Ten Underrated ’80s Horror Flicks

HappyBirthdayToMe 560x309The ’80s were a veritable smorgasbord of horror and slasher movies. In fact, that decade is largely believed to be the pinnacle of the genre where even the term ‘Slasher’ was first coined. Coming into their own were such classic icons as Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, Chucky, and even more of Michael Myers. Killers were created every day it seemed, and only a few had the staying power to still be around today. But, even with those popular franchises, there were many, many that were barely mediocre. And falling just in between were those few that weren’t necessarily amazing, but certainly unforgettable. Here are ten that fall into the underrated category.

The Boogeyman (1980)

Why You Need To See This:

Because this nasty little horror flick features some nicely gruesome kills, specifically with shards of a mirror. A mirror, it seems, that has the trapped soul of two kids' mother's boyfriend. Yeah, it's contrived, but when you get to see a chunk of mirror pierce the back of a guy's head and come out his mouth... it's all so worth it.

Extra Ridiculous Scene:

The kid, Lacey, gets a slice of the mirror jammed in her skull and becomes possessed by the mother's boyfriend. And she needs a priest. Who apparently deals in mirror-related exorcisms. Right.

Final Notes:

If you can find it, watch this one, not the (no surprise) stupid remake.

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Frightmare (1983)

Why You Need To See This:

Because watching a bizarre actor, whom a group of kids idolize, torture and utterly destroy them is almost as hilarious as it is bloody. Basically, Conrad, the actor in question, appears to be possessed by some unseen and unnamed force that turns him into a psycho. So, pretty much like every other actor. Anyway, he goes on a trap-and trick-heavy rampage killing a bunch of kids. Good for him.

Extra Ridiculous Scene:

Did I mention Conrad is supposed to be dead for much of the movie? Yeah, well, he is.

Final Notes:

Not a bad little flick that features some interesting twists and things not often seen in '80s horror movies.

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Nailgun Massacre (1985)

Why You Need To See This:

Because with this flick there is absolutely no denying what you're getting into. After a brutal rape of a young lady (as opposed to the other kind of rapes?), a motorcycle-helmeted 'person' goes on a killing spree with a, you guessed it, nailgun. And for the mid-eighties -- a time when nailguns were still kind of coming into their own -- those construction aids were massive! So... nails a plenty... is what's happening here.

Extra Ridiculous Scene:

One of the rapists, Mark, pays a nice homage to horror of the time by brandishing a chainsaw. Too bad he takes a nail to the skull and in an act of over the top acrobatics falls on his own chainsaw. Har Har.

Final Notes:

If you like horrible acting, a wafer-thin plot, and the production values of a cable access show, you can't go wrong with Nailgun Massacre.

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Eyes of a Stranger (1981)

Why You Need To See This:

Because of all the rapist/murderer flicks from the decade, this one features the most, "killer calling you before he kills you" scenes this side of Scream and, I guess, The Ring. Oh, and I suppose because this is one of Jennifer Jason Leigh's first films it might be a turn on for some folks.

Extra Ridiculous Scene:

JJL plays the blind, deaf, mute sister to the main protagonist of this little murder, and in one scene the killer messes with her by moving stuff around the house like a live-action Hellen Keller joke.

Final Notes:

Tom Savini did a lot of work on this movie but, sadly, much of his stuff was removed from the original version. So find the uncut one and enjoy lots of fun, gory stuff including a head in a fish tank!

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The Unseen (1980)

Why You Need To See This:

Because it has Flounder in it! Stephen Furst! Yay! Oh, and there's an unknown entity at a farmhouse who apparently likes to scare the shit out of and/or kill guests of the owners. Of course it does -- it wouldn't be a horror without that kind of nonsense.

Extra Ridiculous Scene:

In a derivative scene, we discover that the killer is actually an infantile man forced to live in the farm's basement. His name is Junior and he makes Sloth look like a genius. But he means well... in a really killy way.

Final Notes:

Not especially gory, but definitely more professionally acted than many films of this ilk. Oh and it has a nice little lovey-dovey ending that might make you shed a tear. But I doubt it.

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The Hitcher (1986)

Why You Need To See This:

Because even though the remake has Sean Bean in it, it still sucks compared to this gem of a slasher flick, starring the incomparable Rutger Hauer. Also, for a cat-and-mouse escape film, this one is pretty tense and taut and definitely puts you on edge, if only for a few scenes.

