14. Sleepaway Camp (Robert Hiltzik, 1983)
Sleepaway Camp is a slasher from beginning to end, and this list couldn’t miss out on this particular subgenre, seeing it’s one of the most popular and most profitable. The story follows the formula where a mysterious killer slays several people in a specific spot, usually a camp, hotel, cabin or any isolated place like that. In this case, we get a summer camp, full of teenagers from all walks of life, filling all stereotypes.
The protagonist is a girl who gets bullied by the other kids in the camp for being shy and never talking to anyone. We follow the story as the killings take place in different ways, in the usual trash fashion, and everything would be the same as in other movies if it weren’t for the last scene of Sleepaway Camp, shocking and unsettling, even for movies like this.
15. Nekromantik (Jörg Buttgereit, 1988)
Artistic and repellent at the same time, this German movie shocked audiences when it was released. Only the plot is already bound to gross most people out, telling the story of a couple who decides to perform necrophilia acts with a corpse, which is made possible because the husband works at a local morgue.
The most shocking scenes involve the sexual intercourse with the corpse, performed by the aforementioned couple, the actual slaughter of a rabbit and the main character stabbing himself in the stomach, along with the creepy atmosphere every scene emanates.
Not only that, it’s mainly scary because it doesn’t involve supernatural elements, only real people in situations that could very well happen in real life. Director Jörg Buttgereit would later direct another controversial film about the mind of a serial killer, called “Schramm”, from 1993, which also deserves an honorable mention here.
16. The Stuff (Larry Cohen, 1985)
This movie is one of the few in this list which doesn’t have that much blood or guts and yet it’s here, because it has all the elements that compose a trash movie, it has that “so bad it’s good” tone to it.
The elements are the twist of the horror genre, at times it seems we are watching a comedy movie, the low-budget and special effects, the terrible acting, dialogue, directing and the precious one-liners that come out of it all. Also, it is so fun to watch and it has an absurd sci-fi plot that is meant to scare us, but really, the most it can do is gross us out with its disgusting depiction of an evil ice-cream from outer space.
Director Larry Cohen is known for his “comedy horror” movies, having directed another gem called “It’s Alive”, from 1974. That movie is a spoof of classical horror film “Rosemary’s Baby”, and it is just as trash as The Stuff.
17. Killer Klowns from Outer Space (Stephen Chiodo, 1988)
Killer Klowns from Outer Space is great fun to watch, when the theme song starts with that circus jingle played by an electric guitar, we know we are about to experience something unusual. It’s not unusual for horror movies to depict evil clowns, taking advantage of a paradox to scare the audience.
A paradox because clowns are originally characters created to make everyone laugh and have fun, through their gags and colorful clothes, but no one can deny there is actually something unsettling about them, like there might well be something not so pleasant behind all that make-up.
Killer Klowns from Outer Space also deals with that paradox, the clowns that land on Earth are human-sized and dress like regular ones, actually, all the characters find them harmless at first sight, but right away you see they are up to mean things.
Throughout the movie, the clowns commit various macabre murders, including one where the clown in question turns the dead victim into his own personal puppet. Basically, they go around frying people with their laser guns or storing them into cotton candy cocoons, and the reason they arrived on Earth is only speculated by the characters, but does it really matter?
The visuals of the film are innovative for a trash horror film, and you never would expect to see such special effects in a low-budget movie like this. Also, the way the spaceship and the universe of the clowns are depicted is very original. In the end, we have a major battle between the “boss clown” and a fake one, the type that stays on top of ice-cream vans, can’t miss it!
18. The Deadly Spawn (Douglas McKeown, 1983)
Douglas McKeown’s movie is clearly exploitative of the concept of aliens, so popular in 80’s horror films. Actually, in some countries, the title of the “Deadly Spawn” was changed to “Return of the Aliens”, to suggest some kind of connection to Ridley Scott’s 1979 “Alien”. Well, there is no connection other than that both films share the same subject, but even that subject is approached in very different ways.
“The Deadly Spawn” tells the story of a family whose basement is one day unluckily invaded by strange creatures from outer space. Turns out these creatures start growing to enormous proportions and preying on the people who live in that house, one by one. There are interesting scenes, where some school friends of the oldest boy achieve to catch one specimen and dissect it, as they discuss its possible origins.
The younger boy is shown to be a horror film fan and is always trying to scare his family by dressing up as a particular monster, so the film plays with that concept, when he first encounters the spawns downstairs; he is faced with real-life danger, not a monster from a movie. “The Deadly Spawn” is a rare 80’s gem just waiting to be re discovered, just like those monsters in the basement.
19. Critters (Stephen Herek, 1986)
“Critters” gives us yet another quirky and deathly little type of creature, which some may find similar to Joe Dante’s 1984 “Gremlins”, although the director Stephen Herek refuses any kind of connections between the two movies. Today it is considered a “cult movie” because of its comedic appeal and mainly because of the iconic little monsters that name it, the “Crites”.
The “Crite’s” only purpose in the movie is to destroy and in order to do so, they perform the most elaborate shenanigans you’ll ever see any creature from outer space doing. It starts with the hijacking of a plane so they can get from their Asteroid to Earth, and arriving there, they accidentally land near a farm house in Kansas, where they cut the electricity in order to feast on the unfortunate family living there.
Later on, the bounty hunters who were looking for the Crites end up catching up with them in the farm house – with their futuristic clothes and guns – but it’s too late, the creatures have already made a mess before they could be stopped. After a final battle, the creatures are finally defeated, but the movie ends with yet another horror film cliché, a shot of some Crite eggs on the barn, which would lead to another three sequels, unfortunately not as fresh as this first movie.
20. Frankenhooker (Frank Henenlotter, 1990)
Another inventive Frank Henenlotter project, among the sequels of “Basket Case” (see number 6 on this list), he directed this dark horror comedy with yet a lot of blood and gore, in what appears to be a Frankenstein meets Jack the Ripper movie. The protagonist is a “mad scientist” whose fiancée is chopped into little pieces by a weird lawn mower accident during a family party, in what is one of the most gore scenes in the entire movie.
The only part of her body he’s able to save is her head, and finally he has the idea to bring her back to life, only this time he wants a perfect body, so he takes the body parts from prostitutes, one by one.
His creation is complete, and an experiment that was supposed to bring his beloved back to life combined with the body of his dreams, turns out to go completely wrong. In a take of dark humor, Frank Henenlotter makes the creature not thirsty for love, like the creature in Mary Shelley’s book, or for blood, like in the classical movies, but for money!
Because she was built with prostitute’s body parts, she is automatically programmed to function like one. So she goes about her business in a most gruesome and gory way, as the protagonist tries to recognize her fiancée in her, see it to believe it.
Author Bio: Larissa G. Pierry is a Brazilian Psychology student, whose two great passions are writing and watching all kinds of movies, from old classics to trash horror (but has a pretty unhealthy obsession with David Lynch and John Waters). She pretends to be a full-time movie critic on her Letterboxd profile (http://letterboxd.com/tangerine23/), but someday really intends to do something professionally about her bad case of cinephilia.