The Horror Movies of 1980
To me, this top spot is between 2 movies. One is directed by a master filmmaker and considered the first "epic" horror film released and the other was thrown together by a guy who took out an ad in Variety to sell the movie before the script was even completed. He was sure the name alone would bring in investors. Both movies have their strengths and weaknesses, and both are very high in my list of overall favorite movies, but I'm giving the edge to the one which birthed a franchise and a hockey mask-wearing killing machine.
Not sure what to say about Friday the 13th. It's close to perfect when you factor in the time and money constraints the cast and crew were under. This is kind of impressive when you learn this was a cash grab that was using the popularity of Halloween to score big. Just watch it. Plus you can use it in the 6 degrees to Kevin Bacon game - if people still play that. You can stream on Peacock.
Blurb - A group of camp counselors are stalked and murdered by an unknown assailant while trying to reopen a summer camp which was the site of a child's drowning and a grisly double murder years before.
Just missing out on the top spot is Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. I love Kubrick, the man is a film-making genius. His movies are beautifully shot and filled with symbolism and tiny important details. The fact he chose this story to take on the horror genre speaks to the source material, but of course, Kubrick simply used that as a springboard to tell his own story. King hates this interpretation of his book, but that's because once Kubrick got a hold of it, he turned it into his own creation.
He nearly drove his leading lady insane with the way he mistreated her throughout the filming process, and he made it clear no one other than Jack Nicholson would be his leading man. The cast is incredible and Kubrick's embracing of the steady cam allowed for some truly amazing and beautiful shots. If you are interested in the movie, there are several articles and even a documentary(Room 237) that does a deep dive into all the hidden meanings you can find in The Shining.
Stream it on HBO and AMC+
Blurb - A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where a sinister presence influences the father into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from both past and future.
Next up is Humanoids From the Deep. While it is a Roger Corman film (a clear indication you can expect boobs and blood) that wasn't the case for this film. One of the first horror pictures directed by a woman, it also had no nudity and limited violence. Peeters wasn't looking to direct a typical Corman film. She planned on making an intelligent suspenseful science-fiction story with a basis in fact. More importantly, she planned on there being no sex or nudity in this movie.
Corman believed B-horror movies needed that to succeed so he hired another director to do a few scenes that incorporated nudity and violence into the film. All he needed to do was edit them in and he was able to completely change the tone and direction of the film. That said, this movie is a fun and exciting creature feature. Catch it on tubi and amc+.
Blurb - Humanoid sea creatures start killing a fishing town's residents, and raping their women. It's up to the townsfolk and a visiting biologist to fight back and fend them off.
Continuing the theme of things coming from the water is John Carpenter's The Fog. One of the masters of the genre continues to put his stamp on horror with this classic. Jamie Lee Curtis continues to make a name for herself as a scream queen in this film. You can stream on Prime and tubi.
Blurb - An unearthly fog rolls into a small coastal town exactly 100 years after a ship mysteriously sank in its waters.
Altered States is a science fiction horror mashup staring a young William Hurt and directed by maverick Ken Russell. I don't know much about this one, but it looks interesting. Check it out on Cinemax.
Blurb - A psycho-physiologist experiments with drugs and a sensory-deprivation tank and has visions he believes are genetic memories.
Next up is The Changeling. George C Scott tackles the traditional haunted house story with his usual intensity. I love him and he makes this film a must-watch. Stream it on tubi, amc+, and shudder.
Blurb - After the death of his wife and daughter in a car crash, a music professor staying at a long-vacant Seattle mansion is dragged into a decades-old mystery by an inexplicable presence in the mansion's attic.
There was a time when Disney didn't own the entertainment world and they focused on putting out animated features and live-action movies for kids of all ages. Every once in a while they put out something unique and completely un-Disney. The Watcher in the Woods is one of those times.
I can't find any place listed where you can watch the original movie, but I did see someone put it on YouTube. This was one of those movies that could be accused as a horror gateway "drug" used to get young children addicted to the thrills of scary movies.
Blurb - When a family moves to a country home, the young girls experience strange happenings that have a link to an occult event years past.
No list is complete if Dario Argento is ignore, so of course, his movie Inferno must be included. The film he completed after Suspiria, Inferno continues to display his unique brand of direction - always beautifully shot but not always making sense. Stream it on VUDUfree and tubi.
Blurb - An American college student in Rome and his sister in New York investigate a series of killings in both locations where their resident addresses are the domain of two covens of witches.
Honorable mentions to the next 6 films. We can see the slasher genre is gaining steam and I Spit On Your Grave peeks through in Mother's Day.
I guess I should highlight Cannibal Holocaust but the most interesting note from this movie is the Director was arrest and accused of murdering several of the actors. He had them sign a contract that had them "disappear" for a year after the film was released so it would appear they had actually died. Whoops.
The Awakening is a loose remake of Hammer's Blood From the Mummy's Tomb starring Charlton Heston. If you must watch one, I'd say find the Hammer version.
I have a feeling most of these are on tubi or shudder ...
As always I've added a few movies that also came out in 1980, excluding the most obvious ones, that helped shape my tastes over the years. Return of the King returns to the animation house that did The Hobbit to finish us the 4 book story of the Lord of the Rings. Flash Gordon is a classic example of late 70s and early 80s film making, and should be watched by all fans of cinema. The bottom 3 are all comedy classics and showcased some major comedic talent coming up at the time and from the previous generation.