Extra Ridiculous Scene:

When Jim (C. Thomas Howell as the hero?) is finally met by the police he called seemingly eons ago, he's just discovered a finger in his fries at a road-side diner. Oh, and it's served by... Jennifer Jason Leigh! Wow. A theme! Anyway, the cops find him brandishing a weapon, so naturally they chuck his ass in jail. But, as Jim comes around, he finds the bars ajar and the entirety of the police force with slit throats! GASP! That's never happened.

Final Notes:

Revenge. That's what's going on here. Oh, and a pretty slick role reversal to boot! Chases, blood, unnecessary slayings... it's all here and it's a damn good movie.

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Pieces (1983)

Why You Need To See This:

If for no other reason than seeing Jimmy (he's the bad guy) snap because his mother asks him to dispose of his naked lady puzzle! Is that really any reason to murder her? Apparently. Oh and then there's a homicidal lunatic with a chainsaw who keeps slaughtering women and building a 'puzzle' out of their flesh! Now that's creative!

Extra Ridiculous Scene:

SPOILER ALERT! At the end, when the killer's identity is realized (not too tough to identify, really), one of the college students responsible watches as the assembled puzzle-corpse falls out of a closet and, inexplicably, rips off his balls. Yeah, I don't know either.

Final Notes:

It's called PIECES! If that doesn't draw you in, maybe the fact that it has garnered a cult classic status will. It's good popcorn munching fun!

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Maniac (1980)

Why You Need To See This:

Well, if you don't you won't get to see a sadistic psychopath go out on nightly kill sprees and bring scalps home for his mannequins! You don't want to miss that! Oh, and once he's satisfied with a mannequin, he sleeps with it and carries on speaking to it like his dead/dead-beat mommy! Now that's a set-up!

Extra Ridiculous Scene:

Horror flick cops are morons. I think we can all agree on that. In this movie, after the killer goes completely bonkers and begins seeing visions of his dead mother rising from the grave, and of his mannequins coming to life and killing him, he snaps, and evidently stabs himself. So when the police arrive on a tip, they see him apparently dead of suicide with a knife in his gut. They then... leave. Just leave. But guess who probably isn't dead?

Final Notes:

I have to say, this is definitely an original premise. Or at the very least not an overly used one. Pretty dark with some above par acting. Also, creepy mannequins!

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The Funhouse (1981)

Why You Need To See This:

Well, the poster for one. I mean look at that gruesome thing! That's just horrific! Also because possibly for the first an only time in cinematic history, we get to see a dude who looks like Frankenstein solicit a fortune-telling prostitute, prematurely nutt, and subsequently murder her because she won't give his cash back. We have a winner!

Extra Ridiculous Scene:

Not so much ridiculous as it is just kind of nasty, at one point the dude in the Frankenstein get-up is revealed to be the Carnival Barker's Mongoloid son who looks remarkably like the jacked-up freak on the poster. Not pleasant.

Final Notes:

All in all a fun little thrill ride. It's kinda cool to see many of the Funhouse props used as murder weapons. Also, if you want to read the story as well as watch the film, Dean Kootz wrote the novelization under the pseudonym Owen West. Don't confuse it with Richard Laymon's novel of the same name which is, incidentally, way better.

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Happy Birthday to Me (1981)

Why You Need To See This:

Because nothing screams weird like watching Melissa Sue Anderson of Little House on the Prairie fame going absolutely bat-shit crazy performing some of the most bizarre slayings of all time. If that isn't enough to get you to watch one of my absolute favorite '80s slashers then I hold out no hope for you.

Extra Ridiculous Scene:

Picture this Birthday celebration: the entirety of your victims sitting around the table in a mock party fashion, each looking just as they did when brutally killed by the slasher... but then you notice a corpse sitting at the head of the table. A corpse of the slasher's mother. Just as she sat four years ago. It's a shocking scene until it gets a little too silly.

Final Notes:

Twisted and twisty, this absolute treat of a classic horror flick is easily one of the greatest of the genre. Oh, and there is one hell of an ending that I'm not gonna ruin for you. But, let's just say, the birthday party isn't quite what it seems.

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