Blurb - The almost-human son of "Brundlefly" searches for a cure to his mutated genes while being monitored by a nefarious corporation that wishes to continue his father's experiments.
As I mentioned earlier, there were 3 underwater horror films in 89, Deep Star Six is 1 of those. Directed by the producer/director of Friday the 13th, Sean Cunningham, who was forced to step in after Robert Harmon(Director of The Hitcher) stepped away from the picture. The cast is decent and the monster is fine, but this movie is no Leviathan. You can stream it on Prime and compare for yourself.
Blurb - A team of navy personnel stationed at a temporary base at the bottom of the ocean and tasked with setting up nuclear missiles discovers a huge underwater cavern which houses a giant prehistoric creature.
I think of Abyss as a science fiction movie, but many deem it a horror movie so I'll throw it up as an honorable mention. James Cameron wrote and directed this film and the cast is jam-packed with big-name stars and Cameron regulars. Much like Avatar in the future, this movie was a logistics nightmare and suffered from some delays, but in the end, he made a great movie. You can stream it on Starz.
Blurb - A civilian diving team is enlisted to search for a lost nuclear submarine and faces danger while encountering an alien aquatic species.
Finally, the last movie on the "horror" list is really a comedy, but it has all the trademarks of the old classic haunted house movies of the 30s & 40s. Tom Hanks and Rick Ducommun shine as nosy neighbors over-reacting to the new family on the block. This is right before Hanks went on the romantic comedy & Oscar-winning drama kick, and he is at his comedic best. Stream it on Starz.
Blurb - An overstressed suburbanite and his neighbors are convinced that the new family on the block are part of a murderous Satanic cult.
The top ten is filled with some great movies, but below are some of my favorites that didn't make bank in 1989. Erik the Viking is funny and insightful as Tim Robbins goes on a quest to discover his place in the world. Glory is one of my favorite movies; the acting is amazing. Spike Lee tends to jump the shark at times, but Do The Right Thing was a major influence for me.
Fletch Lives is almost as funny as the first one. Even though it's a funny, well-put-together movie, War of the Roses taught me an important lesson - don't see a movie about divorce with your mother who's just finishing up going through a divorce. One of the tensest movie-watching experiences I've had (and I saw Casualties of War with her). I love Gene Wilder, throw in Richard Pryor and you have comedy gold. One man is blind and the other is deaf, both are witnesses to a murder in See No Evil, Hear No Evil.
Before Marvel took over the cinematic world, they sold their rights to pretty much anyone who would pay. This resulted in a skull-less Punisher, but still fun. Before OZ was on HBO, Lock Up and An Innocent Man were shining examples of why you didn't want to go to prison. That and all the Norm McDonald jokes about prison rape ...